From the desk of Kevin Triplett
Ten of Bay Cities Racing Association’s (BCRA) best pavement midgets were on hand Saturday September 30 at the Madera Speedway for the 2017 season finale. Chad Nichols in the #17N Shanoian Special sped around the 1/3-mile paved oval in 14.193 seconds to claim the top qualifying honors, trailed by Scott Pierovich in the Morris #71R with a best lap of 14.267 seconds. Cody Gerhardt timed in third trailed by Mark Maliepaard as David Goodwill rounded out the fast five. Leading the second group was third generation racer Davey Hamilton Junior in the Bob Rosen #4, followed by Maria Cofer, JR Williams and Floyd Alvis. Nick Foster Junior was unable to make the call for time trials in the second Shanoian Special as the #1N suffered from an engine vibration.
Alvis and Cofer led the field to the green flag for the first 8-lap preliminary heat race and Cofer surged into the lead and held the point for the first two circuits. Nichols moved up from his fifth starting spot into second place on the second lap with an outside pass in turn one, then claimed the lead one lap later with another turn one outside pass.
One lap later, Gerhardt charged past Cofer into second place, which dropped Maria in the Arata #88 into third place trailed by Goodwill and Alvis. The running order remained unchanged over the last three laps, all run under the green flag. Foster was unable to answer the call for the second preliminary heat race, which was led wire-to-wire by Davey Hamilton Junior trailed by Pierovich, Maliepaard and JR Williams.
Fastest qualifier Nichols pulled the number “6” pill in the redraw for the starting feature lineup, which positioned Davey Hamilton Junior on the pole position with David Goodwill alongside for the start of the 30-lap season finale feature. Foster was able to take the green flag shotgun on the field but the engine vibrations were so severe that he pulled off as the field entered turn one on the first lap. At the drop of the green flag, Hamilton sped into the lead trailed by Maliepaard Gerhardt Pierovich and Nichols.
Hamilton held a slim lead while the trailing four cars battled among themselves, as between laps seven and ten Maliepaard battled all around the track for second place with Gerhardt finally able to make the high groove work and he began to track down Hamilton. On lap 16, Gerhardt moved low underneath Hamilton as the pair entered turn three. On lap 19, as Goodwill headed down the back stretch his engine went off song, and the #3G came to a stop on lap 20 at the exit of turn two to bring out the race’s first caution flag.
Nichols had a head of steam on the restart and blasted past Maliepaard and Hamilton on the outside of turns one and two to claim second place, but Chad’s evening came to an abrupt end on lap 27 as the #17N coasted into the infield out of fuel.
Cody Gerhardt claimed a popular win over Maliepaard, Pierovich, Hamilton, 2017 BCRA season champion Maria Cofer, Floyd Alvis and JR Williams in seventh place. Nichols was scored eighth ahead of fellow non-finishers Goodwill and Foster. After the event in the pit area the Arata Brothers’ trailer was a scene of celebration in honor of Maria Cofer’s crowning as the 2017 BCRA champion. Maria continued her family’s tradition of championships, as her father (and crew chief) John was the 1994 United States Auto Club (USAC) Western States king. Maria piloted the Arata’s immaculate black #88 on the pavement and drove her father’s red white and black #57 on the dirt portions of the 2017 BCRA schedule. Maria will collect her championship trophy at the annual BCRA awards banquet to be held on January 20 2018 at the Hilton Hotel in Stockton California.