Ryan Bernal. - Lance Jennings Photo

By Lance Jennings

HANFORD, CA – SEPTEMBER 26, 2011… Hollister’s Ryan Bernal continued his winning ways last Saturday night by scoring the 30-lap feature at Hanford’s Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway. The victory marked his fourth triumph with the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series and closed the gap to fifty-five points behind leader Richard VanderWeerd.

Starting on the pole position of the main event, Bernal took the lead from Marty Hawkins on lap four and fought off numerous challenges from sixth starting Dennis Howell. As Hawkins faded back in the field, Richard VanderWeerd grabbed third and looked to catch the leaders. The battle for fourth became an absolute war between “Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr. and Peter Murphy. The veteran drivers repeatedly traded positions back and fourth throughout the Hanford clay oval.

Several yellow flags halted the action and Bernal executed great restarts to shake free from Howell. Lapped traffic would become a factor, but the leaders were able to slice their way through. The Faria-Murphy war continued to rage and the racing surface still had some bite through the final laps. The top groove running Faria bicycled his mount, resulting in the loss of several spots. Murphy continued his advance and slid past VanderWeerd for third. At the checkered flags, Bernal took the win followed by Howell, Murphy, VanderWeerd, and Wes Gutierrez.

Piloting Danny Olmstead’s #11D S&S Automotive / Dorso’s Automotive Maxim, Ryan Bernal tied Bud Kaeding with his series leading fourth main event victory. After equipment failures cancelled time trials, the former Wingless Spec Sprint Champion won the night’s Extreme Muffler’s Heat Race #1. Currently second in the standings, Bernal still has a mathematical chance to win the title at Tulare on October 8th. To date, Ryan has one Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, eleven top-10 finishes, and leads the series with 143 feature laps led.

Dennis Howell of Rancho Palos Verdes drove the family owned #62 San Pedro Auto Body / Howell-Meyer Racing Maxim to the runner-up finish. The USAC Western Midget Series graduate claimed second in his heat race and now sits fifth in the point standings. In the 2011 campaign, Dennis has one Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, eleven top-10 finishes, and two Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Awards.

Clovis’ Peter Murphy debuted his #21 Pro Signs / Dalton’s Landscaping Maxim and took third in the main event. The career leader in West Coast 360 Sprint Car feature wins claimed second in his heat race and currently sits fifteenth in the points. Peter has one feature win on the year along with six top-10 finishes and one Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Award.

Point leader Richard VanderWeerd of Visalia scored fourth in the 30-lap feature. Driving the family owned #10 VanderWeerd Construction / Battery Worx Maxim, Richard was second to Bernal in his heat race. With fifty-five points separating the two heading into the October 8th point finale at Tulare, the title is still up for grabs. To date, VanderWeerd leads the series with thirteen top-10 finishes and has one feature win, three Sander Engineering Fast Time Awards, three heat race victories, and one Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Award.

San Martin’s Wes Gutierrez raced to fifth in the main event after starting ninth. Piloting the WG Motorsports’ #007 ButlerBuilt / Competition Suspension Inc. DRC, Gutierrez scored third in his heat race and is now third in the championship points. The hard charger continues to lead the series with five heat race victories and has one feature win and eleven top-10 finishes to his credit.

Making his first career start with the USAC West Coast 360s, Lemoore’s Kyle Evans earned the night’s Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Award. Starting nineteenth in the main event, the driver of the #51 Stoney’s Sand & Gravel / Duinkerken Farms Maxim stayed out of trouble and scored twelfth in the 30-lap feature. Earlier in the program, Evans finished sixth in his heat race.

Marty Hawkins made the long tow from Santa Rosa and won the Saldana Racing Products / Keizer Wheels Heat Race #2. Piloting the #3M Blakeley Landscaping / The Toiyabe Group Schnee, Hawkins led the first three laps before suffering a flat right rear tire. After repairs were made, Marty flipped the “Calistoga Special,” resulting in a fifteenth place finish. Now seventeenth in points, Hawkins has three heat race victories and three top-10 finishes in 2011.

“Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton claimed victory in the DJ Safety Heat Race #3. Driving Junior Bowman’s #2 Buster & Ziggy Enterprise / Kaeding Performance Bullet, Faria scored seventh in the main event after a long battle with Peter Murphy. Danny is sixth in points with one feature win, two Sander Engineering Fast Time Awards, four heat race victories, and seven top-10 finishes on the season.

The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series would like to thank Southwest Contractors, Hoosier Tire, Amsoil, BR Motorsports, ButlerBuilt, Competition Suspension Inc., Cory Kruseman’s Sprint Car & Midget Driving School, Crow Enterprizes, DJ Safety, Extreme Mufflers, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Hinchman-Indy Racing Uniforms, Integra Shocks, Kaeding Performance, Keizer Wheels, King Racing Products, Port City Racing, Rod End Supply, Saferacer.com, Saldana Racing Products, and Sander Engineering for their support.

The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will be back in action on Saturday, October 8th, for the final point race of the year at Steve Faria’s Groppetti Automotive Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Located at the Tulare County Fairgrounds at the corner of Bardsley and K Streets, more event information can be found at www.tularethunderbowl.com or calling (559) 688-0909.

For more information on the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series, please visit westcoastsprintcars.com, usacracing.com, racesantamariaspeedway.com, or follow the series on facebook.
September 24, 2011 – Hanford, California – Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway

1. Ryan Bernal (#11D Olmstead), 2. Richard VanderWeerd (#10 VanderWeerd), 3. Ricky Kirkbride (#87 Van Meter), 4. Greg Alexander (#72 Tyler), 5. Jared Little (#25 Little), 6. Kyle Evans (#51 Evans), 7. Jace VanderWeerd (#88 VanderWeerd). NT

1. Marty Hawkins (#3M Hawkins), 2. Peter Murphy (#21 Murphy), 3. Jonathan Logan (#32 Evett/Logan), 4. T.J. Smith (#14 LeGras), 5. Jeff Gardner (#51T Revcon), 6. Austin Liggett (#83 Liggett). NT

DJ SAFETY HEAT RACE 3: (10 laps)
1. Danny Faria Jr. (#2 Bowman), 2. Dennis Howell (#62 Howell), 3. Wes Gutierrez (#007 WG), 4. Davey Pombo (#3E Eames), 5. Adam Frith-Smith (#62 Frith-Smith), 6. Justyne Hamblin (#8 JH). NT

FEATURE: (30 laps – With Starting Positions)
1. Ryan Bernal (1st), 2. Dennis Howell (6th), 3. Peter Murphy (5th), 4. Richard VanderWeerd (4th), 5. Wes Gutierrez (9th), 6. Davey Pombo (12th), 7. Danny Faria Jr. (3rd), 8. Jonathan Logan (8th), 9. T.J. Smith (11th), 10. Adam Frith-Smith (15th), 11. Jeff Gardner (14th), 12. Kyle Evans (19th), 13. Jared Little (13th), 14. Austin Liggett (17th), 15. Marty Hawkins (2nd), 16. Ricky Kirkbride (7th), 17. Greg Alexander (10th), 18. Justyne Hamblin (18th), 19. Jace VanderWeerd (16th). NT.
**Marty Hawkins flipped during the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Marty Hawkins, Laps 4-30 Ryan Bernal.

KEIZER WHEELS HARD CHARGER: Kyle Evans (19th to 12th)

1-Richard VanderWeerd-810; 2-Ryan Bernal-755; 3-Wes Gutierrez-701; 4-Jace VanderWeerd-662; 5-Dennis Howell-623; 6-Danny Faria Jr.-600; 7-Greg Alexander-538; 8-Justyne Hamblin-515; 9-T.J. Smith-502; 10-Bud Kaeding-439.

October 8: Groppetti Automotive Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, CA
October 15: *Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA