Gardner Excited about Chaffin Ride for Perris Saturday "I can't imagine getting this break," says Damion Gardner, the Concord, Calif. driver who will pilot the ...
Gardner Excited about Chaffin Ride for Perris Saturday
"I can't imagine getting this break," says Damion Gardner, the Concord, Calif. driver who will pilot the #50 Ron Chaffin car in Saturday night's Valvoline USAC/CRA opener at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway. "Everything I've worked for has led to this opportunity and I'm pumped."
Gardner is one of the favorites for victory in the first of 32 scheduled events in USAC's newest racing series, featuring 410-c.i. non-wing Sprint cars on dirt. He'll be joined by many of California's top Sprint car drivers and a handful of top stars expected to invade from the Midwest when racing gets under way on the 1/2-mile oval at 7 pm.
Gardner developed a friendship with many-time Sprint car champion Richard Griffin and when Griffin retired recently, car owner Chaffin and chief mechanic Bruce Bromme selected Gardner as his replacement.
"Perris is one of my favorite tracks," he admits, and the track has yielded a handful of feature wins during his career. "It suits my driving style," he continues. "It has a lot of different lines and always produces great racing for the fans, not follow-the-leader racing. The Chaffin team has always liked aggressive drivers and I guess that's why they elected to hire me."
Midwestern fans will easily remember the Chaffin team from 1997 when Griffin, in six memorable Valvoline "Indiana Sprint Week" appearances, posted the fastest qualifying time every night!
"Griffin and the late Dean Thompson helped me immensely," Gardner adds. "They taught me a lot in my early career." Gardner started in truck-pulling events, then did a stint in enduro cars before moving into Sprints. He won a few races in NARC competition, then in 2000 made his first USAC appearance at Tucson, Ariz.
Gardner's #50 John-Boy chassis is sponsored by Temecula Pipe and Supply and Madera Produce. Saturday night's USAC/CRA opener is titled the "Temecula Pipe and Supply Classic" and concludes with a 30-lap feature.
Gardner admits victory will not be an easy task. "There will be plenty of competition," he says. "Mike Kirby will be in a brand-new car and Troy Rutherford is always in the top-three. Plus, the guys coming from the Midwest will make things tough."
Although he says he's found his niche in non-wing dirt-track racing, he also likes pavement and hopes to advance his career with success in this new series.
In 2003 he started a half-dozen races in USAC's Western Sprint Car Series and had four top-10 finishes on the pavement. He also was the fastest qualifier for the Valvoline "Indiana Sprint Week" race at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. In 2002 he was the fastest qualifier for USAC's final National Sprint car race at Terre Haute, Ind. In 2001 he won on the pavement at Sandia Motorsports Park in Albuquerque, N.M. and ended up sixth in the final Western Sprint Car standings.