The AMSOIL USAC/CRA series has a rich tradition and has witnessed some of the best traditional sprint car racing in history. With a driver’s list that includes Dean Thompson, Bubby Jones, Ron Shuman and Jimmie Oskie, it’s rare that any records get broken. Mike Spencer did exactly that by winning a fifth consecutive race at Perris Auto Speedway on Saturday night.
The stats show that Spencer led the final 15 laps of the 30 lap feature, but the stats don’t show the actual drama that played out on the track.
Spencer started the evening by setting quick time in qualifications which sent a message to everyone what his intentions were for the night. Unfazed by the quick lap, Nic Faas and Austin Williams, second and third in the AMSOIL USAC/CRA point standings respectively, also signaled their intentions by putting up fast times in qualifying as well.
A rejuvenated “Super” Rickie Gaunt and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Rip Williams both posted some serious times in qualifying, showing that the veteran racers were not going to make winning the main event an easy chore for anyone.
Young Brody Roa has been looking for the right opportunity to capture a feature race at Perris, and “Showtime” Danny Sheridan had a point to make in the #73 Sprinter after departing from his longtime #18 Kittle Motorsports ride. Ronnie Gardner, who has filled the seat of the #18 Sprinter for a limited run, was also eager to collect a feature win to keep himself and the Kittle Motorsports team together for a longer haul this season.
Not to be overlooked, Cory Kruseman is always a threat to win. Cody Williams in the #44 Jory Motorsports car was looking to bounce back after a collision took the former Victorville Champion out of the last race held at the PAS.
Longtime fan favorite “Dynamite” David Cardey’s merge with another fan favorite team, Sertich Motorsports in the famous #92 Moose-mobile. This merger has shown great promise as they look to cement their place as one of the top teams in the field.
Greg Alexander, Johnny McCall and John Aden also made their return to the half-mile oval, looking to stamp a good finish on their PAS dance card. It was clear that the feature race was not a forgone conclusion and the winner would have to earn it.
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Mike Spencer, 50, Chaffin-16.320; 2. Nic Faas, 4, Alexander-16.647; 3. Rickie Gaunt, 66, Miller-16.669; 4. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-16.775; 5. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-16.844; 6. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-16.855; 7. Ronnie Gardner, 18, Kittle-16.867; 8. Danny Sheridan, 73, Ford-16.895; 9. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-17.038; 10. Cory Kruseman, 7, Priestley-17.069; 11. David Cardey, 92, Sertich-17.090; 12. Verne Sweeney, 98, Tracy-17.246; 13. Greg Alexander, 72, Tyler-17.302; 14. J.J. Ercse, 36, Springstead-17.581; 15. David Bezio, 37X, Bezio-17.589; 16. Cal Smith, 39, Cal Sun-17.645; 17. Johnny McCall, 44J, McCall-17.750; 18. Patrick Clark, 71k, Kruseman-17.849; 19. John Aden, 7a, Aden-17.878; 20. Corey Ballard, 20, Ballard-17.944; 21. Gavin Matlock, 25, Williams-18.328; 22. Mike Collins, 04, Perkins-18.405; 23. Jerry Welton, 62, Welton-18.762; 24. Jon Kairot, 0, Perkins-19.234.
Mike Spencer fired the first shot by winning the first heat race over a hard charging Ronnie Gardner. “Showtime” Sheridan answered by taking the second heat race in front of Nic Faas and David Cardey. Sensing that tonight could be the night for another record setting win, Rip Williams turned back the clock and displayed the same dominant racing style that he became known for several years ago. “The Ripper” drove to the front and captured heat race three over Bezio, son Cody Williams, Gaunt and Aden. Sweeney and Hubcap Mike Collins rounded out the heat.
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Spencer, 2. Gardner, 3. Kruseman, 4. A.Williams, 5. Alexander, 6. Ballard, 7. McCall, 8. Welton.
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Sheridan, 2. Faas, 3. Cardey, 4. Roa, 5. Matlock, 6. Clark, 7. Kairot, 8. Ercse.
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. R.Williams, 2. Bezio, 3. C.Williams, 4. Gaunt, 5. Aden, 6. Sweeney, 7. Collins.
Promoter Don Kazarian and crew did what they do better than anyone else, honor the past. With special designations for each stage of events, each with a deep respect and love for the person being honored, four drivers were selected to represent the current crop of AMSOIL USAC/CRA racers in the Walt James Last Man Standing dash. Current points leader Mike Spencer, Nic Faas, Austin Williams and Ricki Gaunt lined up in a series of three laps dashes where one driver would be eliminated each round till only one driver remained standing.
Round one saw Nic Faas eliminated with Mike Spencer exiting the next round. The final stage pitted Austin Williams and Rickie Gaunt, side by side for a final shoot-out for a thousand bucks. Gaunt found himself in the preferred line which forced Austin Williams to take a couple of risks to find a way around the veteran Gaunt. Williams pushed Gaunt several times but had to lift at one point to avoid potential disaster. That momentary lifting off the throttle was all Gaunt required to lead Williams across the finish line and pocket the purse.
LAST MAN STANDING DASH: (9 laps) 1. Gaunt, 2. A. Williams, 3. Spencer, 4. Faas.
Another nod to sprint car racing’s past took place near intermission when the Western Racing Association’s vintage open wheel cars took the track for their heat race session. Giving the fans a roll-back look at how open wheel racing was between the 1930s through the 1950s, these racers put their “rolling museum” on the track. Racing on the drier inside quarter mile track, the vintage cars waged a side-by-side battle on the dry-slick track to the fans delight.
The always popular and excitingly fast California Lightning Sprints (CLS) brought 18 cars to stage their always energetic show. The power-to-weight ratio and aerodynamic downforce on these purpose built racecars make them one of the fastest classes of cars on the tracks that they visit.
Personal history was made in the CLS series when last year’s Rookie of the Year, Stephen Limon notched his first main event win in the series. Guy Maresch raced his way to second with Zach Zauss leading the rest of the field across the line.
Don Blair Main Event
Danny Sheridan and Ronnie Gardner brought the field to the green where Sheridan’s #73 took a lower line into turn one and exited with the lead. Rip Williams followed Sheridan down the back straight in second while Gardner was on the outside line under attack from Austin Williams.
Sheridan held onto the lead while Rip and Austin Williams waged a father/son battle for second place.
Mike Spencer moved from his eighth place starting position to fifth place in just over a lap. Clearly, Spencer was on a mission. Taking the high line, Spencer passed Nic Faas and Austin Williams going down the front straight-away. Williams caught a rut in the low line on the exit of turn one causing the car to bicycle on two tires then rolled over landing on four wheels.
Sheridan jumped to the lead on the restart with Spencer passing Rip Williams on the outside for second place. Sheridan would maintain the lead until Gavin Matlock spun in turn two bringing out the yellow on lap 15.
When it looked like the race would end up being a battle between Danny Sheridan holding the preferred line and Mike Spencer trying to find a line around “Showtime,” the inexplicable happened. Under a yellow flag caution lap, as the cars were coming onto the front straight, Sheridan blipped the throttle and the car shot down the front straight-away at full speed. With a stuck throttle, Sheridan was able to spin out the car to avoid flying into the turn one wall. Sitting with a stalled engine and unable to maintain yellow flag speed, the lead went to Mike Spencer under yellow with Sheridan being reassigned to the back.
Spencer took off at the green flag and worked his way through lap traffic for the final 15 laps to capture his fifth feature win in a row at Perris Auto Speedway, putting his name in the record books.
California Lightning Sprints
Heat race 1: 1 Bissett, 2 Dyer, 3 Arnett, 4 Sherman, 5 Robles, 6 Lancaster, 7 Kotlinski, 8 Sheffield
Heat Race 2: 1 Hillberg, 2 Michnowicz, 3 Gamer, 4 McCauley, 5 Squire, 6 Sims. 7 Dan Hillberg
Heat Race 3: 1 B. Michnowicz, 2 Limon, 3 Maresch, 4 Zauss, 5 Squire, 6 Murphy, 7 Downing
Feature: 1 Limon, 2 Maresch, 3 Zauss, 4 Sherman, 5 Gamer, 6 Squire, 7 Kotlinski, 8 Sheffield, 9 Sims, 10 Arnet, 11 McCauley, 12 #01 Hillberg, 13 B. Michnowicz, 14 Bissett, 15 Lancaster, 16 Michnowicz, 17 Downing, 18 Squire, 19 Murphy, 20 Robles, 21 Dan Hillberg, 22 Dyer
AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprints
Qualifications: 1. Mike Spencer, 50, Chaffin-16.320; 2. Nic Faas, 4, Alexander-16.647; 3. Rickie Gaunt, 66, Miller-16.669; 4. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-16.775; 5. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-16.844; 6. Rip Williams, 3, Jory-16.855; 7. Ronnie Gardner, 18, Kittle-16.867; 8. Danny Sheridan, 73, Ford-16.895; 9. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-17.038; 10. Cory Kruseman, 7, Priestley-17.069; 11. David Cardey, 92, Sertich-17.090; 12. Verne Sweeney, 98, Tracy-17.246; 13. Greg Alexander, 72, Tyler-17.302; 14. J.J. Ercse, 36, Springstead-17.581; 15. David Bezio, 37X, Bezio-17.589; 16. Cal Smith, 39, Cal Sun-17.645; 17. Johnny McCall, 44J, McCall-17.750; 18. Patrick Clark, 71k, Kruseman-17.849; 19. John Aden, 7a, Aden-17.878; 20. Corey Ballard, 20, Ballard-17.944; 21. Gavin Matlock, 25, Williams-18.328; 22. Mike Collins, 04, Perkins-18.405; 23. Jerry Welton, 62, Welton-18.762; 24. Jon Kairot, 0, Perkins-19.234.
First Heat: (10 laps) 1. Spencer, 2. Gardner, 3. Kruseman, 4. A.Williams, 5. Alexander, 6. Ballard, 7. McCall, 8. Welton.
Second Heat: (10 laps) 1. Sheridan, 2. Faas, 3. Cardey, 4. Roa, 5. Matlock, 6. Clark, 7. Kairot, 8. Ercse.
Third Heat: (10 laps) 1. R.Williams, 2. Bezio, 3. C.Williams, 4. Gaunt, 5. Aden, 6. Sweeney, 7. Collins.
Feature: (30 laps) 1. Mike Spencer, 2. David Cardey, 3. Rip Williams, 4. Rickie Gaunt, 5. Nic Faas, 6. Brody Roa, 7. Greg Alexander, 8. Cody Williams, 9. Cory Kruseman, 10. David Bezio, 11. John Aden, 12. Corey Ballard, 13. Verne Sweeney, 14. Gavin Matlock, 15. Patrick Clark, 16. Jon Kairot, 16. Danny Sheridan, 18. Mike Collins, 19. Jerry Welton, 20. Austin Williams, 21. Ronnie Gardner, 22. Johnny McCall. NT
**Smith flipped during qualifying. Ercse flipped during the second heat. A.Williams flipped during the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 R.Williams, Laps 2-11 Sheridan, Lap 12 Spencer, Laps 13-15 Sheridan, Laps 16-30 Spencer.
NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT POINTS: 1-Spencer-683, 2-Faas-595, 3-A.Williams-501; 4-Roa-471, 5-Matt Mitchell-461, 6-Ryan Bernal-458; 7-R.Williams-438, 8-Kruseman-417, 9-C.Williams-353, 10-Seth Wilson-313.