From Lonnie Wheatley
Peoria, AZ — (January 24, 2015) — The term “narrowest of margins” doesn’t do it justice.
“It” being the finish of Saturday night’s 30-lap USAC Southwest vs. USAC West Coast Sprint Car feature event, as Hollister, California’s Ryan Bernal edged Dave Darland at the line by just .005 seconds for the $2,000 winner’s share in Round Two of the E&K Winter Challenge at Canyon Speedway Park.
Bernal’s photo finish triumph wasn’t the only close finish of the night either, as reigning track champion Ricky Thornton, Jr., rallied from 17th to win the 25-lap IMCA Modified feature with the winning move off the final corner. Other Saturday night winners included Jon Courchaine in Pure Stocks, Joel Huggins in Mod Lites and Gary Winter in Micro Sprints as a total of 124 cars filled the pit area.
Bouncing back from a grinding crash while dicing for the lead in Friday night’s E&K Winter Challenge opener, Bernal rallied from the tenth position and snuck by Darland at the line to steal the win in the non-wing USAC Sprint Car main event.
“I saw the door open and I just gassed it,” Bernal said afterward. “There was a lapper there but I was gonna move him if I had to, it feels great to get this win after what happened last night.”
While Bernal started the feature outside the fifth row aboard the Tri-L Mandarin Ranch No. 56, Charles Davis, Jr., raced past front row starters Dalten Gabbard and Darland to snare the early lead.
Darland battled back in the Mike Martin No. 16 though, sliding past Davis, Jr., for the lead in turns one and two on the fifth round.
Following a quick red flag stoppage for Rick Ziehl’s turn four flip with six laps in the books, Darland separated himself from the field at the midway point after a brief challenge from R.J. Johnson in traffic on the 13th lap.
With Darland out front, Bernal was seventh after Ziehl’s tumble and among the top five by the tenth round. He was up to third by the midway point and held that spot behind Darland and Johnson when the race’s final caution flew with five laps to go for a Dennis Giles spin in turn one.
As Darland took off on the cushion on the restart, Johnson ducked to the low line. Bernal took quick advantage, railing the topside around Johnson into second and closing in on Darland to challenge with two laps to go.
With Bernal still two car-lengths back entering the final pair of corners, Darland hesitated momentarily to negotiate his way around a lapped car coming off the final turn and opened a door that Bernal blasted right through.
While Bernal snuck by on the high side to take the win by five-thousandths of a second over Darland, Johnson settled for the show position with Friday night winner Brady Bacon in fourth.
The E&K Winter Challenge resumes with Round Three at Canyon Speedway Park on Sunday firing off at 5:00 p.m.
Canyon Speedway Park
E&K Winter Challenge Round Two Results:
USAC Southwest vs. USAC West Coast Sprint Cars:
First Heat (8 Laps): 1. 73-Brady Bacon, 2. 50-Charles Davis, Jr., 3. 77-Dalten Gabbard, 4. 21az-Stevie Sussex, 5. 4-Jonas Reynolds, 6. 55nm-David Dykes, 7. 98-Matt Lundy.
Second Heat (8 Laps): 1. 16-Mike Martin, 2. 16b-Dave Darland, 3. 74-Rick Ziehl, 4. 51-R.J. Johnson, 5. 13-Dennis Giles, 6. 56-Ryan Bernal, 7. 20-Shon Deskins.
“A” Feature (30 Laps): 1. 56-Ryan Bernal, 2. 16d-Dave Darland, 3. 51-R.J. Johnson, 4. 73-Brady Bacon, 5. 50-Charles Davis, Jr., 6. 21az-Stevie Sussex, 7. 77-Dalten Gabbard, 8. 16-Mike Martin, 9. 98-Matt Lundy, 10. 4-Jonas Reynolds, 11. 55nm-David Dykes, 12. 13-Dennis Giles, 13. 74-Rick Ziehl, 14. 20-Shon Deskins.