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MEET DALE GAMER, THE CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR SERIES “IRON MAN”
(Upland, CA, May 13, 2021)
Of all the current drivers in the California Lightning Sprint Car Series, none of them have been around as long as Anaheim, California’s Dale Gamer. After a brief fling in Speedway Motorcycle racing, the driver who is sometimes known as the “Iron Man,” bought a Lightning Sprint in the early 2000s and has been a regular ever since. In fact, until he was burned in a Senior Sprint Car race at Perris Auto Speedway in 2019, Gamer had only missed three races in 17 years. Earlier this week, he took some time to talk about his life in racing.

CLS: What got you interested in racing?

Gamer: My dad used to race, so I was always interested in racing.

CLS: What did your dad race?

Gamer: I only got to see him one time wheel packing in a stock car he built for a friend. As far as I know, he raced stock cars, jalopies, midgets, and sprint cars.

CLS: Was that out here?

Gamer: No, that was back east. Then he met my mom and she got pregnant, and she said, “no more racing for you.” There was a story that was told about him racing someone else’s car because the guy did not show up and my mom got him black flagged as she knew the style of his driving. She said, “I want that guy out of that car. That is my husband.” That was back in Wisconsin.

CLS: What did you first race:

Gamer: Bicycles. Kids stuff you know. And then going to the place where you rented go karts. That is where I kinda’ got my competition thing going. After that, I finally got a car of my own and did a bit of street racing. My father was a mechanic and a fabricator. He did all kinds of automotive stuff. One of his friends was a racer and he gave me a car. It was a Chevelle. I think it was a 1964. It was already a stock car and all it needed was an engine and a transmission. We had a trailer and a truck, and I said, “Yeah, I will take it.” I told my dad and he said, “no, we can’t afford that.” Basically, I did not talk to my dad for about a year. I was pretty butt hurt and did not understand how poor we really were.

CLS: How did you get into motorcycle racing?

Gamer: I was around motorcycles and motocross, but never had anything of my own. The first thing I ever rode was a minibike and I lied and said I knew how to ride it. I said I knew how to ride motorcycles, but I didn’t. I just wanted to ride that damn minibike. I did the same thing when I got older. Somebody asked if I wanted to ride their bike and I said, “sure.” I rode that thing around in first gear for the longest time until the guy said, “hey, you are going to blow this thing up, so let me show you how to shift.” He jumped on the back and taught me how to shift up. I did and he jumped off the back, so I rode it around in second gear. I wanted to ride motocross – every kid did. But about that time, they took me to Speedway one night. That was it for me.

CLS: When did they take you to Speedway?

Gamer: I was still a little kid, so it was back in the 70s. I actually got fired from a job for leaving early to go to Speedway. I was working at a gas station and I closed up early to get to Costa Mesa (Speedway). That was back when it was on Friday nights. The owner of the station showed up on an empty tank. Needless to say I got fired the next day. I met a few of the riders and they sold me some of their old junk and I pieced together a bike and I thought I was going to go out there and race, but they told me I needed to go out and practice. So, they took me out to practice, and I thought I was going fast, but then one of them told me, “dude, you ain’t going fast enough to fall down.” I tried it a few times, and I was not that good, but I finally became a racer. Speedway was my first real racing.

CLS: How did you get into Lightning Sprint Cars?

Gamer: Some guy had a Lightning Sprint Car in his garage, and we went over to see it. It was an old Sawyer laydown. I sat in it and we fired it up and he asked me if I wanted to buy it. I told him I did not have any money for it, but he was trying to hook me and reel me in. But I could not afford it. He wanted like $3,500.00. Anyways, we went to Perris to watch Sprint Cars and sure enough they had Lightning Sprints racing, too. I thought great, we get to see Lightning Sprints. So they come out, and I go, “what the heck is this?” One guy says, “those things go pretty fast.” I said, “they do not seem very fast.” He told me to go down by the fence and when they went by, they were pretty fast. I definitely wanted one of those. So I went back to the guy who had the one I had looked at and asked if he still had it. I asked him how much he wanted, and he still wanted $3,500.00. He told me that he and his wife went out to Perris to watch the Lightnings and she said, “Hell no! You are not driving one of those cars. You have got to get rid of that thing.” So, he said, “How about $2,500.00?” I told him I did not have that kind of money and was hoping to trade him something. He said he had to have $2,500.00. Well I came home and was going through my mail and I had a credit card check. Do you remember what those were? And it was for $2,500.00. I said to myself, “self, let’s call him back up.” I called him and asked if he would take a credit card check. He said, “let me check with my wife,” and then, “yeah, bring it on over.” His wife took the check to the bank and came back home. He told me the car was mine, but I did not even have a trailer or a place to put it. A neighbor let me put it in his garage and it sat there for four or five months before I came up with a trailer.

CLS: Then what happened?

Gamer: I took it out too Ken Maely’s practice track (in Corona) and he let me turn some laps there. I finally got up the nerve to take it out to Perris. I think I got lapped three times, but that was so much fun. I was hooked. I was living my dream because I was a race car driver. It was not until 2019 when I got burned in the sprint car (Perris Auto Speedway Senior Sprints) that I missed a bunch of California Lightning Sprint Car races.

CLS: You mentioned the 2019 deal when you got burned. That had to be very scary. Fire is a race driver’s biggest fear. Not only was the car on fire, but when you jumped out, you were on fire as well. Elaborate more on that?

Gamer: I thought the car was on fire, but it turns out it was me, too! I jumped into the wall to jump into the dirt, but they stopped me and rolled me around. Coach (Rick Fulton) came along and put me out.

CLS: You also had photographer Doug Allen trying to put out the flames with his bare hands, didn’t you?

Gamer: Yeah, he came over and was patting down the flames and his hand was catching on fire. That really started worrying me thinking I was pretty soaked with fuel. That is one experience I never want to try again. Thanks to Coach, Doug, the fireman, EMT’s for putting me out (putting out the fire) and taking care of me. Jim Spoonhower (the track chaplain) is a really, really good guy. When I went to the hospital he showed up, talked to me, and hung out. He came a couple of times. That was really nice.

CLS: You had some pretty serious burns on your legs that kept you out of the seat for quite some time, didn’t you?

Gamer: Yeah, yeah. They told me no dirt, no dust, no driving, no nothing. So, no more going to the races. That was killing me. I drove another Lightning Sprint for a friend of mine, Paul Bennedetti, at the end of the season. He let me drive it and it was a lot of fun. A few weeks ago, I got back in the big Sprint car for the first time since the fire. Back on the horse you might say. The car did not run too well, but I had a great time. It was a lot of fun.

CLS: How long are you going to keep racing these things?

Gamer: Unfortunately, the financial thing is not working out for me right now. So, I am going to pick and choose and race when I can. If you have to eat hot dogs for the rest of the week, you do that.

CLS: Lets get into some of the stuff away from the track so fans can get to know you a little better. What do you do for a living?

Gamer: I used to do pool cleaning. I was a pool man. But the fearless leader of our state kind of ruined that for me. I am not doing anything at this time, but we won’t get into that.

CLS: are you into any sports besides racing as a fan?

Gamer: Not really! I never was into the stick and ball sports. If it had a motor, I would watch it or try to ride it or drive it. When I was a kid, I was into horses. You know, all the kids’ stuff. Riding horses, bicycles and I tried to surf. It was kind of hard to learn to surf without a surfboard. So, I learned to bodysurf. I am so old, I was around before they had boogie boards! Skateboarding, too. We called ourselves sidewalk surfers.

CLS: What do you prefer to do? Go to the theater to watch a movie or stay home and watch television?

Gamer: Definitely sit home and watch something on television. I figure I am paying for electricity, so.

CLS: What are your favorite foods and beverages?

Gamer: That is a tough one. Oh geez, tacos and beer. You can't go wrong there.

CLS: Any people you want to thank for helping you get the car ready?

Gamer: I have met a lot of friends in racing who have helped me. A laundry list of people. When it came to the Lightning Sprints, I had to figure it out on my own. That was one thing nice about lightning sprints, you could pretty much go by yourself. I had a girlfriend at the time (when he started) that was really big into it. She would help me out quite a bit. Another was a friend of mine I met through racing, Tobey Sampson, “The Smokin’ Okie.” I had a truck in my driveway with a blown engine and Toby asked if I would trade it for parts for a sprint car. We built that car (the one he runs with the Senior Sprints at Perris) at his house, and it took about five years. He really helped me out in the sprint car thing.

CLS: Do you have any sponsors?

Gamer: Those are kind of like Sasquatch and a unicorn ain’t they? They are kind of mythical creatures to me. I don’t think I have ever seen one. I have people who help me out with a little bit here and a little bit there, but never really a sponsor. I just do it for the fun of it. My dream was just to be a driver. For me to be behind the wheel and on the track, that was living the dream. I could barely get caught up to these guys to be competitive. And to pass somebody, that was really good. To be able to start a heat out front and see how long you could stay out there was something else for me. I hang in there. I never have had the really good equipment. I always told myself if I was ever put in good equipment and did not do good, I was going to give it up because I ain’t no good.

The California Lightning Sprint Car Series returns to action this Saturday night, May 15th at the Bakersfield Speedway. In addition to the CLS, the Modifieds, Sportmods, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, and American Stocks will also be racing on “The West’s Fastest 1/3 Mile High Banked Clay Oval” on Saturday. Fans who would like to attend the race can find the track at 5001 N. Chester Ext., in Bakersfield (93308). The track website is http://www.bakersfieldspeedway.com/ and the office phone number is (661) 393-3373. The pit gate will open at 2:30 p.m., the general admission gate will open at 4:00 and the first race will hit the track at 6:00. Overnight camping is available without hook ups in the track’s north parking lot. County and state COVID restrictions are still in place at the facility.

The CLS would like to thank 2021 series sponsors Hoosier Tires, T Shirts By Timeless, TJ Forged Racing Wheels, and Walker Performance Filtration. If you or your company would like to become part of the series, please call Alex Grigoreas at (909) 437-3170.
To keep up with the CLS online, please visit the website at http://racecls.com/ or on Facebook ttps://www.facebook.com/californialightningsprints/

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – Indio, CA – 365
2. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 353
3. Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 290
4. Dave Gasper – Santa Barbara – 288
5. Dakota Albright – Waterford, CA - 244
6. Jeff Dyer – Yucca Valley, CA – 220
7. Trevor Ballou – Corona, CA – 211
8. Jeremy Queener – Chino, CA - 198
9. Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 197
10. Greg Dennett – Livermore, CA – 182
10. Aiden Lange – Lakewood, CA – 182
CLS/BCRA Civil War Series Point Standings
1. James Turnbull – CLS – 135
2. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 133
3. Dakota Albright – BCRA – 121
4. Dave Gasper – CLS – 119
5. Aiden Lange – CLS – 112
6. Seth Hespe – WASH – 107
7. Jeff Dyer – CLS – 98
8. Chase Gaal – CLS – 88
9. Eric Greco – CLS – 85
10. Brandon Leedy – BCRA 83

2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Schedule

March 13 Bakersfield Speedway – Eric Greco

April 10 Bakersfield Speedway – Bobby Michnowicz

April 24 Merced Speedway (Wayne Albright Memorial - Round #1 of the Civil War Series with BCRA – Wingless) – James Turnbull

May 15 Bakersfield Speedway

June 5 Ventura Raceway

June 19 Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford)

July 3 Santa Maria Speedway

July 24 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness #1)

August 7 Merced Speedway (Civil War Series #2 with BCRA – Winged)

August 14 Bakersfield Speedway

August 28 Santa Maria Speedway

September 4 Ventura Raceway

September 18 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #3 with BCRA – Winged)

September 19 The Dirt Track At Kern County Raceway Park

September 25 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing Madness #2)

October 2 Ventura Raceway

October 30 Mojave Valley Raceway

November 16 Bakersfield Speedway (Civil War #4 with BCRA – Winged and Western States Lightning Sprint Car Championship)

November 18 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

November 19 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

November 20 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC National Midgets)

The schedule is subject to change due to Covid restrictions.

PAST CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR CHAMPIONS
1994 Tony Everhart, 1995 Gary Sexton, 1996 Rob Sczymczak, 1997 Jon Rahe, 1998 Chris Rahe, 1999 Brent Sexton, 2000 Greg Bragg, 2001 Greg Bragg, 2002 Greg Bragg, 2003 David Cardey, 2004 Keith Janca, 2005 Johnny Bates, 2006 Donny Gansen, 2007 Shane Rossen, 2008 Brent Sexton, 2009 Stuart Hielschier Sr., 2010 Jarrett Kramer, 2011 Tim Brown, 2012 Bobby Michnowicz, 2013 Stephen Limon, 2014 Bobby Michnowicz, 2015 Bobby Michnowicz, 2016 Bobby Michnowicz, 2017 Bobby Michnowicz, 2018 Jarrett Kramer, 2019 Jarrett Kramer.

This press release was produced by Scott Daloisio Sports (909) 226-7768 mailto:sdaloisiosports@aol.com