By Kevin Triplett
On Saturday night May 5, The Bay Cities Racing Association midgets joined the BCRA vintage midget division, the NCMA Sprints, Madera’s own CSS/360 Super Modifieds class, the Legends of Kearney Bowl, the USAC Western US Pavement Midgets, and the Legends of the Pacific series for the 28th annual Vukovich Classic at the 1/3-mile asphalt Madera Speedway.
Jerome Rodela set the pace in time trials as he toured the oval in his Trench Shoring sponsored Toyota powered midget in 13.873 seconds to edge Scott Pierovich in Del Morris’ Esslinger powered #17K whose best lap was 13.941 seconds. Mark Maliepaard was third quick at 13.980 seconds with youngster Jesse Love III fourth in the #5 Van Dyne Engineering machine, and Chad Nichols five-time Vukovich champion, wound up fifth after a costly bobble on his second timed lap.
David Goodwill made his inaugural 2018 BCRA appearance and qualified sixth, followed by Frankie Guerrini III in Bob Rosen’s familiar #4 with defending series champion Maria Cofer in eighth place in the Arata Racing #88. Nine-time BCRA champion Floyd Alvis made his first 2018 appearance in his green #18 midget and qualified ninth and JR Williams rounded out the Vukovich Classic qualifiers.
In the evening’s first heat race, Chad Nichols started on the pole position and shot into the lead trailed by Rodela who made a nifty inside move underneath Guerrini to claim second place. Before the first lap was completed, Floyd Alvis felt a vibration in the drivetrain of his midget and pulled into the infield. On lap 4, Maliepaard took the inside line through turn three to claim third place from Guerrini, and then the running order remained unchanged to the checkered flag. The finishing order was Nichols, Rodela, Maliepaard and Guerrini.
As the field for the second heat roared into the first turn, Goodwill edged ahead of Cofer as Pierovich and Love ran side by side before Scott pulled ahead to claim third place. Lap after lap, Pierovich looked to the high side of Cofer as the pair entered turn one, but he just couldn’t make the move stick for the second position. As the field raced through turns three and four on the final lap, Pierovich got around Cofer on the high side to claim second behind Goodwill, with Love fourth and Williams in fifth place.
After the heats races were completed, Western US Midget racer Cody Jessop became BCRA’s newest member and 2015 USAC Western HPD Midget Champion’s #00 midget was slotted to start at the tail of 30-lap feature. Welcome Cody and thank you!
After the re-draw for the feature lineup, Frankie Guerrini and Maria Cofer shared the front row with Nichols and Goodwill in row two, Pierovich and Maliepaard made up row three and fast qualifier Jerome Rodela started on the outside of the fourth row. As the field accelerated out of turn four for the initial green flag start, the Rosen #4 experienced engine problems and did not come up to speed. With the inside row starters bottled up behind Guerrini, Maria Cofer streaked into the lead trailed by Goodwill, Rodela and Maliepaard. Both Guerrini and Alvis coasted their cars into the infield off the back straightway as the field completed lap one.
On the sixth lap as the field raced down the back straightaway, the engine in Cofer’s #88 suddenly blew up in a cloud of smoke and oil. Chaos reigned as the trailing drivers looked for an opening but Nichols and Pierovich both became involved, with #17N sustaining some front fascia damage but was able to continue, while Scott made contact with another car with his front nerf bar and spun to stop backwards in turn three as the red flag was displayed. After the Madera Safety Crew cleaned up the oil, the remaining car pushed off and the race resumed with Rodela in the lead ahead of Goodwill, Maliepaard, Nichols, Pierovich and Love.
On lap eight as JR Williams also retired his red and gold #74 machine to the infield, Jesse Love moved the blue Van Dyne #5 past Pierovich into fifth place, then on lap 10, Scott coasted the #17K into the infield with engine problems. On lap 12, Love moved around Nichols for fourth place, as Chad battled apparent handling problems with Shanonian Esslinger. By lap 18, Jerome Rodela had built up a five-car length cushion over second place Maliepaard who in turn held a seven-car length lead over third place Goodwill. Love trailed David’s #3g by five car lengths with Nichols ten car lengths behind Jesse. In the closing laps, Love closed to within three car lengths of Goodwill, but was not close enough to make a move for position.
At the end of thirty exciting laps, Jerome Rodela claimed his second Vukovich Classic championship, sixteen years after his first Vukovich win in 2002. Mark Maliepaard finished 3-1/2 seconds behind with a well-deserved second place after a spirited drive, trailed by David Goodwill, Jesse Love and Chad Nichols, with all the finishers on the lead lap. Among the non-finishers, Scott Pierovich finished sixth, JR Williams seventh, with Maria Cofer eighth, Cody Jessop ninth, Frankie Guerrini tenth and Floyd Alvis in eleventh.
Looking ahead on the schedule, the next race for the BCRA midgets will be on May 26th at the Stockton dirt track as part of the $5000 to win “360 Sprint Car Open” then on the weekend of June 8 and 9 the BCRA midgets will stay on the dirt and make back-to back appearances at Ocean Speedway on Friday night the eighth followed by Petaluma Speedway on Saturday night the ninth along with the King of The West sprint car series.