Everythingís Cool
October 3, 2009
Ventura Raceway

This is why my cat scan looks like a sprint car. This is why my yard is neglected. This is why my beautiful wife is alone so many Saturday nights. Jim Naylor packs the pits with forty-nine sprint cars. Keith Porter processes over one hundred and twenty-five racing machines safely onto the track. Cliff Culver executes seventeen heat races, one semi and nine main events, which includes a touching memorial! Morris Knotts holds the center together, Scott Holder scores every freaking lap and Philip Stevenson throws green flags, yellow flags, white flags, checkered flags and even black flags for the occasional lost soul. You got kids driving like theyíre Jimmy Johnson. You got average Joe Blow racing his heart out. Albert Einstein is wandering in the pits so deep into engines and set ups I donít know if heís ever coming out. Then a final main event that just murdered. Matt Mitchell in a Steve Watt dream machine drove a race that took everybodyís breath away. He and the rest of those brats tore the night apart. I think Naylor back charged his victory check for repairs to every linear foot of the concrete crash walls. Yeah Matt babyÖ..

Matt Mitchell and Biggieís New #69 Dream Machine

I find memorial races bring out the best our sport has to offer. They are like cake on birthdays, special events that honor glory days and special people. Kevin Kierce is about as sentimental a person as you are going to find. His passion for racing came from his father and you can see an instant replay in the current relationship with his son Justin (probably the most improved racer at Ventura barring maybe Cliff Warren). Kevin hosted the Third Annual Jim Kierce Memorial last weekend and itís a keeper. Itís limited to the hard luck racers out of the VRA Senior Sprints. He takes the back half of the division and sets up cash winnings. When I talked to him about it, he only wanted to spotlight the sponsors. Brudda Brettís parents, Phil and Sarah Taylor, are his biggest patrons. You canít find nicer people. Track legend Bruce Douglas has his back. Bill Camarillo and Agromin are constantly in the background with a helping hand for so many people. Iím proud to say All Coast Construction chipped in. George Sack got Kevin in a headlock and made him take some money. Kevin also wants to thank the incredible staff at Ventura Raceway and especially Jim Naylor for helping keep his fatherís spirit up front. Several thousand dollars was raised and is being distributed as the final t-shirt sales roll in. Oh yeah, Kevin really wants to thank the young and generous Lauren Shields who donated her summer earnings. Constant presence and low-key racer Bill Badger drove a beautiful race to take home a thousand dollars. Cool Race Chick turned to me in the tower and said ďperfectĒ.

Bill Badger Takes the Jim Kierce Memorial

VRA Junior Midgets Tear Into The Future

This is our future. Fast-forward ten years and imagine the kids pictured above in sprint cars. Austin Figueroa, Devon McCree, Riley Hellland, Brennan Rodgers and Ricky Lewis typify the incredible youth class. Austin Figueroa took the Junior Midget Win and is one race away from the championship. Kyle Peterson was first in Pistons, Tommy Velasquez III took down the Superchargers. Chuck West was all over the NMRA TQ Midgets. Bill Vanpraag is the man to beat in VRA Senior Dwarfs. Ray Estrada has five VRA Pro Dwarf main event wins, I love this guy and that entire Dwarf Car whack pack. My people! Lastly, congratulations to Bobby Michnowicz on his VRA Senior Sprint main event win. Joe and Wes Richardson set up that late 90ís Gambler and it was gone like a rocket. Thatís the same car that Tom Stansberry won his first VRA Sprint Championship in. Always nice to have the great Bobby in the winnerís circle, especially with Joe and Wes. Douglas is mere points ahead of Kershaw again in the Senior Sprints championship saga. Epic effort by Douglas in second.

Danny Faria Jr. With Car Owner Bill Jones and Crew

Out of twenty nine, twenty sprint cars lined lined up for the main event. Dakota Kershaw was the alternate but he did not get to the green flag. Young tigers Brandon Thomson, Brian Camarillo, Tyler Edwards, John Nock and Matt Mitchell in the first three rows anchored by Troy Rutherford in the sixth spot. Phillip flips the green and we are smoking. Track is in great shape, tight and packed, looks like it wants to take rubber but time will tell. A few vicious ruts here and there. Clear and cool. Everybody is on the bottom, Thomson wobbles and drops the lead. Brian Camarillo out front and the gang fills in. Itís Camarillo flying, Thomson, Edwards, Rutherford and Derek Buckley. Camarillo has a big lead as Rutherford clears the other frontrunners, followed by Thomson on the bottom and here comes Mitchell. Rutherford and Mitchell start running the top like two open wheel locomotives. There is a tiny cushion the size of your forearm separating the track from the wall. First yellow and the line up has Edwards in fifth, Nock sixth and hello Blake Miller! Green again and Camarillo gets away cleanly. Mitchell bounces through a turn two rut but still advances past Thomson for third. Rutherford is dead ahead. Mitchell slides Rutherford turn two, Rutherford goes under him and clears on the backstretch. Miller has cleared Edwards for fifth and is getting up head of steam. Suddenly, high in turn four Kevin Kierce (coming from the seventh row) mixes with Edwards, flips in slow motion and we are yellow. Itís the details that are killing me. The clarity of the air. The slow full moon hanging like a Japanese lantern over the track. The Amtrak train thatís whistling thinly behind the sound of titans. Naylor turns around on every yellow and is cooing at his new granddaughter in the pressroom above him. You canít cram any more color into the picture. Camarillo goes high and Rutherford grinds the bottom. Kierce had refired but it was over and we are yellow as he dies on the backstretch. Replay the restart and Camarillo again smartly out front. Brian Camarillo really kicked this party off and picked the music. Huge acceleration in the straights and sweeping power turns. But Rutherford and Mitchell are coming like those holidays. I turn to Tim Truex in the tower next to me and Iím yelling about what a brilliant race Brian Camarillo is running. Five seconds later he hits the wall in turn one and heís upside down. I know itís my fault. I should learn to keep my mouth shut. Iím sorry, Brian. Restart with Troy Rutherford in the lead, Matt Mitchell wanting it bad and Brandon Thomson sticking to his bottom strategy. He needs more rubber. Troy is fast and hitting the bottom on one and two. Mitchell in second and he is betting on the wall. Miller clears Thomson for third and you have the unholy trinity up front, Rutherford, Mitchell and Miller. Troy drifts in turn two and Mitchell and Miller take first and second. Mitchell is doing high speed pounding on the walls and Miller and Rutherford and battling for second. Unbelievable speed by the top three coming through turns three and four, each car a locomotive and the whole thing looking like a hell bound train. From the top of the tower to the bottom of the pits stands we are stunned by the majesty and intensity. Matt Mitchell is grinding the concrete in every corner. Blake Miller is gaining. Troy Rutherford is flat out in the moment. Blake is on top of Mitchell and sees an opportunity coming into turn one. He dives to the bottom and everyone in the joint knows he going to the front. STOP THE PRESSES. He catches a mean little rut at the bottom, turns a micrometer the wrong way and PARKS IT. Twenty three laps completed and seven to go. Blake Miller is one of the great drivers on the West Coast but tonight he goes to the back. Green again and Matt Mitchell is again on the gas. Rutherford to the bottom but itís not getting done. Huge racing further back between Nock and Woodward but who has time? Ronnie Case is coming up fast from the seventh row. Relentless scary speed up front for spellbound fans. White flag out and nobody gives up nothing as Mitchell is full throttle all the way to the checkers. Rutherford relentless in second. Ronnie Case cool as a cucumber in third, top three in the last two races, hard charger almost every race. Even the losers walked out of that place satisfied.

Matt Mitchell Rips The Joint

I donít know what it all means. The economy is kicking me like Iím some kind of dog. Recession is where you get to work more for less money. Rick Hendrix hits the wall so hard in his heat race that everybody just freaked. I saw him later and he just shrugged it off. I walk through the pits and giants surround me. I donít know how to talk to these people. Brilliant diamonds scattered in the arid desert of life. Quiet legends are hunched over cars tinkering with hope. I retreat to a small patch of dirt I can control. Iím hanging with Clint and weíre getting ready for the next race. He tells me everythingís cool.

Clint Lathrop of Carco Engines