True Grit
Victorville Auto Speedway
July 10th, 2010


All Thrill No Fill
Seth Wilson Down Home

Road trip. Brudder Brett likes his classic rock, so we stuck it on Classic Vinyl, cranked the volume and booked for the high desert. By the time we hit Pasadena we were deep in purple and space trucking. California cowboys channeling the Eagles as we crawled the base of the San Gabrielís. As we bore east into the Empire we turned left on the Mojave Highway and started that long climb up through Horse Thief Canyon, striving for that Cajon Pass. It was hot and thick as the summer monsoonal storms drift up from the South. I love that long and desolate incline. You follow that washed out river bottom and your mind just blows away. Union Pacific pulls empty boxcars under puffy clouds. Iím stuck on a superhighway, but I only see the Stagecoaches winding their way to the high desert. There ainít much traffic, maybe a farmhand on a slow mule or a brash bounty hunter rushing to Barstow. We ride past Mormon Rocks. Every Zane Grey book, every ten cent cap pistol and Clint Eastwood daydream is a rolled up in a jumbled ball in my head. I love that movie where John Wayne is Rooster Cogburn charging the banditos both hands filled with blazing guns. ďFill your hand you son of a bitch!Ē he is yelling. Weíre just some beach trash thatís blowing up that dusty riverbed, like jimson weed smoke twisting and turning in the breeze and destined for Victorville.


Western Anthem

We pulled in at dusk, watered the horses and drifted out to the track. A sign hung on the crash wall that said Wanted Dead Or Alive. I thought about that for a minute and started fussing with my camera gear. I talked to a track hand named Patrick who filled me in pretty good. I saw that sodbuster Gibbons and he couldnít have been nicer to me. He was on his quad and checking every little thing out. That kind of stuff makes me want to be a promoter. Yeah thatís cool, ride around on your quad and talk on the radio and go wherever the hell you want. They started to push off some sprints and he was just hanging, weaving through the sprints and making sure the world was safe. I shot some hot laps and figured out some angles. They told me not to stand so close so I wandered down to the east end of the track. Thatís turn one and two and they basked in the setting sunlight. This is a really beautiful track. It seems kinfolk like Perris and Ventura overshadow it. Gibbons has worked hard on this jewel; it deserves the spotlight. I couldnít have known it then, but it lit up later that night like a lightning bolt hit it.


Sheriff Rickie

Back in the pits I got catch up with some really cool people I hadnít seen in a while. Waugh and his lovely wife were in from New Zealand to see their son Jay race. Thatís the funny thing about racing; you can be at a track in the high desert and the next thing your talking to some Kiwi who just barnstormed in from another continent. Clark Templeman is back from filming in Utah and had some interesting stories. I hooked up with Sam Tressler and we talked a good while. Thatís good people. Cody Williams was nearby working on his racecar and totally absorbed. I like drivers that work on their own cars and this grease-smeared kid was all over it. I asked for a picture and he was kind enough to this stranger. I like this photo; he looks like Jesse James. Thatís a young and earnest look I see haunting dirt tracks everywhere. Talented driver. All that work on the car and later in the main event some desperado shot him in the back.


Sharpshooter

Blood red sky and the whole town turns out. David Cardey and Seth Wilson up front. That's going to be a hard row to hoe. Green flag drops and itís a screw up in turn one, McCall and Smith get turned around. Restart and itís a stampede down the front. The first thing that stands out about Victorville is the amazing speed. Not as big as Perris, it still has a healthy straightaway and the turns are broad shouldered and forgiving. Seth is blisteringly fast and the herd is hard after him. Super Rickie Gaunt is coming from the second or third row, just smokes the bottom of turns one and two and slides the whole damn posse for second. I mean EVERYBODY had to check up. That was worth the pit pass right there. Itís Wilson solid, Gaunt second, Cardey in third, followed by Aden, Templeman and Austin Williams. Cardey and Aden trade, Williams and Templeman shuffle the deck. Another yellow, but Iím standing in the infield and miss the cause. It looks like McCall and Perkins are done. Another restart and a massive cluster cluck before they get to the flag stand. Somebody did something to somebody and the next thing you know itís a bar fight. I see Hobie Conway launch but land on all fours, her front end collapses. Cody Williams is trying to avoid the mess but catches a wheel and flips hard, end over end. They had to shoot that horse. I see Severson in there somewhere. He tells me after the race heís hanging it up. The line up is now Wilson, Gaunt, Aden, Cardey and Austin Williams. Again tremendous speed but Sheriff Rickie is putting the pressure to Wilson. He slides Wilson in turn one and two, Wilson takes it back in three and four. Just the kind of double dirt dealing poker we love to watch! Again Gaunt puts it to him in one and two and Gaunt gets gone. Cardey has moved up, tries to take advantage of the situation but Wilson stuffs him cleanly. Itís Gaunt, Wilson, Cardey, Aden and Williams. Wilson and Cardey are in a shootout and lapped cars are in the crossfire. Down the backstretch and Cardey is tapping the back of Wilsonís car. He looks faster, impatient, frustrated and finally just jacks the bottom and clears Wilson. Gaunt is huge, perfect laps, hitting all the bullís-eyes and executing like the crackerjack he is. Cardey is on it, but it looks hopeless as the white flag of surrender flies. Then a bunch of disconnected stuff occurs. Some idiot in the stands decides to take a picture of his family and falls in front of the crowd. Angel Figueroa is in the pit stands, decides Cardey has no hope and turns away. I bend down and grab for my camera and flash, getting ready for the winnerís circle. I stand up and refocus just as Gaunt comes into turn four. Iím in the infield, almost directly in front of the flag stand and have an excellent view. I would have to say Cardey was several car lengths behind Gaunt. Gaunt hugs the bottom, telling me later he was worried about a slide job. Instead there is some lapped traffic in his tractor beam and it looks like he canít quite hammer down. He comes into the straight and drifts slightly wide, closer to the wall. Cardey comes in high, diamonds off the top and fully stands on it sweeping for the bottom of the track. Iím still not sure how he did it, but between the turn and the flag, the space between the cars evaporated and somebody robbed the Glendale Train! Total photo finish. Cardey pulled right around and jumped out! Gaunt took another lap, pulled up and stood in his seat, half in, half out of the car. They bumped fists and waited for the announcer. Cardey wins and the crowd went insane. Gaunt slid back down in his seat and waved his crew to get him out of there. Cardey put a fifth notch on his gun belt in as many races, then gives a high five to Don Blair Racing.


How The West Was Won

I went into the pits after the race and talked to Rickie. ďWas that a tough one to lose?Ē I asked him. ďIím a terrible loser,Ē he told me. ďHorrible loser. But Iíll tell you whatĒ he confides as I lean in, ďIíve won em like that and Iíve lost em like that!Ē Then he gives you that maniacal grin and I swear this son of a gun is having more fun than anybody. What a race. I will never forget David Cardey that night, under full steam, just like John Wayne, charging out of turn four with guns blazing in both hands. ďFill your hand....Ē What was that movie? Oh yeah, I remember, True Grit.


Mojave Mood