Citizen Cory
Santa Maria Speedway
June 18, 2011

Kruser Kills In The Northlands
Kruseman Doubles Down On The Central Coast

Weekend rolled around like any other, but we ditched the family obligations and hooked up the Coast to Santa Maria. Buzzard explained when you have the chance see the USAC Western Classic Series combined with Amsoil USAC/CRA you are going to see drivers you don’t normally get to see. I cancelled the wife, cancelled the yard, cancelled the surf and we booked. He drove, I slept and Brother Brett was in the back just chatty Kathy all the way. Care about ya. We are free by the virtue of the Purple Heart Trail we travel on. On the Loren D. Scruggs Memorial Highway (a CHP officer killed forty years ago during a roadside stop) we sailed across the sedimentary exposed banks of the Santa Maria River and spiraled down into that speed hole called Santa Maria Speedway. The sight and sounds fit like a glove; BBQ smoke drifting lazily up into the eucalyptus, track mud sticking to the tennis shoes and a surprisingly relaxed and sanguine Chris Kearns riding around on a bicycle. Although the scene was casual, there was a high level of skill being prepped and delivered. Announcers, USAC race officials, journalists, track safety crew, photographers, videographers and fans that know what the hell is going on were all getting into position. Twenty-seven ace sprint car drivers and crews hunched over some of California’s fastest cars. Aspiring Focus and Junior Focus were feeding at the edges. They got that driver’s meeting out of the way, packed that driller’s mud and started hot lapping those exquisite mind altering metal monsters. Families filtered in, hard core qualifications kicked in and as the sun laid down to rest, we started baling hay in that soft Central Coast twilight glow.

Takes More Than A Bullet To Stop The Heart And Soul Of California Sprint Car Journalism
Lance Jennings

Lance Jennings

Chad and Marty Hawkins
Special Shout Out to Chad and Marty Hawkins

Probably the most surreal story I heard all night was Lance Jennings explaining to me how he was recently shot. Last month, deep in the concrete clover of Carson, our own homeboy was fixing a latch on the front gate when gang gunfire erupted down the street. He took a bullet under his raised arm, into the side of his chest, which knocked him flat on his butt. After an ambulance delivered him to the hospital, doctors determined it was best to leave the bullet in his body, where it still rests atop his diaphragm. That’s the reason he missed filing the story on Matt Mitchell’s dramatic win at Perris and a parallel Cory win at Ventura. Get out town, I say. As we are talking, he notices they are getting ready to roll cars and he starts sprinting to the infield, despite a still healing entry wound. “Unreal” is what I was thinking as I vaulted to pass him in turn four.

Thanks Chris

Rickie Gaunt
Relentless Attitude and Frightening Skill
Rickie Gaunt

Richard VanderWeerd delivered fast time, but it could have been Jace. To be honest, the ubiquitous twins confuse me at every race, I can’t greet them by first name and I’m always wondering who is faster tonight! Super Rickie was second fastest and if I could pick a racing persona to inhabit, it would be Gaunt. Strip away the superman logo, the wicked sense of humor and the happy go lucky front; you are left with an unrelenting racing attitude and frightening skill. Nic Faas was third fastest. The Alexander team has been struck by lightning twice, once with the legendary cowboy and now with an urban cowboy that can run at the front of the pack. Ricky Kirkbride was the fourth fast and that put him and the previous company into the Rugged Radio Last Man Standing Dash. This is an innovative concept where three rounds of quick sprints eliminate a car each time until a last man is standing. Nic Faas dominated the event with some brilliant driving and strategic defensive positioning.

Austin Williams Was Hard Charger
Austin Williams

Tommy and Tony Hunt
Special Shout Out to Tommy and Tony Hunt

Four wide tribute and we are green for the Main Event. Mike Spencer is on the pole and he checks out. Kruseman quickly moves up from the outside second row. Holy Canucks, here comes the Moose car into third, Faas fourth and Danny “Hollywood” Faria settles in the top five. When Danny arrives, you typically have a race. Faas clears Greg Bragg and everybody is startlingly fast. Our first yellow lands when Geoff Ensign spins out. Restart and again Spencer just departs. The hand-to-hand racing behind him is stunning; Kruseman being stalked by Faas, Bragg bedeviled by Faria. Then with the agility and speed of a P-51 Mustang warplane (where did that analogy come from?), Gaunt started strafing the back of the top five, finally stuffing Bragg on the backstretch and moving into the fifth spot. Now the crazy train is moving pretty fast, getting into early traffic and few positions change. Bragg is no quitter and takes it back from Gaunt. Hollywood uncharacteristically parks it in turn four and collects a few cars including local hero Danny Sheridan. They’re sent to the back and the line up shows Spencer, Kruser, Faas, Bragg, Gaunt and Ronnie Gardner is pounding on the door. Green again, Spencer is little rough coming out of four, Kruseman tries to capitalize but Spencer is back on the gas. Positions hold for a few laps when suddenly back markers Faria and Sheridan remarkably get together again in turn one, which breaks Sheridan, and he is done. He climbs out of the car, holds up a single digit finger for the passing Faria to see and takes a long walk in front of the cheering grandstands. Both drivers are popular here, but Danny Sheridan will always be the favored son at Santa Maria. No change in the line up but it appears Richard VanderWeerd, Ricky Kirkbride and Austin Williams are all on the move. Spencer out front, some lappers and then Kruseman, as determined as ever. With Mike Spencer, you look for greatness and he does not disappoint with utter speed and a deft command moving through traffic. Just as they are getting thick about lap twenty three, Spencer suddenly freezes up coming out of turn four and his car slowly rolls to a stop at the end of the straightaway. They try to fire but it’s a broken rear end and his lock on tonight’s win implodes faster than a congressional career. Kruseman, fresh from the previous night’s win at Watsonville, takes the lead. Line up is Kruseman, Faas, Bragg, Gaunt, R. VanderWeerd and Ronnie Gardner. Austin Williams is starting to crash the party. Kruseman has a great restart, but his former student Faas is right there and wants to take down teacher. Bragg is just solid despite Rickie’s continued rapid-fire assault. Williams get by VanderWeerd and then Gaunt just as Cory puts the screws to the whole mess and sails into his second payday in as many days. Faas second, subtle Bragg third, an amazing Austin Williams in fourth (hard charging from fifteenth) and Super Rickie taps the top five spot.

Doug Bushey Reports He Gets Chills Every Time He Sees Four Wide
Doug Bushey

Robert Carlotti
Robert Carlotti Keeps Drivers Safe

Cory’s two-fisted win at Watsonville and Santa Maria filled me with a good feeling. I can’t imagine how hard it is to make your living with sprint cars and this guy deserves some tailwind. I was hanging out in the Ventura pits a few months back and watched the interaction between Cory and the student drivers. They would roll off the track, Cory would be walking back from the pits stands and as they climb out of their cars these kids ignore their parents as they rush Cory with high fives or searching looks of approval. Cory compliments them on the good race and starts pointing out what was lacking or what was outstanding. From a distance, I can read the focus and respect he delivers and commands. The Cory Kruseman Driving School and Advanced Driver Development Program bring a level of sophistication and quality to my home track that is priceless. Drivers fly in from all over the world to hang and learn from the Kruser. His expertise and technical contributions to the local and national racing community go unmentioned and below the radar. I’m looking for a title to wrap this up and they pile up like a cluster in turn two. King Cory would just annoy him, how about Captain, Commander, Champion. How about Citizen Cory.

Cory Tells Me It Takes A Team