CRA: Cory Kruseman - PAS interview

UP CLOSE INTERVIEW WITH USAC/CRA POINT LEADER CORY KRUSEMAN! (APRIL 12, 2006, PERRIS, CA) When the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series returns to Perris Auto Speedway in a show presented by Temecula Valley Supply this Saturday night, April 15th, ...


(APRIL 12, 2006, PERRIS, CA) When the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series returns to Perris Auto Speedway in a show presented by Temecula Valley Supply this Saturday night, April 15th, Ventura, California's Cory Kruseman will come in as the series point leader. Before the race at The PAS, two weeks ago, the 35 year-old veteran took time to answer questions about his career and his life.

THE PAS: Your Dad was a pretty well known TQ racer, correct?

KRUSEMAN: Yeah and he got me involved in racing. We started out racing Motocross and figured out we could get hurt in that, so we got into racecars and have been hooked on it ever since.

THE PAS: What all did your Dad race?

KRUSEMAN: TT Bikes and then he got into TQs. He raced some sprint car stuff at Ascot. He actually ended up getting killed in a racecar. For some idiotic reason I decided this is what I needed to do and I have been doing it ever since.

THE PAS: Your Dad was killed back in the mid 1980s in a TQ at El Centro. Did that in any way deter your thoughts on wanting to become a racecar driver?

KRUSEMAN: It did for about three or four months. We (himself driving) were not into the cars yet. We decided we were going to do something else -- me and my Mom. Then we realized all of our friends are here. We went and bought a go-cart. Me and Jay Drake, we started racing go-carts. Going every week and doing that. It just turned into something bigger than I ever thought it would.

THE PAS: How old were you when your Dad was killed?

KRUSEMAN: I was 13 when he got killed. When we started in go-carts I was actually 14.

THE PAS: You went from go-carts to TQs. What was your next step after TQs?

KRUSEMAN: You know what? It was just me, my Mom and my girlfriend Karri (now his wife) at the time. We were pretty successful at it, but got to the stage where we could not afford to do it anymore. We did not know what the heck we were going to do. We put everything up for sale and about that time Harlan Willis, a good friend and a mentor of mine, called me up and asked if I wanted to drive a sprint car. The rest is history.

THE PAS: So you went directly from a TQ to a sprint car?

KRUSEMAN: Yeah, straight to a sprint car. Never drove a full midget (in between). Then jumped back and forth between a sprint car, midget, silver crown, NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Indy Car. We have run a lot of different stuff. As far as the pecking order, we kind of jumped around quite a bit.

THE PAS: You are 35 years old. If you were a few years older, you may have gotten a better shake as far as running Indy Cars or NASCAR without the ride buying etc that goes on now. Do you agree?

KRUSEMAN: Well you know it is funny, because growing up everybody always told me you have to be older and you have to wait a couple of more years until you can do this. You start waiting and doing the things people told you and all of a sudden history changes and now they are hiring 16-year old kids. It definitely bounced around us. I would like to run some more truck races. I enjoyed the truck a heck of a lot more than I enjoyed the Indy Car. But, there ain't nothing like driving a sprint car on dirt.

THE PAS: So this is your favorite (sprint cars on dirt)?

KRUSEMAN: Yeah! I mean, it is going to be a lot harder to make a living. You are going to have to run between 60 and 120 races a year to make somewhat of a decent living running non-wing sprint cars. To me, there is nothing even remotely close to driving a sprint car on the dirt.

THE PAS: IN 2003 and 2004 you drove for Tony Stewart. What was it like having him as a car owner?

KRUSEMAN: Tony Stewart is phenomenal to drive for. He gave us everything we needed to go racing. He treated us with respect. He was probably our biggest fan more than he was our boss. He would make sure we had everything we wanted and I remember the little talks he would give you right before you would push out in the racecar. He would have you laughing so hard when the push truck would come up behind you that there was no pressure at all. Especially with me! He knew I had no pavement background! He knew I hated the pavement! He still gave me first class everything for pavement even though he knew I wasn't having a good time and I was out there just trying to get points. He was a phenomenal car owner to have.

THE PAS: So if he was so great, why did you quit driving for him and come back out here?

KRUSEMAN: You know what, I have a 4-year old little girl and the best wife in the world. And, my business was starting to slow down out here because I was flying home to teach school. It was one of those decisions where family comes first. There was a great opportunity for me to come home and drive the #38 car. I called Tony and said 'you know what, I missed the last two years of my little girl's life.' The last year I was back there, I only spent 68 nights in my own bed at home. I could not afford to bring them with me and I could not afford to miss anymore of not being with them. It was a good decision for me. If I looked back and had anything to change, I would not change anything.

THE PAS: You have had a great career. You won a championship with SCRA, Non-Wing World Championships, a couple Indiana Sprint Weeks Championships, two Chili Bowl and two Oval Nationals. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in racing thus far?

KRUSEMAN: I have been very fortunate. Some of my biggest accomplishments is getting hired by some of the best teams. As a kid looking up to this sport you look at so many names. You know Bromme and so many other people. For Tony Stewart to create a team and hire me -- I mean, that is incredible. Andy Bondio has one of the best midget programs out there and as far as I am concerned Glen Crossno has one of the best sprint car programs. To be able to go in and work with people like that makes you feel pretty good about yourself.

THE PAS: Will you be in the Midwest off and on this year?

KRUSEMAN: Actually we are going to be doing a little more racing than we did last year. Especially if this darn rains goes away. We plan on running all of the USAC/CRA races. I am going to go back and run probably about 20 races for Keith Kunz in the Midwest. At the same time it looks like we are probably going to take the #38 (his USAC/CRA ride) car back again. We already went to (and won) Florida. We are going to run the TNT Tour and Oskaloosa, maybe some local stuff back there and a couple USAC National shows.

THE PAS: In the pits right now I see Tony Jones, Damion Gardner, Mike Kirby, Rip Williams and Rickie Gaunt. If I wanted to learn how to drive a sprint car, whom down here should I go to?

KRUSEMAN: Well, you know what, there is a lot of great racecar drivers out here.

THE PAS: (interrupting Kruseman) Let me ask this again. In the pits right now I see Tony Jones, Damion Gardner, Mike Kirby, Rip Williams and Rickie Gaunt. If I wanted to learn how to drive a sprint car, whom down here should I go to?

KRUSEMAN: (laughing) You are going to come to me because I am the only who has a sprint car driving school. But, out of every racecar driver down here in the pits, there isn't one person that is the best. Each one of us has a better quality. If you could take all of those good qualities and put them together, you would create the best racecar driver. I think the best racecar driver of non-wing sprint cars retired about five years ago. That was Lealand McSpadden.

We have a school and I think we do a great job. We do about 400 people a year between Perris Auto Speedway and Ventura Raceway. It gives the people an opportunity to come out for a thrill ride or for somebody to come out who wants to learn how to seriously race.

THE PAS: You have had some famous people take your school, correct?

KRUSEMAN: Yeah, the list goes on and on. Off the top of my head we have had Paul Newman, Christian Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais, World Speedway Champion Billy Hamill, the Super Bike champion, actors & actresses, stunt pilots. We have a touring champion from England coming through in a few weeks. There are so many people who come through it and it goes back to a 16-year old girl that has never driven a car. We get a lot of that. Anytime we bring a high horsepower racecar out that gets everybody excited, it makes us feel like Santa Claus. The job that we get to do is fun.

THE PAS: It is getting to be an annual that when Paul Newman comes out here for the Long Beach Grand Prix, he rents Perris Auto Speedway and your school for a night and brings out his crew and friends to drive sprint cars. That has to be a feather in your cap.

KRUSEMAN: Yeah it is! It is very awesome. That gentleman has done so much back for people. He makes life fun for a lot of people. We do it every year for him and it is an honor for me to have somebody like that call. We have the equipment and when people show up we are ready to go and we give them a good time.

THE PAS: You have taught him to drive a racecar. Any chance he can teach you how to be an actor?

KRUSEMAN: Oh boy, that would be nice.

THE PAS: What is it like to race against some of your former students?

KRUSEMAN: It is kind of funny, because a lot of people ask that. I want to teach you as much as I can. Everybody says, 'Oh, you are not going to teach everybody everything.' That is really not my philosophy. I want to teach you as much as I possibly can. Now, it is going to be up to you when you learn how to use certain things and when not to use certain things, because when I go home at night, it is pretty exciting to stand on top of that podium and hold that trophy. I feel a lot better when I beat you on your best night.

THE PAS: At 35 years old, you should have a lot of competitive years left. You going to be here for a while?

KRUSEMAN: You know I hope to. As long as I stay competitive and as long as my family support is there. This is my college education. I didn't go to school and I have never had to get out and have a real job. I don't know what I would do or could do to support my habits that I enjoy so much

Perris Auto Speedway is located on the freeway close Lake Perris Fairgrounds approximately one hour east of Los Angeles and one hour North of San Diego. To get to the track, take the 215 freeway, exit on the Ramona Expressway and go two miles east to the fairgrounds.

Saturday's race on the only half-mile clay oval in Riverside County will be preceded by Friday's drag racing action on the Diamond Valley Honda Street Legal Drag Strip. The drag strip is also located on the Lake Perris Fairgrounds. Anyone with a valid driver's license, registration and helmet is eligible to race at the drag strip. Gates at the drag strip open at 5:00 PM with racing at 6:00 PM.


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About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Tony Jones , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Rip Williams , Damion Gardner
Teams Williams