"THE DEMON" DOMINATES PAS RUN Perris, CA -- March 25, 2006 -- Defending USAC / CRA Champion Damion Gardner, Concord, Calif., won Saturday night's sprint car main event at the Perris Auto Speedway, reinforcing that he is the man to beat for the...
"THE DEMON" DOMINATES PAS RUN
Perris, CA -- March 25, 2006 -- Defending USAC / CRA Champion Damion Gardner, Concord, Calif., won Saturday night's sprint car main event at the Perris Auto Speedway, reinforcing that he is the man to beat for the 2006 driving title.
Five races into the 2006 campaign, Gardner has piloted the Ron Chaffin / Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply #50 Eagle to the fastest lap in time trials every race, and has two main event wins and two runner-up finishes in the last four races.
"I don't think I've ever led the championship before the halfway point of the season, so we're definitely ahead of schedule," Gardner said with a confident grin." "We had been getting those second place finishes, now we've won two in a row. They tell me that consistency pays, now that we've started getting those wins, hopefully, we can keep it going and keep doing what I know we can do."
Even though it was less dramatic than his last-lap heroics last week at Manzanita Speedway (Phoenix, Ariz.), Gardner's second place finish in his heat race was all that stood in the way of his second straight "clean sweep."
"We got the fast time again, just like we like to do. We missed the heat win by one position because we had to be patient because the track was still kind of greasy," Gardner recalled. "I knew the main event was going to be tough starting eighth, with Cory (Kruseman) on the front row, but my Crew Chief Bruce Bromme, Jr. gave me another good car. I think we've shown that when I'm comfortable in the car that this team can win a lot of races."
Much like Gardner anticipated, Cory Kruseman, Ventura, Calif., jumped into the lead coming down for the green flag. Blake Miller shared the front row with Kruseman, but would bring out the only yellow flag of the race after he spun in turn four on the second lap.
Even though only one lap was officially in the record books, a few drivers really made the most of their half-mile of green flag racing. Most notably, Gardner, who charged to the fourth spot, and Buckeye, Arizona's Charles Davis, Jr., who had Zoriki / Smiley #8A Extreme up to second after starting sixth.
Working the fifth lap, Gardner made a nice outside pass along the back-straight for the third position on the Sharon Jory / Weld Wheels #3 Stinger driven Rip Williams (Yorba Linda, Calif.). Seven laps later, Gardner made a brave outside pass on Davis entering turn one and took over the second spot.
Kruseman led by half a straightaway at the time Gardner moved into second, but "The Demon" quickly ate away at his once comfortable advantage. At the midway point of the race the 30-lap race, Kruseman found himself in the middle of some heavy lapped traffic. Gardner closed in momentarily, until "The Kruser" made some textbook moves to put a few slower cars between himself and Gardner.
Kruseman's luck lapping cars would run out on lap 19, after a high-speed slide-job in turn three caused his Glen Crossno / Agromin Soil #38 Bullet to skate over the turn-four cushion. Perfectly position, Gardner shot off the cushion and into the lead exiting turn four.
Once Gardner took the lead the race was essentially over. There were, however, a couple of close calls in lapped traffic that might have given Kruseman a glimmer of hope. The first came on lap 24, when Davey Pombo slapped the front straight-away wall just as Gardner was swing out from behind him to put him a lap down. The other near miss came on lap 27, when Gardner touched wheels with Miller entering turn three.
"I caught the lapped cars at the wrong time tonight, but we had a really fast car and once we got up front we were able to show that," said Gardner. " When you come up on these guys you have to watch what's going on and stay out of trouble. We got into the #5 car (Miller) a little bit. I think he got a little too far sideways in front of us and we clipped him on the way by. I didn't mean to do any of that, but when you're battling a Cory Kruseman you can't wait too long."
Kruseman, who edged Gardner for the win at the last Perris race, settled for second. Davis finished third ahead of 2004 series Champion Williams. Tony Jones, Norco, Calif., rounded-out the top-five in the Alexander Trucking #4 Stinger. Santa Maria, California's Danny Sheridan won the Hard Charger Award with his 16th to eighth place run.