Half Laughing, Half Crying
The Vendor's Cup
Ventura Raceway
August 27th, 2011

Epic race, car, owner, crew, family, special guests and driver. Just epic.

I get shivers just thinking about that Midget Main. Jonathan Henry hit that keyhole, strapped in his Seaside Park amusement ride. Pole driver Jake Swanson was right behind him, Brent Camarillo in third, just tapping on Swanson like a crazed woodpecker as brother Brian circled lazily around and watched for an opening. Weird mind side trip about how they almost seem to be working like a team, we are in Jurassic Park and the one velociraptor distracts you while the other one circles behind and you don’t even see him until it’s too late. The Kruser is already from eighth to fifth in one short lap. Keep your eye on the tethered lamb; this is going to get interesting. Yellow as Bruce Hiroshima takes a spin. Lines up like described above with Bruce Douglas and Cody Swanson and Sean Dodenhoff peeking over everyone’s shoulder. Green again and Brent Camarillo is lifting in the straits and digging into the turns, Jake Swanson is getting bruise marks on the fuel tank. Brother Brian is high in the corners, picking up speed with every lap. Kruseman on the move and he starts putting the pressure on Brent. We are yellow as Kyle Edwards stops in turn three, it’s 9:30 pm and we are settling in for a long evening…. Line up is Henry, Swanson, Brent and the Kruser with Brian Camarillo in fifth. The only change behind that was Randi Pamkratz moving up to seventh. Green and everyone fast as razors on leather straps. Jake Swanson sizes up Henry for the lead and they start picking each other’s pocket. Kruseman takes third from Brent; Brent rips it back. Now it’s Swanson, Henry, Kruser, Brent and Brian. Henry strangely spins in turn two, keeps it going but Brian Cam capitalizes and clears three cars and just tears into second place behind Swanson. The whole crowd is fast but Henry again steps in poop and bounces off the berm. Swanson, Brian, the Kruser like Velcro, Brent and Henry. Bruce Douglas observing from sixth. Now Swanson and Brian really start getting it on. Jake Swanson is a ferocious competitor and Brian Camarillo is bringing it to him. Wink Sweitzer starts smoking heavily and we go yellow with Douglas and Josett locking up in turn three. Tough call for two serious contenders (despite twenty laps completed and going to the back, Josett manages to claw a fifth place finish at the end). The line up is tightening coming up to the green flag, it’s Swanson, Brian, Kruser, Brent and Henry. A lot of labor history in the past twenty laps, but original management is still in place. All that is about to change, but first Kyle Smith, who had ripped the sprint semi-main, has to spin in turn two. Twenty one laps completed with fans next to me commenting that although Brian is fast, he better stay on the bottom and protect his line from the Kruser. Speculation is that if he moves up, the Legend will steal that position. Smart money says stay on the bottom, however Brian knows he will not win following Swanson. That flag goes green and Brian Camarillo is screaming the high line out of turn two and makes the pass BUT Joey Fabozzi takes it yellow in turn three. They put Brian back behind Swanson (‘man, that was a lot of work” I hear behind me) and it’s still Kruseman, Brent and Henry behind them. Green again and again Brian is assaulting the high road and coming down on Swanson who is persistently grinding the bottom. Brian’s high wire act is delivering speed and success. He is going so fast we are all wondering if Crasharillo will show up; will all the plates and saucers tumbling down? Nothing. Perfection. Reckless abandon, ruthless execution and complete freedom. He passes Swanson again. Suddenly there is a cluster in turn two, Kruser clips Henry and Henry spins and is put in the back. It’s incredible, but they are putting Camarillo behind Swanson again with only five laps to go. Everybody is on the edge of seats, wondering, can this kid steal it away a third and final time. Swanson tragically sticks to the bottom while Brian again blows into the stratosphere, immense speed, gigantic daring and right in God’s face. He clears Swanson within a lap or two and four laps later it’s over. I breathe again and make my way to tech. Brian pulls himself from the car and hugs his girlfriend and family. “Pretty cool” I say to his dad. “Yeah’ Bill responds, “but terrifying” and he laughs. We are all standing in a pool of contradictions.

Karts Rule

Rutherford and Conrad Heat Race Was All Time

Side notes: great to see USAC contender Chris Ennis at Ventura, kudos to Cody Swanson for bringing the Wounded Warriors to Ventura… Kruseman consistent but lacking something, leads the USAC Midget points heading to Calistoga this weekend… great drive by outstanding Jake Swanson which really gave Brian’s win extra credibility…how the hell many Swanson’s are there? Counted three at Ventura… Brent also fantastic in third… Josett from the back to fifth and also slammed dunked the hard charger status…maybe one of the best midget mains I’ve ever seen at Ventura…I’m just a fan, I cherish every single car that shows up, thank you…

Faas and Kautz Try to Find Magic Again

On Sale

Ventura has run thirteen heats, one semi and five mains spanning six classes running a total of eighty-eight cars starting about three thirty in the afternoon and it’s now 10:20 pm and we are staring down the shotgun of a main event while floating visions of seven thousand sugar-plums messed with our heads. Brian Camarillo crawled out of that Midget Main, emotionally drained and ignoring the dancing chorus line of skeletons on the beach. He lined up next to Matt Mitchell in the VRA Sprints Inaugural Vendor’s Cup and heroically snatched that lead for two restarts before USAC/CRA terror Mitchell figured it out and made it stick. That second cluster buried Conrad, Hendricks, Denome, Henry (there are some days you should just stay in bed) and Dakota Kershaw (ditto). Of course going to the back is just catnip for Conrad (he finishes sixth!). Mitchell is hitting the high line and holding with Brian in second and radically improved Cliff Warren in third. We’re back in Jurassic Park with the ominous footfalls of Cory Kruseman rattling the grandstands from fourth place when Cliff Warren inexplicably slams into the turn one wall (“just got up in the marbles, didn’t know they were there”) and we are yellow. Green again and Brian Camarillo again out front when all hell breaks loose, Brent Camarillo is parking in turn one, cars scatter and Greg Taylor catches a wheel and endures a vicious wipeout. He crawls from the wreckage with a bloodied nose and red eyes. His erstwhile sponsor Clark Engineering is spinning the records and the irony is lost on no one. Green now and Mitchell gets it right again, Brian hits the wall and keeps it going. It’s Mitchell, Camarillo and here comes the Ventura Calvary with Kruseman, Kevin Kierce, Josh Ford, Troy Rutherford and spoiler Nic Faas in the Sean Kautz Stuntman Special. Now we are getting into traffic, someone turns up the volume and holy shit is Mitchell fast as he fillets the lappers. Kruseman is right there dodging the scales and gristle as he reels in Camarillo and takes that second spot. Suddenly Denome spins in turn turn three (he’s done) and we are yellow. Line up is Mitchell, two lappers, Kruseman, one lapper, Brian Cam, Troy Rutherford and Kevin Kierce. We get green; Mitchell taps the wall but still checks out. Kruseman is tenacious but here comes Mighty Rutherford, big dramatic moves (reminding me of Mitchell at Perris the week before) as he scorches the Camarillo for third place. What a battle now; Mitchell, Kruseman and Rutherford take it to the next level; grinning like sockeye in the internet stream when somebody spits a wheel cover and they reel everybody in….Green and Mitchell gets gone again. Kruseman is on the case and Rutherford , Camarillo and Kierce are also huge. They are all on the high line and Kruseman is really getting on the gas. Now Rutherford revs it up and is challenging the King. Further back, Josh Ford slides Kierce and then Kierce takes it back. I don’t know where Nic Faas went but here comes Conrad from the back, being followed by Jimmy Crawford. Hell, everybody but Spencer is here! Up front, it’s Mitchell and Kruser. They start to separate from the pack, Mitchell leading but Kruseman now gaining. They are racing through heavy traffic and whoever has stayed in the stands is now enjoying the King of Ventura running down one of the most talented drivers in the nation. The Kruser catches him and they start trading incredible slide jobs, looks like Cory is gaining the upper hand when suddenly Kevin Kierce unleashes chaos theory in turn three. His flip is so high, his landing is so wrenching and multiple the track is instantly red and before I can get from the infield to the turn Justin is there and Kevin slowly pulls himself from what’s left of his car. He sits on the rear tire real quiet for a few minutes as his world slowly reassembles in his brain. He stands to get in the Mule, turns to Justin and says “that was a good one, eh”. As Alderman mentioned to me later, they don’t make them like Kevin anymore. Hope you feel better, bro. They put Cory back for the restart and I think it just breaks destiny’s back. Four laps to go and although Cory and Troy both gave it everything they had, Matt is now driving so hard he taps the wall on each lap and finally swings into the arms of his girlfriend at the checkered flag. My last three races have been Santa Maria, Perris and Ventura and Matt Mitchell has been a hurricane at all three. Thank you Clark Engineering.

Take Me Home


Some drivers avoid Ventura as a wrecking yard, yet both of tonight’s flips came from drivers that rarely get upside down, Taylor and Kierce…no surprise in this mosh pit, but I’ve seen drivers flip just as hard in qualifying with no one around them, Wilson and Sheridan at VRP being just one example… if you get in a race car, you are going to dance…Victorville goes off Saturday night for sprints, be there…Also that whole amazing Calistoga weekend is on tap. So many cars, so much wine, so little time. I hope they stream it for us “po folk” stuck down here in the high plains….credit to the Kittle Underground showing at Ventura and pushing Biggie and Matt over the finish line…congrats to Hunter, Ronnie, Tommy and the rest of that epic crew….I floated through that racetrack like a daydream. I dig meeting everybody and especially visiting drivers like Dale Harwood and Tim Moon… I cringe when I see good people like Guy Woodward loading a trashed car... I checked in with Henry Clark Sr. who is maybe the most important man in short track at this moment in time. Left him in the tower with Brad talking that sexy tech talk. Millions are murmuring, “Hook us up, Henry”… Both freaking mains hurt so good I can’t take it anymore. Biggie’s Big Night!...I saw Cory walking out the loading ramp after that exhilarating main. “That had to hurt”, I offered. Seven grand settles a lot of hash. “Oh yeah”, he replied with that trademark grin and chuckle. He was half laughing, half crying.

Seven Grand Settles a Lot of Hash

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