Drillerís Mud
Santa Maria Speedway
August 14, 2010

Jesse Mack and Santa Maria Speedway Prepare For Take-Off

Vic Parker, the hardest working man in motor-sports, tells me that when he used to go to Ascot, after the main they would throw open the gate for the spectators to cross the track. He asserts that if you were wearing tennis shoes, the clay was so sticky it would suck the shoes off your feet. He further asserts the second stickiest track he ever encountered was always Doug Fortís Santa Maria Speedway. Doug Fort must be giggling in heaven, for not only has his track graduated to the stickiest anywhere, his dear wife has turned it over to one of the hardest working and most progressive promoters Iíve ever come across. Chris Kearns threw a USAC-CRA 410 party last week that just rocked. Hs attention to detail, sense of fair play, snappy staff and bloody hard work packed the stands with fans and dropped thirty-one core drivers into the pits. Reports of the demise of 410 racecars are greatly exaggerated. They came, they raged and they sprayed so much mud Iím still picking it out of my teeth.

All Thrill No Fill
Miller Had No Match

Doug used to mine clay just south of the track and I guess Chris is meditating on the same mountain. He tells me he dumped two hundred and fifty truckloads at the beginning of the season and it has been screaming ever since. He told me it was wicked the week before, but with the cool weather he laid down significantly less water this week, maybe ten thousand less gallons. However, despite the perfect afternoon temps, the track seemed a touch damp for qualifying and he was concerned times were off maybe a full second. No matter, Rip Williams was fast time with 14.352. What a career this guy is having. Second race back from a serious hand injury, the best and brightest surrounding him and this Hall of Fame veteran smokes the field. Ripís greatest momentís spill ahead of him like diamonds on a freeway. Current Champion Mike Spencer clocked a 380 right behind him followed by local legend Davey Pombo with a 387. Bullet Blake Miller was fourth with 14.457 and Troy Rutherford, driving Josh Fordís #73, finished fifth with 14.523. Four of these five drivers finished in the Main Event top five, which I find interesting because the order was almost a complete invert.

Rip Williams In High Speed Form

Heat One had Austin Williams out front but Danny Faria goes to the infield immediately with a right rear flat. Itís Austin Williams, Rickie Gaunt and Troy Rutherford leading. Tyler Schmidt hits the flag stand wall and tears down part of the fence. They rope it up, fire it off and its Williams, Gaunt and Rutherford still with little passing. The track is undoubtedly sticky but still loose everywhere. This is clearly on Kearnsís worried mind. Itís Austin Williams, Gaunt, Rutherford, Rip and Marty Hawkins. Heat Two is Jimmy Crawford gone in a hurry, chased by Cory Kruseman and Danny Sheridan. Kruseman drifts in a turn and checks up everybody behind him. Further back Mitchell is getting on it and clears Sheridan who stays on the gas. Further back from there is the incredible Mike Spencer and future Famer Bud Kaeding locked into their own prime time drama. After some select dicing, Spencer gets ahead of Kaeding. The passing is precious and hard to come by. Itís Crawford, Kruseman, Mitchell and Sheridan in Main. Spencer and Kaeding are going to the semi. Holy tacoís, this show is just getting better and better every minute.

Troy Rutherford

Heat Three featured two 360ís running first and second. I think those were the only 360ís in the show. Aussie pride Peter Murphy is first followed by Venturaís gritty Rick Hendrix. Young Ronnie Gardner is third all through the race, being consistently pushed by Davey Pombo throughout. Straight shooting Rusty Carlile is fifth. Rising star Jace VanderWeerd is going to the semi, which is already stacked with Faria, Spencer and Kaeding. Fourth and final heat features Jesse Mack out front in a Kruseman car. Greg Bragg is all over it followed by Tony Jones. Behind him, Blake Miller is clearly hooked up and coming. Miller makes the pass and it is decisive. Next he clears Bragg and is chasing Jesse down. Bragg breaks down on the backstretch for a yellow, which reels in Mack even more for Miller. Green flag and Miller is shot out of a cannon. Heís gone like the summer and it finishes Miller, Mack, Jones and Dennis Howell. Richard VanderWeerd joins his brother in the semi. Their pit boss dad is going to have a long night. I canít wait for the semi. Miller? Everybody is talking about it. Iím standing next to him later watching the semi but donít even ask. Some things are too subtle to mess with.

Bud Kaeding

That semi was everything you could hope for and started to hint at the speed and greatness that was coming. Mike Spencer out front and you arenít going to catch that cat. Cody Williams was trying though and he was followed by Jace VanderWeerd and Bud Kaeding. Spencer was quickly in lapped traffic and flying. Everybody else was holding. Cody breaks and they reel them all in. Line up is Spencer, Jace, Bud, Richard V and Carlile. Faria is further back and trying to make up ground on the restart. He tangles with Tyler Schmidt who is flips and is done. Green again and they take seven, Spencer, Jace V, Kaeding, Richard V, Carlile, Hawkins and, by the skin of his teeth, Danny Faria Jr. Special shout out to my buddy Steve Hix, hanging with the giants.
I hear Faria in the pits afterwards yelling, ďFor Godís sake loosen this thing up!Ē

Four Wide Piss and Vinegar

Well, they got it loose for the Main Event but more about that later. Rickie Gaunt on the pole, Dennis Howell outside and the hounds of hell behind them. Moisture content on the track hits perfect, freeloaders up on the road above the track all tucked in, grandstands full and piss and vinegar four wide all below us. Flag goes green and roar of twenty something 410ís shreds the night. We are in heaven. Gaunt out front and Howell is looking huge. Tony Jones is again bedeviled by Blake Miller and that set up was no fluke! Miller quickly clears both Jones and Howell. He analyzes Gaunt in front of him briefly and just roars past him down the back. Miller is driving with complete confidence and monster speed. It is clear right there nobody has anything for him. Tony Jones and somebody get messed up in turn two at the opposite end of track from me. Line up for the green is Miller, Gaunt. Howell, Rutherford (on the throttle), Kaeding, Spencer, somebody and is that Faria rim riding on every corner? Rutherford is ruthless and Howell falls to third. The speed is vicious; cars are inches apart and sticking in every corner. Iím in the tower with Loudpedal and the mud is raining on us. As I go through my notes writing this, the mud is still falling out of my notebook in fine porcelain chunks. This piece here had to come from Fariaís right rear because he is just tearing up the track. This guy is on the crazy train. Miller is driving a technically perfect race, slight fishtail in one corner but quick recovery and total focus. His set up is unmatched. Matt Mitchell flips in turn two and we are open red. I run down from the tower and walk up to Fariaís car. ďAre you out of your freaking mindĒ I flat out ask him. He looks out at me from a mud-encrusted helmet, black eyes bleeding intensity. ďIím trying,Ē he croaks. I wander from war wagons to wheel weapons. Jimmy May is fussing with Rutherford, who looks intense. Kruser, Kaeding, Gaunt, titans scattered across the track as if by luck and happenstance. They clear the crews, push off and we are high speed insane again. Almost immediately, coming out of four on a wishbone, Richard VanderWeerd gets out of control and executes a terrifying barrel roll down the front, gathering Austin Williams car nose in his roll cage. After a brief moment, Richard bounds out of the car like he just got back from the market. Remarkable. Line up is Miller, Gaunt, Rutherford, Kaeding and Spencer. We are green and the sound is tsunamic. Kaeding and Spencer, apparently unexhausted from their earlier heat race battles, continue to slice and dice each other across the track. Incredible racing from two of the sportís finest. Miller remains out front with steely determination, but maybe Gauntís car is coming in better as he starts to close the gap. Rutherford is spectacular in third, thwarting both Kaeding and Spencer at every turn. Faria gains another spot over Rip Williams and is slotted behind Kruseman. Gaunt threatens but Miller sucks it up. He puts another lapped car between them and all hope for anyone but Miller fades. White flag, something happens to Gaunt on the backstretch. Williams, Faria and Kruseman are all going at it. Here comes the herd and itís Miller, Rutherford, Kaeding, Spencer, Rip Williams top five and in sixth with Hard Charger carved on his forehead itís Danny Faria Jr.

Faria: ďIím TryingĒ

I build houses. When you build on the beach, you have to sink concrete piles twenty, thirty, forty feet deep into the ground. When youíre drilling, the ocean water wants to come through the sand and the mud and cave in your holes. They throw polymers in the hole and it mixes with the mud and water and forms thick clay, which holds out the ocean water from rushing in. And if you stand there next to the drill, the creamiest rich clay youíve ever seen rises to the top of the drill and spins off. The track at Santa Maria Saturday night was throwing that same rich chocolate frappe everywhere. Blake Miller has worked long and hard to learn his trade. He has had some tough breaks in the past two years (Nationals) and his fans are stoked to see him win such a high-speed debate. Itís funny where you find vindication. For Doug Fort, Chris Kearns and Blake Miller, last weekend they found it in the sweat, the blood and the drillerís mud.

Kaeding, Miller and Rutherford Stand Still For A Brief Moment