SANTA MARIA, CA, September 29 -- Richard Griffin mounted a spectacular late race charge to win his second Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) main event of the year at Santa Maria Speedway. Even though the commute from his home in New Mexico is...
SANTA MARIA, CA, September 29 -- Richard Griffin mounted a spectacular late race charge to win his second Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) main event of the year at Santa Maria Speedway.
Even though the commute from his home in New Mexico is lengthy, Griffin has to be sorry that Saturday's race was the final appearance of the season for the SCRA at SMS. In three 2001 races, Griffin has now posted two wins and a fourth place finish.
This particular win was undoubtedly satisfying for Griffin since track conditions made passing a difficult task. In typical "Gasman" fashion, Griffin's high groove heroics were once again the difference between him finishing somewhere near his seventh starting spot and his ninth victory of the season.
"Starting back where we were we really had to go for it and everything just worked out," Griffin smiled. "Turns one and two were typical Santa Maria, but three was pretty slippery which made passing awfully tough. Those guys were getting into three a little lower than we were because it was so slippery, and I think they were just trying not to spin out. There was one little tacky spot right through the middle, but everyone was pretty much coasting through the black stuff. We just started working the high line and trying to keep our momentum up. We just kept working 'em on the outside and finally we were able to pick them off one at a time."
The 30 lap feature race started with Troy Rutherford and Cory Kruseman touching tires as they came down to accept the green flag from the front row. Kruseman got the short end of the exchange and fell to third behind Sander Engineering Fast Time Award winner Charles Davis, Jr. Davis' great move from the sixth starting spot proved to be for nothing, after he spun exiting turn three on lap six and collected fourth place John Scott and Rodney Argo. Of the cars involved, only Davis was able to restart.
While Rutherford held a comfortable lead in the Jack Gardner, Jr. / Shaver Engines No. 4 Sled, Griffin was engaged in a heated battle with Steve Ostling for the sixth position. Looking for racing room on lap eight, Griffin tried to squeeze around the outside of Ostling and inadvertently clipped his rear nerf bar. Griffin slid helplessly up the banking as a result of the contact and hit the turn four wall. Griffin kept going, much to the surprise of Jarrett Chaney who drove up the wall and flipped trying to avoid hitting the Ron Chaffin / Madera Produce No. 50 Jon Boy.
"We had a lot of luck come into play tonight," Griffin candidly admitted after the race. "We got into the fence and almost stalled the motor. Three or four guys got by us and the red flag came out which gave us our spot back. It was just one of those deals tonight where you had to put your car up there and go for it. We were just lucky enough to be able to pull off some passes."
Australian Peter Murphy was on hand for the second week in a row and passed Greg DeCaires for third five laps after the restart. One lap later, Griffin passed DeCaires with the same turn three move. Rutherford reached lapped traffic just prior to the halfway point of the race and Kruseman immediately put the Harlan Willis / WorldGate Networks No. 45 TCR within striking distance.
Some distance back from the leader, Griffin made a daring move around the outside of Murphy and a lapped car to take over the third position on the 19th circuit. Rapidly closing on the first two cars, Griffin had a bird's-eye view of Kruseman sticking a wheel under Rutherford on lap 22. Hoping to rattle the second place driver, Griffin gave Kruseman a big tap on the rear bumper coming down to complete that same lap.
Figuring it was time to make a move, Kruseman tried make an outside pass for the lead on lap 24 only to slapped the front straight wall. Griffin took advantage of a rare miscue by Kruseman and grabbed the runner-up spot. Not willing to settle for second place, Griffin darted to the outside of Rutherford entering turn three on lap 28. Still contending with lapped cars, Rutherford also decided to go high resulting in contact. Rutherford did a masterful job to avoid hitting the wall, but could do nothing to prevent Griffin from taking the lead.
"Troy and Cory were about a straight-away ahead when we got into third and I could tell that we were gaining on them pretty fast. I didn't really know how many laps were left, but knew we'd have a shot at winning if we had time to catch them," Griffin recalled. "It just goes to show what can happen if you want to win bad enough and don't mind risking a crash."
Of similar mind-set, Rutherford tried to reply and banged wheels with Griffin just prior to receiving the white flag. Griffin drove away from the contact quicker than Rutherford and went to receive starter Lee Jaskowiak's checkered flag first.
Kruseman finished third. Rickie Gaunt passed Murphy on the final lap giving the Alexander-Geurin / Statewide Towing No. 5 Stinger a fourth place finish. Jason Statler, who won a WoO race at SMS two years ago, finished ninth after starting 17th to win the TW Metals Hard Charger Award.