PERRIS, CA, October 6 -- "We had a lot of bad luck this year. We've been leading races and have had all kinds of different things happen. Finally, everything came together tonight and we were able to show everyone that we can still go," Rip ...
PERRIS, CA, October 6 -- "We had a lot of bad luck this year. We've been leading races and have had all kinds of different things happen. Finally, everything came together tonight and we were able to show everyone that we can still go," Rip Williams said, after gathering his first Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) victory of the year Saturday at the Perris Auto Speedway.
Williams' win, the 54th of his illustrious SCRA career, comes in the 35th race of the season. During the course of eight frustrating months of racing, Williams has led 82 main event laps and posted 13 top-five finishes, including six second place runs. All without a win. Despite a chassis change during the season and a variety of strange occurrences that could only be labeled as bad luck, Williams believes the majority of the difficulties he's experienced this year can be attributed elsewhere.
"I think all of the problems we've had this year have been related more to horsepower. On our best days we had 730 horsepower, now we're up around 800 horsepower," Williams candidly stated. "Ever since we put this new Shaver engine in we've been extremely fast and now we're just dialing in the car. We got some big money races coming up and I think we've got a handle on it now."
Rickie Gaunt celebrated his 33rd birthday by winning his fifth JE Pistons Dash of the season. Starting on the pole for the 30 lap feature, Gaunt led the Sharon Jory / Vista Paint No. 3 Gambler driven by Williams at the end of the opening lap as Troy Rutherford, Richard Griffin and Danny Sheridan followed closely behind.
Williams pressured Gaunt right front the outset of the race and pulled nearly even with the leader coming down to complete the third lap. While Williams searched for traction in the middle of turn two, Griffin used the cushion to dart around the outside of him on lap six to put the Ron Chaffin / Arizona Race Mart No. 50 Jon Boy into the second spot. One circuit later, Griffin passed Gaunt for the lead at the flagstand. Williams followed Griffin passing Gaunt entering turn one. Before the end of the eighth lap, Williams exited the bottom of turn four ahead of Griffin and securely in the lead.
"There was a lot of race track down there and they kind of got in the loose stuff and I got in the good stuff and away we went," Williams smiled. "We've been close a lot of times this year and it's unfortunate for the team and everyone involved that we haven't ripped one off yet. I'd just like to thank Jack and Sharon Jory for putting one heck of a race car under me and never giving up on me. Tonight, I was either going to wear it or win it, and once I got out front, I just tried to run away from them so I didn't get any slide jobs."
Run away is exactly what Williams did. With the exception of a brief moment in lapped traffic with 12 laps to go, no one ever got close enough to challenge Williams, who went on to win to by a half a straightaway. With Kruseman and Griffin combining for 23 wins this season, Williams' wins makes him only the eighth different driver this season to win an SCRA main event.
Even though Williams was some distance ahead, there was still some great racing for position behind him, most notably from Sheridan who gave the Tom & Lauri Sertich / Jan's Health Bar No. 92 Buckley a spectacular late race run. Shortly after passing the Harlan Willis / WorldGate Networks No. 45 TCR driven by Kruseman for the fourth spot, Sheridan made a beautiful move exiting turn four passing a lapped car, as well as Gaunt and Griffin.
Griffin moved back into second place one lap later only to have Sheridan take the position back for good coming down to accept the white flag. Much to the delight of the crowd, one could have thrown the proverbial blanket over Sheridan, Griffin, Kruseman, Gaunt and two lapped cars as they came across the line to finish the race. Mike Kirby finished sixth behind his teammate Gaunt and won the TW Metals Hard Charger Award after starting 14th in the Alexander-Geurin / Statewide Towing No. 5 Stinger.