The Father and The Son
Ventura Raceway
August 28, 2010

Game Changer Rob Kershaw

Sprint car action raged like wildfires all across California last Saturday. Sixteen cars in Santa Maria for the Southwest Contractors 360 Clash with T.J. Smith taking his third win in four weeks. Southwest Contractors does so much for so many in this sport I canít keep up. High five to them, Chris Kearns and T.J. Smith. Twenty-five cars in Perris with the USAC-CRA Champion Mike Spencer returning to form the week before the prestigious Louis Vermeil Classic in Calistoga. I remember Mike came back from Calistoga last year and went on a tear. They found something in that wine country and were beating everybody over the head with it all the way up to the Nationals. I hate to miss Perris and thanks to Tanner Watson who did such a great job with my ad in the Perris program last race. She gave it a lot of thought and effort and landed me on the inside cover. Typical of the attention to detail Perris puts into everything. In Ventura, the hard-core faithful again showed up, twenty-two senior sprint cars and twenty-seven regular VRA for a total of forty-nine sprint cars. Dave Mahar and I were giggling at the deal; nine heat races, two semis and two mains. For the fourteen-dollar fan admission, that works out to about a dollar and a dime per race. Throw in kids for free and they are practically paying you to come to the races. Best of all, those were smoking heats, brutal semis and amazing mains. Another thing, to think that Senior Sprints are anything less than the regular VRA doesnít hold much water anymore. More about that later. But first, let me plug Tom ďThunderheadĒ Toutzís Ventura golf tournament in two weeks. The USAC-CRA 410 monsters are returning to Ventura September 25th along with the Wagsdash. The Committee To Support Ventura Raceway (when itís under attack) along with Ventura Raceway and Wagsdash are throwing a golfing event to raise funds. My understanding is that half the money raised will go to Ken for his Wagsdash and the other half will get stashed for future battles to protect the raceway. Anyhow, if you think you can drive a golf ball farther than Troy Rutherford (and apparently Don Gansen thinks he can) come on out to Buenaventura Golf Club on Friday, September 24 and put up. All the VRA legends will be there for golfing, eating, drinking and comparing pistons. Get details at Dinner will be served. Thanks to Tom Toutz, Jimmy Crawford and Ken Wags for all you do. Also donít forget the Jack Kindoll Hall of Fame Classic September 18th at Perris. Chris Holt has been working his butt off to raise prize money to keep alive the memory of this pioneer. Chris has also been helping me with my photography and Iím hanging on every word. ďBack upĒ he tells me. ďShow the cars together, let them tell the storyĒ. Good advice.

Deblauw, Wakim and Howard Tell The Story

The Rodarte brothers, Austin and Aaron, once again pulverized the IMCA Modified main event. Sitting in the pit stands, David Peterson pointed out to me the outrageous ability of these two drivers to pass consistently on the outside of the other drivers. Not an easy feat in a modified. It was a ballsy and brawling main event with Austin, Aaron, Chris Crompe, Danny Lauer (coming from the back twice!) and Jack Parker finishing in that order. Jack Parker debuted his new 55 Jr., just a beautiful car. Dwarfs were out in force, twenty eight total. Kevin Alverson took the Senior Dwarf Main Event, followed by George Calvo and Mike Neal. Keith Koslov put on a hell of a show, was slotted second before being spun on the last lap. Koslov is becoming quite the talent, that was a rotten deal. Angel Figueroa continues to tear up the Pro Division. He put on an outstanding performance all night long, culminating in a main event win over erstwhile Ray Estrada and Lars Wolfe. Watching Figueroa and Estrada battle in dwarf cars is racing at its finest. Wolfe has really stepped it up this year. Kids were also out racing with Devon McCree winning the VRA Junior Midget Main Event. Tommy Velasquez took second and Cody Majors third. Cute Ryann Butcher took first in the Mini Dwarf Pistons with Logan Rutherford second and Jake Aquilar third. In the powerhouse Mini Dwarf Supercharger division, it was eternally young (and eternally fun) Ricky Lewis in first, Miles Hedrick second and Cameron McCaule in third.

The Mother and The Daughter

The Ventura Racing Association Senior Sprint division is undergoing a sea change. Rabid membership combined with state of the art efforts have transformed it from the ďold folksĒ of the VRA to a prestigious and hard fought series. Leading the charge is the Kershaw juggernaut; a combination of hard core racer and sponsor Rob Kershaw, the remerging high performance of Gary ďthe LegendĒ Howard and the talented wrench of crew chief Matt Dale. These three individuals have combined at Ventura Raceway to vault the prominence of VRA Senior Sprint car racing and will eventually (as Robís kids grow) come to affect Southern California sprint cars in general. They are counterbalanced and counterattacked by the committed Fast Undercar contingent of Bruce Douglas, Victor Davis and the whole Steve Watts Bad Wrench Crew, maybe the most talented group of car builders and set up artists ever assembled at Ventura. If you want to go fast, you call 1-800 Biggie. Senior regulars Roy Miller Freightlines, Bach Construction and Bob Alderman all throw fuel on the fire. Then there are an incredible slew of fanatical newcomers including Cliff Warren, Russell Deblauw and Chris Meredith pushing their way to the front. Ventura sprint fans are feasting on a greasy BBQ of investment, innovation and hi-test beer. Last weekendís main course finished with the surf and turf of Kershaw and Howard, followed across the line by Bruce Douglas, Cliff Warren and Victor Davis. Powerful stuff going down. Weíre just digging it in the stands.

Greg Taylor Drives The Crash Wall In His Heat Race

VRA Sprint Car Main Event. Five weeks since sprint cars have howled at Ventura and longer than that for Ronnie Case, front row outside. In the tower we handicapped his lack of seat time this year, but everybody knew his heat race was intense and his car fast. Brent Camarillo on the pole, suffering an almost unquenchable thirst to win and we gave him his due. Dakota Kershaw was second row with Steve Conrad outside. Rick Hendrix third row with points leader Troy Rutherford. All of these guys can win, but Troy was the towerís pick, powerful performances all year and fresh from a Santa Maria 410 second-place finish. He had a brand new car and engine between his legs and no shake down bugs evident in his first place heat race finish. But in this patch of paradise flush with talent, you canít count out no one. Green and Camarillo nips the first lap. Ronnie Case stomps on the gas at the flag stand and vaults into first. Itís Case, Camarillo, Conrad, Kershaw and Rutherford. Rick Hendrix on the gas, clears Troy and moves into fifth. Lap five and Case wiggles coming out of two and that was all clever Conrad needed to get under him and pinch the lead. Conrad, Case and Camarillo swing high while Hendrix grinds the bottom. Hendrix clears Camarillo and then passes Case. I canít believe I underestimated Hendrix again; he is a racing machine with the tenacity of ten men. Greg Taylor is on the move. Conrad out front, Hendrix, Case, Camarillo, Rutherford and Josh Ford, who started seventh behind Rutherford. Taylor further back, scrapping forward from eleventh. Ford clears Rutherford for fifth, next lap Rutherford rips it right back. Now Taylor clears Ford who falls to seventh. Although Conrad is in the clear, Hendrix has closed the gap and itís all fists and elbows behind them. Rutherford gets righteously stuffed coming out of two and falls back. Itís lap fifteen and Hendrix squeezes under Conrad in turn two. Holy ships, you canít give up the lead on this track, you may never get it back! Conrad digs. Itís Hendrix, Conrad, and Camarillo in the flow, Case hanging relentless, Ford, Taylor and Rutherford. Everyone is viciously fast and rude. No quarter given here and no bloody change offered. Your car better be tight, your attitude right and no whining. Brent Camarillo starts working on Conrad like a nervous habit. Itís Hendrix out clean, but now he is passing the back markers. Gansen in the Watt/Stover Memorial car pulls off. Hendrix still out front passing the flag stand to complete lap twenty-two. Conrad and Camarillo right behind him, both pass John Nock at the flag stand, Camarillo on the bottom, Conrad on the top. Camarillo almost makes the pass in turn two for second but we are suddenly and finally yellow when Brian Camarillo flips in turn three and gathers Justin Kierce. The mustangs are corralled in and Cliff keeps it yellow. Guy Woodward is off and on while Markus Niemela pulls into the infield. Fast green and itís Hendrix, Conrad and Camarillo all bunched up and flailing. Behind them itís Case, Taylor, Rutherford and Ford, all fighting and looking for an opening. There is a message board regular on who tags his posts ďTake It To The Top and Let It Rock!Ē I love that and so does Brent Camarillo. He winds up his pitch going into one and two and comes rocketing down the backstretch. He sets his line on the bottom to get under Hendrix and Conrad, who are already there, but here he comes, so fast I am afraid to watch. Last man on the elevator going down, he holds his line, clears Hendrix but canít get by Conrad. No worries, letís do it again. Again he flies down the backstretch and he sees that refreshing oasis, life giving water right in front of him. Flying through three but he finds a filthy little rut in four, hooks it but holds it together. Rick Hendrix is coming right behind him, drifting slowly up the track passing through three into four. His right front makes the slightest contact with Brentís left rear and Brent is knocked spinning gathering up Taylor, Case and almost Rick Hendrix. Suddenly his oasis dissolves in front of him and he is once again staring at hot desert, thirsty as ever. Taylor, who is the only one capable of catching Troyís points at this time, watched his top five finish disappear into the sand also. Ronnie Case, putting on a powerful show, is also done for the night. As a fan I love to watch Brent Camarillo go for it, itís hard to see him fall short and impact good people. But watching the highlights later, I see no fault of Camarillo here. Hard racing. I was talking to Rutherford over a beer later and he was sympathetic. ďBrent reminds me of me when I was youngerĒ he tells me laughing. Twenty-seven complete, three to go and the line up was Conrad, Hendrix and Rutherford. Naylor is pitching the crowd and advising everyone to keep their eyes on Rutherford. And you canít rule out the tenacious time bomb Rick Hendrix, he just keeps on ticking. But Steve Conrad has reclaimed the lead and he has been here many times. It seems he is always in contention, always in the thick of it. His father hasnít been feeling well and has made a rare trip to the track tonight. Steveís normally has a lot of heart; tonight he is all heart. Green flag and Rutherford first clears Hendrix. White flag with Conrad first, Rutherford second, Hendrix third and Ford fourth. Conrad knows what to do and gets the job done. Rutherford is second in as many races. Ford fights to third and Hendrix fourth. Cody Kershaw is cool top five. Kenny Perkins is Hard Charger, moving from seventeenth to seventh.

Wry Social and Racing Commentator Dave Mahar

Iím fascinated by the deep and complex father and son relationships I see in racing. My own father was a bum, so I am especially intrigued when I see Dads hovering over their children in those mini dwarfs, karts and sprints. I borrowed some pictures of a young Steve Conrad from his father, Steve Sr. and I was examining them carefully. They showed Steve Jr. when he a young racer with long hair and even then he had that Steve McQueen smile. I realized it was his dad taking these pictures and driving him to the races, a thousand road trips where you come in second and who else is going take that long drive home with you, explain what happened and whatís really important. I donít think a kid could turn out finer than Steve Conrad. As the years spin on, the cycle of children, racing, grandchildren, love won and races lost plays out. Steve wanted the win bad tonight he tells me. As time goes on, sharing those wins seems more and more precious. Out in Great Lakes, Illinois, north of Chicago, Steve Conradís number one fan, Reed Broschort, has completed naval boot camp. His dad Ron texted him the race results. I know Reed and he is out there bragging to anyone who will listen about Ventura and Steve Conrad. Bragging about the track, the father and the son.

The Father and The Son