Kern County Raceway hosts historic first POWRi BCRA race

From the Desk of Kevin Triplett

The Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) kicked off its 80th year of racing action and entered a new era with the first-ever Performance Open Wheel Racing Inc. (POWRi) BCRA Lucas Oil Midget Series race Friday night March 15, 2019 on the 1/3-mile Dirt Track at Kern County Raceway near Bakersfield.

Seventeen mighty midgets posted qualifying times, topped by Austin Liggett in his own #83 midget. Liggett’s fast lap of 15.233 seconds edged out Chase Johnson in the Del Morris #47M by just .078 seconds, with Maria Cofer third in the John Cofer #57 at 15.331 seconds. Robert Dalby, Cory Elliott and Shannon McQueen rounded out the fastest six qualifiers.

The first heat started with a bang, as while the pole sitter Michael Faccinto streaked out of turn four on the first lap, CJ Sarna took a tumble back in the pack after contact with Jake Swanson. Sarna’s car was finished for the heat race, but Swanson’s crew replaced his flat right front tire and Jake rejoined at the back of the field for the complete restart.

On the race’s first recorded lap, Liggett dropped to the low side through turn four and took the lead from Faccinto. By lap four Swanson had worked his way up through the field to run second behind Liggett with Dalby in third.  On lap seven, Faccinto pulled his #71R Morris Motorsports car into the infield, and the finishing order was Liggett, Swanson, Dalby and Ben Worth.

The second heat race was dominated by Bakersfield College student Cory Elliott, who obviously lost none of his talent in his during his short absence from midget racing, as the #11E went wire-to-wire. After eight laps, Elliott crossed the finish line ahead of Chase Johnson, Terry Nichols, Frank Guerrini III, Dylan Ito, and Robert Carson. Robert is the son of three-time BCRA champion Glenn Carson, and the grandson of the late BCRA legendary car owner Howard Segur. Robert’s grandmother is the owner of the #99 midget with which Robert is contending for 2019 POWRi BCRA Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

The third heat race had trouble on the first lap, as Shannon McQueen spun to a stop at the end of the backstretch after contact with another machine, but #7 McQueen Racing machine restarted and the 2011 BCRA Dirt Series driver champion rejoined the tail of the field for the restart.  At the drop of the green, Maria Cofer shot into lead and streaked away from the field and the 2017 BCRA champion won the heat race in convincing fashion ahead of McQueen, rookie Troy Morris III, and Gage Rucker in the Cory Kruseman entry.

While POWRi BCRA officials totaled up the passing points from the heat races to determine the feature race lineup, Frank Guerrini III’s F&F Racing #63 was withdrawn with engine issues, but CJ Sarna’s hard working crew affected repairs to the #20 machine following the heat race mishap.

Top points earner Liggett shared the front row with Maria Cofer for the start while Elliott and Johnson were deployed in the second row, and Swanson and McQueen shared the third row for the start of the 25-lpa main event. At the drop of the green flag, Cofer shot into the lead with Johnson and McQueen in hot pursuit. The action was slowed on lap two as Rucker spun to stop in turn three, and on the restart, Cofer’s car pulled a big wheel stand which allowed Chase Johnson to slip by into the race lead.

On lap five, Cory Elliott moved into fourth place, but his charge forward was halted for the moment when the yellow flag flew on lap eight as the #71R Morris Motorsports entry piloted by Faccinto rolled to a stop in turn two with engine maladies. On the restart, the field charged hard into turn one, but Elliott’s car caught a rut and went for a ride that ended against the turn one outside wall. Cory emerged from the car uninjured, but the #11E machine was done for the night.

After the third restart, Johnson began to stretch his lead and built up an eight-car cushion by lap 14 over Cofer, as Liggett, McQueen and Swanson rounded out the top five positions. On lap 15, Dylan Ito’s Josh Ford Racing #73 lost its left rear wheel and came to a stop out of turn two on the backstretch.  After the race’s final restart, Johnson again began to pull away as behind him Cofer fell to third place behind Liggett. Swanson began a late race charge to the front, and Jake moved into second place on lap 22 while Cofer reclaimed third place.

Johnson held a ten-car advantage over Swanson at the checkered flag, with Maria Cofer third, Austin Liggett fourth and Robert Dalby in fifth place. Sixth through tenth place finishers were Shannon McQueen, Ben Worth, Terry Nichols, Troy Morris III, and Kyle Beilman.  Gage Rucker was eleventh with CJ Sarna twelfth and Robert Carson rounded out the finishers in thirteenth. The non-finishers were in order Dylan Ito, Cory Elliott, and Michael Faccinto with Frankie Guerrini, who did not start the feature, was scored seventeenth.

The POWRi BCRA midget series returns to the Dirt Track at Kern County Raceway on May 3, 2019 for the series’ next dirt track race.