Perris Auto Speedway report 96-23-11

SCRA SEASON FINALE AT THE PAS: DID YOU GET THAT ONE? Perris, CA-11/23/96-One of the things I've come to appreciate these past 7 months is the verbal "shorthand" used by the group ...


Perris, CA-11/23/96-One of the things I've come to appreciate these past 7 months is the verbal "shorthand" used by the group infield photographers into which I've been initiated (if not *quite* yet accepted...). The specific example which comes to mind is the phrase, "Did you get that one?" In and of itself, an inoccuous little query; easily understood when the source (one photog...) and the queried (another photog...) are known.

But this evening it took on a meaning (even a LIFE...) all it's own; for each of the five times it was uttered between pairs of adjacent photographers meant that the night was getting uglier and that the statistical "envelope" within which lie a driver's chances of walking away unhurt from a disastrous crash was getting increasingly smaller.

Two days of off-and-on rain had the track surface almost perfect...the kind of 'perfect' that will give even the best of drivers that over-confidence that comes with 'seemingly' unlimited traction and then lets them know that there IS a limit at precisely the wrong moment.

For championship contender Richard "The Gasman" Griffin of Silver City, NM, that moment was 3/4 of the way thru his first qualifying lap. Griffin backed into three REAL deep, ran into the cushion like it was a brick wall and launched the #50 Chaffin/Bromme Sprinter into (and darn near, THRU...) the billboards between turns three and four.

The car came to rest on it's head, leaning against the half mile wall with it's nose high and tail on the track. Richard's hands could be seen moving, but the thump I felt thru my FEET when that car the boards told me 1) that he probably wasn't all that sure about his wereabouts and 2) that even if he were, the car was trashed.

However, while he WAS amazingly lucid when released by the techs from Med-Event AND the car was bent beyond racing any further that night, I was surprised to hear that he had secured the Don Blair car from Ricky Gaunt in order to stay in the championship. (A little background...Richard came to the track tonight with a 31 point lead over Arizona's Ronny Shuman. If he didn't run the main he was virtually handing the crown to Shu...)

Not only that, but he was going to get the car into the main, ie: earn his way in...instead of letting Gaunt run the heat. Lotta class in that decision. As it turns out though, it wasn't that SMART...

"Did you get that one?" chorused along the line of photographers inside of three for the second time when, on the third or fourth lap of the first heat, Richard sailed the green #33 out of contention in exactly the same spot. That was the end of his night. Try as he might (and he tried mightily...), Griffin could not convince the med-techs to release him to drive any further.

Sid Collins' #73 and #23 Jerry Coons gave the guys in turn one a chance to ask each other...yup..."Did you get that one? They came together at the flag stand on the front straight and when all the dust settled could seen in turn one...ALL OVER turn one, as a matter of fact. Collins car was basically cut in half by the encounter.

Cary Faas claimed number four on the night when, after having dominated the first 26 laps of the 40 lap main, he tangled with Dwight Cheney in the third turn and did what the aircraft pilot types call a flat spin, then rolled and ended up between turn 3 and 4 on his side.

This left Bobby Michnowicz with the lead and on the restart he held it through lap 30 when the race was interrupted by another round of "Did you get that one?" for Troy Rutherford's balancing act on the edge of the turn four wall. That was last of the ugly-ness that pervaded this full moon season finale.

And what of Shuman? Well, he could have stroked around to somewhere higher than 14th to secure the championship, but Ron's had an item on his agenda since about the middle of a main event. That's right, he was in second place on the season, a cake walk away from the championship and HE HAD YET TO WIN ONE RACE all year. And he was in second place, right behind Bobby "The California Flash" Michnowicz, wanting that win more than ANYTHING else.

On top of that, Shuman's not the kind of guy who'd feel comfortable "backing into" a championship. He was bound and determined to win this main and give the fans their money's worth in the process. After the restart Michnowicz lost the handles on the #21 Timeless Enterprises car and Shuman started to working on him. Michnowicz left the door wide open in the first turn and Shuman passed below him to lead on lap 33 and never looked backed.

Notes on the night...

Lotta raw first time rookies on the entry...amongst them the son of engine wiz Ron Shaver, Jeff Shaver...and who was that seen hot lapping Don Blair's #33 sprinter? Not driver of record Rickie Gaunt, but Casey(sp?) Shuman, Ronny's #1 son...I'm feeling old...Jack Gardner showed up with a Shrike numbered 96 and who else to drive it but Bad Brad hisself... Nofziger qual'd the car well enough to make the Passing Master's Dash, xfered directly to the main out of his heat but ended up outside the top ten at the finish...Jimmy Oskie was seen wandering around the pits during the night shaking his head and muttering something about how "the stupid kids got to slow down and think about what they're doing out there..." Right, Jimmy(G)...

And not to leave the 96 season on a sad note but two items must be mentioned....

Everybody's favorite engine man, Ralph Tracy, is in the hospital recovering from some serious surgery. He's not allowed visitors but cards and letters would be welcome, contact the SCRA main office at 310-862-9122 for particulars...

And the saddest news...the only man to ever really 'tame' the #111 Keith Black Hemi powered sprinter, Walt Kennedy, died of a heart attack over the w/e...the phone number above can be used to source info concerning services and memorials for, IMHO, one of the few guys to out-smile Leland in a sprinter.

Vaya con Dios, Walt.


SCRA Season Finale Perris Auto Speedway Main Event Finish

Pos Car# Driver            Owner
 1    2  Ron Shuman        Shuck
 2   48  Lee Brewer jr.    Cowherd
 3   21  Bobby Michnowicz  Michnowicz
 4   45  Cory Kruseman     Willis
 5  211  J.J. Yeley        Morales
 6   17  Jeremy Sherman    Bergman
 7   89  Mike English
 8   23  Jerry Coons jr.   Coons
 9   19  Rodney Argo       Argo
10    4  Troy Kline        Guerin
11   96  Brad Nofziger     Gardner
12   47  Jimmy May         May
13 91sm  Kevin Thomas
14  51a  Ricky Johnson
15   53  Cal Smith         Pratt
16   42  Dwig
17   95  Keith Williamson  Williamson
18    3  Rip Williams      Jory
19  51t  Troy Rutherford   Jordan Bros
20   37  Cary Faas         Faas
21   98  Vern Sweeney      Sweeney
22   12  Steve 

-- Fugawi MotorSports

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers J.J. Yeley , Cory Kruseman , Jerry Coons , Rip Williams , Ricky Johnson , Mike English , Troy Rutherford , Bobby Michnowicz
Teams Williams