PHOENIX, AZ, MAY 11, 2002 - Cory Kruseman equaled Rip Williams' all-time mark for main event wins Saturday at Manzanita Speedway with his 55th career victory in NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA sprint car competition. Kruseman...
PHOENIX, AZ, MAY 11, 2002 - Cory Kruseman equaled Rip Williams' all-time mark for main event wins Saturday at Manzanita Speedway with his 55th career victory in NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA sprint car competition.
Kruseman started on the outside of the front row and led all 30 laps, which on paper might look like a relatively easy win for the defending series champion. In reality, Kruseman had to withstand numerous challenges from Tony Jones and a late race push from Jeremy Sherman before he was able to lay claim to a share of the all-time win record.
"It's pretty nice to be able to do this here at Manzanita because we've struggled here lately," Kruseman said after his record tying run. "We've especially struggled here in qualifying, but tonight my guys gave me a great car and we qualified third which helps because you (usually) get to start the main event in the first couple of rows."
Kruseman shared the front row with JE Pistons Dash winner Jones. Entering the race, each man had driven to victory twice this season. Hoping to take a bite out of Kruseman's narrow lead in series points, Jones aggressively took the lead coming down to accept the green flag. After a couple of anxious moments on the front chute, Kruseman put the Harlan Willis / WorldGate Networks No. 1 TCR ahead of Jones on the back straight as Charles Davis, Jr., Richard Griffin and Sander Engineering Fast Time Award winner Bob Ream, Jr. gave chase.
"The first half lap was pretty exciting," Kruseman recalled. "Tony got sideways coming off (turn) four on the start and kind of came up (the race track). I knew we weren't going to win the race in the first corner, so I just let him go. Richard obviously couldn't tell what I was doing and ran into the back of me. Then, Tony got over the cushion coming off turn two and got to doing some tank slappers down the back straight. I just held my breath and went down to the bottom and it worked out pretty good for us."
Setting a blistering pace early, Kruseman reached the last place car in just 11 circuits. As time would later prove, catching slower cars was one thing, but overtaking them would be a different story. Reminiscent of the race at Ventura one week ago, Jones quickly erased Kruseman's advantage in lapped traffic and had the Johnny Vermeer-Bubby Jones /Ferreira Dairy No.87 Avenger firmly within striking distance.
With the memory of Jones' Ventura victory still fresh in his mind, Kruseman adamantly confessed after the race that he wasn't going to lose the lead for a second straight week by moving off the cushion in lapped traffic.
Hoping to lure Kruseman to the bottom, Jones showed him a wheel on a couple of occasions. To Kruseman's credit, he stayed with his game plan and briefly extended the gap between himself and Jones with some daring moves in lapped traffic.
Jones slowly ate away at Kruseman's lead until attempting a daring move of his own in turn one on the 24th lap. Momentarily in the lead, Jones made contact with a slower car which allowed Kruseman to reclaim the top spot in turn two. The first caution flag of the race flew one lap later after Arizona champion Eric Wilkins spun in turn three. This proved to be a huge break for Sherman who was running third, but was some distance behind Jones, after passing Davis and Griffin in turn four on lap 20. Four laps after the restart, Troy Rutherford slid over the turn one cushion and flipped after slapping the wall. Rutherford was not hurt.
Vying for a fifth consecutive Manzy win the Mark Priestly / Roy Miller Freightliners No. 7 Stealth, Sherman muscled his way ahead of Jones coming down for the green flag on the restart. Sherman worked hard in the closing laps, but would never have an opportunity to prevent Kruseman from gathering his eighth lifetime win at Manzanita Speedway.
Griffin finished fourth with Williams claiming his third KSE Products Hard Charger Award of the young season with a 14th to fifth place run.