Perris Auto Speedway
The Sokolo Shootout
March 12th, 2011

Mike Spencer and Perris Speedway Seek Defining Year

These two guys deserve each other. I mean really. They belong together. Like peanut butter and jelly knocked back with a whiskey, salt flakes on dark chocolate. I donít want to say there is a rivalry; itís more like a holy war. These guys love each other, but just barely. Every time you put these two together, that high cold Mid West air collides with the warm moist ocean and bring on the Weather Channel. It blows your hair back and just shreds your admission ticket. Yeah, Iím talking about the Beatles and the Stones, Frick and Frack, Ducky and Damnation, Lucifer and the Archangel of Golden State sprint car racing. And itís not just the Demon and the Spence; all of those fantastic nut jobs out there delivered the bomb Saturday night. When you witness that snarling, biting and clawing ball of racers roll through the Perris corners and brawl down the backstretch, it just takes your breath away. Count your blessings.

Something About David Cardey Speaks To Me

Classic and Timeless; The Michnowicz Family

Saturdayís opening bet at Perris, which rivaled a year-end cliffhanger, was only marred by the cell phone news that Rick Hendrix had suffered a terrible crash at Ventura and was transported unconscious to the hospital. Rick regained consciousness early on, but has a bad arm break and some head trauma. Iíve said many times in this column that Rick is the toughest guy to ever walk in the pits, so this human fragility is especially upsetting and disconcerting. I remember watching the Oval Nationals from turn three with Rick a few years back. He turned to me at one point, leaned back in his sweatshirt and jeans; hands stuffed in his front pockets, smiled and said, ďitís just like AscotĒ. Weíre holding your spot, Rick.

Steve Conrad Went From Fifteenth to First At Ventura

Perris Didn't Happen To Nic Faas, Nic Faas Happened To Perris

Excellent twenty-nine cars at Perris, almost thirty cars also at Ventura, healthy Lightning Sprint turnout. Twenty-five USAC-CRA races all over creation, twenty-three VRA events in Ventura alone, not counting seniors or midgets, eighteen USAC West Coast sprint contests, new promoter in Victoryville and that just southern California. New USAC Western Classic Series, new King of the West Golden State Challenge and I believe Emmet Hahn and his ASCS legions are marching west just like General Sherman marched to the sea. Thatís about a hundred more races than any normal person can get to. I canít believe I was ever worried about sprint car racing in California. Thereís no shortage, there is only an abundance of heroes, fiefdoms and opinions. From the message boards to the beaches, what are we fighting for? One comment from last year keeps ringing in my head, the astute Tim Kennedy wrote, ďWhere is a racing czar when you need one?Ē

Mitchell Fighting Forward

Damion Gardner Remains Immensely Popular At Perris

Heartfelt missing man formation for Wilda Kindoll, Chet Gardner and Robert Davidson. Blake Miller on the pole and Damion Gardner in a Dwight Cheney chariot to the outside. Miller gets on the gas and gets in the front of the Demon. His car is tight and lifting in the corners. Itís Miller, Gardner, Matt Mitchell, David Cardey and looky here, Nic Faas. Smoking fast, that familiar roar of 410ís soothes the soul. In a world full of antibacterial crap lotion, itís nice to feel the grease. We get a mess in turn four that flips Cody Williams and we are red. Double wide restart and once again Miller lifts to the occasion. Gardner is pushing hard but hits the berm in four and that throws him off. Matt Mitchell in the third spot is applying pressure. Itís Miller, Gardner, Mitchell, Faas and Cardey, but further back you can see Mike Spencer on the move from the fourth row. He clears Cardey and sets after fourth place Faas. The Demon is bedeviling Miller, but Miller is perfect and holding. They drag down the backstretch. Coming out of four, they are in contention, Damion hits the rocket switch and heís gone. Brilliant Matt Mitchell gets stuffed behind a rookie and falls back. Spencer goes around Faas and this thing is starting to take shape. Damion Gardner is arguably the hottest sprint car driver in the nation and here comes great West Coast hope Mike Spencer who is starting to reel him in. Improbable on the face of it but thrilling in the reality. Watching Gardner control the lead while dodging the backmarkers, you just love the beauty of it. Spencer is grinding away at second place Miller, he catches him in turn two and gets squeezed between Miller and Faas. Spencer spits the hook and just launches down the backstretch. Ronnie Gardner spins and they put Spencer back on the yellow. Green and the Demon books it. Spencer finally bests Miller and here we go. Outstanding racing between Miller and Faas, Matt Mitchell in fifth, Danny Sheridan trying to chase him down. Itís Gardner, Spencer, Miller and here comes Mitchell again, determined and tenacious. But up front, itís unbelievable cat and mouse action, maybe more like a cheetah and a gazelle match. Gardner and Spencer are wicked through the traffic and exploding expectations. Gardener bobbles out of turn one and Spencer snatches the lead away. There is a yellow for Fast Time Greg Alexander and they put Spencer back. Possibilities snap like a twig. Seventeen laps are completed. Green again and Gardner, still smarting from his mistake, is hammer down and the Dwight Cheney #42 is responding with heart. Mike Spencer is a man on a mission; Damion Gardner is his nemesis. I believe Damion gives Spencer his greatest motivation for racing, a worthy opponent. The uber ability level, the common experience with cars and crews, the many critical matches they have fought over the years. Mike Spencer is a racing carnivore and he smells meat. We are not just watching a race; we are watching two of the greatest drivers in the country having another personal slugfest. Lap after lap drama assaults the fans and they are back on their heels. Matt Mitchell keeps saying ďexcuse me, I am hereĒ and the three are high speed drifting through the turns. Mike keeps going to the bottom trying to get a nose under Damion, the Demon keeps responding with honed defensive skills and speed for speed on the straights. Traffic is everywhere and the white flag flies. It looks hopeless for Spence as they come through the first two turns. Damion keeps the speed down the back, Spencer is going high and not holding anything back in three. Suddenly a back marker appears on the bottom motoring around turn four. Damion sees him as he commits to the bottom, tries to adjust but the race is lost as he makes the most incredibly miniscule speed adjustment coming into four. Spencer is again flawless as he picks up the highline speed and catapults past Damion in the short distance from four to the flag. Scott shouts at the crowd ďwhat do you think of that?Ē and gets a huge roar of approval. I am running down the steps from the roof of the infield snack stand and Ron Chaffin is right behind me. He is making a lot of noise and I would have to describe him as, uh..Öpleased. As powhaushb wrote on the message board later ďThis race is what the PAS is and Sprint Car racing is all aboutĒ. I donít think I could have said it better, powshaushb.

This Is The Team You Have To Beat This Year