Tough Little Town
July 24th, 2010

All Thrill No Fill
Venturaís Most Decorated

Itís a tough little town growls Tripcrwn and heís seen a few. Iíve been crawling all over this state from the high deserts to the low Sierraís and man is it fun to be home. It was a smoking little affair Saturday night under a dead lead moon. Fifty-two sprint cars booked but we lost a couple. I consider every single car precious, jmo. Every car represents a bloody significant investment. Sprints, Mods, Sports, whatever. Racing is life and death. All racers have basic inalienable rights. Treat every car with utmost consideration. Treat every driver with respect as you shall reap as you sow. We all bring something equal to the party. I kicked the can around the pits and looked at all the strong faces and personalities. No bullshit here. Cliff goes over the rules. Some things arenít in the rules but they get worked out. Rules, fools, tools and mules. Place runs like a well-worn Fourth of July fireworks wheel, spinning, sparking and hitting your marking. Hobo stew is on the fire and brother didnít we all get to a boil. What a stunning main event for sprints. Greg Taylor led us all to higher ground. But best of all, after months of speculation and chatter, Hunter Drumma and the Flying Finn finally checked in...

Tyler Stover, Looking Sharp

Twenty-one go carts and more and more intriguing people hooking up all the time. I dig the fashion sense, I like that Fox Racing stuff, and I thought Kyle Park and Tyler Stover were looking especially sharp. Nice change from the industrial basics most drivers sport. Robert Delgaudio has got a good-looking car; Scott Bohle has a strange looking one. Racing was red hot as usual, watching Scott Bohle take the third heat and pump his fist, you realize that winning is that universal feeling. Josh Ford rips Heat One. Taylor Hailey flashing in Heat Two. George Ito took the Semi Main. DelGaudio hammered the Go Kart Main after putting away early leader Ken Ito. Delgaudio also leads the points over Josh Ford and David Pankratz. Go Karts are open wheel racing at itís simplest and perhaps most pure. Who wouldnít want to drive a Kart? Forty-five different drivers have suited up this year.

Frost Warning

Eighteen Modifieds, what a Mount Rushmore of talent. Guys like Lauer, Redman, Green, Rodarte, McGraw, Parker, Prows, these guys are bigger than life. No lily livered sniveling here. Clint Eastwood would drive a modified. Get out of the way as Danny Lauer staples another first place to his chest. He comes down from Santa Maria like a cold front and puts a frost warning on everybody. I sure enjoyed Kyle Heckman massive in second with Randy McGraw giving everybody hell in third. Aaron Rodarte was asserting himself. Those Rodarte boys lead the points and I see dad Rick in the pits and he just flat out owns the joint.

Tanner Kershaw With Everybody That Matters

Youngster Tanner Kershaw took his outside front row position and dominated the VRA Junior Focus Midget race. Alex Jacobsen was on the gas and threatened constantly, but Tanner kept his cool and drove a perfect defensive race. My buddy Henry Collins took a well-deserved third. In the Sport Compact world, Trevor Fitzgibbon continues to rule with articulated technical skills and a passion for the front. He reminds me a lot of the great Dwarf driver Ed Niedzwiecki, technical perfection combined with an intense focus on speed. Trevor was so fast Saturday night he was having breakfast Sunday morning before the other cars placed. Mike Frazier (second) Brent Underwood (third) gave it a go, but it was Trent ordering pancakes! Proud Mama was in the winnerís circle with him. Hey Kathy, here is that picture you asked for!

Trevor and Mom

Senior Sprints rocked but Rob Kershaw and teammate Gary Howard now seem to own that little corner of the universe. Bruce Douglas (third) always throws down a hell of a fight, but Frick and Frack are unbeatable at this point. That was constantly improving Cliff Warren (led laps 1 through 11) in fourth and Bob Alderman top five two races in a row. I missed seeing the Miller brothers, but they donít put up with any BS and walked. I prefer people that stand for something over others that settle for anything. Twenty Senior Sprints tonight, Kershaw leads the points, followed by Douglas, Russell Deblauw, Cliff Warren and Victor Davis. Russell, Cliff and Victor are all having their best year ever. Come to think of it, Cliff Warren is now a constant threat to win.

The Flying Finn

What an awesome VRA Sprint Car Main Event. Let me give you a little history on Markus Niemela, the Flying Finn who has been making Ventura home this past year. His resume is impressive; started racing in 1990, had an injury in 2001 that nearly ended his career. Starting over, he was the Finnish Carting Champion in 2002, the Finnish Ford Formula Champion in 2004 and the USA based Champ Car Atlantic Champion in 2008. Markus had never seen a sprint car until the end of 2009. Sponsored by American Polly Gallimore, he tested with Kevin Kierce on New Years Eve at Ventura. The connection was electric; three weeks later the young Finn (25 years) had a development deal with Kierce for the 2010 season. Kierce teamed him with young (18 years) crew chief Hunter Drumma, a K2 member from way back. Kevin advises on set up, Hunter turns the wrenches and Markus turns the wheel. Early results were muted, but come on, this place is no cakewalk. Markus broke his left wrist four weeks ago and missed one race. Came back last week and had an impressive race. Climbed into the car again this Saturday night and with one hand on the wheel, delivered the performance everybody has been waiting for.

Getting To A Boil

VRA Sprint Car Main Event. Markus Niemela on the pole, Scott Hansen outside. Jaguars, bobcats and leopards several rows deep behind them. Ford, Kierce, Espinoza, Kruseman, Taylor and Camarilloís just in the first five rows. Rutherford flipped in his heat, tore up the semi main and was plotting in the eighth row. Tim Truex and I hunkered down on tower roof, his dad Mike was digging foxholes in the infield. Foxhole, hell, he needed a shark cage. Green flag and Niemela did what you have to do at Ventura, he got out front fast. Track was ripped and hooked. Ford and Kruseman second and third and they went at it. Ford hit the bottom and pinched Cory with a cool slide job. Kierce was fourth with Taylor flying fifth. Markus went high, he went low, he was incredibly fast and sophisticated at finding his lines. He started to pull away and we are all kind of checking him out. He comes up on the back markers and starts driving this bullring like itís a road course, dodging, drifting and dashing through traffic. Full blown feeding frenzy behind him, classic choke and slides with Kruseman, Ford, Kierce and Taylor. We pass the halfway mark and it doesnít look like anyone will catch Markus without a break. Brent Camarillo steps up, hooks and has a vicious series of flips down the front strait. The track goes red (that how vicious it was) and the car is completely upside down and still. I glance to my left where his family sits high in turn one. Track safety officials right the car, Brent pops out faster than a newborn baby and takes a dramatic bow for the cheering grandstands. I love this kid. I remember what JackSlash sez, ďnobody wants to see a crash, but nobody wants to miss one!Ē Check out Loudpedal Video as Mike Truex cruises that open red and puts you inside the critical cars. The game is really on now. Drumma is with his driver and god knows what changes you would make on a car this fast. But Niemela isnít just racing Cory, Ford or Taylor. Thatís the great Mike Nigh working on Cory, Jimmy May with Ford and Bernie Hammer with Taylor. What those combat commanders are doing now will determine this race. From the top of the tower, I am wondering whatís going through Hunterís head. Green again and you can see Troy Rutherford is swinging high and making progress. Itís Niemela also high and gone again. Taylor hits the bottom and then back to the top. Kierce slides Ford in two, they get together and Kierce goes to the infield with a flat left front. No yellow. Iím watching Cory Kruseman try to catch this Niemela and those who know are kinda blowing their minds. Cory Kruseman at Ventura is a deadly threat and this young Markus canít be caught. But the paradigm is shifting and itís called Greg Taylor. Bernie has made the right call and Taylor is clearly on the move. He starts dropping these atomic slides and getting away with startling speed out of the turns. Watching Taylor race is a hobby of mine, but I canít quite believe how fast heís going. Coming out of turn four, he passes Markus on the outside and takes control. Markus doesnít flinch and stays with it. Five laps, Markus right behind Taylor and Iím sure heís taking notes as they finish first and second. Cory Kruseman in third, Josh Ford fourth, the titanium Steve Conrad fifth from thirteenth. But not even that feat nails hard charger. That honor goes to Troy Rutherford, from seventeenth to sixth for the Sushi Fresh Hard Charger prize.

Greg Taylor and Crew

Markus is back in Finland for the break and I hope heís reading this. I have this vision of him trying to explain to his friends that he was holding off Cory Kruseman. Kruseman suffers the fate of being the benchmark for all things fast. I see Markusís Finnish friends saying ďwhat is Kruse Man?Ē. Donít worry, Markus is laughing, itís all good. Meanwhile, Greg Taylor goes home and kisses the baby. He gets up Monday and is back at work. His friends know who Kruseman is. Hunter Drumma will be back. Mike Nigh will be back. What a trip. Itís a tough little town.

The Kids Are Always Watching