WATSONVILLE — Brad Furr is on schedule for a track title in the Taco Bravo sprint car series at Ocean Speedway. The Stockton racer led the entire 30-lap main event Friday night, winning his third feature in nine races.
The excitement began at the rear of the field when fast-time qualifier Bud Kaeding accepted Noble Construction’s “back row challenge” for a second time this season. His 11.670 second fast lap also earned him another $100 fast time prize.
The USAC Silver Crown and sprint car champion sliced and diced his way through traffic to reach the top five in 11 laps. With 13 laps remaining, Kaeding reeled in Furr and attempted several broad, sliding passes in the closing laps. Although the intimidating moves brought the two of them side-by-side and inches apart, Furr stayed on the throttle to regain the lead after each attempt.
“The crew gave me the easy job, they deserve all the credit for this one,” Furr said. “Yellow flags helped us tonight. Getting away from traffic and having a clear track after each restart was to our benefit.”
The resulting second place finish also earned Kaeding the $100 hard charger award.
Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson, having his best season, finished third and remains 44 points behind Furr in the chase for the championship.
Shane Golobic finished fourth in the feature, but not before a flat tire repair put him at the rear of the field for a restart on lap 11.
Corralitos’ Jerry Bonnema, driving a steady and consistent race, earned another top-five finish after a 12th-place start.
Tommy LaLiberte started in last place and outmaneuvered 2012 champion Jimmy Christian for the win on the final turn of the last lap in Ocean’s traditional non-wing sprint feature.
LaLiberte used an inside pass off turn four, creating one of the closest finishes of the year in the 20-lap main, and a standing ovation from a very enthusiastic crowd.
“Thank you for your appreciation,” LaLiberte said to the fans. “Missing the heat race and starting at the back made it exciting for me as well.”
It was lap 14 when LaLiberte passed Mark Chaves Jr. for second place. Christian was unbeatable with nearly a half-straightaway lead. Two laps later, Chaves stopped on track, bringing out the caution flag that realigned the field.
After the restart, LaLiberte tried sideways, sliding passes in each turn but Christian countered with a move that saved the lead after each attempt.
On the final lap, Christian’s car drifted sideways through the last corner and set the wheels in motion for LaLiberte’s dramatic finish.
“It was just enough of a slide to take away my forward traction,” Christian said. “We lost our brakes at the start of the race, so the yellow flag really hurt. We might have won without it.
Salinas’ Cody Burke swept Friday night’s IMCA modified events, leading all 25 laps of the main event. He also won the second heat race and topped qualifying with a fast time of 14.950 seconds.
Brian Cass, Andy Obertello, Jim Pettit II and Eric Van Hooser rounded out the top five.
Cody’s brother, Austin won the first heat race but dropped out of the feature with mechanical problems while running in the top five.
Three IMCA’s sport modified drivers were disqualified after post-race inspection.
Feature winner Cliff Lindgren, Mike Shapiro in second place and Jim Digiovanni in fourth were found to have rear end components illegal for the sport modified division.
Kyle Wilson of Salinas, Rick Diaz of Los Banos, Stephen Hopf, Cody Brown and Alex Wilson were credited with the top-five finishing positions for points and prize money.
Adriane DeSousa was given the win after Lindgren’s disqualification in the second heat race. Chris Tjernagel won the first heat race and Alex Wilson won his second trophy dash of the season.
Gilroy’s Robert Gallaher passed Robert Huckaby Jr. on lap nine of 20 to win his second 4-Banger main event. Watsonville’s Al Sotomayor finished third, with Robert Huckaby Sr. and Richard Dragonetti completed the top five.
The Huckaby family, father and son, won the first and second heat races.
San Jose’s Joey Bataglia won his first career trophy dash in Ocean’s 4-Banger division.
Next week is round 10 of the Taco Bravo series, as well as the first round of qualifying for the $10,000-to-win Johnny Key Memorial race on August 24th. American stocks, dwarf cars, sport modifieds and non-wing sprint cars will also be part of next week’s show.
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