Monday, June 12, 2017

Prickett and Elliott
score wins during
back-to-back weekend

David Prickett and Cory Elliott claimed victories as the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) mighty midgets completed a back-to-back weekend of midget racing on June 9th and 10th.  
In their only 2017 season appearance at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville California on Friday night June 9,  thirteen BCRA midgets took to the ¼-mile banked dirt oval in groups for time trials, and Michael Faccinto in Mike Sala’s #19W Spike obliterated the old midget track record set by Ron Marshall in 1996 with a best lap of 13.332 seconds.
Alex Schutte in his family’s Esslinger-powered Spike chassis was just whisker behind at 13.334 seconds. Shannon McQueen had the misfortune to have a rocker arm break in her Esslinger engine after just ¾ of lap, but she still managed to post the ninth fastest qualifying time.   

Following a scratch by scheduled pole-sitter Terre Rothweiler, Prickett moved to the inside pole starting position and led the first four laps of the first eight-lap heat race before Cory Elliott up from his third starting position powered past into second place. Elliott led the rest of the way to take the heat race win trailed by Prickett, Shannon McQueen (after some fast pit-side engine repair work by Duane McQueen), and Atascadero’s Randi Pankratz.

In the second heat race, pole-sitter Terry Nichols powered into the lead at the drop of the green flag and led wire-to-wire ahead of a furious battle for position behind him. For the first two laps, fellow front row starter Maria Cofer held down second place, but entering turn three on lap 3 Schutte up from his sixth starting spot slide by to claim second place.
Cofer hung on to third place despite repeated challenges from Mason Daniel, while Danny Carroll battled an ill-handling Spike chassis to finish fifth. Chad Daniel’s car unfortunately suffered a broken rear end in the heat race and thus was unable to take the green flag for the evening’s feature race.

Terry Nichols started from the pole position for the 25-lap BCRA main event with Prickett alongside and the pair streaked away with Nichols leading Prickett for the first four circuits until Alex Schutte claimed second place on lap six and began to close the gap on the leader. By the end of lap ten, Schutte was pressuring Nichols for the lead, and as the pair exited turn number two side-by-side on the eleventh lap, they tangled.  The incident left Nichols stopped on the back straightaway but Schutte was able to continue, although his #28 machine had sustained some damage.

On the restart, Schutte’s car hesitated which created a traffic jam entering turn one, and David Prickett emerged from the pack with the lead trailed by Elliott and Faccinto as Schutte fell to fourth place. Over the next few laps Prickett, Elliott and Faccinto distanced themselves from the rest of the field comprised of Pankratz, McQueen, Carroll, Cofer, Nichols, Rothweiler, Floyd Alvis, Tom Doherty and JR Williams.

On lap 20, Schutte joined Williams in the Ocean Speedway grass infield as he could not continue due to brake damage the #28 car had suffered in the earlier collision with Nichols. Over the final laps, Elliott tried gamely to pass Prickett, but the wily veteran and 2009 BCRA champion repelled Elliott’s charges to claim the victory. Michael Faccinto finished third, trailed by Randi Pankratz in fourth with Shannon McQueen in fifth place and Danny Carroll finished sixth.  The BCRA teams loaded up and left Watsonville bound for the North Bay and Petaluma Speedway, the site of Saturday night’s scheduled race.  
At a chilly and windy Petaluma Speedway Saturday night, fourteen BCRA midgets took times during the group qualifying sessions with Elliott the speedy youngster from Bakersfield establishing the quick time for one lap of 14.877 seconds. Hanford’s Michael Faccinto was second quickest with his best lap of 14.951 seconds. The two fastest qualifiers were scheduled to start from sixth position in their respective 8-lap heat races. Alex Schutte, who experienced problems with the Esslinger engine in his #28 machine, would start from the tail of the second heat race.

In the night’s first heat race, outside front row starter and the previous night’s feature winner, David Prickett grabbed the lead and withstood several strong challenges from Elliott to claim the win. Elliott actually took the lead for a moment after a low-side move under Prickett in turn three on the seventh lap, but his momentum carried Cory a bit too high and allowed Prickett to cross back underneath Elliott and recapture the lead. The lead pair was trailed to the checkered flag by Randi Pankratz, Terry Nichols, Sparky Howard, defending BCRA champion Bobby Wilson and JR Williams.

At the start of the second heat race, young Maria Cofer made a nifty move to slip past front row starters Floyd Alvis and Tom Doherty to lead the first lap. Danny Carroll ran second until the first caution flag flew for his spin and during the pause in the action, Rick Holbrook took his midget back to the pit area and out of the remainder of the race. Michael Faccinto was moved up to second place for the restart.
Cofer, the daughter of 1994 western midget champion John Cofer and Faccinto staged a memorable battle for the lead over the final three laps of the heat race, with both cars running with their right rear tires right against the cushion. Cofer stood her ground and claimed the win over Faccinto as Carroll recovered to finish third, trailed by multi-time champion Floyd Alvis in fourth and Tom Doherty fifth as Holbrook and Schutte failed to finish.

Alex Schutte’s crew led by his father Carl, toiled over the #28 machine before feature time and had their fingers crossed that they had solved the earlier problems when the field of 14 midgets pushed away to start the evening’s 30-lap feature on the Petaluma 3/8th-mile oval. Pole position starter Maria Cofer led away from the green flag at the start and held the lead through the first two caution flag periods for Danny Carroll, the second of which ended the young Australian’s night prematurely. Meanwhile, Elliott who started eighth after the re-draw began to steadily move his way forward through the field.

Cofer kept the Tule Vista Ranches Esslinger-powered Spike chassis on the high side of the race track and in the lead until lap six when both Faccinto and Terry Nichols slid past expertly using the track’s lower groove. On lap 7, Elliott slipped past Cofer to claim third place and as the race continued Schutte had climbed to fifth place from his shotgun starting spot when the caution flag flew on lap eleven.  Terry Nichols had the incredible misfortune to have the heim joint break at the accelerator pedal which brought his powerless #1P machine to a stop on the high side of turn two.  

Nichols’ retirement moved Elliott up to second place with Schutte in third place and Cofer fourth as racing resumed before the action slowed again when Doherty’s car came to a stop in turn three one lap later. Under the caution flag, the machines of Randi Pankratz and Rick Holbrook were pushed into the infield with mechanical failures.

When the green flag flew again, Elliott and Schutte staged an exciting battle for second place behind Faccinto, which was finally settled in Elliott’s favorite as he began to reel in leader Faccinto, who began to slow with a flattening tire on lap 25. Elliott rocketed into the lead past Faccinto’s faltering machine, and “the Young Gun” in his #11E midget claimed the win over Schutte, Cofer, and Prickett as Faccinto’s #19W fell back through the field over the last five laps and limped across the line in fifth place.
Sparky Howard claimed sixth place trailed by Alvis, Williams, and Tom Doherty with Bobby Wilson the tenth place finisher. Among the non-finishers, Pankratz was placed in eleventh, followed by Nichols and Carroll.

The BCRA midget series’ next appearance will open the weekend celebration of our nation’s birthday on Saturday night July 1 at “Knoxville on the Hill” Placerville Speedway as part of a program along with the track’s 360-cubic inch sprint cars, limited late models and pure stocks.  The pit gate will open at 2 PM and the grandstands are set to open one hour later in advance of racing kicking off at 6 PM.

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