The Heart of Santa Maria
Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprints
Santa Maria Speedway
August 11, 2012

All Thrill No Fill
Danny Sheridan and Kittle Win at Santa Maria

Some stories just write themselves. I was drifting and down in Santa Maria. I had blown through Watsonville, hung out in Hanford, rolled dice in Ventura and killed time in Perris. I had my brother Brett by my side but we couldnít figure it out. ďWhatís wrong here, Mike?Ē Brett would say in that repeating insistent way. ďWhat are we missing, what are we missing, Mike?Ē I donít know, Brett. I know that anonymous Internet assassins slither in the grass. We can only move under the cover of darkness. We follow the river but itís poisoned. We are surrounded by friends but itís a childlike dream where no one can talk. Brilliant flashes of hope twitch like a neon beer sign behind a broken window. Darkness was coming like credit card debt and heart was slipping out the back door.

Popular Santa Maria Promoter Chris Kearns

Somehow those USAC/CRA 410ís muscled up a four wide salute down that narrow Santa Maria front porch. Line up is Jace VanderWeerd on the pole. His brother Richard won a week ago in Hanford. Pride of Bakersfield Rusty Carlile on the outside. Cody Williams, who set a track record qualifying the night before in Watsonville, is inside second row. He was twelfth in qualifying tonight. Nic Faas, relentless in focus and second in points to the outside. Third row had Shane Golobic in a fast Keith Ford car. Rip Williams, having an amazing year, was outside him. With slick heat races and a rocking invert, some very fast cars start showing up in fourth row. Sitting inside is hometown hero Danny Sheridan, back in the Kittle car. Danny is doing more time with his family, but delivering more consistent results when he gets on the track. Itís weird seeing other drivers in that car, like seeing your best friendís girl sleep around. Sheridan and Kittle have been going out since high school. Fast rising Brody Roa to his outside, qualified 2nd fastest tonight. Fifth row, itís Mike Spencer to the inside with the quiet confidence. He took it in Watsonville the night before and has been pounding victory lane. The Incredibleís Super Rickie to his outside. Mike qualified fastest, Rickie third fastest. Danny Faria behind Spencer, fifth fastest. AJ Bender next to him, dedicated driver with dedicated family. Seth, Austin, Ryan, Cory and a half dozen other fast freaks behind all that. The track has somehow again mysteriously taken moisture, almost miraculously as drivers staged and waited. Everyoneís good friend Chris Kearns wonít be back next year, but the soul of Doug Forte continues to protect and water this track. I check in with Buzzard and Sprint Car Scotty; suspicions abound this could get good.

My Requisite Super Rickie Photo Smooth in the Eucalyptus Shade

Green and Jace gets out there, but you have a first lap cluster cluck coming out of one and Golobic is out of there before he got started. Double wide restart and Spencer moves up to the fourth row without completing a lap. The night before he took the lead when Bernal mistakenly stopped on a yellow. Mikey doesnít need any luck to win, but it seems to be clinging to him this weekend. Jace again gasses it, with Carlile second but here comes Faas so fast. Second lap and Faas gets under Carlile coming out of four, but Carlile takes it back at the other end. Bender spins in two and we are yellow again. Man that track is looking wicked. Line up is Jace, Carlile, Faas, Rip and Austin. Right behind them you can see Sheridan, Roa and Spencer ready to juice it up. Green and Jace clear, with Carlile and Faas mixing it up. Rip coming and Faas is now fighting him off. But suddenly, like Wylie Coyote while the rest of the world slumbers at half speed, here comes Danny Sheridan, with a speed and preciseness that is startling in itís complexity. He wheels it high and to the outside of Rip and Nic as fast as school coming. Now he clears second place Carlile but we are yellow when Scott Pierovich spins it in turn two.

Brody Roa is Becoming a Constant Top Five Threat

All eyes are on Sheridan. Iím not sure I have ever seen a car so perfectly prepared. Hats off to Ralph, Chad, Jimbo, Paul, Randy, Ronnie, Jeremy, Gary and Brian and whoever the hell read that track. Danny looked like he could do anything he wanted with that car. Boeing never built a rocket ship like this. Lineup is Jace, Carlile and Sheridan but it may as well have been Sheridan, Sheridan and Sheridan. He came out of that restart fast and perfect and was gone in a Vandenberg moment. Everybody was stoked and thrilled. It was now Sheridan, Jace, Rip (ok, letís stop here a minute and collectively blow our minds at the stud that is Rip Williams! If a race is going down; anywhere, anytime, anyhow, Rip William is in the meanest, tightest, toughest part of it and kicking ass..) Carlile and Roa. Further back Faas was furiously fighting Spencer. Spencer gets under him and farther ahead Sheridan is getting into traffic. Doesnít matter, Danny goes where he wants. Rip passes both Carlile and Jace and sets after Sheridan. Sheridan has almost a third of the track behind him. Its Sheridan, a lot of dirt and then Rip, more dirt and then Roa. Spencer is now fourth ahead of Jace and really getting up a head of steam. Austin Williams gets crossed up in two and we are yellow.

Santa Maria Tradition of Excellence

Austin gets it right and gets pushed off. Line up is Sheridan, Rip, Roa, Spencer and Jace. Further back is Faas, Carlile and here comes Bernal. Green and Danny again is dancing an Irish jig. Marvelous side by side racing between Rip and Roa down the back, but Brody flies too close to the flame and gets extinguished in turn three. Keeps it on four wheels and they push him off. Sheridan, Rip, now Spencer in third, Jace and Faas. Itís 9:17 and we are green again. Spencer instagram under Rip just tearing thru three and four and with Sheridan flying, Spencer lining him up in his gun sights, We have gone classic, itís Sheridan, Spencer getting to work and Rip. Heavy traffic and Spencer is closing in. Turn four and like a master thief at work Spencer is suddenly alongside Sheridan and makes the pass.

The Legendary #18 Kittle Car

Crowd is stunned. Sheridan is stunned. Then Sheridan is mad. Danny Sheridan hammers down and finally, after months of wandering in the desert, after more pit passes than paychecks, somehow in the middle of one still calm violent coastal night, courage shows up and we go epic! Hereís the thing about Spencer and champions in general: you can race everyday with friends and have fun and whatever. But with Spencer, he brings it all every time and he gives any driver a chance to rise above the bullshit. You want to race? Here I am. Want to try something great? Letís get it on. They are brother banshees flying though traffic, tied at the hips, swinging, snarling and snapping but never biting. Instead of cheesy slide jobs and cheap Ikea stuffed olives, these men decide to race each other. They are plugged into the track, juiced up on clay and passing to the outside. Itís Spencer; no itís Sheridan; no itís Spencer! Checkered flag flying as Mike Spencer leads into turn four, you canít hear anything but the roar. But the crowd is roaring for Danny. He has given them so many times what everybody needs on Monday morning; everybody needs heart. Every person in the grandstands and the infield could hear Danny in their minds. Coming through turn four behind the leader, his brain is screaming to the muscles and the nerve endings and the hands and the feet: ďThis is my crowd, my track, my crew, my family, my storyÖĒ Somewhere between turn four and wherever, Showtime gets it right, draws the line and delivers into the heart of Santa Maria.

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