The Malibu Meeting
November 16th, 2010

All Thrill No Fill
Jon Stanbrough Delivers Mid-West Cool To Tulare

I think people need heroes. It inspires you and gets you through the day. I look around and they are hard to find. I canít find them at the bank; I donít see them at Albertsonís and not even at Starbucks. I wander around for years and nothingís happening. I stumble into a raceway and suddenly I am surrounded by greatness. I sit high in the stands and watch Jon Whoever run the cushion, engine screaming, tires at their limit, mud flying, the whole world chasing him and itís almost like he canít be bothered. Itís the perfect measure of noise, cool, danger, indifference and boldness. So Iím thinking I have to meet this driver, Iím knocked out. I go into the pits and we talk and I realize heís just like me. Heís quiet but thatís ok. Heís got a job and a kid and a mortgage. And when you learn the hero is just like you, it makes the whole thing even better and even more insane.

Jonathan Henry Delivers Rookie Intensity To The Oval Nationals

Sprint car racing in Southern California is broken. That was the overriding premise when eight individuals met in Malibu last week for a day of discussion, reflection and planning for the resurrection. Key at the meeting was the three track operators of what should be a juggernaut: Don Kazarian from Perris, Jim Naylor from Ventura and Chris Kearns from Santa Maria. These three tracks, in virtually a straight line, serve the largest population base in the United States. If they are not going to dominate professional sports in the Southland, they should at least be able to draw enough fans to survive and support a passionate and historic corps of cars, drivers, owners and teams. But itís not going to happen with an alphabet soup of competing sanctions, rules, schedules and self-interests.

The Demon Was Everywhere At Perris and Tulare

The first consensus of this meeting was that sprint car racing (and midgets) has become so diluted in California that nobody knows what weíre supporting. Perris itself is on life support and if we donít extract our skulls from our posteriors right now it will sit atop the trash heap of ruined tracks and dreams. And it will never come back. This is no time for finger pointing, we need to look forward and let common sense dictate action and purpose. We need sprint cars in Southern California to follow a common set of rules. We need sprint car heroes to emerge from each track and compete against each other. We need promoters to schedule in cooperation and give the fans an opportunity to support their heroes and the big races. We need to preserve 410 racing in Perris. Otherwise we are not going to be connected on a national level. We need to coordinate 360 racing and allow it to thrive at all three tracks (and bring in Victorville, Tulare and Hanford). That 360 base will feed and grow the 410 inventory. These three promoters were in agreement on these points and eager to work together. Thatís the biggest step forward.

Anyone Who Saw Tim Kaeding Deconstruct At Tulare Will Never Forget It

The schedule was easy, we dispensed with the biggest dates and they will not collide. All three promoters are finalizing their schedules this week and have agreed to coordinate before releasing their dates. Next are rules. The tire issue is the biggest and tremendous progress was made at this meeting. We are closer to a single tire rule for 360ís than we have ever been. We really need to thank Rick Gerhardt from Hoosier Tire West for traveling to this meeting and being eager to solve the problem. He is taking information back to Indiana and we will see specifics soon. The promoters agreed (weíll get to the distinction between Perris and the other two shortly) that we will move forward with a USAC approved one and seven eights inch (1 7/8") restrictor. Steve Watt and Cory Kruseman, who both provided invaluable technical expertise at the meeting, have been testing mufflers (and tires and restrictors) and the group concurred they will stay with a spec muffler, with three or four manufacturers approved. All tracks are going to unite with one-way radios all tuned to the same frequency. Cheating penalties were reviewed, especially in regards to tire softening, with an eye towards low cost technology to detect infractions. Penalties are going to be synchronized. They are also discussing one membership fee to cover both sanctions in order to further reduce driver cost. Also there was more discussion regarding 410 restrictions that would allow them to compete with 360's at Ventura and elsewhere.

The VanderWeerds Are Becoming A West Coast Force

Now how does 410 racing exactly align with 360 racing? First, Don Kazarian is on the brink of determining exactly what his 2011 season will comprise of. That USAC/CRA 410 series is in intensive care and nothing is for certain. Don was quiet and circumspect for most of this meeting. I sensed he was mostly gathering more information for his pending deliberations, which includes imminent meetings with top USAC officials. The veteran USAC official Tommy Hunt was at this meeting and strongly conveyed USACís determination in making racing efficient and affordable for owners, drivers and teams. Tommyís long-term relationship with Jim Naylor is also important. USACís west coast success demands a cooperative spirit with the VRA, one of the most prominent 360 programs in the country. My own personal conjecture is that USAC is not going to let their crown jewel of West Coast racing (410 series and the Oval Nationals) slip away. They just instituted a healthy 360 program with the vibrant Chris Kearns and they must realize that if the 410ís go, the vacuum will be filled and their fledging 360 program will be at risk too. Don has some options, ASCS is also a fine racing organization and constantly working towards their West Coast presence. But I am guessing he would prefer to strike a win/win deal with USAC. Until Don shows his hand, this Perris, Ventura, Santa Maria trifecta is still speculative.

Letís Not Blow It With Perris

Coming back to Chris Kearns, what a phenomenal individual and promoter this is. He has turned Santa Maria around almost single handedly and is the right man at the right moment for the Central Valley racers. His enthusiasm combined with Jim Naylorís experience portends wonderful things for sprint car racing in these parts. Now, assuming Don continues the 410 program with USAC, Perris will still need all hands on deck to survive this recession. I would then be promoting (pushing for) a mini series that ties all three tracks together, with either 360 only events or a combination of a 410 main accompanied by a 360 main. Step one: Synchronize rules and equipment at these three tracks so Southern California teams can utilize current inventory and invest with convenience and confidence. This is essential to drive down the cost of racing. Step two: Synchronize schedules so that fans can support an intelligent series of events. Step three: Get the big three tracks working together to promote traditional sprint car racing that builds stars and excitement. Step four: continue to grow up and out. I intend to convene one more conference and elicit a written Agreement that will formalize the combined interests. Drivers, owners, fans and teams deserve a commitment. Promoters deserve unabashed support.

Cory Kruseman (in Tulare) and The Midget Nation Will Settle in Irwindale On Turkey Nite!

Fantasy? Perhaps. But judging by the character and skill of the many individuals Iíve met at tracks across this state, I donít think this is that challenging. These people are not going to quit racing. This is not so much a sport as a lifestyle that fits for the independent and restless adventurers that I call friends. This economy has carved a new sensation across the gut of racing. Change is possible. It starts with hunger.

Forever Young