PERRIS, CA, MARCH 9, 2002 - Tony Jones began the night by taking a ceremonial victory lap for driver George Gervais, who passed away Friday after being injured in a sprint car accident last July. Jones concluded the evening by taking a more ...
PERRIS, CA, MARCH 9, 2002 - Tony Jones began the night by taking a ceremonial victory lap for driver George Gervais, who passed away Friday after being injured in a sprint car accident last July. Jones concluded the evening by taking a more traditional victory lap after he powered his way to a convincing 30 lap win at the Perris Auto Speedway. Of his eleven career NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) main event triumphs, Saturday's win will always have special meaning for Jones.
"I want to dedicate this win to "Big" George Gervais. He's in our hearts and on our minds, and I won this race tonight for him. We lost a good friend in George Gervais and we stepped it up for him tonight," Jones said after taking over the SCRA point lead for the first time in his career. Jones' victory came in just his third start with a newly formed team owned by Johnny Vermeer and Bubby Jones.
Even though the team has had success early, there have been the usual new team struggles. In fact, Jones' evaluation that the team's rise to the top of the point charts is due more to "survival" than anything else is a fair statement. After suffering through engine woes in the first two races, Jones had to overcome the loss of his brakes shortly after the start of this race. With track condition being fast, tacky and rough, Jones was once again forced into survival mode.
"Who says a sprint car needs brakes," Jones laughed. "We lost our brakes on the first or second lap and I really didn't think that we would be able to finish the race, especially with track conditions like they were tonight. I really had to throw her in the (corners) hard and I biked her a couple of times. We were able to save it and I think the harder I drove this Avenger chassis the better it went. I have to thank Ferreira Dairy who stepped up with a motor. It just makes my job as a driver much easier when you have so much power, and let me tell you this motor is a Godzilla."
Jones and his "Godzilla" power plant started third behind JE Pistons Dash winner Damion Gardner and the Sharon Jory / Vista Paint No. 6 Stinger driven by Mike English. In only his third career start, Gardner led the opening lap and became just the 49th driver to have led an SCRA main event lap. Following Gardner back to the line was English, Jones, Rip Williams and Richard Griffin.
Gardner was efficiently running the low groove when ninth place Levi Jones hit the turn two wall and stopped on lap six. Tony Jones used the middle of turns three and four to pass English for second place coming down to accept the green flag on the restart. Gardner elected to try the cushion for a few laps, but didn't exactly find that to his liking. By the time Gardner went back down to the bottom, Jones was within striking distance. Working lap eight, Jones gave Gardner a tap on the rear nerf bar before taking the lead in turn three with a nice outside move. One lap later, Gardner pushed wide exiting turn two and slapped the concrete fence. Gardner, who has tasted victory in a Golden State Challenge series winged sprint car, would drop to fifth before posting a respectable seventh place finish.
Driving a Jory Corporation team car with English as his teammate, Williams moved his Gambler chassis into the runner-up spot and quickly narrowed the gap on the leader after Jones did a big wheelie coming down to complete the 14th circuit. Just prior to the duo reaching lapped traffic, Williams intensely hunted for a better racing line hoping to find a way around Jones. In the end, all Williams could do is keep pace with Jones. After the race, Jones admitted that he knew who was running second and that he consciously ran through the "moister lines" Williams would want to hit.
English finished third ahead of Steve Ostling, who made a thrilling late charge that started with a daring outside pass on Cory Kruseman entering turn one on lap 26. Continuing to carry his momentum through the fourth corner, Ostling then moved the Fischer Motorsports / Watt Enterprises No. 29 Okie ahead of Griffin. Ostling managed to hold on to the fourth spot by edging Kruseman and the Harlan Willis WorldGate Networks No. 1 TCR at the finish line.
Troy Rutherford began the day with the SCRA point lead, but would have a difficult night after flipping in time trials. Transferring to the A-Main after starting at the rear of the C-Main and his heat race, Rutherford went on to win the KSE Products Hard Charger Award with a 22nd to eleventh place run in the feature. In other preliminary action, John Scott and Jordan Hermansader each flipped in separate incidents. Neither driver was hurt.