Backside Stories
The All Coast Challenge Finale
Ventura Raceway
October 23rd, 2010

All Thrill No Fill
Nic Faas Cashes the Coast

The facts are almost mundane but the nuances are fascinating. Forty cars signed in, a bit less than we were hoping for but we’ll take it! Out of the ordinary were Jon Stanbrough, Dave Darland, Ryan Bernal and Nic Faas. It was also a pleasure to see Kevin Mahoney, Dennis Rodriquez, Ed Schwarz and Tyler Edwards. Jesse Mack is becoming a regular, fantastic to have him on board. The rest were the usual sterling standout VRA regulars. Let me get the Stanbrough/ Darland story out of the way. Biggie has been trying to win this contest since the beginning. He ran Hockett the first year, courtesy of a Jackslash introduction. That was the infamous race where Brandon Thompson snuck past the wall-banging Hockett by sticking to the bottom. Second year Hockett was at the Trophy Cup, where he crashed both of cars on Friday night. Biggie said “hop in the car, I put you in a ride tomorrow night at Ventura 5k to win”. They came down; Hockett was dominating when Sheridan flipped hard. Leaders Hockett and Mitchell both stopped on the track and were put to the back. The yelling that went down in that tower is still reverberating around that track. God Bless Jesse Hockett, he put this race on the map. Anyhow, Jackslash now puts Biggie and Stanbrough together and they start talking. Jon wanted a ticket to fly out. Biggie comes to me and I say “Sure, I got a ticket for him.” Next thing I know Sean, Biggie and Tommy Horne are talking to Dave Darland. Biggie comes to me and says what about Darland? Well, now I have to sit down and catch my breath. Dave Darland is my biggest sprint car hero and the thought is kinda breathtaking. “Where is he gonna stay?” I ask. “We’ll find a couch for him” say’s Biggie. Well, that didn’t seem right. This guy is a Champion and he shouldn’t be on a couch. “Well”, I instantly decide, “tell him to come and tell him he’s got a room at the beach for two nights. Tell Stanbrough he’s got the same deal.” I called my secretary and asked if I had enough Amex points to fly two guys out from Indiana for a couple of days and put them up. Sure, she says, no problem. So ok, I’m good. Next Shaun Kautz (with a cast on his foot) approaches me after a race and says he’s trying to get Darland to drive his car. Do I want to help with a ticket? Well yeah, but I think he’s already booked. I suggest he checks with Biggie and Tommy and sorta forget about it. Later I call my buddy Chris Wakim and ask him about Kautz, I don’t really know him. “Great guy” reports Wakim. How’s his car? I ask. “Top notch equipment” responded Chris. Well, he looking for a driver. Chris then tells me Kautz was a little pickled he didn’t get Darland in that car. He told Chris he was determined to find somebody to beat them all. Little did I know, Kautz was also talking to Sean Buckley. Buckley says to him “why don’t you put Nic Faas in that car?”

Henry Back In Form At Ventura

Heat One: Track is heavy after a week of low pressure and misting. The grader is broken tonight and what will be will be. Schwarz and Stanbrough on the front row. Stanbrough gets right out front and is gone! Second row Brian Camarillo and third row Brent Camarillo are both on the throttle in second and third. Troy Rutherford comes from the back and slots fourth. It’s a bullet train, little passing after the first few laps and Stanbrough was starting to pass some drivers as he takes the ten lap checkered flag. They’re only taking the top three, 2010 VRA Sprint Car Champion Troy Rutherford is going to the semi. It’s going to be an interesting night.

Heat Two: Nic Faas takes the pole position in that Kautz Stunt Car special and rams the field for first. The spectacular Jonathan Henry blasts from the back row for second, but Faas is just a distant vision. Iron Man Richard McCormick is third for the transfer; Richard comes out every year and supports the Challenge. Steve Hix put the highly talented Tyler Edwards in his black 57 and the kid just missed the cut with fourth. Darland was having issues with his ride and also went to the semi. Tommy Horne is one of the most talented crew chiefs at Ventura, but it was clear he and David were struggling with this newly packaged car.

Heat Three: Heat three was a smoker, three wide battles with Jesse Mack (carving a track he has come to love), hot talent Brody Roa and the always-in-your-face Guy Woodward. Jeff Fillingame was in the mix and here comes Josh Ford. Brody Roa breaks away from the pack and now Luis Espinoza is bedeviling Mack. Further back, Challenge point’s leader Josh Ford knows every position is critical as the laps reel off. He is digging hard and more three wide coming out of turn two with Woodward, Fillingame (impressive) and Ford! White flag lap, it’s Roa, Jesse Mack and Luis Espinoza. Ford grinds the bottom coming out of four, has to move some people out of the way and Woodward takes the brunt of it, flipping hard in the squeeze. Ford lives to race again, but it will be in the semi.

Stanbrough and Biggie Are Planning A Reunion

Heat Four: I drew a #6 pill pick for Wakim and he gets the pole (Woodward has inherited Wakim’s bad luck crown). Chris took that pole and ran away. Young Watsonville Sprint Champion Ryan Bernal was in second but here comes Brandon Thomson and Steve Conrad. Thomson clears Bernal and Conrad is squeezing him from behind. Greg Alexander is on a mission and moving up rapidly. Conrad clears Bernal. Wakim long gone, Conrad takes second from Thomson, Thomson third and just missing the connection is Greg Alexander. Ryan Bernal is not the first visiting racer to be stunned by Ventura speed. That kid will go far, but for the moment it will be in the semi.

Fifth Heat: The fifth and final heat had a pair of seven’s out front, Donnie Gansen on the pole and Greg Taylor outside. Challenge front-runner Jimmy Crawford is on the second row with hometown hero Cory Kruseman. Somebody got off the gas on the start and Gansen bangs hard with Kruseman. They brush themselves off, but Taylor and Crawford are already down the road. It is a perfect example of the intensity at Ventura, Kruseman never really recovered from the glitch and it affected the rest of his night. Taylor was like all of the other frontrunners; dreaming in dreamland and gone. Crawford hit the wall in two, Kruseman cleared him and that’s how they finished. Watching Kruseman and Crawford slide through the turns in high-speed synchronicity was unforgettable. But that spooked start killed it for Kruseman. He started fifth row in the main and that hurt on a fast track. Five heats and not one yellow! Woodward did flip but it was at the checkered flag. The track was laying there looking all wicked and unrelenting.

Semi 1: Troy Rutherford took the pole and got in the clear. Josh Ford was right behind him. (Josh was talking to Naylor at the race and commenting that he had 17 top ten finishes, several top five, two main event wins and he still finished second in points behind Rutherford. “Rutherford is having a Hall of Fame year” he ranted, “ why isn’t anyone talking about that!”) Dave Darland was running third but couldn’t get the car moving. He tried a slide job and it failed miserably. Donnie Gansen was on the gas from the second row and moved into third. Some drivers mash down so hard on the pedal, it can take your breath away. That was Gansen this race, Alexander and Derek Buckley in the second semi. We’ll also talk about Tom Hendricks in a moment. Meanwhile, it’s Rutherford, Ford, Gansen and the tenacious Rick Hendrix crossing the checkered. Darland is giving it his all but can’t quite make up the distance. Anybody that knows anything is a bit stunned. I think back to hot laps when he rolled out on the track in a car with a big “surfnsprint “ logo on the side. I walked over to the trackside and yelled at the flagman, “Shoot me now, I want to die happy.”

Semi 2: Front row Greg Alexander is on the gas, hits the wall in turn two but keeps it going. It’s Alexander, Tyler Edwards in second, John Nock in third and Marcus Niemela in the tentative transfer spot. Here comes Tom Hendricks. Marcus Niemela garners the first real yellow of the evening, gets into the wall at turn two and flips a witch. Green again and this is the last dance chance. Three wide down the back, it’s Alexander, Edwards and Hendricks battling for first. John Nock and Derek Buckley are fighting for the final transfer. They call Buckley “the Animal” and he was wild and magnificent here. Monumental speed down the back, into three without a frigging care, we’ll figure it out when we get there! Greg Alexander gets sideways coming out of four, takes out contender Nock and keeps it going. It was the first of three times Nock got the bad knock. Green again and they are now almost four wide going into the white flag lap. They flag it Hendricks (stunning drive from the fourth row), Alexander, Buckley the Animal and young Tyler Edwards.

Hanging With The Giants

Main Event: They came to me before the main event and asked if I would sponsor a twenty-fourth car in the main. I asked who it would be? Either Nock or Darland they replied, the missed transfers from the two semis, we’re going to flip a coin. Sure, I replied, if that’s kosher I’m fine with it. Darland told me later he let Nock call it, it came down for Darland in. That was the second knock for Nock. For his birthday, Brian Camarillo got the pole and Jonathan Henry is his wingman. All Coast driver Chris Wakim is second row inside, Nic Faas to the outside. VRA muscle men Steve Conrad and Greg Taylor third row. Indiana legend Jon Stanbrough inside fourth row, young and (I presume) undaunted Brody Roa to his right. These are the scenarios I love, young raw talent getting to line up next to the greats. Cory Kruseman fifth row with Jesse Mack. Frankly, on a fast track, I didn’t think anyone further back had a chance. Oddly enough, when they expanded the field to twenty-four cars, Nock should have rolled as an alternate. He didn’t get that message and put his car on the trailer. The Alexander car failed to fire for the main and John Nock would have been in. It was the third and final indignity for the ultra consistent driver. The promoter was not too happy with staff! Green flag and twenty-three cars kicked it! Something happened with Brody Roa, I missed it, and he rolled to a stop on the backstretch. He re-fired, they lined up two wide again and the rodeo was off and running. Bring the hot sauce, twenty-three cars on this small plate and it’s a brawling burrito. Henry out clean, Camarillo hanging, Kautz instantly to third from fourth and Chris Wakim in the hunt. Taylor and Conrad hold their positions and then Taylor clears Wakim. Wakim takes it back but seems to be struggling with his steering. Taylor grabs fourth again. Conrad and Stanbrough are both on the move and also get around Wakim, but he fights back again and only relinquishes to Conrad. Stanbrough clears him again. Up front, Henry and Faas are deep in a classic battle. Henry is tearing around the track, riding his rims and starting to dodge the back markers. Nic Faas is showing his mettle, stuck to Henry like crazy glue, also dodging cars and looking for his opening. Henry is high coming out of two, Faas goes to the bottom and they are racing down the back. Faas has an opening, Henry gets stuck high behind a lapper and Faas is now in control. Henry doesn’t panic, gets back on the gas and now he’s the crazy glue. My notes show the next four laps with Faas and Henry hand in fist, impossible to say in the snarling twenty-four laps where everyone else is! Suddenly, I see Stanbrough’s front left wobbling and then his right front comes off and shoots a hundred feet into the air. We are yellow at twenty-four laps. I am in the stands, surrounded by a hundred guests and they are looking at me and mouthing “Who’s winning? What happened? Is it over?” How the hell do you explain twenty-four nonstop laps with twenty-three cars in this cage to a gaggle of novices? I shrug my shoulders. “Just watch” I say. I’m busy trying to figure out where Ford, Crawford and Rutherford are in this battlefield, they are also racing for five grand. It looks like Crawford has fallen back, Troy is ahead of Ford by one position. That won’t be enough, I guess Ford may be in the sweet spot. Six laps to go. Apparently the scorers we’re struggling with it also. It took twenty minutes to sort out the line up and we’re ready to go. Faas on point, two lappers behind him and then Henry, Camarillo and Taylor. The ending was anticlimactic. Faas drove that Kautz Stunt Car to his payday and never looked back.

Three Wide Was Standard All Night

The storm passed as quickly as it gathered. Every race has a little controversy and this one had plenty. The scorers were overwhelmed, it’s now Wednesday, they are studying the video and we are still waiting for the final accounting. The hard charger will emerge;I thought it was Donnie Gansen. I believe Jim has placed an order for transponders and one-way radios! I don’t care about any of that, I saw Nic Faas tear that one out of Jonathan Henry’s hands. All my friends made at least gas money and everybody in the stands was high five. Naylor and his dedicated crew knock it out of the park week after week. We’re not worthy. I crawled back to the hotel at midnight, hooked up with Darland over a beer and we talked about family and remodeling farmhouses. I like that Midwest timber; straight, level and true. Thanks Jon and Dave, you have carte blanch next year. Thanks to Biggie and Tommy for pushing the edge of that Ventura envelope. Jackslash, the authorities are looking for you. Your fingerprints were everywhere at the scene of the crime. And the All Coast Challenge points battle for five grand? Keith Ford came up to me in the winner’s circle and asked “What up? I think we won it?” I looked up in the tower and saw the tense circle and scratching heads. “I think they’re trying to figure it out, you’ll be the first to know” I told him. He thanked me for everything and took off. I went into the tower and after a while we determined it was Ford. I grabbed the oversized check and trophy and took off in the dark for the Ford hauler. My young daughter and niece were carrying opposite ends of the five-foot high trophy. The Ford entourage was all packed up and getting ready to split. They saw this giant check and trophy come walking out of the dark and started cheering. It was classic, maybe the nicest moment I experienced all year. Josh Ford Racing typifies the hard-core Ventura racer, determined, talented and professional in every manner. I appreciate their dedication to Ventura and applaud their victory. Sprint car drivers shred the ordinary and leave us mortal fans breathless and inspired. It happens so fast, I can barely perceive it. It’s after the race, beer in hand, that I relish the nuance, details and irony you find in the backside stories.

Josh Ford Is The 2010 All Coast Challenge Champion