By Kevin Triplett
Fourteen “mighty midgets” from the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) invaded “Knoxville on the Hill” Placerville Speedway on Saturday July 1 2017 for a dramatic evening of racing in tandem with the track’s 360 cubic inch winged sprint cars. There were two interesting entries; new BCRA member Ronnie Gardner, the reigning four-time USAC Western States midget champion was behind the wheel of Ted Finkenbinder’s Esslinger powered #3F midget, and Bakersfield’s Cory Elliott was the only driver to pull “double duty” as he debuted his new winged sprint car.
Elliott’s night started off with a problem as his #11E midget refused to fire off for wheel-packing, but the Elliott crew quickly diagnosed and resolved the mechanical gremlins in time for Cory to join the field for the warm-up sessions. Anaheim’s Robert Dalby was the fastest in hot laps with a best lap of 12.069 seconds with a back-up lap of 12.269 seconds.
Alex Schutte toured the Placerville banked ¼-mile oval in 12.225 seconds followed by Michael Faccinto in Mike Sala’s #19W at 12.378 seconds and Elliott rounded out the top four with a best lap of 12.407 seconds. Randi Pankratz’s car failed to fire for warm-ups with assistance from John Cofer and BCRA officials the #8 Edmunds machine’s fuel delivery problem was quickly rectified.
The BCRA drivers had earlier drawn for starting positions in the two seven-car 8-lap preliminary heat races. The first heat race featured the ageless Floyd Alvis on the pole with Terry ‘the Panda’ Nichols alongside. As the field raced into turn three on the first lap, the cars of Alvis, Schutte and Frankie Guerrini made contact. Schutte and Guerrini were able to continue but Alvis spun to stop and was hit by defending BCRA champion Bobby Wilson’s #87. With the track blocked, Faccinto’ s #19W midget rolled over once and came to rest on all four wheels.
Michael indicated that he was suffering from neck pain and the Placerville Speedway safety crew did a superb job of removing him from the car on a back board. After he was transported to the local hospital, X-rays proved negative and Michael was released, albeit very sore but otherwise OK. All BCRA officials and drivers wish Michael a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back in action soon.
When the race restarted with all the cars except Faccinto’s, Terry Nichols took command and used the groove around the inside of the track trailed by Aussie driver Danny Carroll in the Sean Dodenhoff #9C and Wilson. Frankie Guerrini was the only driver to try and use the high groove in the F& F #63 but did not experience any success. Wilson slipped by Carroll to take second place for a few laps, but at the finish Carroll slipped past to finish second behind Nichols with Guerrini fourth, and Schutte who battled brake problems fifth and Alvis sixth.
In the second heat race, Ronnie Gardner in the #3F grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag as Maria Cofer hung tough in second place and fought off passing attempts first by David Prickett in the #22Q and late in the race from Cory Elliott who moved up from his sixth starting spot. At the drop of the checkered flag the finishing order was Gardner, Cofer, Elliott, Prickett, Pankratz, Dalby and the #74 of JR Williams.
The winner of the first heat race, Terry Nichols drew the ‘10’ pill for the feature re-draw, so Randi Pankratz was scheduled to start on the pole position, but first she and her crew thrashed to change out the birdcage on her Edmunds midget’s rear suspension. Meanwhile, Elliott was doing his ‘double duty’ in the sprint car B main but fell just short of transferring to the feature.
At the drop of the green flag for the 25-lap feature, Randi Pankratz took the race lead and held on as she used the low groove around the inside of the clay oval with Schutte in close pursuit. Fifth place starter Elliott immediately began to use the top groove and raced up to battle for second place before his car began to experience an apparent fuel delivery problem which got progressively worse.
The caution flag flew on lap 7 when Wilson hopped over Dalby’s rear wheel as the pair entered turn three which eliminated Wilson for the night, The top five running order under caution was Pankratz, Prickett, Schutte, Cofer and Carroll with Gardner in sixth place. Elliott took his #11E to the work area under the caution, but the Elliott crew was unable to diagnose the problem and he returned at the tail of the field. Meanwhile Guerrini retired with a flat left front tire and JR Williams retired his #74 midget with a fuel leak.
After the restart, Ronnie Gardner used the high groove to move the #3F midget up to battle for third place but he soon retreated back to the sixth. On lap 11, Schutte moved back into second place, and then on lap 21, Alex squeezed underneath Randi as the pair entered turn three side-by-side. The pair bumped and Schutte emerged from the scramble with the lead as Prickett and Carroll took advantage to drop Randi’s #8 midget to fourth place.
The action slowed on lap 23 after Maria Cofer who was battling a rear brake issue collided with Pankratz and both cars came to a stop between turns one and two. Cory Elliott was scored in fourth flag under the caution flag behind Carroll, but when the green flag was displayed, Elliott powered into third place as Carroll also encountered brake problems.
Alex Schutte battled back from problems early in the evening to win the 25-lap feature with David Prickett second while Cory Elliott recovered from his earlier misadventures to finish third in a car that Cory complained was not running right. Terry Nichols finished a strong fourth after he started in tenth place, while Danny Carroll finished fifth ahead of Alvis, Pankratz, Gardner and Cofer, as Williams, Dalby, Guerrini and Wilson failed to finish.
The BCRA midgets return to action on the 1/3-mile Madera Speedway pavement next Saturday July 8 for the 100-lap Gerhardt Classic which will feature the racers taking the green flag in a three-abreast start. It will be an action-packed night of racing with the BCRA midgets vintage division will also be on the program along with the Western Winged Super Sprint Series, USAC HPD Midgets, NCMA Sprints, CSS/360 Super Modifieds, Legends of Kearney Bowl, Senior Open Vintage Super Modifieds, and the NCPRO 4 Modifieds.
One final note – be sure to get your ticket orders in now for the July 15 Jack London Picnic and BCRA Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Details are available on the BCRA website.