Traditional Sprint Car FanSite

See You At The Races!!!

by Gary "Hammerdown" Costa

A Lap With "The Kruser" Cory Kruseman

Thank you Kruser!
Kruser: No worries!

You were very successful in the TQ's...
Kruser: Yeah, we won quite a few main events. We had pretty decent equipment, picked up a pretty good sponsor, and that helped us excel. Me and Jay Drake started out at the same time, so we were racing against each other We won quite a few races, and quite a few of the big ones too.

How did you make the jump into Sprint Cars?
Kruser: Harlin Willis gave me a call one day, and said he was probably going to end up retiring, and wanted to know if I wanted to take it over. Obviously, I couldn't hang the phone up fast enough to get to the shop! I've been pretty fortunate.

In 1994, your rookie season, you won 2 features! Do you remember your first race?
Kruser: Absolutely! It was awesome to finally get to do it, it was something I dreamed about for a long time. Never thought I would get the opportunity, it was an awesome experience. Our first race was at Bakersfield, we started last and we were up to 9th, and ended up getting a flat tire.

From TQ's to Sprint Cars, that's a big jump even for a guy like yourself....
Kruser: When you go from 118HP to 760HP at that time. It's a VERY big jump. Their was a lot of adaption. We were going much faster, so you had to learn how to slow the car, timing and everything was totally different. So it took a little time to figure out.

1995 started out Ok, then Sacramento came. Do you remember that day? (Big Time Midget Flip)
Kruser: I've seen it on video, and have been told about it so many times that it's pretty fresh in my mind. It's part of life, and stuff happens. I've always been taught, if you fall off the bike you get back on it. This is what I've always dreamed of doing, and love to do. So we got back on the bike as soon a we physically could.

My friend, It's a really cool deal seeing you make a charge to the front!
Kruser: You don't finish up front, you don't make near the money. It's something you really got to push to do, being a competitor that's what you want to do.

1996, was your first time in a Silver Crown car. How did you like running them?
Kruser: It was exciting! We were used to running 30 lap races. The first time we ran a 100 mile race it was not even halfway over and I was chargin' trying to get to the front. It was exciting to run. Their are a lot of mechanical things you have to worry about.

1997 the ball really got rolling. That year brought 7 SCRA mains...
Kruser: Yeah, we just started gettin' healthy again, and everything was on track. We were starting to be pickier about things that we did, and I got hooked up with a lot of good people.

2000 you started the Cory Kruseman Driving School at Ventura Raceway. Where else can we plan to see the school?
Kruser: We're going to Perris and Bakersfield.

I've always respected the way you move around on the race track. You're always learning aren't you Cory?
Kruser: A lot of the sport is luck, and a lot of it's paying attention and learning. I always want to learn, and with having a driving school the last 5 years now, I've been able to focus on race cars 7 days a week. That's all I do. Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad. You get to learn a lot of good habits, and a lot of bad habits, and what makes the race car do certain things.

You take a lot of pride in your driving school...
Kruser: You know what? I enjoy making people happy. I'm a people person from the word go. It's just something I enjoy doing. You know what, you pay me to make you happy. I take people in my two-seater, and they treat me like I'm Santa Claus! When you get out and hear somebody crying or they're just devastated from the excitement, and you think, you know what? My life ain't that bad! I enjoy that kind of stuff.

In the 2001 season you racked up 15 main event wins and were chosen as driver of the year. What do you think contributed to such an outstanding season?
Kruser: A lot of things were going right for us. Being able to focus on racing as much as we were, and the guys were together for so long, everything was gelling'. I started traveling, and doing a lot of racing on the road. So you go to different race tracks and learn a lot of things that you can use.

2002 Indiana Sprintweek Champ. IRL and NASCAR Craftsman Truck races. Was it hard to get used to the different race cars?
Kruser: I think it was more exciting than hard. Obviously anytime you're learning things don't just come to you. I was fortunate to have the sponsorship to put me there. Agromin has been a company that has stuck with me for so long. They keep pushing to get me into that next level. I've got a lot of local sponsors, fans, friends and family that have supported me for so long, that's the thrill I get out of it.

You've done a lot of racing down under in the Midget...
Kruser: Yes we have. We won the Australian title, The New South Wales State Title, a lot of stuff down there. I've been fortunate to go down there and get in good equipment.

How do you like running in the Midwest? The tracks are a lot different over there...
Kruser: More than people will ever know! It's definitely a different ball game over there, but I enjoy running back there.

What's the difference?
The dryness of them. It's so hot and humid back there, they don't have moisture in the ground. Out here, they're able to keep moisture in the ground so much easier. We always have a real heavy race track. We're able to drive the car more sideways and harder into the corners because of the grip factor, not that we're more talented by any means.

How do you like running Eldora?
Kruser: It's very intriguing to be honest with you. Hopefully now that Tony owns it, they will put a little water on it, and make it heavy and tacky!

How did you like running Salem, Anderson, and Winchester?
Kruser: They were neat! It's good to go somewhere different, and something you haven't run before. Those tracks are famous, so that was a neat deal.

How tough was it running for Tony Stewart?
Kruser: He is probably one of the best bosses I've ever had! He's not pushy, very much in tune to what you need. He made sure you always had what you needed. He's totally different than what everyone sees on national television.

How tough of a decision was it to leave such a great team?
Kruser: It was the right decision, but a tough decision. It was tough leaving my crew-chief. He turned into being one of my best friends. To leave Tony was tough, because you had no wants, he was a great boss. At the same time I've got a business out here, that's really picking up, and I have a 3 year old little girl that I didn't get to see a whole lot of.

I've always admired the way you are with your family....
Kruser: You know, when every thing's done and gone they're still there. When you win everybody wants to stand by you. When you don't win, they stand by you.

How does Carri handle your racing?
Kruser: You know what, I think she's more addicted to it than I am! It's a neat thing. She doesn't mind me traveling, she allows me to do anything I want that involves racing. That makes being married pretty easy!

2003 and 2004 you were selected for the all-HammerDown! team on
Kruser: That's pretty cool! You can win a lot of awards because of talent, but to me, when the public votes for you to be something, that means more than anything. That's how the media has perceived you or how people take you, and that's very important to me.

You're a 2 time Chili Bowl Champ!
Kruser: It's pretty awesome! You have to be in good equipment there.

You really have to have the elbows up to make the show on Saturday...
Kruser: You do, you do! It's a lot more defensive driving than offensive driving. I'm lucky to drive for a great car owner there.

Everyone is gonna run the bicycle tire next year!
Kruser: (laughing) Wouldn't that be something! I hope so, 'cause Taylor Weld will sure enjoy that. He'll get to build a lot more wheels!

Can you put into words the difference of driving styles from the Sprint Car to the Midget?
Kruser: You really drive 'em quite a bit different. With the Midget, I tell everyone to put your elbows up and drive, drive, drive! The Sprint Car is more of a ballerina on ice skates. It's all about timing and having the right attitude on the race car.

You're competitive in anything you jump into. Why do you think that is?
Kruser: I've had a lot of good people behind me.When I had gone to the Midwest, I got latched up by Tracy Potter. I stay at his house when I go back there. He focuses on making Cory the best at what he can do. Out here on the West Coast I've had 2 or 3 great coaches. Harlin Willis was very patient with me. He let me go through my learning curve, and destroy a lot of his good parts! I'm very fortunate. I drive and have driven for a lot of great guys. Some of these guys are people who design these cars, and it's nice to know that they're hiring you because you're able to give them feed back, but they're the ones who taught me how to do that. I think that helps you getting on top of your game.

Scenario; We're at Ventura, we have 2 to go. Damion is in 1st, Rip is in 2nd, and you're idling around the track under yellow. What are some of the things you would be thinking about?
Kruser: We're at Ventura? I'm excited, because that's my favorite race track! You think of where their weaknesses are, where their strong points are, where your weaknesses are, and where your strong parts are, and how you're going to be able to capitalize on both their weakness and your strong points. You've gotta run 10 scenarios in your head of what's going to happen if he does this, I can do that, just be prepared for it.

How does "The Kruser" get focused?
Kruser: I'm focused from the word go! When I get in the race car I want to concentrate on what I'm doing. We push real hard so that I can keep my focus.

I know that "The Tempe Tornado" Lealand McSpadden has been like a mentor to you...
Kruser: You know what? I want to be just like that guy. He is a big part of who I am today. He is the true epitome of a racer. Lealand would sleep in the back of his truck, he would work all night long, and he would drive as hard on the last lap as he does the first lap. If your car's broke, and he's got time, he's gonna help you fix it. He told me something one day at Manzy. I asked him, "Lealand you were always helping me when I got started how come?" he says, "You're getting better and you listen." Well that night he took me around Manzanita. He told me, you've gotta watch out for this, you've gotta do this, you've gotta do that, and I won! He comes over to me after and says, "Good job kid!" I said "Does that mean you're done helping me?" He replied, "Nope! I want to beat you, but I want to beat you on your best day." He continued, "I don't want to beat you because you broke. I want to beat you when you're your best! Their's a lot of inspiration from people like that.

Thanks for sharing that, it gives me the chills...
Kruser: No worries, that's what it's all about. He's a really great guy.

Do you miss the battles with "The Gas Man" Richard Griffin?
Kruser: Oh absolutely! Richard and I are really good friends. It's nice to be able to race with friends, because they give you room on the race track and vice versa. And somebody to go b.s. with!

Any thoughts regarding the direction Sprint Car racing is going?
Kruser: They're going to have to get it to become cheaper. I'm not the one that's going to say they've got to get rid of carbon or titanium, but they're going to have to figure out how to do it. I think the biggest thing missing is that it's gotten away from the family. Until they get that back, our sport isn't going to grow. I think the Ford Focus program is starting to help that. I think if we can get some 14 year olds into race cars, whether it even be something low horsepower, something that's non-wing, I think it's going to help in the long run.

Any plans on running the wing anytime in the future?
Kruser: I ran into Howie Gleason, the guy that I ran for at the PRI show. He told me anytime I want to come back and do it, come on! It's hard though, because every Saturday I have filled up from the 2nd week of January until Thanksgiving doing the non-wing stuff.

Most memorable moment in a race car?
Kruser: There are a lot that stick out. The one that probably touched me the most was winning my first Sprint Car race. I won it at El Centro, and it was almost ten years to the exact day that my dad got killed there. So that is probably one of my most memorable. Winning the Chili Bowl is up there, winning the Oval Nationals over Josh Ford by about an inch and a half, those are the things that stick out to me. Not meaning I was better one night versus another night, it's just that you dug deep down into your heart and pulled out what you could, so that's the neat thing.

Anything else you would like to share?
Kruser: No not really. I thank you for taking the time to interview me!

Well I gotta say something, you're very approachable and in my opinion a really nice dude. You're alright in my book Cory...
Kruser: That's what it's about. I put my pants on the same way you do. The difference is, I've got an opportunity to drive a race car. People look at you like you're something different, and I'm not!

Race fans, keep up with "The Kruser" at

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