Jesse Love makes it three wins in a row at Stockton 99

By Kevin Triplett

The Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) mighty midgets raced on Saturday night October 27 as the first part of a special 2018 season-ending racing program at the lightning fast Stockton 99 Speedway.  and concluded a big two-day weekend show that also featured the Gunslingers winged Sprint Car series, the BCRA vintage division, USAC Western Speed2 midgets and the Legends of Kearny Bowl which featured an entry from six-time BCRA champion Gary Koster.

Twelve BCRA midgets signed in at the pit gate and the entry list included Cody Jessop in Karl Hokanson’s beautiful #98 midget which suffered mechanical plumbing problems during practice and was withdrawn. Mark Maliepaard topped the charts in time trials with a quick 13.157 second lap to edge out Jesse Love who recorded a best lap of 13.221 seconds. David Goodwill and Cody Gerhardt were third and fourth fastest respectively, while Chad Nichols surprised many as he struggled and was the day’s fifth fastest qualifier. Rookie Dylan Nobile of Clovis in his BCRA debut in the #55 midget formerly owned by Gary Conterno was sixth fastest, trailed by Maria Cofer, Richard “Skeeter” Flake from Washington state, the affable JR Williams, nine-time BCRA champion Floyd Alvis and George Tuttle, who was doing double duty with the Speed2 midgets.

Chad Nichols in the Shanoian #17N Esslinger-powered midget started the first heat race from the pole position with Maria Cofer alongside, as five cars took the green flag after the engine in Tuttle’s beautiful black #98T car wouldn’t start. Nichols grabbed the lead into turn one ahead of Cofer, who was passed by Maliepaard who used a nifty inside move through turn three on the first lap to grab the position. A lap later, Goodwill dropped Maria to fourth place, and the running order remained static from then until the end of the eight-lap race with the finishing order Nichols, Maliepaard, Goodwill, Cofer and Williams.

Floyd Alvis led the five-car second heat race to the green flag, but outside front row starter “Skeeter” Flake beat the rest of the field into turn one with Cody Gerhardt in second place and Jesse Love in third place. Gerhardt looked high and low at both ends of the track but could not find his way around the Washington midget racing veteran, all while Cody repelled the efforts of the young charger Jesse Love to grab second place. The finish at the end of eight laps was Flake, Gerhardt, Love, Nobile and Alvis.

Later the four fastest qualifiers lined up for the four-lap trophy dash in a fully inverted start. Cody Gerhardt made the most of his pole position start and he held off Goodwill, Love and Maliepaard to claim a popular win in the #29 Eskelsen Motorsports Mopar-powered Beast and $100 donated by Race Director Bob Roza.

After the heat races and the trophy dash were completed, the re-draw for the start of the feature was held. The fastest qualifier Mark Maliepaard drew the magic “zero” pill for a straight-up lineup with the fast qualifier in the coveted pole position. At the drop of the green flag, Mark and fellow front row starter Jesse Love raced side-by-side for the first lap around the ¼-mile high-banked oval before Love thrust into the lead, trailed by Maliepaard, Goodwill, Nichols and Gerhardt. On lap four, Nichols slipped past Goodwill and Chad had a front row seat as Mark and Jesse battled for the top spot. On lap 12, Nichols passed Mark Maliepaard, then two laps later. Goodwill dropped Mark’s #51 Fit & Finish Hot Rod Interiors Special into fourth place.

The caution flag flew on lap 14 after the black #81 machine of “Skeeter” Flake rolled to a stop in turn two and he was pushed into the pit area to join early retiree JR Williams who had experienced an engine oiling issue. The ensuing restart got jammed up and unfortunately, young Dylan Nobile was the innocent victim as his #55 ended up nosed into the outside retaining wall at the end of the front straightaway. The car was undamaged but Dylan headed to the pits, his night over early.

The next restart was clean and over the next nine laps, the crowd at Stockton 99 Speedway was treated to an epic battle for the race lead between the young phenom Jesse Love and the wily veteran Chad Nichols. Nichols’ orange #17N was brutally fast on the straightaways, but Chad’s machine could not hold the low line through the turns. Lap after lap Chad got underneath Jesse as the pair entered the corner, then edged ahead mid-corner, but Nichols just couldn’t make the pass stick, as Love would diamond off the corner and power underneath to retain the race lead at the start-finish stripe.

After lap 23, the exciting battle ended and Love began to pull clear of Nichols. Jesse cruised to his third consecutive BCRA midget pavement win over Nichols, Gerhardt, Goodwill, Maliepaard, Alvis, Cofer, Flake and JR Williams.

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