Damion Gardner wins historic 8th USAC/CRA sprint car championship

Concord, California racing star Damion Gardner closed the 2019 season in historic fashion when he became the first driver to win eight championships in the 74-year history of Southern California sprint car racing.  Coming into the year, the dark-haired driver’s total of seven So Cal titles tied him with National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Ron Shuman.  

Amazingly, in the first 16-years that the USAC/CRA Series has been in existence, Gardner has won half of the championships.  What makes that more fascinating is the fact that he has only competed nine years in the series as he spent 2006 through 2012 racing in the Midwest.  So, in the nine years, he has competed in USAC/CRA, he has won the championship eight times!

Gardner was once again behind the wheel of the famous Mark Alexander owned silver #4 for the seventh consecutive season in 2019.  The powerful combination captured its seventh straight title.   Thus, they are undefeated in championship competition since joining forces in 2013.  His other title, which was his first in USAC/CRA, came in 2005 driving for legendary car owner Ron Chaffin. 

In addition to his prowess in championship titles, Gardner is also infringing on some of the biggest numbers on the all-time win list for CRA, SCRA and USAC/CRA.  He triumphed three times in 2019 and that gave him 96 wins since heading south to race in 2002.  That is fourth-best on the all-time victory list dating back to 1946.  He is a mere two wins shy of tying for third, just eight victories out of second and only 11 triumphs away from taking over the all-time lead.

Gardner’s sprint car season began in February in the USAC National Series driving for Dyson Racing in Florida.  In three races in the “Sunshine State,” he had two top 10 finishes in a car he had never driven before. 

The driver who is affectionately known as “The Demon” to his legion of fans, returned west for the beginning of the USAC/CRA championship chase in early March.  Through the first five races of the campaign, he recorded two-top five finishes with the best being a second at Canyon Speedway Park on March 9th

The veteran driver broke into the 2019 victory ranks for the first time at Bakersfield on May 11th.  That win also propelled him into the point lead.  However, that lead did not last long as he slipped back to second two races later on July 6th.  The runner-up position did not sit well with the then seven-time champion and one week later at Perris Auto Speedway, he notched his second win of the season.  More importantly, he took the point lead back and he never relinquished it for the remainder of the year. 

After that Perris triumph, Gardner and the team only had one more race before they embarked on the grueling “California Sprint Week,” which was comprised of five races, on four different tracks in eight nights.  Since the mini-series within the USAC/CRA Series was introduced in 2014, he had won three of its first five championships.  He only finished out of the top 10 one time in 2019 and closed the grinding mini-series with a win at Santa Maria.  That gave him his fourth “California Sprint Week” title.

After the conclusion of Sprint Week, Gardner had seven races remaining to put the wrapping paper around his eighth USAC/CRA title and that is just what he did.  In those final seven outings, he had four top-fives including a third-place finish in the nation’s most prestigious non-wing race, the “24th Annual Oval Nationals” at Perris Auto Speedway on November 9th.

When the USAC/CRA season ended, Gardner was 71-points ahead of his closest pursuer in the championship standings.  He led the series in fast qualifying times with 10 in 23-races.  He also led the series with eight-heat race wins.  And, in what was the most competitive season in series history with 14-different winners in 23-races, Gardner had more wins than any other driver with three. 

While the season was a success, it did not come easy.  The team lost crew chief Steve Alexander early on after he suffered serious injuries and was knocked out of action for several weeks after a pit mishap at Perris.   

Tragedy struck the team during the year when “Uncle Steve” Alexander (related to, but not Steve Alexander the crew chief) suddenly passed away.  “He loved racing and contributed a lot at the race shop,” Gardner said.  “I appreciate all he did for the team and for me.  He was, and will continue to be, missed by the entire team.”

Things are full speed ahead for Gardner and the Alexander team as they prepare for 2020.  The famous driver will be headed off to the “Chili Bowl Midget Nationals” in Tulsa, Oklahoma next week to try and capture a win in the race that he previously triumphed in back in 2008.  After that, it will be all sprint cars all the time as he chases another championship and sets out to break more historic records.

Gardner and the team would like to express appreciation and thanks to Tom and Kevin Malloy from Trench Shoring and Mike Grosswendt from All Coast Construction and all of the following sponsors for being part of the 2019 championship effort.  Weld Racing, Berdoo Auto Body, J&D Performance, Schoenfeld Headers, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Simpson Safety, La Villa Mexican Restaurant, Larry Murakmi Contracting, Shaver Engines, Deboer Trucking, Maas Powder Coating, Brown & Miller Racing Solutions, FK Rod Ends, Astro Titanium, DMI, System 1, Saldana Race Products, Advanced Racing Suspension, Frankland Rear Ends, Waterman, Hoosier, Flashburn and Dean’s Diesel. 

Damion Gardner PR