"The Thunderbowl"- May 28, 2007…On this special weekend, myself and my fiancée/photographer Jen hit the road to catch some "balls-to-the-walls", non-wing USAC/CRA Sprint car action, and damn, did these guys ever deliver.
Before we begin, it's only appropriate to thank the men and women defending, and who have defended our great country. Without you, we would never be able to do and enjoy the things that we're able to do. Thank you all so very much…
The USAC bunch made the haul the previous night from their show at Perris, where Blake Miller picked up the win.
Walking up to get our tickets, I ran into “The Cowboy” Tony Jones. As always he was wearing his trademark smile. This guy just loves to race, and loves being at the racetrack. After a brief B.S. session, we wandered into Tulare’s warm pits. I’m like you guys, I love doing the “pit stroll”. See who’s doing what, and every time you pass one of those beauties, your heart rate accelerates.
The sweet smell of baby oil on those machines gets me going more than a hot chick ever could. You guys know what I’m talking about. When the spacers for the axels are making that “clinging” sound, and the drivers and teams are getting ready for a night’s war always lights my ass up.
After some pictures, it’s time to head for some shade. We head to the shaded Tulare stands, and I’m just kicking back taking in all of the beautiful sights at the track (no babe, not the girls!) the music was playing, and I’m laying back on the bleacher behind me with my hands behind my head, and I swear, I couldn’t think of a better place that I would rather be. Screw Hawaii
I had a nice chat with the legend, Mr. Al Pombo and Paul Reiter. He had his shirts and other memorabilia for sale. I get the chills just looking at the man. He is a walking history book. For all of you out of state, contact Paul at 559-275-2385 for Al Pombo shirts, caps, etc.
The motors roar to life as the cars roll out for wheel packing. As always, promoter Steve Faria was allover his race track. You want to see a man that really cares about his surface? Look no further than this man. That's not a poke at any promoters either, just my rookie observation. Mr. Faria runs a top-shelf facility, and it shows from the way the shows are run, to the fan friendly staff.
In hot laps, I always look for the guys who test different lines on the race track. Usually I can pick one or two guys and say "damn! he was flying!", but not with this group. Hell, you had Cory "feeling" out the top, and Spencer "checking" out the bottom. Next session would be "Showtime" puttin' some power to the surface in the middle of the race track. Good stuff, everyone was out there showing why we love this deal so damn much.
Hoping to back up his win the previous evening, Blake Miller bested the field in qualifying. The stage was set race fans for three heat races, and every heat was stout. It didn't matter if you started on the pole; you better get you ass in gear, or get passed.
In Heat-1, Jones, Spencer, Ballard, Davis, Jr., and Miller put on a tremendous show. You would have thought they were racing for a $1,000,000 bucks. Elbows up, and good hard racing was being tossed up for us race fans. All of these mashers would go into the "A".
Heat-2, Race fans would see "Super" Rickie Gaunts' elbows so high in this heat race, I swear I saw them banging underneath the roll cage! A scary moment in this heat, as Michael Trimble hopped a right rear wheel trying to move himself into a transfer spot. The car took off into the air, and the right side of the car pounded the turn-1 fence. "MT", thankfully walked away. Davey Pombo, who picked up a Bandit Sprint car win, the previous night in Santa Maria, did a superb job. Davey continuously proves that he can race with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime. The masher from Kerman brought home the win, and was followed by Hicks, Gaunt, "Hollywood" Danny Faria, and Jonathan Logan.
Heat-3, Peter Murphy would lead this one until "The Kruser" made a sweet pass in 3-4. As soon as the green flag flew Cory, who started 5th, was like a shark to blood in his heat. Good clean, hard racing was on the menu again. "Showtime" also tumbled in this one. The badass from Santa Maria was coming off of 1-2, and got tangled up with some other cars, and over he went. However, his night would be far from over. Murphy, Argo, Weir and Jesse Mack would all go to the feature.
The Kittle Motorsports team made the necessary repairs in time to run the semi, and Danny proceeded to bring home the win. He was followed by fellow drivers Josh Ford, Kevin Barnes, Charlie Louden and Nadine Gardner. Class act Rip Williams was in a transfer, and heading into turn-1 as a mechanical malfunction struck. As "The Ripper" came to a stop in the middle of 1-2, a pileup ensued and Blake Robertson's virgin non-wing Sprint car start, ended on his lid.
The crowd went ballistic as the cars went into 4-abreast formation. "The Kruser" was on the pole and "The Cowboy" was on the outside for the 30-lap adrenaline shot. When we went green, TJ got the jump, and he was hooked up and flying in the Alexander Motorsports No.4. Tony was absolutely on kill! Battles were breaking out allover the race track. Jones led 12-laps then on a restart, rode the wall in 1-2. TJ gathers it back up, but has lost five spots and now has a damaged race car. Cory takes the lead! Gaunt is coming!, "Showtime" is coming!, here comes Argo! The field blows by us, cars are going 3-wide in 1-2! side-by-side down the straightaway! Kruseman laps a car coming down the straightaway, and proceeds to do it with style, by wheeling past the back marker! 30 exciting laps later, it's; Kruser, Gaunt, Sheridan, Argo, Blake Miller, and Jones.
Great night of racing, fan friendly drivers and teams, my girl, great friends, and Sprint cars, what else could a guy want? I would like to personally thank each driver, team, sponsor and fan for making the trek to race. You guys are all awesome!
My hat's off to Steve Faria and staff. My only question is this; what can we do to get more races at your great facility? I think the whole show was fantastic. Well ran, with a racy surface. Major kudos to the action packed Thunderbowl Raceway and its sponsors.
Next race for the USAC/CRA Sprint cars series will be at Ventura Raceway this Saturday June 2nd don't miss it race fans, these guys will leave you on the edge of your seat!
*Special thanks again, to all of the drivers and teams. You guys continuously leave this ugly writer breathless!
Please send questions or comments to Gary Costa @ firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 209-874-3241 and let's talk racing!