INDIANAPOLIS – The mountain was high and the valley was low for Damion Gardner and the Alexander Racing team during the USAC/CRA AMSOIL Sprint Car campaign this season.
The season began with sadness as the team lost its biggest supporter, sponsor Ken Goecke of Scott Sales Company. Just one week later, with heavy hearts, the team soldiered on to compete in the season-opener at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.
However, trouble ensued from the get-go as the team was unable to run a single lap in competition due to mechanical trouble, putting them behind the eight-ball in their quest for another championship.
The team put their collective minds to work and got the proverbial ball rolling in the following race at Perris. They were quick all night and victory was a near certainty on the final lap. However, Gardner was caught and passed by young Josh Hodges off the final corner for his first career win.
Though Gardner and car owner Mark Alexander appeared to be back up to speed, there was still a sense by some that there could be a changing of the guard at the top of the USAC/CRA standings with the aforementioned Hodges as well as the emergence of Richard Vander Weerd, Brody Roa, Jake Swanson and Austin Williams.
Gardner quickly made up ground, however, reeling off finishes of fourth, fifth, fifth, second and third in the ensuing five races. On July 30 at Perris, though, Gardner would suffer another heartbreak, running out of fuel while leading with five laps to go.
As the page on the calendar turned to August, to the surprise of all, Gardner was still searching for that first win. Prior to this year’s campaign, the latest Gardner had gone through a season as a full-time USAC/CRA competitor before scoring his first win was mid-April of 2013.
Gardner was pounding on the door of victory lane, but the window of opportunity remained unlocked with another race Perris Auto Speedway looming on the schedule in late August.
Once again, Gardner was running up front – third, to be exact – on the 10th lap when he was caught up in an incident. Gardner restarted from the tail of the 23-car field and proceeded to rip by everybody in the final 20 laps, including Roa with two to go to breakthrough for his first win of the year as the series headed into California Sprint Week
The flood gates, in a sense, began to open.