MEET DALE GAMER,
THE CALIFORNIA LIGHTNING SPRINT CAR SERIES “IRON
(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?
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
CLS: Was that out here?
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
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
CLS: How did you get into
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.
When did they take you to Speedway?
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
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.
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?
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.
You had some pretty serious burns on your legs that
kept you out of the seat for quite some time, didn’t
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?
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
2021 California Lightning Sprint Car Series
1. James Turnbull – Indio, CA –
2. Eric Greco – Palmdale, CA – 353
Bobby Michnowicz – Oak Hills, CA – 290
Gasper ® – Santa Barbara – 288
5. Dakota Albright
– Waterford, CA - 244
6. Jeff Dyer – Yucca
Valley, CA – 220
7. Trevor Ballou – Corona, CA –
8. Jeremy Queener – Chino, CA - 198
Dominic Del Monte – Gardena, CA – 197
Dennett – Livermore, CA – 182
10. Aiden Lange –
Lakewood, CA – 182
CLS/BCRA Civil War Series
1. James Turnbull – CLS – 135
2. Bobby Michnowicz – CLS – 133
Albright – BCRA – 121
4. Dave Gasper – CLS – 119
5. Aiden Lange – CLS – 112
6. Seth Hespe – WASH –
7. Jeff Dyer – CLS – 98
8. Chase Gaal –
CLS – 88
9. Eric Greco – CLS – 85
Leedy – BCRA 83
2021 California Lightning
Sprint Car Series Schedule
Bakersfield Speedway – Eric Greco
Bakersfield Speedway – Bobby Michnowicz
24 Merced Speedway (Wayne Albright Memorial - Round
#1 of the Civil War Series with BCRA – Wingless) –
May 15 Bakersfield Speedway
June 5 Ventura Raceway
June 19 Keller
Auto Speedway (Hanford)
July 3 Santa Maria
July 24 Santa Maria Speedway (Wing
August 7 Merced Speedway (Civil
War Series #2 with BCRA – Winged)
August 28 Santa Maria
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 30 Mojave Valley
November 16 Bakersfield Speedway
(Civil War #4 with BCRA – Winged and Western States
Lightning Sprint Car Championship)
18 Placerville Speedway Hangtown 100 – (Co
sanctioned with BCRA and in companion with the USAC
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
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:firstname.lastname@example.org