By Kevin Triplett
On Saturday night April 21, The Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) dirt track midgets finally made their first appearance of the 2018 season following two earlier rained out dates. Two rookies made their BCRA dirt debut – Jackson Dukes in the #2 Shenanigans Motorsports entry and Jesse Love III in the #5 51-Fifty Energy Drinks Van Dyne Motorsports entry. The entry list also included three veteran drivers who returned to race with the BCRA midgets after some time away – Jimmy Christian in Dave Thurston’s #11 machine, Rick Cook II in his father’s #7R midget and the ageless Marvin Mitchell in his own #78 entry.
Defending BCRA series champion Maria Cofer topped qualifying in the #57 Cofer entry with a new track record reported, as she topped Cory Elliott in the Elliott Motorsports #11E, Michael Faccinto in Sean Dodenhoff’s #9D and David Prickett in his own #22Q. Sean Dodenhoff experienced oiling problems in his own #9 car and scratched for the night before time trials.
At the start of the first 6-car heat race, Robert Dalby in the #4D jumped in the lead as Cofer coasted into the infield with a rough running engine. As the field started the fourth lap Faccinto slipped by into the lead when Jimmy Christian rolled to a stop in turn two and the Thurston car caught fire.
The Merced Speedway safety crew responded quickly and got Christian out of the car, but the Thurston entry was finished for the night. The lower legs of Jimmy’s uniform were scorched and after examination by the track EMT’s, Jimmy was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The club’s best wishes go out to Jimmy Christian for a quick recovery.
When the first heat race resumed from the red flag stoppage, as the field rolled through turn four for the restart, Faccinto’s engine faltered and he dropped to the inside as Jesse Love grabbed the lead. Love was soon passed by Dalby as Faccinto’s #9D slowly coasted into the pit area with apparent ignition trouble. The results of the first heat race – Dalby and Love in first and second with JR Williams in third place as Faccinto, Christian and Cofer all failed to finish.
Rick Cook II started on the pole for the second heat race and he held off David Prickett for the first lap with Cory Elliott in third. During the early laps Prickett and Elliott both passed Cook, with Marvin Mitchell settled in fourth place and Dukes in fifth. Elliott made several late moves but could not get past Prickett and the finishing order was Prickett, Elliott, Cook, Mitchell and Dukes.
In a throwback to earlier times, Merced Speedway Promoter Ed Parker offered the four fastest BCRA midgets from qualifying the chance to run a Trophy Dash and Bob Roza offered $100 to the winner. Unfortunately, Faccinto’s #9D still had engine problems after he pushed off and Michael retired to pits leaving just three cars on track. Over two fast and furious racing laps, Prickett topped Elliott and Cofer to claim his second victory of the evening.
Following the track’s Hobby Stock and Valley Sportsman feature races, the BCRA’s 30-lap feature was the finale of the evening’s racing. Once again, Faccinto and the #9D Dodenhoff car could not get going for the feature start and retired to the pit area before the start of the race. After the drop of the green flag, Maria Cofer jumped into the lead from her outside front row starting position with Prickett, Elliott and Dalby in hot pursuit. On the second lap, Elliott dispatched Prickett for second place as Maria began to pull away; by lap 6, she held a 6-car length lead over Elliott who was six car lengths ahead of the Dalby/Prickett battle for third place.
The caution flag flew and slowed the race action on lap 21 as Rick Cook II spun the #7R midget to a stop in turn four facing the wrong way. Under caution the track crew pushed Rick into the infield to join JR Williams as the race’s only retirements. On the restart, Cofer surged to a two-car length lead around the track’s top groove, as Dalby tried the bottom of the track and rocketed past Elliott on lap 23 and set his sights on the lead. Dalby stuck to the bottom of the track through turns three and four and crept closer and pulled alongside Cofer’s car at the start/finish line on several occasions.
On lap 26, with Dalby even closer than before, Maria moved her #57 midget down to the low line through turns three and four and blocked Dalby’s momentum. Maria held on over the final laps to claim her first career BCRA feature race victory by a single car-length over hard charger Robert Dalby, with Cory Elliott in third trailed by David Prickett, with Marvin Mitchell fifth, Jesse Love III sixth and Jackson Dukes the final finisher in seventh. Among the feature non-finishers, Rick Cook II placed eighth and JR Williams ninth with Michael Faccinto who failed to start listed in tenth place.
The 2018 season for the BCRA mighty midgets continues May 5 with a big night of racing for the Vukovich Classic at the 1/3-mile asphalt Madera Speedway along with the BCRA vintage midget division, the NCMA Sprints, Madera’s own CSS/360 Super Modifieds class, Legends of Kearney Bowl, Senior Open Vintage Super Modifieds, California Hard Tops, the USAC Western US Pavement Midgets, and the Legends of the Pacific.
The BCRA midgets will return to the dirt on May 26 at the Stockton Dirt Track along with the Hunt Magneto Wingless Sprint Car Series and the winged ‘Sprint Car 360 Open’ which will pay $5,000 to the winner.