By Steven Blakesley
WATSONVILLE, CALIF. (June 17, 2022) – Penngrove’s Chase Johnson steered the Sean Quinn-owned No. 28 to a decisive victory in Friday’s Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo in Watsonville, leading the final 19 circuits for this third trip to victory lane of the year at Ocean Speedway.
“It was great. Tyler Silva’s got this thing on rails. Big hats off to him. Sean (Quinn) gives us the opportunity to come out here and do this. We all get along so well and the chemistry is so good,” Johnson said.
Kaleb Montgomery of Templeton led Dirt.Travel qualifying before Hanford’s 14-year-old Ryan Rocha won the six-lap dash race to earn the pole for the 30-lap contest.
At the start of the feature, Rocha and Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson drove off into turn one side-by-side. Rocha got sideways, sparking a multi-car incident that saw Montgomery bounce hard to end his night. Concord’s Joey Ancona, Hanford’s Zane Blanchard, and Watsonville’s Rickey Sanders all stopped in the melee but were able to rejoin the event.
On the second attempt at a start, Nelson won the hole shot over Rocha. Nelson approached lapped traffic while Johnson worked on Rocha for the second position. Johnson took over with a move on the outside on the backstretch, earning second on lap nine. The advantage for Nelson was nearly two seconds at that stage. Johnson marched towards Nelson, driving into the lead just three laps later on lap 12. The caution flew on the following lap for an incident for Adam Kaeding in turn one.
Lemoore’s Gauge Garcia had driven from seventh to third by that stage then used the restart to trade blows with Nelson for second. Garcia earned the second spot while Rocha fell back to sixth. Steven Kent of Fresno was also charging through the field, advancing from 12th to fourth.
Nelson grabbed second back after some cross over moves on lap 19. A caution for Connor Danell of Visalia erased a 3.3 second lead for Johnson over the field. Johnson had no trouble pulling ahead on the restart while Garcia and Nelson again traded shots at second. Garcia’s pass on Nelson was nullified when Jason Chisum of Salinas spun in turn four on lap 20.
Three-wide action ensued for the fifth position on the restart with Livermore’s Travis Labat and Steven Kent in the center of it. The top three remained unchanged with Johnson scoring the win over Nelson and Garcia. Ancona recovered to finish fourth followed by Kent, who earned the Price Rite Hard Charger award for his efforts. Nelson was rewarded for his second-place finish with a strong response from the crowd.
“What can I say but we have the strongest fans out here in Watsonville and we try to put on a show for them,” Nelson said. “We might be leading the points but we’ve just been struggling. Hands down, we needed that.”
Markus Frazier of Santa Maria survived a wild IMCA Sport Modified 20-lap feature for his first Watsonville win of the season.
The race kicked off with spins in both turn four and turn two. On the restart, Orion Messina and Codie Hample, both from Atascadero, went side-by-side for the lead in turns three and four. Hample spun from the outside line which collected numerous cars, including race-ending damages for Merced’s Richard Ragsdale and Pittsburg’s Chuck Golden. Freedom’s Kyle Bryan spun from second position for an additional caution on the restart.
Messina slowed from the lead and was hit hard in an airborne collision with Jonathan Hagio of Prunedale. Frazier inherited the lead and led the rest of the way, topping Oakley’s Jacob Mallet, Jr., Hagio, Watsonville’s Adriane Frost, and Prunedale’s Max Baggett.
2021 IMCA Modified champion Cody Burke used an outside maneuver around Hollister’s Andy Obertello to take the lead and the win in the 20-lap feature. Obertello brought the field to green before a spin for JC Elrod of San Martin on the front stretch. Elrod managed to turn it back around and the race stayed green.
Obertello led a tight lead formation of champions which included Burke, Prunedale’s Jim Pettit II, and 99-time IMCA Modified winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas. Nick Decarlo of Martinez spun in turn two for a caution on lap 15 which brought the field back together. Burke seized the opportunity to take the top spot, followed by a caution on the same lap for Fred Lind of Prunedale spinning from the fifth position.
Burke led Hogge and Obertello at the finish. Clay Daly of Watsonville and Decarlo drove past Pettit on the restart to round out the top-five finishers.
Joe Gallaher charged from the back to the front to win the 20-lap Hobby Stock feature. Lawrence Castillo of Soquel started on the pole in the Terry Campion-owned machine, then drove out to the lead over Santa Cruz’ Brady Muller. Sam Kennedy of Watsonville spun from third on the front stretch but the race remained under green flag conditions.
The first caution came on lap four when Ryan Muller spun in his new machine and suffered contact from Shane Freeman of Prunedale. Freeman was able to rejoin the race but Muller was eliminated from the action.
Gallaher worked to the inside of Brady Muller for third on the restart, grabbing the spot on lap six. A caution on lap seven allowed Gallaher to drive into second past Steve Remde of Watsonville.
Freeman stopped on the off ramp to draw an additional yellow flag on lap 12. Gallaher used the restart to snag the lead from Castillo before Castillo fell out of the race on lap 18 and drove into the pits.
Gallaher led Remde, Brady Muller, Dan Fassler of San Jose, and Castillo at the checkered flag.
Kate Beardsley used a last turn, last lap pass to win the 15-lap Four Banger race. 14-year-old Amaya Flowers of Watsonville led the race after starting on the outside pole. Gilroy’s TJ Santos spun and collected Moss Landing’s Jason Lazzerini in turn two. The race stayed green but Lazzerini was forced to retire to the pits. Flowers went wide in turn two to surrender the lead position to Kenny Stragalinos of Boulder Creek on lap nine. Flowers eventually slowed and exited to the pit area.
A caution flew on lap 12 for Peter Vannerus spinning in turn four. Stragalinos restarted in the lead but with a flat left front tire. Kate Beardsley, who started tenth, drove past Travis VanGilder of Felton for second. She turned her sights on Stragalinos. Stragalinos went wide into turn four and Beardsley made her decisive move for the exciting victory. Stragalinos, VanGilder, Bill Beardsley, and Nicole Beardsley rounded out the top-five.
Danny Wagner of Baypoint dominated the South Bay Dwarf Car 20-lap feature event. Wagner took over the lead on the second lap and never relinquished it on the way to a half lap advantage at the checkered flag.
Trafton Chandler of Carmel Valley won a race long battle with Travis Day of Concord for the second position. Dan Zuger of San Jose and Eddy Claesson of Monterrey rounded out the top-five.
The Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo return to Ocean Speedway on June 24, joined by IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, Four Bangers, Police-in-Pursuit, and South Bay Dwarf Cars.
Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo – June 17, 2022 (30 Laps)
1. 28-Chase Johnson; 2. 72W-Kurt Nelson; 3. 21X-Gauge Garcia; 4. 88A-Joey Ancona; 5. 37-Steven Kent; 6. 61-Travis Labat; 7. 5R-Ryan Rocha; 8. 17-Rickey Sanders; 9. 7H-Jake Haulot; 10. 7Z-Zane Blanchard; 11. 3T-Nick Ringo; 12. 72S-Bradley Dillard; 13. 36-Craig Stidham; 14. 3M-Adam Kaeding; 15. 50-Bryce Eames; 16. 25Z-Jason Chisum; 17. 5X-Mark Chaves Jr; 18. 6D-Josh Chisum; 19. 5D-Connor Danell; 20. 98-Michael Pombo; 21. 3-Kaleb Montgomery; 22. 72JR-Chris Nelson; 23. (DNS) 5-Cole Danell