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Cofer claims another win at Petaluma

By Kevin M. Triplett

Eleven Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) midgets signed in at Petaluma Speedway on Saturday night June 9 for the second night of a back-to-back weekend series. Chase Johnson at the wheel of Del Morris’ midget won the feature on Friday night at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville followed by 2017 BCRA champion Maria Cofer in her family’s #57, Robert Dalby in the Dalby family’s #4D and Shannon McQueen in her own #7 machine.

Ten BCRA midgets posted qualifying times during single car time trials, with the field led by Chase Johnson’s 14.674 seconds, followed by Maria Cofer at 14.721 seconds, with Frankie Guerrini III third fastest at 14.733 seconds, David Prickett fourth at 14.953 seconds and Geoff “the Human Highlight Reel” Ensign who along with Johnson pulled double duty with the King of the West sprint cars, the fifth fastest qualifier at 14.964 seconds.

Floyd Alvis suffered mechanical problems and did not post a qualifying time and Marvin Mitchell did not present his car for qualifying, while young Jesse Love the second scheduler qualifier in the Van Dyne #5 suffered a broken bolt in the left rear trailing arm before he took the green flag. The crew led by car owner Tres Van Dyne quickly repaired the car in time for Jesse to make a single qualifying lap at 15.226 seconds.

The front row for the first 8-lap heat race was shared by Ensign and Dalby and at the drop of the green flag, Dalby shot into the lead trailed by Guerrini and Ensign. On the second lap of the heat race, veteran Marvin Mitchell exited the track and retired for the race. Through the third turn of the fourth lap Guerrini used the high line to move around Dalby and into the lead. Guerrini built his advantage and appeared headed to victory until his engine went off-song down the backstretch on the final lap. Third place runner Chase Johnson vaulted into the lead and won with Ensign third, Dalby fourth and Matt Sargent rounded out the finishers in fifth place driving Dave Thurston’s #17.

The five-car second heat was paced by a pair of rookies, with Jesse Love on the pole and Jackson Dukes on the outside. After the first two start attempts were called back, on the third try, Dukes grabbed the lead and he held on for all eight circuits to win his first career midget heat race. Maria Cofer made repeated attempts to pass Dukes on the low side through turns three and four in the later laps, but Dukes held Maria off, with Love in third place followed by David Prickett and JR Williams.

Despite repeated efforts by the F&F Racing team crew to diagnose the electronic problems, Guerrini was forced to scratch prior to the feature along with Alvis, which reduced the starting field for the 25-lap finale to ten cars, with the field led by pole-sitter Geoff Ensign and outside front row starter David Prickett, as Cofer and Johnson shared the second row. At the drop of the green, Ensign established himself as the early leader in Ted Finkenbinder’s machine trailed by Prickett, Johnson, Dalby and Cofer.

On lap 4, Maria Cofer moved her #57 past Dalby to claim fourth place, then on lap five she moved past Chase Johnson to claim third place. On the sixth lap, the Del Morris #71 lost power through turns three and four and Chase Johnson brought the machine to a stop underneath the flag stand which necessitated the race’s first yellow caution flag as Johnson’s car was pushed into the pit area, done for the evening.

On the restart, Prickett got his car alongside Ensign’s as the pair exited turn two, and Maria Cofer dove low and powered by both the #24 and #3F and grabbed the lead as she entered turn three. Maria quickly built her lead as Ensign and Prickett battled for second place, then on lap ten Dalby slipped past Prickett to run in third place.

Cofer built up a ten-car length advantage as she wove through lapped traffic, and on lap 20 Prickett reclaimed third place from Robert Dalby. Cofer had extended her led to a full straightaway when the race’s second yellow caution flag flew on lap 23 with Jackson Dukes’ machine stopped sideways in turn four.  Dukes restarted at the tail of the field.

Maria Cofer controlled the restart and led the final two circuits to claim her second BCRA feature win of the season in her family-owned #57, trailed across the finish line by Ensign, Prickett and Dalby with Jesse Love in fifth place. Dukes recovered from his lap race spin to finish in sixth place, trailed by Mitchell and Williams. Sargent failed to finish and placed ninth, while the previous night’s winner Chase Johnson also failed to finish and was scored in tenth place.

The BCRA mighty midgets return to pavement action this coming weekend on Saturday June 16th for the Tom Manning Memorial at Stockton 99 Speedway along with the BCRA vintage midget division, the Gun Slingers Winged Sprint Car Series, and the cars from the California Hard Top Association, and the Legends of Kearney Bowl. The pit gate is scheduled to open at 1 PM followed by the spectator gates at 5 PM and racing set to start at 6 PM.