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
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
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
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.
USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS (1/2 MILE TRACK)
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
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
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:
ARIZONA MIDGET RACING ASSOCIATION –1/3 MILE TRACK
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)