Everybody Cares
Ventura Raceway
September 17th, 2011

Steve Conrad and Tom Hendricks Exhibit Wheel to Wheel Action Ventura is Famous For

Who ever said, ďwe need more hate in racingĒ hasnít been to Ventura lately. Plenty of raw visceral rejection, dejection, infection and deflection were in everybodyís face producing again some of the most inspired, wicked and fast racing being served up anywhere. From the Foci to the Sprints and everything in between we had wheel-to-wheel smashing and gear-stripping teeth gnashing. But this wasnít pointless violence and carnage, it was talented and hardcore drivers all determined to gain and claim a higher position in Venturaís ruthless food chain. Thatís a class system that survives everyoneís attempt to deny it. Some people believe the crap I write and think they really are stars and the track revolves around them like planets around a sun. Then they get served and lunch has got a funny taste. Itís not about you, friend. Itís about survival. Itís about a hard life that is vicious in the turns but if you walk slowly through the pits youíll find more history, affection, relationships, truth and support than a thousand trophies can hold.

Send Jonathan Henry to the Chili Bowl

Everyboy's Favorite Helping Hand, Collin Henry

Naylorís VRA Midget Battle at the Beach rages on next to the well-mannered bike paths and surf check parking provided by a gentle and civil city government. Highly regarded sprint car driver Marcus Niemele has acquired a taste for the midgets; he has switched his sprint for a midget tonight and findís himself on the pole. He has plenty of outstanding company with Cody Swanson to his right and midget juggernaut Jonathan Henry right behind him. Jonathan cleaned Calistoga two weeks ago on the Sunday Night card and continues his course as one of the great midget drivers on the West Coast. They fire the starting pistol and Niemela digs in. Cody Swanson is right behind him and obviously Henry is also right there. The track is fast but tight, one lane and most of the action is centered low and mid line. Henry gets around Swanson for second and sets after Niemela who is having none of it. Henry hits the berm or a rut in turn two and bounces back to third, allowing Swanson to get past him with Robby Josett moving from fifth to fourth. Brent Camarillo is running fifth bedeviled by pointís leader Cory Kruseman in sixth and the always-present Josh Lakatos in seventh. Iím in the pit stands and here comes Niemele flying into our line of sight, swooping from turn three to four like an amazing red-tailed hawk with Swanson, Henry, Josett, Camarillo, and Kruseman fantailed behind him in incredible perfection. The bird distracts Swanson for a split second and Henry neatly tucks under and clears passing four. Itís Niemela, Henry, Swanson, Josett and Camarillo but Kruseman is coming. Weíre getting into traffic; Brent Camarillo gets past Josett and sets after the top three. Firefights are raging everywhere, Henry is hard on Niemele, Camarillo is gunning for Swanson while Kruseman takes after Josett in what turns out to be an ill-fated battle. Traffic is looming in front of the leaders when Kyle Edwards spins in turn four, we are yellow and everybody gets pulled back in. The line up is Niemele, Henry, Brent, Josett, Kruseman, the flagman raises his arm and all hell is about to break loose. Henry doesnít waste a second and gets perfect tens coming out of turn two and takes the lead. Both him and Niemela stay on the mid line, Brent is taking it low, Kruseman and Josett are getting close and personal and in the corner of my eye, here comes Brian Camarillo fast and mean on the walls and looking to make this a two lane highway. Coming out of turn four, Josett slides the Kruser who gets a wheel over him and we have cluster-cluck pitching down straightaway also collecting Randi Pankratz, Jimmy Voitel and an infuriated Brian Camarillo. Five damaged midgets, gas all over the track and we are red. The Josetts are wrecked and angry. Camarillo walks away disgusted and Kruserís army (there were literally twenty people crawling over that car) put the Boss back on the track.

Ray Swann Cares

Rob Green Nails It

Everybodyís vying for that inaugural VRA Midget Championship and there are a lot of exposed nerves. The ending was anticlimactic. The post red line up was Henry, Niemela, Brent Camarillo, Lakotas and David Prickett. Jonathan Henry puts it away and this kid may be one of the all-time midget greats. I laugh when I hear how money and influence win races. This brat, his motor savvy father, longtime and loyal crew Eddie and car owner Grundstaadt put it together with low buck, true pluck, tough luck and hard truck through the foggy muck for beautiful, heartfelt and inspirational victories, race after race after race. They are genuinely nice guys who finish first on talent. Reach in your pocket and send them to the Chili Bowl. Theyíll toss that trophy in the truck and drive it home.

Only Hardcore Need Apply

Jay Waugh Is Straight Out of New Zealand

I want to send best wishes to Ventura IMCA Modified legend Damon Redmond who is the hospital after a serious work accident. If you are at Ventura this weekend, they will be raising money assist with the unexpected costs. Give from the heart. Speaking of heart and Modifieds; Rob Greenís first IMCA Modified win Saturday night was inspirational. Traveling thought the pits Saturday night I am fascinated to see Ray Swann putting his #2 Kierce Championship car back on the track with Wally Pankratz in the driverís seat. Ray has been putting sprint cars on different tracks since 1948 and that just blows my mind. More to follow. Have to shout out to my good friend Danny Sheridan for his awesome win at Santa Mariaís 26th Annual Bud Stanfield Memorial. Would have loved to have been there. Some day all the local tracks will work together and we will be able to see all the great races. Saint Peter will check you in at the pit gate when that happens! Always nice to see the Jay Waugh family signed in at Ventura all the way from New Zealand, my kind of people. Jay finished in the top ten. Congratulations to Mike Spencer for his win in Calistoga and the same to Robert Ballou in the Keith Ford machine. Keith continues to showcase the most exciting drivers on the West Coast, including Josh Ford, Troy Rutherford, Jimmy Crawford and Robert Ballou. God Bless the car owners!

Keith Ford, God Bless The Car Owners

Always A Thrill to Have Nic Faas at Ventura

The hard driving and tough veneer continued with the VRA Sprint Car Main. Although only seventeen cars showed up, which may be a season low, the track was racy and the driving was intense. Steve Conrad on the pole but outside front row Brent Camarillo grabbed the lead. Greg Taylor was perfect from the outside second row and quickly challenged Brent for the lead. Itís Camarillo, Taylor, Conrad, Dakota Kershaw and Brian Camarillo. Taylor soon puts the patented power slide to Brent and just rips the lead away. They are getting into traffic and Brent is on Greg like a Republican on a Democrat. Conrad is persistent in third but the leaders are pulling away. Conrad, Brian Camarillo and Taylor Price mix in turn one and we are yellow. Conrad is done. Restart and Greg gets gone again. But Brent Camarillo is reaching deep and refuses to let him pull away. This is what we come to races for, fast racing with a dominant driver being challenged by young talent and raw attitude. Speaking of talent, here comes the entire Kershaw entourage, Dakota in third, Pops in fourth, never say die Guy Woodward in fifth and Cody Kershaw in sixth. Then you see Nic Faas picking up speed in seventh and here comes Brian Camarillo from the back with another tank full of raw attitude. Iím trying to keep track but Tom Hendricks in a Kruseman school car is somewhere in this mess. Seeing flashes of Kyle Smith and New Zealander Jay Waugh too. Cody Kershaw steps into something in turn three and spins, forcing Nic Faas to a stop. Nic Faas is one the fastest drivers on the West Coast, but heís in the jungle tonight and just trying to stay alive. They reel the leaders in and with no lappers to slow him down Greg is going to be a hard catch for Brent Camarillo. We are green again with maybe five to go. Greg and Brent resume their cat and mouse show, but suddenly here is Brian Camarillo flying through the field like everyone else is standing still. He comes down the backstretch with so much speed, you are wondering if he can make the turn in three. He slides veteran Rob Kershaw with so much audacity I think Rob was startled, then pissed and they got together like speed magnets and we are yellow. Brian Camarillo is done and we have four laps to go. Final green and Greg Taylor is perfect despite a heroic effort by Brent Camarillo. It really looked like Brent could have caught him, but Brent tells me after the race he gave it everything he had. I donít think anyone stumbling out of the stands felt disappointed. Dakota Kershaw was brilliant in third and continues to develop as upper level Ventura talent. The other headline news was Kyle Smithís dramatic hard charge from the back of the field to fourth place. Kyle is probably the most improved driver at Ventura this year. Tom Hendricks also gets the nod in his top five finish.

Brent Camarillo Was Third in Midgets and Second in Sprints

These kids are too young to remember but I love that movie The Outlaw Josey Wales where Clint Eastwood says ďNow remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.Ē Thatís just the way Ventura is. Racked by recession, fighting and desperate times; these guys are racing mean. Despite Jim and Cliffís best efforts, Ventura has a hardscrabble reputation and sort of a frontier justice system. Donít slide me hard and expect to walk away. From this fanís perspective, itís lean and exciting racing. Ventura is the Dale Earnhardt of sprint car racing. Donít change a thing. Everybodyís unhappy. The track is fast. Itís because everybody cares.

Greg Taylor After The Storm