Q&A: Damion Gardner Talks Bonneville
Q: So it is hard to get a grip on that surface. Big Mike says you rebuilt the car three-times. How is the car different from last year?
Gardner: We did a bunch of different suspension parts. We took a lot of drag out of it. The more drag you have in it, the more you have to push. We had a big nose on the front that we had to push through the air. Now we have like a bullet looking nose. We added a bunch of down force to the back of the car. Basically, we tried to see how the air pushes on the car and we added the down force to the back of the car and robbed it from the front. Also, different axles, different wheels and different tires. A lot of little stuff like that.
Q: It is a sprint car, but with your car on a dirt track you are trying to go get everything light. Your USAC-CRA car weighs 1,200 pounds. How much does your Bonneville car weigh and how much does that extra weight account for keeping the car gripped to the surface?
Gardner: It accounts for a lot. It will probably weigh just over a couple thousand pounds when we are done. I don’t know exactly as we are still adding stuff here and there getting the balance of the car right. You have to get the balance front to rear right and so forth. It is going to weigh over 2,000 pounds and it is hard to add that much weight to a sprint car. When you are adding that weight, you have to think of the safety part of it all, because you are adding that weight to a car that was not designed to be that heavy.
Q: Some people see Bonneville and they think 300 or 400-MPH streamliners. They hear 200 mph and they say, “big deal.” The streamliners are designed to go that fast. Sprint cars are not and thus it becomes a real handful doesn’t it?
Gardner: When it gets up to 175 mphg, it starts moving around quite a bit and you have to drive the car. That is something I don’t think the guys who are typically at Bonneville have to do. You don’t want to have to be driving it, you want to guide it. I definitely had to drive it a lot. Hopefully we can control some of that this year. You see the streamliners at Bonneville going 400 mph and it is like Daytona in a stock car. My buddy says it is “kind of like a Sunday drive,” you know? Versus driving a small, over powered sprint car on a slick track, which is definitely a handful. The first thing all of the guys out there tell you is to make the car longer, make it bigger and you will go faster. But, we are trying to keep it in the sprint car dimensions and keep it true to what a sprint car is. That is the challenging part. It could go a lot faster and a lot easier if I did what those guys do to a Bonneville car, but that is not what we want to do.
Q: One thing that is going to be different for sure is hospitality. You are inviting your fans to come up and you will have a special place set up for the. Tell us about it.
Gardner: Big Mike is having some of his guys come out and they are having a big tent put up for the fans. That is good because it is going to be super-hot up there. Fans will be able to come and get a close up look at us working on the car, hang out and have a cold drink. Hopefully it is not as hot this year as it was last, but I imagine it will be. It would be great it if all the fans showed up there. Everybody should experience it at least once. Just the scenery, the sunrises and the sunsets are pretty amazing. Like I said, if you have never been, everybody should go at least once.
Q: Big Mike told me that if you go 200 mph this year, you guys are not going back unless somebody goes faster. True?
Gardner: Yeah, I would imagine. We do not have a lot of sponsorship stuff for it. We talked to a lot of people, but to my surprise, nobody jumped on board. They kind of hem hawed around and wanted to pay a penny for a dollar’s worth of value. For that, I would rather just do it myself. That is pretty much what we are doing. Big Mike has helped me out a ton, my dad, Steve Watt and Milano’s. All of those guys really helped in putting it together along with a bunch of others (complete list of sponsors is listed below). So, I don’t know if we will go back at this point as it costs a lot of money. Me and my dad worked really hard getting it done. It takes me back to the old days when you are not racing for a living and you are doing it after work. It has been fun and it has been a lot of work, I don’t want to say we will never go back. I hope we set the standard pretty high and let them chase us from there.
Q: After nearly a month and half off from the USAC-CRA Sprint Car Series you are back at Perris Auto Speedway on Aug. 16 and I heard you are bringing the Bonneville car out to display that night for the fans.
Gardner: Yeah, it is going to be great to have the car there on site at Perris so the fans can see it. It has a lot of cool stuff on it. It is true to a sprint car and it is still a sprint car. The body work on it is really nice and the chassis is still a sprint car chassis. Anybody who does not make it to Bonneville can see it up close at Perris that night. I can’t wait to get back to Perris. I have been working so hard on the Bonneville car it does not seem that long.