Saints and Demons

Don Flanders is Permanently Enshrined into the Perris DNA

I never knew Don Flanders. I knew of Don Flanders. I would read his posts with a lot of interest and curiosity. Lance should gather those into a collection because that was unique voice there. I admired his free thinking unshackled by what is and always striving for what could be. Tales of his generosity were rampant, both public and private, both track and driver, both sport and individual. At a time of dwindling crowds, challenging car counts and fighting factions, we really need voices of innovation and hearts of gold. After seeing the lean crowd at Tulare last weekend, I'm not sure we can survive the loss of people like Don Flanders. Perris put on a heartfelt memorial race. David Cardey in the fabled Moose Mobile took Don's ashes down the Perris straightaway and blended them permanently into the Perris Speedway dirt and DNA. Saint.

Brody Roa is in his Sophomore Season

Earthquake: The Don Flanders Classic at Perris

First four rows are total insanity. Young guns on the front row, Jace on the pole, Cody to the outside. Veterans Cardey and Spencer right on their butts. Faas and Damion (some kind of surrealistic mischievous Thing 1 and Thing 2) are preparing to apply a blowtorch to the first two rows. Rip and Austin are calmly strapping down for their assault. We are green and Jace is lifting desperately trying to hold off the mob. No matter, Cardey out for the lead. The Demon looks scary. Cardey gets a flat from a dust up but then Smith is in the wall, done and we are yellow. Line up is Cody, Spencer, Damion, Austin and Faas. We are green, Cody takes the high line and Spencer dives to the bottom. It is furious but Cody is holding against the Champion, the Demon is real fast in third. Yellow for a spin and then off we go. Spencer again dives to the bottom and Cody has played his best card. It's Spencer, then the Demon slides Cody neatly and sets after the Spencer. It's the 50 out front being chased by Damion Gardner, maybe the only guy that can catch him. Spencer to the bottom, The Demon works the cushion for maximum traction and is gaining. Stunning action as two of the greatest California drivers continue to settle a never-ending score. Another spin on lap 8 and we are yellow. Line up is Spencer, Damion, Cody and Faas. I turn to Alderman and comment "Damion will catch him or blow up that engine trying". Alderman gives me that look. Green and it's a drag race to turn one, the Demon dives to the bottom and in the most stunning pass since Spencer did Tracy Hines in the Nationals, The Demon takes the lead and hauls ass out of there. It's not the first time Spencer has been passed but it was done with such jarring efficiency you could feel the landscape shifting under your feet. Damion completely checks out and I again fear for the safety of that engine. It's Damion, Spencer Faas and Cody. Another yellow on lap 16 and I get ready for Spencer to come roaring back. Green, Demon on the gas and here comes Faas challenging Spencer for second! Faas also gets around Spencer and now it's officially an earthquake. We are just not used to seeing Spencer going backwards. I'm not sure what they're thinking over at the Alexander hauler, but I can just make out Steve grinning in my mind! Suddenly Faas bikes coming into two and Spencer snatches it back quick as a lizard. Spencer down, but never defeated. It's Damion, Spencer, Faas and then a whole slew of black Jory spaceships, Cody, Austin and the Ripper. The Demon gets real gone, just miles by Spencer standard out front, then Mike, then Faas who can't pull the rabbit out twice, then three black Jory speed sedans giving notice they are coming, coming like Huns across the high plains of your future. Jack Jory. Saint.

Damion Gardner Wins a Definitive Victory at the Don Flanders Classic

The new Lytro camera takes photos that are never out of focus. It takes a picture that digitally records the subject into thousands of slices stacked front to back. You selectively move backward and forward on your computer until you focus on the frame that fits your story. When I photograph in the winner's circle, I wish I could apply the same principle. I could move the focus back towards me and I see hardcore photographer Steve Lefond in his "tear off heaven". I move the focus away, past the sweat stained and smiling winner and there is always that crewmember kneeling at the tire taking pressure. I push the focus again and there are the track officials moving the trophies to the cars, behind them the pit crews are packing it up, behind them the car owners are smiling and chatting the crowd, while their minds are already at work calculating the damage and packing it in. I'm always scrambling trying to focus on what's important. This camera would let me shoot everything at once.

Seth Wilson at Tulare

Jack Jory at Perris

Tulare: Ryan Bernal Hits Fast Forward in Tulare

I am back in earthy Tulare, at Steve Faria's stockyard of speed, the legendary Thunder Bowl. Everybody in this glorious valley is named Faria and there's Danny Faria Jr. on the pole with Nick Faas to his outside. Nic Faas is one of what I call the "fast boys" but he knows he needs to find one more notch on that accelerator. Behind the pole sits Spencer, surprised I suspect by the second place finish he last took at Perris. No matter, the ultimate competitor. Jace VanderWeerd again starting towards the front, this time in the fourth spot. Behind him are two more of the "fast boys", Kaeding and the Demon. Kaeding is high in the points, consistent but lacking the brilliance of previous years. JMO, he is probably happy to be at a track synonymous with his family name. Next is the Demon, fresh off his smashing victory at Perris, first in points and leading in attitude for invincibility. Message board has him as a shoo-in. Further back a cattle car of talent including the Jory army, Mitchell, hot streak Ryan Bernal and that other VanderWeerd. Green and Faria fishtails Faas down the front, Faas unimpressed and takes the lead. Spencer also clocks under Faria for second. Now Bud Kaeding also clears Faria for third and here comes the Demon. It's Faas out front, Spencer, Kaeding and the Demon. Faria is all the way back to fifth, but there is no quit in that heart and he is pounding on the door. Faas and Kaeding just going at it. Kaeding takes the lead and Faas now has his hands full with Spencer. It's Kaeding riding the high line, Faas and Spencer but Spencer now makes the pass under Faas. The Demon is still back there somewhere around fourth, but then also clears Faas for third. We settle in for some high-speed laps, really hauling, but this auction is far from over. Kaeding, Spencer, Demon and Faas. Further back, Ryan Bernal is on the move and beating on fifth place Faria. Johnson spins and we are yellow. Green and five times USAC Champion Mike Spencer is making life hell for Bud Kaeding. But the real smoke is coming from Ryan Bernal who has figured out the bottom and exploded up to fourth behind Damion. He is moving so fast your eye is diverted from Kaeding and Spencer and you can't look away. Ryan Bernal, who has been on a USAC 360 winning streak is now putting the screws to the 410 fast boys. The action is shifting rapidly. Another spin, yellow and the line up is Kaeding, Spencer, Bernal, Demon, Faria and Mitchell. Green and Bernal just hits hyper speed, lifting like a freaking space shuttle. He moves Damion out of the way like a kid kicking a beach ball! I think "that's not smart" but quickly realize Damion is never going to catch him. Spencer takes down Kaeding for the lead but here comes Bernal. He passes Kaeding for second. Spencer taps the wall in turn two and Bernal blows past him also. Not since I saw Larson torture this track in 2012 have I seen such a dominating performance. Bernal just nuclear going into the corners and scorching the straightaways. There is still a race behind him but who could take their eyes off this spectacle? Two laps to go, Bernal loses his brakes and moves up the track out of the way. This kid has matured a lot. Spencer's brakes are fine (Broom) and seizes the moment like the Champion he is. Spencer first, Bernal second and Faria third with his new crew chief Vinnie!

Ryan Bernal in Tulare CA, May 18th 2013

World's fastest sprint car project will be in El Mirage June 8 testing and then again July 13 for more testing. We are at Bonneville the week of August 8th to see how fast we can go. The best thing about this whole deal is getting to know Damion.
I always a bit reserved around drivers, I hold them in esteem with a healthy sense of respect. But Damion hits me in a way I haven't felt since I was hanging with Wakim in Ventura. Deep, complex, dead serious, doesn't suffer fools easily, holds no one but himself accountable, all about walking the walk. For this film, this project, this story, this is the guy. For Perris, he has brought the edge and the friction to the story that has been lacking. What a race this is going to be Saturday! Mike Spencer says bring it… Williams, Faas, Mitchell, VanderWeerds, holy shit, now Ryan Bernal and the whole batch of lunatics! What a season. Damion Gardner. Demon.

Danny Faria Wins the Dash in Tulare

Brother Brett and I pulled out of Tulare about 7:00 am Sunday morning and headed back to LA. I was deep in thought but Brett wanted to take some pictures with his Mike Spencer t-shirt. We pulled over at a railroad siding and took some pictures. I was thinking about that Lytro camera and how I could capture all the personalities and racing in one picture. A mystery train passed us heading north blowing a soulful whistle. We watched it for a long time…. Care about ya, Sarah. That train was empty, but who knows, maybe it was full. Like Brett, like me, like everybody. Full of saints and demons.

Sunday Morning Coming Down