scra: PAS II: Race report

13 Proves Lucky For Kirby PERRIS, CA, MARCH 2, 2002 - During the course of his extraordinary 15-year sprint car career, Mike Kirby has had some tremendous runs from deep in the starting grid. Even though Saturday night's 13th to first run at ...

13 Proves Lucky For Kirby

PERRIS, CA, MARCH 2, 2002 - During the course of his extraordinary 15-year sprint car career, Mike Kirby has had some tremendous runs from deep in the starting grid. Even though Saturday night's 13th to first run at the Perris Auto Speedway may not been the most spectacular win he has ever posted, it certainly ranked near the top.

Now with 37 career NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) wins on his resume, Kirby pushed off for the 30 lap main event just hoping to give the Brad & Nancy Geurin / Statewide Towing No. 5 Stinger a good finish.

"I really didn't think that I could win it from back there with all those good cars in front of me," Kirby said with a pleasantly surprised tone. "I watched Mike English run the dash and I thought he was the man to beat and Cory Kruseman has owned this place lately."

Kirby's pre-race assessment of JE Pistons Dash winner English looked pretty accurate after starter Lee Jaskowiak waved the green flag. English jumped into the lead from the pole at the start as inside second row starter Troy Rutherford pushed ahead of Richard Griffin even before the field had reached turn one. Griffin pulled back ahead of Rutherford at the end of the opening lap with Levi Jones and Rip Williams closely behind.

English was under some pressure from the cushion-riding Griffin when he mysteriously slowed prior to completing the fifth lap. It was later learned that English wisely reduced his pace because his safety belts had come loose. English had an opportunity to strap himself back in properly during a caution period for Bud Kaeding, who slid to a stop after bicycling over the turn one cushion.

Kirby was lined up in third for the restart when Rutherford darted low and passed Griffin for the lead coming down to accept the green flag. Unfortunately for Rutherford and the Jack Gardner, Jr. / Barnes Systems No. 96 Sled, Steve Venard spun and negated the restart. Griffin shrewdly restarted the next time using the bottom of the race track and was able to keep Rutherford behind him. The restart proved to be less than kind to Rutherford, who found himself in fourth behind Kirby and Kruseman before another lap could be officially notched on the score sheet.

Glued to the bottom groove, Kruseman passed Griffin for the lead on the eleventh circuit. Kruseman's run to the front from the ninth starting spot was remarkable to say the least. After winning the Sander Engineering Fast Award, Kruseman tried to avoid an incident on the opening lap of his heat race and flipped after making heavy contact with the wall. From that point forward, the Harlan Willis crew had to work hard just to get the WorldGate Networks No. 1 TCR back on the track.

Even though Kirby was still sitting in third place, it was obvious that he was the man that Kruseman would have to contend with since Griffin was committed to the cushion. Perhaps more than any other driver, Kirby had tried a number of different lines at various points of the race. Seemingly always a step ahead of everyone else, Kirby appeared to know the exact moment to change his racing line. In retrospect, having to pass so many cars, using so many different lines, might have been an advantage in the closing stages of the race because Kirby was noticeably more comfortable than anyone else on the wind tortured Perris racing surface.

"I would have much rather started on the pole," laughed Kirby at the notion that having 12 cars ahead of him was an advantage. "But, if there was ever a night where it seemed that I was at the right place at the right time, it was tonight."

Working lap 17, Kirby was now up to second when he took his first stab at the lead running about a car width off the turn four cushion. Kruseman held on to the lead forcing Kirby to regroup. Kirby patiently waited for another opportunity. That opportunity came on lap 22 using the same line as his prior attempt.

"I knew I was better than Kruseman because they bent that thing up pretty good tonight, but for me to get by him in turn four I knew I had to be even with him coming off of two. I tried it once before and lost about five car lengths, but I knew if I could stay even with him into turn three that I had a shot at him," Kirby later said of his race winning pass. "It's just nice to get off to a good start and win something early in the year."

Kruseman finished an admirable second ahead of SCRA point leader Rutherford and Griffin. Jeremy Sherman won the KSE Products Hard Charger Award after coming from the 20th starting position to finish fifth.

-scra-

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Bud Kaeding , Cory Kruseman , Richard Griffin , Levi Jones , Rip Williams , Mike English
Teams Williams