From Lance Jennings and Lonnie Wheatley
Peoria, AZ — (November 20, 2014) — Hollister, California’s Ryan Bernal kicked off his pursuit of 47th Annual Sands Chevrolet Western World Championships honors by besting Thursday night’s 37-car USAC Southwest vs. USAC Sprint Car field at Canyon Speedway Park.
Bernal outdueled pole starter Gary Taylor for the point in the early rounds, fought off a bid from Casey Shuman and then held off a charging Bryan Clauson over the final rounds to secure the win in the 30-lapper aboard the Tri-L Mandarin Ranch No. 56.
“I knew at the end I couldn’t let it push in the corners, I wasn’t gonna give the bottom of the track to Bryan,” the 2014 USAC Western Classic champ said after his 11th overall non-wing 360-ci Sprint Car win of the year.
On the bottom wasn’t where Bernal spent most of the race, abusing the cushion to battle past Gary Taylor on the second round and nearly launching out of the park on one occasion in turn one in the initial handful of rounds.
Bernal slipped away from his chasers at several points in the race only to have the field tightened back up after red flags for a wild Thomas Ogle exit from the park in turn two after 11 laps and then a Brady Bacon tumble over the same retaining wall with 18 rounds in the books. Both drivers were uninjured.
With Bernal leading the way, Shuman had battled past Taylor for second at the midway point with 15th-starter R.J. Johnson up to fourth and 18th-starter Clauson fifth by the time Bacon went yard.
A slight Bernal bobble opened the door for Shuman to briefly take command on the 21st round only to have Bernal battle back and slip away momentarily before Clauson charged up to second and reeled in the leader.
Topping both the Sprint Car and Midget portions of the Western World last year, Clauson moved in on Bernal and was challenging for the lead as the white flag flew only to have the final round interrupted for a turn two melee with Shon Deskins upside down, setting up a green-white-checkered run to the stripe.
Having abandoned the cushion at first sight of Clauson, Bernal stuck to the bottom over the final two rounds. Clauson tried to make a top-side run through the final pair of corners but fell three car-lengths shy at the line.
“I probably could have pushed the issue a little more, but it’s not money night yet,” Clauson commented after rallying from 18th aboard the TSR/Curb-Agajanian Chevy Performance No. 20 following a heat race incident that landed him in a “B” Main. “The way our night started, we’re really happy with this.”
Shuman settled for the show position in the Hockett Racing No. 75 with USAC Southwest points leader R.J. Johnson gaining 11 positions to finish fourth. C.J. Leary rounded out a trio of double-digit chargers among the top five by rallying from 19th to fifth.
Charles Davis, Jr., was sixth with Taylor, Robert Ballou, Mike Spencer and Chris Windom completing the top ten.
Michael Colegrove, Ogle, Joshua Hodges, Davis, Jr., and Ballou won Thursday’s heat races with Johnson and Bruce St. James topping the twin “B” Mains.
Honda USAC National Midgets:
Just six nights earlier, Tracy Hines ended a dry spell in the USAC National Sprint Car ranks. On Thursday night, the New Castle, IN, racer broke an ever longer slump atop the same Canyon Speedway Park clay by topping the opening night of Honda USAC National Midget action at the 47th Annual Sands Chevrolet Western World Championships.
Hines battled past Zach Daum 12 rounds into the 30-lapper then held off a Keith Kunz Motorsports charge led by Christopher Bell to snare his first National Midget win on dirt since 2012.
While Hines gridded the feature field from the pole position aboard the Toyota-powered Parker Machinery No. 24, he fell back in the early rounds as second-row starter Zach Daum outdueled front row outside starter Ronnie Gardner for the point in the early rounds.
Hines worked his way back to the front soon enough though, racing past Daum for the lead on a lap 12 restart and holding on the rest of the way for the win.
“The track really changed a lot throughout the race,” Hines explained in victory lane. “We fell back to about fourth or so early working the bottom, then moved to the top and then back to the bottom by the end. It probably worked to our advantage to fall back early so we could search around some.”
Hines took command following a quick red flag after 11 laps when Tyler Thomas tipped over in turn two and led the way in front of Daum, Tanner Thorson, Bell and Gardner when the race’s final interruption occurred at the midway point when Casey Shuman’s mount lost power entering turn one and was drilled by Jarid Blondel. Both drivers walked away.
Daum kept the pressure on Hines when action resumed with Bell moving up to third and joining in on the lead chase until getting loose in turn four with less than ten laps to go.
Bell rebounded quickly, reeling in a fading Daum for second and closed to within two car-lengths by the final pair of rounds.
Hines held strong though, keeping the KKM duo of Bell and Thorson at bay to the line with Daum slipping to fourth. Bryan Clauson climbed from 10th to round out the top five with Brady Bacon, Gardner, Darren Hagen, Rico Abreu and Shane Golobic completing the top ten.
Hagen opened the night by establishing a new track record of 13.489 seconds with R.J. Johnson, Thomas and Shannon McQueen topping heat race action.
The 47th Annual Sands Chevrolet Western World Championships featuring the USAC National Midgets and USAC Southwest vs. USAC West Coast Sprint Cars continue on Friday night before wrapping up with Saturday night’s $7,500-to-win finale for both divisions.
USAC HONDA NATIONAL/WESTERN MIDGET CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: November 20, 2014 – Peoria, Arizona – Canyon Speedway Park – 47th Annual Sands Chevrolet “Western World Championships”
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Darren Hagen, 56, Hmiel-13.489; 2. Rico Abreu, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.519; 3. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-13.521; 4. Christopher Bell, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.609; 5. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.695; 6. Ronnie Gardner, 68, Johnson-13.710; 7. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-13.710; 8. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-13.728; 9. Brady Bacon, 51s, Fly-13.833; 10. Bryan Clauson, 63, RKR/Curb-Agajanian-13.894; 11. Trey Marcham, 73, Ford-13.923; 12. Mike Spencer, 57, Ecker-13.966; 13. Shane Golobic, 17, Nichols-13.980; 14. Casey Shuman, 32, Dunlap-14.083; 15. Shannon McQueen, 7, McQueen-14.152; 16. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-14.154; 17. Isaac Chapple, 52, Chapple-14.161; 18. Jarid Blondel, 98, Blondel-14.346; 19. Terry Goodwin, 2G, Goodwin-14.862; 20. Nick Foster, Jr., 17N, Nichols-NT.
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Johnson, 2. Golobic, 3. Hagen, 4. Hines, 5. Clauson, 6. Bell, 7. Goodwin. NT
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Thomas, 2. Shuman, 3. Marcham, 4. Abreu, 5. Thorson, 6. Chapple. NT
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. McQueen, 2. Daum, 3. Bacon, 4. Gardner, 5. Spencer, 6. Blondel. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tracy Hines, 2. Christopher Bell, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Bryan Clauson, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Ronnie Gardner, 8. Darren Hagen, 9. Rico Abreu, 10. Shane Golobic, 11. Mike Spencer, 12. Isaac Chapple, 13. Trey Marcham, 14. Shannon McQueen, 15. Terry Goodwin, 16. Casey Shuman, 17. Jarid Blondel, 18. Tyler Thomas, 19. R.J. Johnson, 20. Nick Foster, Jr. NT
**Thomas flipped on Lap 12. Blondel flipped on Lap 16.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Daum, Laps 12-30 Hines.
NEW HONDA USAC NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-Abreu-913; 2-Bell/Hines-851; 4-Clauson-796; 5-Daum-725; 6-Thorson-629; 7-Chris Windom-594; 8-Michael Pickens-499; 9-Dave Darland-419; 10-Andrew Felker-378.
NEW HONDA WESTERN MIDGET POINTS: 1-R.Gardner-677, 2-Marcham-626, 3-Blondel-585, 4-Alex Schutte-443, 5-Chad Nichols-433, 6-McQueen-329, 7-Scott Pierovich-327, 8-Nick Chivello-322, 9-Sean Dodenhoff-283, 10-Chris Ennis-216,
NEW HONDA WESTERN MIDGET DIRT POINTS: 1-R.Gardner-677, 2-Marcham-626, 3-Alex Schutte-390, 4-Blondel-364, 5-McQueen-329, 6-Scott Pierovich-288, 7-Sean Dodenhoff-283, 8-Chris Ennis-216, 9-Bell-205, 10-Tyler Dolacki-194.
NEXT HONDA NATIONAL/WESTERN MIDGET RACE: November 21 – Peoria, AZ – Canyon Speedway Park – 47th Annual Sands Chevrolet “Western World Championships”