scra: Perris season opener preview

Gardner/Willis Team debuts Saturday at the PAS, (FEBRUARY 10, 2002, PERRIS, CA) When Temecula Valley Pipe and Supply and Vista Paint present the 2003 season opener for the NAPA Auto Parts/Auto Trader Magazines SCRA Sprint Cars at Perris Auto ...

Gardner/Willis Team debuts Saturday at the PAS,

(FEBRUARY 10, 2002, PERRIS, CA) When Temecula Valley Pipe and Supply and Vista Paint present the 2003 season opener for the NAPA Auto Parts/Auto Trader Magazines SCRA Sprint Cars at Perris Auto Speedway this Saturday, longtime fans will see a significant change when car owner Harlan Willis puts popular Damion Gardner in the seat of his #45 Sprint Car.

For the past several years Willis and open wheel star Cory Kruseman were one of the top teams in the country. However, Kruseman, who competed in his first Indy Racing League and NASCAR Truck Series races in 2002, will be moving to a new Sprint Car team owned by NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart. They will chase the 2003 USAC Sprint Car Championship racing mostly in the Midwest.

With Kruseman headed for USAC, Willis quickly moved to put Gardner in the driver's seat. Gardner, from the Northern California city of Concord, came to SCRA in 2002 after competing in the winged NARC and Golden State Championship Series' and the USAC Western States pavement tour. When he arrived, he was a virtual unknown. However, by the time the season came to an end, he was one of the hottest, and most popular Sprint Car drivers in the nation. His daring moves endeared him to fans and rewarded him with 3 wins on the year. When the final checkered flag fell on the season, Gardner was third in points only trailing 4-time SCRA Champion Richard "The Gassman" Griffin of Silver City, New Mexico and veteran Tony Jones of Garden Grove.

Gardner's talent and growing fan appeal saw him take a trip to Terre Haute, Indiana where he broke the track record the first time he saw the place. On Halloween night, he astounded the Perris Auto Speedway crowd when he set a new track record and became the first driver without a wing to record a sub 16-second lap. That track record, which still stands, is 15.954.

Kruseman, of Ventura, had his most successful season with Willis in 2001, when he won the SCRA driver's championship and Willis did likewise as Champion car owner. In addition to taking the crown, they won an astounding 15 mains that season. Twelve of those victories came at Perris Auto Speedway. The duo also combined to win the 2001 Non Wing World Championship Series and the season ending Jack Kindoll Classic at The PAS.

Last weekend, Kruseman became the first American in forty years to win the Australian Speedcar (Midget) Championship. He will be at The PAS and competing in Saturday's opener driving a car owned by Infiniti Pro Series star and 2001 Indianapolis 500 rookie Cory Witherall.

In addition to Gardner and Kruseman, several other prominent stars are planning to compete on Saturday including Griffin, who will be seeking his fifth SCRA Championship, Rip Williams, who will be starting his 26th season racing Sprint Cars, 2002 Kindoll Classic winner Steve Ostling and former Oval Nationals Champions Jones, Rickie Gaunt and Rodney "The Wildman" Argo.

Please make a note of Saturday's earlier starting times. The pit gate will open at noon, spectator gates will open at 2:00 PM and qualifying will start at 4:00PM.

February 22nd, The Pennzoil World of Outlaws will be at The PAS for their only Southern California appearance of 2003.

Don't forget that at intermission the entire family can dance in The PAS Dance Contest with prizes for the winning dancers ages 12 and under.

Perris Auto Speedway is the world's premiere clay oval stadium. The fan friendly track features an amazing 60,000-watt digital sound system, daytime bright lighting, a wide variety of delicious food, clean restrooms and paved spectator parking. Best of all, the track supplies clean, wholesome family entertainment every Saturday night.

Advance tickets are on sale now by calling 1-800-595-4TIX (4849). Perris Auto Speedway is conveniently located on the freeway close Lake Perris Fairgrounds, home of the Farmer's Fair, approximately one hour east of Los Angeles. Take the 215 Freeway, exit at the Ramona Expressway and go east two miles to the fairgrounds.

-scra-

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Tony Stewart , Cory Kruseman , Rip Williams , Damion Gardner
Teams Williams