Ventura Raceway
August 29, 2009

I did go down to the Zanzabuku Lounge a few weeks back for the Tony Jones benefit. The best part was actually getting my wife in a bar on a Sunday afternoon! Bob and Susie Davidson were real nice and it was a sweet deal for Tony. Although they announced the total raised was about $1,500.00, it actually was much better than that. The last raffle ticket of the day was a fifty/fifty split won by Steve Howard (Glenn Howard Memorial). He walked up to the front, grabbed the cash, turned around and defiantly announced that if Tony's team hauled to Calistoga they could have the cash! Then he threw in a few more real tasty incentives and marched back to his barstool. Two days later the Alexander Motorsports team announced that they would make the haul. I think Napa motorsport fans can thank Steve Howard and the Zanzabuku Lounge for the pleasure of seeing Champion Jones on their track. A little effort goes a long way. And if Jones takes the prize money, that effort by Zanzabuku gets stretched out even more! Grass root sponsors are like slingshots and you never know how far that rock can fly….

All Thrill No Fill
Chris Meredith
Cookie Monster

Everybody likes Chris Meredith and man did he tear up some track this weekend. Took his first ever Senior Sprint heat race win and finished personal best top five in the Main Event. His wife Sheri and her brother George (pit crew) had lost their mother Carolyn Clawson unexpectedly in the week previous and the racing provided some comfort. Chris tells me he's gonna put Carolyn's name on the car and that's something I see over and over. Race car drivers constantly write loved one's names on the cars and even place photos in the cockpit. Jonathan Henry has his passed grandma's photo pasted right next to his helmet and it cracks me up thinking about her turning lap after lap with John boy. Run with it and you have the Memorial races, like the Jim Kierce Memorial put on by dutiful son Kevin. It's tough to lose a parent. It's nice to know that people grieve and remember you and still weave you into their daily life. Funny how Sheri makes the best cookies. Maybe her Mom taught her. Sheri always gives me a couple.

Strawberry Jam: George Ito Leads His Heat Race

I did lock up Pat and Fred's (my brother and his partner) commitment this week to cough up some more dough for the 2009 All Coast Challenge. It is as official as it can get for all of us unofficial people. The All Coast Challenge will pay $5,000 to win, $1,500 for second and $1,000 for third. In addition, the winner of the three race point series will also collect $5,000. That means a select number of drivers could win the main event and point's race and take home $10,000. That select group would include (in order of current points) Kevin Kierce, Troy Rutherford and Steve Conrad. There are others (Wakim, Taylor, ECT...) but as you go down the list the chances diminish rapidly. It also means that a hot shoe like Faria or Murphy could show up and pull down five and still a VRA driver locks five. In any case, we are gonna throw a bunch of money at the honey and see what she says. I'm all about the drivers, the cars, the owners and the pit crews. At Ventura we have the most skilled, emboldened and nastiest thugs on the planet. When I see Brandon Thomson running on nothing but heart and still making threats, I gotta back up. God bless your grandmother too, Brandon. It all explodes October 24th.

Professor Culver Passes The Class

A hundred and thirty five cars clogged the pits Saturday which included forty six sprints. Holy Cow, somebody is doing something right. Loudpedal and I were amused to see they watered the track and then packed with the regular VRA sprints first. Wiley, Danny and the rest of the seniors sniffed around later when things were a little drier. Life is good. Great go-cart racing with Robert DelGaudio from Moorpark taking the win. Get on it at the Kruseman School. Ethan Quinn cinched the USAC VRA Junior Focus (another Kruseman student). Focus and Midgets rule the universe on November 21. Check out the excellent Midget promo at Darren Gunnell beat everybody with a stick in the VRA Sport Compacts. Trevor Fitzgibbon took the Rear Wheel division like a bad habit. Robert Hansen climbed out of retirement and drove Joe and Arnie's #15 to victory in the Senior Dwarf Main. Randy McGraw stepped back in to the McGraw Bros. ride during the fair. He continued the campaign this Saturday and shredded the competition. Austin Rodarte protected his points with second but it was blazing Brad Prows that tore up his heat and the main for third. Brilliant driving, some bonehead mistakes and pure thrills for us civilians. Get down! Pure controversy for the Senior Sprint Main, yellow on the last lap and some confusion with the scoring. When the shouting ended and the dust cleared, it was Professor Jeff Culver (Auto Shop) in first, Bruce Douglas in second (slips into the points lead) and Wiley Miller (from the back!) in third. The Professor pulls down his first VRA Senior Sprint Main Event. Told me before the race he has really been cracking the books.

First In The Hearts of His Countrymen

Stellar turn out of sprint cars. Rutherford, Templeman, Taylor, Henry, Perkins, Conrad, Woodward, Camarillo squared and many others ratcheted up the excitement level. Awesome to see Reed Brochart on the track competing. Taylor, Conrad, Nock and Hendrix took the heats. Crawford, Kershaw, Wakim and Espinoza floated the B main. Conrad on the pole with Hendrix outside. Conrad got clean out front with Hendrix right there. Nock third, Kierce fourth. Kierce up to third. It's Conrad and Hendrix going head to head, Kierce, Nock, Tyler Edwards, Woodward and Henry. Thomson pulls off lap 12. Crawford spins in four and we are yellow. Restart and the Condor is fast. Cluster cluck in turn two gathers Woodward, Henry and Taylor. They disappear like homes on a smoky day. Restart and Hendrix gets under Conrad while Kierce applies extreme pressure. Tenacious and skilled Hendrix is out front but they are slinging through the corners like three snakes in a bag. Cody Kershaw spins on the parched track in two and we are yellow at lap seventeen. Green again but the restart is vicious and things get tight pushing thru turn one. Kierce is booted. He goes to the work area but never returns. Nock moves to third and here is Troy Rutherford in fourth. Another start but Brian Camarillo gets roughed up and leaves some debris on the track. Hendrix is textbook but Conrad is hanging. Nock and Rutherford are thick fighting for third. Here comes Chris Wakim from the back row, started 19th but is now pushing Tyler Edwards for fifth! With about five laps to go, Conrad sees an opening on the bottom of turn four and snatches the lead back from Hendrix. I suspect nothing irritates Rick Hendrix as much as dropping a lead. Conrad gathers his mustard and flies. Hard head Rutherford gets under Hendrix and takes second. Hendrix maintains third, Wakim muscles to fourth and it's ever-ready John Nock in fifth. Another day in paradise. A few observations; Henry is struggling, you will see him next at the Challenge. It's rare to see Kierce DNF. Won't make a bit of difference in his Championship run. Despite missing two races, Rutherford is second in points and a solid bet every Saturday (just ask the Boogieman). Chris Wakim is third in points and continues to collect top five finishes. Steve Conrad is fourth in points and first in the hearts of his countrymen. Everybody goes home happy when Steve Conrad wins.

Lastly, thanks to all you track people that make this happen, from the front gate, to the pass house, to the track crew, sponsors, scorers and emergency medical. And don't forget the hundreds of ghosts riding with us, watching and helping us. I have a hard time driving at night. It's 1:00 am and I'm almost home but I'm out of energy. I'm raced out, I'm fading fast and I need something to make it home. I look over in the passenger seat and there it is: cookie.

Steve Howard and Tony Jones at the Zanzabuku Lounge