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"They Know We're There"
The Surfnsprint Interview
Mike Spencer, Ron Chaffin and Bruce Bromme Jr.
February 2011

I just wanted to talk to Mike Spencer. Iím a big fan of his calm yet powerful driving style. Itís like ďĒHi, how ya doing, excuse me a second while I squeeze by you hereĒ and the next thing you know heís gone, won the main event, nailed the season and delivered three consecutive Championships. Now he is poised to become a four-time consecutive USAC-CRA Champion and I find his whole Zen low-key approach kind of amazing. But the more I looked at his situation, the more I realized I needed to talk to his team. Car owner Ron Chaffin has delivered an ownerís manual that may never be improved on. Crew Chief Bruce Bromme Jr. has lived a life that has allowed this particular fusion of car, driver and engine to race into the history books. Together, these three and their tight knit team have managed to capture lightning in a bottle. Itís red and it bears a bright white number 50 on its chest like a medal.

I met with Mike Spencer at his home in bucolic Temecula, on a crisp and sunny afternoon when Trevor Bayne had his historic win at Daytona. Mike is single-handedly remodeling his modest residence and we sat in the half completed dining area and talked for hours as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the day turned to dusk.

I called Ron Chaffin at his office in Madera, California and he graciously answered some questions in a forthright and concise manner that exemplifies his approach to racing. Ron is a long time wholesale produce distributor in the Central Valley and has a love for sprint cars that has benefited fans like me for decades now. His sponsorship has paid for more spills and thrills for California race fans than just about anyone. This article is my way of saying thank you.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is found in the man who cares for the car. Master mechanic Bruce Bromme Jr., in only one part of his long and storied career, has affectionately delivered a dozen Championships in sixteen years to his employer, Ron Chaffin. This one mechanic has done it with four different drivers: Leland McSpadden, Richard Griffin, Damion Gardner and Mike Spencer. I drove up 5 through the Central Valley, turned left on Highway 46, and headed towards the Central Coast. Out past the crossroads where James Dean hammered down his final destiny. Passing through the orchards and cattle farms, I am struck by the beauty of the southern fringe of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range. The Bromme Racing Ranch sits with plain honesty in the gentle foothills of Templeton, California. Here Bruce lives with his Betty Jo, whom he described to me as the ďlove of my lifeĒ. We sat in his race barn, the #50 car in the background, dozens of historic pictures on the walls and talked for hours as ghosts of California racing history flitted about us. I slowly came to grasp the depth and character of a man who like his father before him, this year is being inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Listen in as I ask these three individuals a common set of questions and weave my personal version of their intertwined lives. As in life, much is taken out of context, bound to be wrong and painfully beautiful.

Special thanks to legendary race writer Norm Bogan for his invaluable assistance.

"They know we're there, let's put it that way." - Ron Chaffin

First, tell me about the crew?

BRUCE: Well, Eric Kaufman and Gary Tanaka had been with me since 1980, which is pretty oiled and consistent. And when I lived in Gardena they would come over and help on Saturday, morning until we went to the races. Now, being up here (Templeton) since í95, racing since í95, they show up at the races on Saturday, Saturday night. All the work is done here, and then what you see is the finished product of this at the track, youíre supposed to be prepared when you get there, all the preparation is done here and hopefully the easy stuff comes at the track, which sometimes it doesnít (laughing). It can happen in warm-ups, you get a flat tire, just anything can go wrong and put you behind all night. Itís like it snowballs. You can crash in warm-ups, hot laps, qualifying, anything will put you behind, but, just a little thing, a flat, not in your rhythm, just get you out of your rhythm, just something small will get you behind, itís amazing.

So you got Gary and Eric and who else?

BRUCE: Mike Spencer, Sr. at this point with junior driving. And I got this young kid, young man named Dylan Hoffman, who about two, three years ago came onboard and I think heís about fifteen, I think he was fourteen when he got in and I think heís about eighteen now. And he is quite a knowledgeable young man and helps at the track. He lives in Palm Springs. Everybody, Ron lives in Madera, the driver lives somewhere else and I live here, and it seems like with the pit crew we all end up at one place on Saturday night. In a way itís good, in a way I wish, during the week, the older I get the harder it is to put this stuff and get it together. And I continually injure myself along the way, so I want to put down my cousin during the week heís actually a sheriff up for San Luis Obispo County, and on his days off he comes over and helps me and his name is Tom Werner. We have the same grandfather, Louis Brohme, heís my dadís sisterís son. Mike Tanaka in the past years has been on the crew. But as of late he hasnít, heís trying to make a thing on his own which is great.

So you do this all with about five guys. What did you call them before, the Geriatric Crew?

BRUCE: Yeah, (laughs) Mike Spencer is the youngest guy at 58, Iím 59, Eric is 60 and Gary is 65 and Ron is 72, so uh, and Dylan is 18 so he brings the age group down a little bit. We donít move very fast but we get the job done.

You like to have the car ready to go when you leave here?

BRUCE: Itís got to be ready, one hundred per cent ready, because if something breaks down on the way down thereÖbecause if we lived a mile away from the track it would be different, but if we break down on the way down there and we get there five oíclock or five thirty, you better be able to roll the thing out and push her off and go. So you canít take any chances. When it leaves here, itís ready to hit the track.

Mike Spencer, itís Saturday, June 6th, 2006, it was your first USAC/CRA 410 victory. You were really emotional when you got out of the car. You said this is the best day of my life and you dedicated the race to your dad. You were effusive in your appreciation of that car owner, Hal Engstrom. Since then, you have won consistently, you have three consecutive championships, you are predictably going to race for a fourth which will be a record. Do you still have the fire?

MIKE: Yes, absolutely. I am extremely competitive. Talking about that first win, we had put so much effort into it. We had been racing with Hal Engstrom together for six years, up to that point we had run second at every track we had been to. That night it all came together and I remember it was a really special night.

How do you keep fire going?

MIKE: I donít know, like I said, Iím really competitive, once you win, once you get a taste of it you just want to run good.

Mike, youíre pretty consistent. In 2004, you were sixth in points. In 2005, you were fifth place in points. In 2006, you were fourth place in points. In 2007, when you started driving for Ron and Bruce, you skipped third and you were second place in points. What happened, how did you go from the Engstrom car in 2006 to the Chaffin #50 car in 2007?

MIKE: In 2006, after the last race in Perris, actually the next day, Bruce called me and asked me if I wanted to drive. Obviously, I called Hal the next day and let him know and he was happy for me. I donít think I would be at this point without Hal, obviously. I still talk to him on the phone, maybe once a week.

That said, it had to be pretty cool to get the call from Bruce.

MIKE: Absolutely, thatís a car that Iíve always wanted to drive for as long as I can remember watching at Perris. Itís had a lot of history and a lot of success. As a race car driver you want to drive the best car and the one that wins the most and thatís a car Iíve always wanted to drive. And even more, you know with Bruce going back to when I was a kid at Ascot, my parents were friends with the Brohmeís so I always knew Bruce when I was four or five years old, so after the races I would go sit in the race car. I wouldnít get out, I would just sit there.

Bruce, with the long relationship you had with the Spencer family, you were close to his dad?

BRUCE: I was in his wedding so thatís a pretty long relationship (laughs)Ö

So you must have been excited to go to Mike and offer him a ride?

BRUCE: I really didnít think of it that way, I thought I was getting a good race driver. I didnít think I was getting a friendís son, or even a friend, Mike Jr. and I were friends, because it is a business. If it came down to that he was not getting the job done, then I would probably have to fire him. And I hope he would respect me for that and I believe he would.

Mike, what kind of work do you do?

MIKE: Iím a mechanical engineer for an aerospace company.

What does a mechanical engineer mean?

MIKE: I guess the title would be project engineer, test engineer. I test various parts for rockets. Some days I could be at my computer designing something for a test system and spending eight hours, some days I could be writing test procedure and other days Iím in the field helping assemble tests.

Sounds tediousÖ

MIKE: It can be, the funny thing about aerospace is that intricate parts and high quality craftsmanship is a lot like racing.

"Itís all Iíve ever thought about really."

Are you as passionate about work as you are about racing?

MIKE: No, not even close. Racing is usually the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning and itís the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. I donít even know how that started and I canít really explain it butÖitís all Iíve ever thought about really. Going back to when I was a kid and my dad was racing sprint cars and Iíd be one year old and they would set me in the seat and it maybe somehow traces back to there.

Does it bother you that you donít race for a living in the Mid West?

MIKE: No, I mean, I feel fortunate to race like I have and to get to race back there and met a bunch of different people and had a chance to win races soÖ

BRUCE: Iíve seen a lot of guys go back there and itís a tough way to go. I think heís happy where heís at. If he was in the same position he is now at twenty nine, if he was twenty two or twenty three, yeah, it would be a great opportunity for him, but heís got a great job and I wouldnít wish that on anybody, trying to make a living as a sprint car driver. Itís not the best living to try to make. You can live the dream and then you get to your thirties or whatever and you become responsible, but some guys, they never become, they become old racecar drivers and thatís a sad situation at times, looking at the guys. Youíre going to hurt yourself too. If you do it long enough, youíre not going to be going not as quick as you were at one time but you can be going, the guy last in a C race or guy leading the main event, they can get hurt just as easy as, it matters not how fast you are going or where youíre racing in a particular race or last or first you can get injured in this sport just the same. Just because you are on the edge all the time means you might be taking more chances but, Iíve seen many over the years, young kids but really I didnít think they had a lot of talent and they got hurt or killed for the years I been going and you wonder why they even do it. But they do it because, I understand, theyíre having fun, so, you have to look at it that way too. They were enjoying, I guess, what they were doing.

Have you ever missed work because of racing?

MIKE: Yeah.

Have you ever missed racing because of work?

MIKE: No. Knock on wood.

Whatís Ron like as a car owner?

MIKE: Heís great. He gives us everything we need for success. In fifteen plus years of racing he has never missed a race. He is very involved with his presence and being there. But as far as the mechanical side of it, he leaves that over to Bruce and he leaves the driving to me.

Does he coach you?

MIKE: Not so much, he kind of rolls in and roots and has that desire to win. As far as being involved with the chassis set up, he just kind of leaves that over to Bruce, as long as he understands the key parts.

Does he give you specific racing advice during the race?

MIKE: He watches, intently.

BRUCE: He donít miss a thing, but you go ask him heíll tell you he donít know anything. And I really appreciate that because he sometimes weíll talk going to the races, and I always tell him, because my mind gets off into other things, to remember I got to do this because heíll remember every time to remind me to do this. Or if he sees something not being done, heís always in the trailer looking out, and he says, ďHey, you guys do that?Ē and oh boy, Ron, thanks for remindingÖ he donít miss a thing. He might say that he doesnít pay attention, but he does.

And you keep him informed.

BRUCE: I do. And all those decisions I make, with USAC here you can take one qualifying lap at the end, roll the dice as you want to say, instead of having two laps consecutively where a guy can make a mistake maybe on one lap, and still has another lap to make it up, USAC will you take one lap at the end if you have a, draw a bad number where the track is slippery or greasy, and you get your starting time back. So I do inform Ron when we do draw a bad number and Iím looking at the times and I donít mind taking that chance as long as the driver, I talk with the driver, if he feels comfortable that he can go out and do it, and Mike does, and I know Damion did, and Richard did, and I feel comfortable, it all falls on my shoulders, if he goes out and makes a mistake itís not the driverís fault, itís me so I inform Ron, of what Iím doing, just run it by him to make sure heís aware of when heís thinking his car is going to be second out to qualify itís not going to be out until last. So when he goes to watch, heís prepared and not be wondering what happened to us. And then I, every time I warn him, I say this can turn out real good or real bad.

How about Bruce, whatís the relationship with Bruce during the course of a race event, do you guys talk a lot?

MIKE: Yeah, we talk quite a bit, you know itís all quite kind of a routine now, we talk before, weíre constantly talking about what the trackís doing, kind of bounce ideas off of each other, talk about the direction weíre going to go and the final decision is usually in his hands.

RON: He runs the show. I think the reason we get along is weíre not close together. Iím over here in Central Cal and heís over on the coast and the only times we see each other is on weekends and racing. You donít get too much of it, you know what Iím saying? I stay out of his hair most of the time and I trust him and he runs a good show. He letís me know everything heís going to do and gets my approval. I just trust the guy, thatís probably the best part.

BRUCE: Communication is everything between the driver and the mechanic. Weíll have a little talk before the races and see what we think of the track and uh, yeah. And I try to communicate with him when I make a change I donít normally. Iíll make some subtle changes, um, to the car as I think and maybe not tell him at the time, but tell him I donít want to surprise him and you donít want to surprise a guy with a change on the car and have him think itís going to do one thing and it does just the opposite, so you want to have him prepared for what it might do, you know, thatís a big change though, a subtle change the guy will just say it was better or worse, you know.

Does Bruce dictate the set up?

MIKE: Yeah. Thatís his job as the crew chief. He sets the car up but heís pretty open minded about things and trying things. Itís been really good to work with him and sometimes heíll ask my opinion if heís unsure of one or two little things.

Clearly, he wants to know what the car is doing, right?

MIKE: How does it feel and Iíll say well it feels really good here and needs to do a little bit more of this here and certain partsÖusually Iíll try to break the corner down into the entry, the center of the corner and the exit and based on what the carís doing he might have a certain adjustment to fix that. I just try to break the corner down for him and make the analysis I can, I just tell him what it feels like and heíll just goÖ.

BRUCE: I can watch, and Iíve watched enough, where I can see if itís not going, when itís not coming out of the corner or just, or even if qualifying with nobody else on the track I can see if itís hanging, if the ass is hanging out, if itís not driving forward and getting on the left rear and going, thatís just experience. Watching when it gets with other cars and then you can see it, it magnifies it because if the other car is driving better you can see in places where youíre lacking but you can normally pick it up in qualifying too,

As a driver, Mike, what do you think your strength is?

MIKE: My strength, as a driver I think I can be consistent and maybe smooth, people tell me Iím smooth, Iíve never been able to watch myself so I canít really say that, but, I think Iíve tried to take it one step at a time. I can time in, usually qualify pretty decent and thatís part of itÖI donít know, consistency, I think that describes it. Iím really hard on myself, trying to improve each year.

BRUCE: Mike is an engineer, so heís gone up by plateaus, I call them, like coming up a ladder. He does a step at a time, which really doesnít make you sometimes real flashy, but heís got to where he is by doing it that way, methodically. Where he could have crashed every other week and not had a ride, where he made it happen where he had a ride every week, and he progressed and as I said before, he kind of flattened out on certain plateaus where he didnít progress like I thought he would. Sometimes I wondered about his career, whether it was going to go any farther, then he went to the next plateau and kind of tippy toed on that and then when he got in this thing (motions to the 50 car) it seems like he went up to the next plateau again. Heís got that fire, heís got that, as I call it, a rocket switch. He makes passes in heat race and you go, whoaÖhowíd he do that? It takes an extra level to get to that point. He still got another plateau to go. He can race with anybody, really. He can race with Levi Jones, with Damion, any of them.

Whatís really interesting watching your races is that if you get out front, itís pretty much over for everyone else.

MIKE: On thing Iíve learned is itís never over until itís over. About the time you think youíve got it in the bag, somebody comes along and blows your doors off. Once you get out front now, you just have to take it one lap at a time.

RON: Mikeís, you know, how can I say it, heís one smart guy, Iím going to tell you that right now. He really knows what to do. Heís really got good vision and everything. If you watch him race he takes what the track gives him. Him and Bruce work together real good and he listens to Bruce, heís got a lot of respect for him and that helps out a lot you know, thatís number one. And Bruceís crew of Mike and Gary and Eric have been with him forever and have a lot of respect for Bruce and theyíre good guys. I think thatís what made it all go well. We just see each other when weíre racing. Weíre not in each otherís hair during the week and I think that makes a difference too.

What about the first year you got together, Bruce and Ron. What kind of driver was Leland McSpadden?

BRUCE: McSpadden (correcting my pronunciation) McSpadden. Leland had come up on his fiftieth birthday, he had won everything in the world, but he never won a championship, he never really went for a championship, at that time a lot of people thought he was washed up. I still saw fire in Leland and hired him and we won ten races that year and I believe we won the Championship.

That was your first championship.

BRUCE: First championship, yeah. Where he actually contested, he was more of one of the original outlaws, he run where he wanted to run, he didnít worry about points or anything, heíd run where the money was and that last year that he stayed with us. Good ambassador to the sport, I mean if you read about Leland McSpadden all you hear is good things. Full bore, just fun to watch, Leland McSpadden style. He was exciting, yeah. I was honored to have him drive.

How would you describe Richard Griffin as a driver?

RON: He was there to win; he was a charger. When Leland retired after only one year, Bruce called me up and said Leland thinks we should get Richard Griffin, I think thatís the way it went and I said, ďRichard Griffin, isnít that the asshole that crashed at Manzy that night and I just remembered him flipping quite a bit, you know. When he first started driving for us, we just bought front bumpers by the dozen back then. He never tore a lot of things up but he was there to have fun and we did all have a lot of fun!

BRUCE: They were eight great years and they were fun! Fun. Richard, raw talent, ďIíll drive it, no matter whatĒ and he did! Good guy, good guy to be around and good family. Yeah, won a lot of races, lot of championships and he came from Silver City, New Mexico and so every week he would fly his airplane over and which, uh, if he won the main event and whatever Ron, percentage Ron gave him to win, Richard would probably lose a thousand dollars just on the maintenance of the airplane and fuel to get here for the airplane and hotel room and whatever. And somebody asked Richard if it cost him so much money to do it every week, why does he come over and do it, and Richard, being the Richard Griffin he is, said ďI do it for the glory!Ē I thought that was a pretty good answer. He wasnít doing it for the money, because he wasnít making a dime. And Ron Chaffin doesnít make a dime. Heís not making a dime if we win the main event.

Tell me about Damion Gardner?

BRUCE: I liked his fire. His whole package. I would have liked we didnít have as many confrontations as we did, which were good because we went out and won races which was good. He kind of reminded me of my dad and I with our arguments we had, everybody else was kind of looking, kind of backing away, they were kind of acting like he was disrespecting me for getting in my face but I kind of took it like it was being with my dad, it was kind of a challenge. That brought back good memories and bad memories and most of them good. Because I missed that part of being with my dad, the fighting and ten minutes later, you know, arms around each other and going and doing what we were going to do, thatís kind of the way Damion and I were. And winning helps smooth out a lot of edges like a nice file on a sharp edge. If you didnít win, then things could be different.

The Little Red Sucker

Personally, just watching from the sidelines, I see incredible preparation, attention to technical details and almost perfect execution on the track. Of all this, preparing for a race, the mechanical knowledge and the driving, what do you think is the most important part?

MIKE: Theyíre all very important. A lot of times, races are won or lost at the shop. The preparation is very good, driving, thatís all leading up to it and as far as execution at the end, and itís pretty much up to the driver at that point. So I canít say one is more important than the other, you canít have one and have success; you have to piece it all together. Itís not just the mechanic and the car; you have to have all of them.

Mike, in Indiana, you had a nice podium finish during last yearís Indian Speed Week. That was cool.

MIKE: That was pretty cool, that was one of the things that sticks out in my mind, thatís the highest level of sprint car racing, going back there and racing on their turf, every guy that shows up there is fast. You probably have thirty guys that can win on any night. So that was really cool, the guy that I race for back there is Scooter Ellis, weíve gotten to be really good friends in the last two yearsÖitís just me and him and we were able to run pretty good and they got a good car and we put ourselves in position to win. The qualifying draw is kind of critical in sprint week. The track changes so much in qualifying you want to get an early number so that we were able to take advantage of that and heat race and we were able to start second and itís a lot easier to run good when you start in the front. Especially since youíre not going to go past twenty of those guys so, and that was pretty neat.

Ron and Bruce, do you think you will go back and race the Mid West again?

BRUCE: Ron and I talked about that again this week. It just depends on his health and my health and like I said, you got to start putting your bullets in your holster right now, even though itís February coming up on March, because it July when you race and you got to have your motor situation and your engine situation where you have a fresh motor in the baby ready to go and fresh equipment all around. Where you go back to back seven races in ten days and you donít want to be having to do any maintenance on it. You want to take something thatís all fresh, where you donít have to worry about doing the wheel bearings or greasing. I mean, you still have to do maintenance but you donít want to have to be rebuilding something. Ití got to be almost like a brand new car, because you donít want to have to worry about certain aspects of fatigue or failure, because you donít have time for failure. Yeah, one last rodeo.

Mike with Indiana Speed Week, Chili Bowl, Oval Nationals, 4th consecutive USAC/CRA 410 Championship, what do you think would be the next greatest day of your life?

MIKE: Iíve always had goals in racing and I try to write them out every year. And one of the things I really want to do is race in the Silver Crown Series, I think it would really be awesome to go race on one of those big mile tracks. At least the dirt stuff. But probably winning the Oval Nationals would be the best.

In the 2009 Oval Nationals, Saturday night, you were leading to win the big one. With about four laps to go Damion Gardner took the lead and the win. How much did that one hurt?

MIKE: That one stung pretty good, yeah, I remember that.

I really saw a will to win on the track that night between you and DamionÖ

MIKE: That race means a lot to me, I get excited for that race starting, I always look to that race at the end of the year, itís on my radar as one I want to win. I set goals for myself and that one race we had a good car and put ourselves in position to win the race and I was bummed. Bummed, not mad, you canít be mad at each other, but I just wanted it so badÖand he did too and happened to be better those last five lapsÖbut I always believed you had to lose them to win them, now I look back and realized certain little things I could have done better.

BRUCE: The Oval Nationals, thatíd be one of the races weíve come close a couple of years ago with Mike, we came within three or four laps from winning it, and Damion beat us. You asked me how I felt? Well, I went over about an hour later and congratulated Damion and said Ďyou just tore my heart out, so thank youí. And thatís what I felt like. But then at another Oval Nationals, I remember showing you that little tube on the back bumper, where Mike Kirby and Damion got hooked together, do you remember that?

Well, I remember but go ahead and tell me again.

BRUCE: Well, there was about three or four laps to go and it was thirty thousand to win at this point. Damion gave Mike Kirby a slide job and for thirty thousand, you expect maybe to get some slide jobs because youíre running for some big money. And I thought it was a very clean slide job, I mean it was a slide where Mike didnít even really have to back off, but Mike took exception to it and gassed it and did a wheelie and hooked our rear bumper on the little stem that hangs off the rear bumper with his front bumper and they got attached to each other going down the front straightaway and couldnít get unhooked, that was, we had just taken the lead at that point and we had to go to the back, and on the ensuing restart they had a wreck going into turn one and Damion ran over a wheel and flipped all the way down the front straightaway. So it turned from being a thirty thousand dollar win with everybody bubbling champion to about half of a racecar and cost Ron Chaffin about fifty grand and a lot of sad faces. Didnít hurt Damion, luckily.

That one sticks out in your memory.

BRUCE: Oh yeah. I could go back thirty, forty years and that one sticks out in my memory.

So the Oval Nationals is something you would like to win?

BRUCE: Yeah, it the most prestigious thing we got going here on the west coast, itís kind of lost itís luster by the money situation going from thirty thousand to twelve five, itís still a large amount of money.

Hall of Fame..."You can't plan that."

Like your dad before you, Bruce, you are now being inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. What does that mean to you?

BRUCE: It means my life, everything I did all came to a final thing that, you canít plan that, you canít even think doing something, anything, that youíre ever going to get to that, because everything has got to go right and fit, in perfect order in your life to make it there. And apparently, Iíve been very lucky, there is a lot of luck involved in this, and thereís a lot of talent and experience and whatever, thereís good car owners and good drivers and good helpers that Iíve got and it all came to this. Itís the best. Itís the biggest honor in my particular profession; itís the biggest honor you can have as far as Iím concerned. Itís the ultimate. You look back and you think back through he years and the Seventies and Eighties and you know we were winning a lot of races with Dean Thompson, a hundred and some races and the King of Ascot and all that and we never thought of any Hall of Fames and there wasnít anything like that. And even starting with Richard Griffin, the whole Nineties, the half of the Nineties we were tops and started 2000 tops and never thought of any Hall of Fame. Then after you get out of those years, with Ron there are twelve Champions with four different drivers and which is I think is an accomplishment, to be able to put four different guys in the car and win a Championship, thatís something special, you know. So it comes back, maybe you do have a little talent, you know. Iím not conceited, Iím not a bragger, I donít blow my horn I donít do anythingÖ

Well, youíre not the one blowing the horn here; itís the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame blowing the hornÖ.

BRUCE: OK, well, I canít blow any harder than that (laughing). The last couple of years I talked to people like Brent Kaedingís mechanic Billy Albini, and he should be in there too, and weíve talked, Billy and I and heís four or five years older than I am and he said, you know Bruce, you and I will never get in the Hall of Fame because weíre West Coast guys. I agreed with him. I believe Billyís going to be in it. You kind of think its all Mid West people because it all circles kind of around that hub and you kind of wonder sometime do people even know whatís going on out here, but people do pay attention so, they know.

What do you think about the whole USAC/CRA 410 series, what itís up against with this economy, do you have any thoughts on that?

MIKE: You know, itís kind of disappointing how itís gone downwards, the fan count and the car countÖI know thatís related to the economy, I donít really have an answer for it. I hope they get that going again because I think sprint car racing is the most exciting thing going. I like to think of the 410ís as the premier series in California, and hopeful that can get going again. Thereís a bunch of good young guys coming up now and for guys coming in, thatís the hard part now to get new guys coming into the seriesÖ.but they can go 360 racing maybe closer to home, I donít really know what the answer isÖ.if I was just starting now and I had a choice I would want to race against the best guys because thatís the only way youíre going to get better yourselfÖI would try to go where those guys are racing, I would want to race USAC/CRA.

Do you think anything can be done to help it revive?

RON: I donít think so, I think moneys tight and itís a tough deal. We donít have any more good track sponsors out here any more. Financially I donít have to worry about it but thereís a lot of the guys that run with us that run on a shoestring and we need those guys to have a race, you know. I donít know, I donít see how they can make it any more, everything costs so much more. The only one that was helping us get more was Shuman and then they got rid of him. I think he tried to help us out too much, really.

BRUCE: I want to stay positive. I think bringing Chris Kearns in to run the USAC/CRA 410ís and Lance Jennings to do the publicity are smart steps by USAC.

MIKE: I just think that, when I was a little kid one of things I looked forward to as much as watching the races was me and the drivers, getting them to sign my program and looking at the cars. I think now the promoters are running a lot more support classes and the show is so much more drawn out that a lot of people leave and not come down to the pits and thatís one connection that has to be made between the kids and the drivers. Without the kids wanting to come back and go meet Nic Faas or whoever the driver may be, to see their favorite guy, then the parents are not going to take them to the races. Again, I donít want to criticize anybody because Iím not a promoter, I donít understand that part of it or pretend to, but I do think thatís one thing that needs to happen or be improved now is getting the kids down and getting the people down to the pits even if itís their first race that theyíre going to, announce it periodically throughout the night you know, everybody is welcome after the races to go down and meet the drivers, all of them have autograph cards for the kids, I donít know if it goes unsaid or not but maybe the people donít know that sometimes. You know at Perris they started that co-pilot thing and that was kind of cool and I know the first night they did it I won the race and this kid was my co-pilot and we had a trophy and whatever and we took a picture. Well I saw that kid at the next four races, he came down to the pits and got another picture and so Iím like thatís good, thatís what it needs.

Do you like meeting the fans afterwards?

MIKE: I do, I always try to be out there, I try to stand in front of the car, thereís a big pack of people, I have a lot of family that comes to races, theyíre usually around, thereís usually a few people around the car but I always have a stack of pictures with me and if a kid wants one, I always have pictures to give out to whoever comes by. I do enjoy that part of it. I remember back to when I was just a kid, I remember what that was like, getting a guys autograph, I remember being really nervous about going to meet this big race driver guy, to me they were always like heroes so I was always a little nervous. So I try to joke with the kids and talk to them just because I remember what I felt like when I was approaching them.

If non wing 410 racing in So Cal goes away, will you retire the 50 car?

BRUCE: Ron Chaffin will stop. Myself, if something was to come along, a 360 deal where they would do it on my terms, I might do it again or go on. But Ron and I have talked about it and weíre not going to go backwards as a team, and going backwards I mean by running for less money. Weíve always strived to, over my years, strived to run for more money and back in the Seventies we ran and had a fifteen hundred dollar motor and ran for the same money the 360 guys are running for now. And it was a 350-iron block with an aluminum head. And uh, now if you go to Ron Shaver who builds our engines, he builds them for some of the winged guys who run the Emmet Hahn thing and the touring part of the winged show and they get thirty, thirty-five grand in those babies no problem and uh, thatís a lot of money to running for twelve hundred bucks. You know, so we donít. We run for twenty five hundred but USAC, I donít know. If the promoters can get the same guys to run for twelve hundred that they can for twenty five hundred, they not stupid, they going to take the twelve hundred dollar guys you know. And you get them all out there, you canít tell any difference, they sound the same, and I know 410 is the premier class, I know in the Mid West it is, there isnít any 360ís back there, soÖ.

RON: Yeah, I think Iím about ready. I figure after twenty years Iím going to hang it up. That wonít be too long, if I make it that long, you know. Then something else might happen, you know, who knows? But like I said, itís not so much me or what I can do, we canít get enough cars. These guys canít run anymore, they canít make any money. They canít pay their bills, you know. Everything keeps going up and everything keeps costing twice as much almost as when we started. Like I said, I can do it, you know, but a lot of guys canít! We need everybody to make a show.

What do you have left to accomplish, what would you like to accomplish?

BRUCE: Iíd like to win in two weeks (laughs). Okay, right out of the gate. Just win.

MIKE: I hope to keep racing with Ron and Bruce. Obviously, theyíre, Ron anyway, is probably on the tail end of their own involvement in racing, theyíve been doing it for so many years, it canít go foreverÖif they go another ten years that would be awesome, if they go another five years, hopefully I can race for them as long as they will have me. I want to still pick up a midget ride when I can and Iíve got to find a Silver Crown ride somehowÖbut I just want to stay involved and just be a good racer. As a contender, I want to win races and theyíve had some dominant years where they just stood out, where they are the guys to beat every night and I want to strive to have a defining season, better, stronger. I try almost to not erase the previous year from my memory, but try to just think about the next year coming up, not think about what happened last year, can you do two in a rowÖNow Iím just trying to focus on winning one Championship this year, but you have got to break it up like that and not think about four in a row. While Iím humbled, right now Iím just trying to pick it up.

RON: I think weíve just about done it all. I think just having fun and doing what weíre doing. Youíre not going to win them all but weíre always right there. They know weíre there, letís put it that way. Richardís dad, Doc, used to always say ďwe may not win, but those sons of bitches knew we were there!Ē Thatís what his dad said, I donít know if you ever met him, Doc Griffin, heís a kick in the ass, heís a hell of a race guy. They know weíre there, letís put it that way.