Race-starved Perris Auto Speedway fans had reasons to cheer as the USAC National Sprint Car Series visited Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway for the ninth annual Smackdown, Aug. 27-29. To be exact, the five reasons were USAC/CRA regulars Damion Gardner, Austin Williams, Jake Swanson, Charles Davis and Eddie Tafoya Jr., who all were in on the action in the Hoosier state’s biggest traditional sprint car event.
Still closed due to state and county regulations due to the COVID-19 crisis, So Cal fans have yet to see a USAC/CRA Series race at the Perris Auto Speedway this season, and it was just announced that due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and state and county mandates on crowd gatherings, Perris Auto Speedway has been forced to postpone the Night of Destruction scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5.
For Gardner, who has won the USAC/CRA title the last seven seasons in a row, racing at Kokomo was a return to the Midwest where he campaigned from 2006 through 2012. Regular fans watching may have had a hard time recognizing the driver known as “The Demon” as he was not be in the familiar Alexander silver No. 4. Instead, he was wheeling the Baldwin Racing No. 5. A certain National Sprint Car Hall of Famer when his career is over, Gardner has eight USAC/CRA titles in addition to the last seven in a row, he also won in 2005 before heading to the Midwest and three wins in the Budweiser Oval Nationals. In addition, on the all-time CRA, SCRA and USAC/CRA victory list dating back to 1946, the slender driver is ranked fourth with 96-wins. With fuel still left in his tank, he is only nine wins behind all-time leader Dean Thompson’s total of 105.
The “Big Game Hunter,” Austin Williams, who now makes his home in Corona, California, made a rare assault on the Midwest in the famous Moose Racing No. 92. The son of National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Rip Williams began racing in USAC in 2009 when he claimed the CRA Rookie of the Year award.
Veteran Jake Swanson and his race car driving wife Jessica spent last week moving from Anaheim to Indiana to pursue their racing careers. Last season, the California State University Northridge marketing graduate finished fourth in the USAC/CRA Standings driving for Arizona’s Justin Grau. The 2012 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year and 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series champion has most recently tackled the Silver Crown Series. In his initial race at Pennsylvania’s Sellinsgrove Speedway, he surprised everyone when he qualified fourth and ran much of the race in the top six. Late in the race, while in fourth, a flat tire sent him to the pits for a new hunk of rubber and a 17th place finish. Last Sunday in his first appearance at the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, he started eighth and immediately began to move forward. As laps wound down, he was closing on the two leaders when his car started running out of fuel and began to sputter. He gently nursed it home for a hard-earned sixth place-finish.
With no racing in the Copper State in 2019, longtime Buckeye, Arizona, racing star “Chargin’” Charles Davis Jr. has gotten his racing fix in Indiana. A machinist by trade, the veteran racer first made his mark in sprint car racing when he won the 1993 California Racing Association Rookie of the Year award. Since that time, the now 52-year-old has racked up five Arizona Sprint Car titles between the Arizona Sprint Car Association, American Sprint Car Series Canyon Region Non-Wing and USAC Southwest Series.
Like the four previously mentioned drivers, Chino Hills, California racer Eddie Tafoya Jr. has had to look east for his dose of racing in 2020. Last month he journeyed to Indiana and contested all rounds of Indiana Sprint Week. In his first time on all the tracks, the 23-year-old gave a very favorable account of himself. Highlights of that journey were a transfer from his heat race into the main event at the Lawrenceburg Speedway and qualifying sixth fastest in his group at the Terre Haute Action Track. Tafoya’s first full year in sprint cars was in 2018, and he won the Perris Auto Speedway Young Guns championship. Last year, he was crowned Rookie of the Year in both the USAC/CRA and USAC Southwest Series.
As of now, no other races on the remaining schedule have been postponed. However, that can and may change due to state and county regulations. The schedule can be found at http://perrisautospeedway.com/schedule.html. Next up is the Glenn Howard Classic for the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars Saturday, Sept. 26. A decision on whether that date will take place will come within the next 12 days.
Once racing resumes, tickets for all PAS events will be available 24-hours a day by calling 800-595-4849 or online at http://www.pas.tix.com. Fans who do not wish to buy tickets in advance can purchase them on-site.
Perris Auto Speedway is located on the SoCal Fair and Event Center, home of October’s Southern California Fair. For directions on MapQuest, the address to enter is: 18700 Lake Perris Drive, 92571. For more information, visit Perris Auto Speedway on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or at http://www.perrisautospeedway.com.
Article contributions made by Valley News sports editor JP Raineri.
Submitted by Perris Auto Speedway.