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See You At The Races!!!

 Press Release

by Windy McDonald

Phoenix, AZ (March 18) For the first half of Saturday night’s 30 lap USAC/CRA sprint car feature on Manzanita Speedway’s half mile track no one was watching the leader as Rickie Gaunt built a commanding lead. All eyes were on the three and four car battle for second. However the final laps had the fans on their feet as it became a three car donnybrook for the lead.

Gaunt, driving the locally owned Tony Smiley/Dave Zorki sprinter, started in the front row, beat David Cardey into the first turn and started to pull away. The race was halted almost immediately as Tom Olge and Ronnie Clark made contact and both flipped in turn three. Both drivers walked away and Ogle’s car was able to rejoin the field.

After a ten minute delay the race was restarted and Gaunt again sped away and only lapped traffic was able to slow him down.

The race for second was among different cars as the race progressed. Josh Wise, Damion Gardner and Cory Kruseman were trying to get to the front and Cardy was in the thick of the battle as Gaunt built his lead.

Gardner, who came close to the one lap record in out qualifying the 37 car field barely made it to the feature when his crew discovered engine problems and had to replace the motor after winning the first heat race. The car was readied with just minutes to spare and he joined the field, lined up in the fourth row. It took a while but he managed to cut into Gaunt’s lead just past the halfway point.

Catching Rickie was one thing, passing him was another. Gaunt got the wake up call and held the defending champion at bay as the laps sped away. Cory Kruseman caught the two leaders and then passed Gardner for second with less than five laps remaining.

Kruseman took up the chase but when the white flag waved signaling one lap to go Gaunt appeared to have it in the bag as Gardner slipped past Kruseman. Then the unthinkable happened as Gaunt, who had driven a flawless race, made a mistake. As he headed through the final turn he jumped the cushion and Gardner shot by slower traffic and took the lead with less than 100 feet to go. Kruseman beat Gaunt across the line for second and the disappointed Gaunt, who said in a post race interview that he just tried too hard and his right rear tire was worn out was third. Wise crossed the line in fourth with Mike Spencer in fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Tony Jones, Cardy, National Champion Levi Jones, Rip Williams and Johnny Rodriguez.

In contrast to the preliminary races which had yellow or red flags in all but the third heat, the 30 lapper, after the initial two car crash, went the distance without incident and was run in 10:37.78.

Gardner came out of the back row in winning the first heat which was red flagged on the second lap when R.J. Johnson vaulted over the wheel of the car driven by Josh Ford and flipped hard. He was not injured. Ford finished second ahead of Bob Ream, Jr. and Bobby Cody.

Matt Rossi slowed the second heat when he spun into the wall. Mike Kirby made a great move to take the lead from his third row starting berth and beat Rip Williams, Levi Jones and Danny Ebberts to the checkered flag.

The third heat was run without incident and was won by Danny Sheridan followed by Kruseman, Gaunt and J Hicks.

Charles Davis, Jr. came from the back row to win the fourth heat over Jeremy Sherman, Wise and Cardy .

Seventeen cars lined up for the 12 lap semi with six berths still open in the feature. Tony Jones shot away from the field and led all the way to garner the tenth starting spot in the main. Also transferring were Spencer, Rodriguez, Brandon Lane, Ogle and Clark.

Jerry Coons, Jr., a regular with the USAC National series, started sixth in the 20 lap midget feature but had the lead before the first lap was completed. Chris Rahe, the pole sitter, managed to stay close with the help of several yellow flags. Johnny Rodriquez, Coons’ team mate in the Mike Burkhart stable of cars, was third across the finish line ahead of Tyler Brown who stated seventh. Mike Spencer drove his way from ninth to fifth. Behind the top five were Nathan High, John Sarna, Mike Leslie, Jonathan Henry and the defending champion, Mike Welker.

Brown took the first heat race as he chased down High who finished second. Spencer got third and Bugs Norbury was fourth.

It was no contest in the second heat as Coons started on the pole and easily beat Rahe, Chad Boat and Chris Edwards.

The final heat went to Rodriguez over Stevie Sussex, John Sarna and Mike Courtney.

Race fans showed their generosity as a 50/50 raffle was held with the money going to Jack Hewitt’s family to help with expenses incurred when their son was seriously injured. The pot figured out to $675 for the winner and $675 for Hewitt. The lady who had the winning ticket donated her winnings to the Hewitt family. Manzanita added to the pot and over $2300 will go to the Hewitt family.

The Arizona Sprint Car race originally scheduled for the half mile track next Saturday night has been switched to the short track. The race, which also features mini sprints, will be run honoring the memory of long time driver Weince Bailey who passed away last week.



Fast time: Damion Gardner-18.383—97.916 mph

1st Heat: (10 laps) 1. Damion Gardner 2. Josh Ford 3. Bob Ream, Jr. 4. Bobby Cody 5. Ronnie Clark 6. Johnny Rodriguez 7. Andy Reinbold 8. Ryan Devitt 9. R.J. Johnson (no time)

2nd Heat: (10 laps) 1. Mike Kirby 2. Rip Williams 3. Levi Jones 4. Danny Ebberts 5. Mike Spencer 6. Seth Wilson 7. Eric Severson 8. Tom Ogle 9. Matt Rossi (no time)

3rd Heat: (10 laps)1. Danny Sheridan 2. Cory Kruseman 3. Rickie Gaunt 4. J Hicks 5. Tony Jones 6. Jordan Hermansader 7. Mike Martin 8. Blake Millerw 9. Chris Bonneau (Time: 3:25.94)

4th Heat: (10 laps) Charles Davis, Jr. 2. Jeremy Sherman 3. Josy Wise 4. David Cardey 5. Mike Leslie 6. Burce St. James 7. Tom Stansberry 8. Brandon Lane (no time)

Semi Main: (12 laps) 1. Tony Jones 2. Mike Spencer 3. Johnny Rodriguez 4. Brandon Lane 5. Tom Ogle 6. Ronnie Clark 7. Mike Martin 8. Mike Leslie 9. Tom Stansberry 10. Andy Reinbold 11. Ryan Devitt 12. Blake Miller 13. Bruce St. James 14. Eric Severson 15. Jordan Hermansader 16. Seth Wilson 17. Chris Bonneau (no time)

Main Event: (30 laps) 1. Damion Gardner 2. Cory Kruseman 3. Rickie Gaunt 4. Josh Wise 5. Mike Spencer 6. Tony Jones 7. David Cardey 8. Levi Jones 9. Rip Williams 10. Johnny Rodriguez 11. Bobby Cody 12. Josh Ford 13. Brandon Lane 14. Mike Kirby 15. Danny Ebberts 16. Tom Ogle 17. Charles Davis, Jr. 18. J Hicks 19. Jeremy Sherman 20. Bob Ream, Jr. 21. Ronnie Clark 22. Danny Sheridan (Time: 10:37.78)


1ST Heat: (8 laps) 1. Tyler Brown 2. Nathan High 3. Mike Spencer 4. Bugs Norbury 5. Jonathan Henry 6. Dustin Burkhard 7. Mike Colegrove (Time: 2:06.94)

2nd Heat: (8 laps) 1. Jerry Coons, Jr. 2. Chris Rahe 3. Chad Boat 4. Chris Edwards 5. Mike Welker 6. C.J. Sarna 7. Alex Herrera (Time: 2:05.47)

3rd Heat: (8 laps) 1. Johnny Rodriguez 2. Stevie Sussex 3. John Sarna 4. Mike Courtney 5. Lonnie Oliver 6. Jeff Perry 7. Mike Leslie (no time)

Main Event: (20 laps) 1. Jerry Coons, Jr. 2. Chris Rahe 3. Johnny Rodriguez 4. Tyler Brown 5. Mike Spencer 6. Nathan High 7. John Sarna 8. Mike Leslie 9. Jonathan Henry 10. Mike Welker 11. Bugs Norbury 12. Chris Edwards 13. Mike Courtney 14. Alex Herrera 15. Lonnie Oliver 16. Jeff Perry 17. Chad Boat 18. Cory Kruseman 19. Tony Everhart 20. C.J. Sarna 21. Dustin Burkhart (no time)






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