Jesse Love 2018 BCRA series champion
By Bob Roza
A special Sunday afternoon Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) season-ending racing program closed out 2018 and concluded a big two-day weekend show at Stockton 99 Speedway that also featured the BCRA vintage division, the Gunslingers Sprint Cars, USAC Western Speed2 midgets and the Legends of Kearny Bowl. The afternoon opened with BCRA Midgets time trials with Chad Nichols setting fast time at 13:105 over Mark Maliepaard from nearby Ripon at 13:229 seconds Jesse Love who was aiming for his fourth straight BCRA win was third fastest at 13:354 seconds.
After hot laps, car owner Karl Hokanson withdrew his immaculate #98 car from competition due to internal engine problems. Karl has had a tough time getting the bugs worked out of his beautiful #98 machine, as problems have surfaced after hot laps at each of the car’s last three outings at Madera and Stockton.
The first heat race was won by midget rookie driver Dylan Nobile from Fresno in the recently purchased Mopar powered Beast formerly owned by Gary Conterno. Finishing behind Nobile were Love, Nichols, and Richard “Skeeter” Flake who made the long 12-hour tow from Washington state to race with the BCRA midgets. The second heat race was won by Malipaard from his fourth-place starting position over Gerhardt, Floyd Alvis and Maria Cofer who failed to finish after her black #88 machine suffered front axle damage from contact with a spinning car.
For the final racing event of the 2018 racing season quick qualifier Chad Nichols drew the zero pill, for a “straight up” starting field based on qualifying times, with Nichols on the pole position and Maliepaard on the outside. When the initial green flag flew, Nichols bolted into the early lead over Love and Maliepaard, however Love’s blue #5 midget owned by Tres Van Dyne began to slow immediately. Love’s engine popped and backfired as Jesse dove into the infield as caution flag was shown to the field. Once the car rolled to a stop, the crew quickly diagnosed the culprit as a bad magneto which meant that the young phenom was done for the night.
When racing resumed, Nichols set a fast pace ahead of Maliepaard, Gerhardt and Nobile. Several laps later Cofer pulled her ill-handling Arata Brothers Chevrolet-powered Spike chassis into the infield. Her car owners, the Arata brothers, Jeff and Anthony, Maria’s father, John Cofer and Tim Grant, the father of the 2007 BCRA champion Justin Grant, all deserve praise for making the needed repairs after the heat race incident so Maria could start the main event.
With the race half over the racing continued with Maliepaard, Gerhardt, & Nobile in a spirited battle for second place behind Nichols until lap 18 when Maliepaard & Nobile spun together calling for a yellow flag. Both cars were restarted and rejoined the tail of the field. When racing resumed Gerhardt closed in on Nichols rear bumper then made a clean pass on lap 20, and lengthened his lead as Chad’s handling issues worsened, eventually diagnosed as a bad steering box. Over the remaining laps, Cody was smooth and fast and he took the checkered flag in the Paul Eskelsen’s Mopar-powered Beast chassis over Nichols, Nobile and Malipaard with Skeeter Flake in the fifth position.
With the long season at a close, the BCRA racers gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2018 champions – Maria Cofer emerged as the dirt driver champion, Chad Nichols repeated as the pavement driver champion, and Jesse Love is the 2018 BCRA overall series driver champion. Love will reign as the youngest-ever BCRA driver champion in the club’s long storied 79-year history. Love’s car owner Tres Van Dyne is the series overall owner champion, while Team 17 captured the pavement owner’s title and John Cofer repeated as the BCRA dirt division owner champion.
The Bay Cities Racing Association thanks all of the competitors who participated in our final weekend of racing for 2018, our valued sponsors and especially Business Manager Linda Manning. The club also extends our thanks to all the series’ fans, racers, promoters, and sponsors for their support throughout the 2018 season.