Kirby wins Salute to Indy at Perris. PERRIS, CA, MAY 25, 2002 - Mike Kirby led all 50 laps of the traditional "Salute to Indy" Saturday at the Perris Auto Speedway. Even though he led the entire distance, his 38th career NAPA Auto Parts / Auto...
Kirby wins Salute to Indy at Perris.
PERRIS, CA, MAY 25, 2002 - Mike Kirby led all 50 laps of the traditional "Salute to Indy" Saturday at the Perris Auto Speedway. Even though he led the entire distance, his 38th career NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA main event win wasn't an easy one.
"It was tough, especially towards the end. I about spun it out and I thought I was going to wreck the thing with a couple laps to go," said Kirby. "My team needed this because we've been struggling and everyone has been kind of down in the dumps since we blew up that second motor at Manzanita Speedway. That really took the windy out of our sails, but this should give everyone something to smile about."
Still, Kirby was only part of the story. In fact, the rumble throughout the pits after the race wasn't so much about Kirby's poised drive as it was the shake-up in the SCRA point standings. Entering the evening many had already labeled the run for the 2002 title as the Cory Kruseman / Tony Jones Show. Things quickly changed, however; after Jones failed to transfer to the main event after incidents in his heat race and the B-Main and Kruseman finished 21st after a nasty flip in the feature. Steve Ostling started the main event fourth in series points, but leapfrogged into the point lead for the first time in his 18 year sprint car career after his second consecutive podium finish. Like Ostling, three-time SCRA champion Richard Griffin is still searching for his first win of the year, but thanks to consistency now sits second in points ahead of Kruseman and Jones.
Before winning his second main event of the year, Kirby drove the Brad & Nancy Geurin / Statewide Towing No. 5 Stinger to his first JE Pistons Dash of the season. Kirby started on the first row inside of the Sharon Jory / Tomarco Fasteners No. 3 Gambler driven by Rip Williams. The front row raced even until Kirby pulled ahead exiting the bottom of turn two.
Perhaps waiting for the fuel load to decrease, Williams stayed close to the leader, but elected not to pressure Kirby until he reached the last place car on lap 13. Kirby found the early going through lapped traffic to his benefit until the 22nd lap when he was held up by a side-by-side battle for position. Once in front of the two slower cars, Kirby again opened up a comfortable gap between himself and Williams.
Rodney Argo brought out the first yellow flag of the race after he clipped the front straight wall coming to accept the halfway signal from starter Lee Jaskowiak and coasted to a stop one lap later. Just before the yellow flag, Ostling moved into third after moving the Fischer Motorsports / Watt Enterprises No. 29 Okie ahead of Gary W. Howard in lapped traffic.
Williams was on attack mode from the time the green flag reappeared. Taking to the cushion, Williams came off turn four even with Kirby only to be rudely greeted by another yellow flag, this time for Brain Venard who sat sideways on the back straight.
"I tried the top, but I wasn't very good," Kirby said. "Rip drove around me on the top on that one lap and it might have been a different deal if the yellow flag hadn't came out. We drag raced down the front straight, I had the preferred line (into turn one), but I'm sure Rip would have driven her on in there."
Three laps after the restart, Kruseman, who had been working his way to the front, was running fourth when he tangled with the lapped car driven by Charlie Ekiss. Both cars flipped through the fourth corner with Kruseman's ride being the rougher of the two. Neither driver was hurt, but Kruseman was understandably dazed.
"During the red, Brett Roa (Kirby's Crew Chief) told me that the 29 car was coming and to just stay on the bottom," Kirby said after the race. "I just tried to run my race and if they were to show me a nose somewhere else, then, maybe I'd pick around a little bit. My car was good all 50 laps and I just held my line on the bottom.
Ostling moved into second place on the restart only to watch Williams take it back on lap 34. One lap later, Granitize Products rookie points leader Bobby Cody tangled with another car and spun to a stop which brought out the final caution period of the race. Shortly after the restart, Ostling regained the runner-up spot.
With ten laps to go, the top six cars still had a legitimate shot at victory. Five laps from the finish, Ostling stuck a wheel under Kirby. The subsequent contact between Kirby and Ostling allowed the top cars to bunch up again. When it all sorted out, Kirby wouldn't be seriously challenged for the remainder of the race.
Williams passed Ostling for second place on the 48th circuit. Damion Gardner continues to impress finishing fourth ahead of Charles Davis, Jr. and Griffin. Gardner's run from the tenth starting earned him the KSE Hard Charger Award. Davis didn't leave empty handed either, having won the Sander Engineering Fast Time Award in time trials.