Marty Hawkins reaped the rewards while the agony of defeat was hurled upon Ryan Bernal in Friday night’s USAC non-wing sprint car season finale at Ocean Speedway.
Hawkins garnered his first career USAC victory when Hollister’s Bernal ran out of fuel two laps from the end in the 30-lap main event.
“I was just praying for a miracle and I got it,” said Hawkins, who is a part-time competitor on the tour.
Nearly a dozen caution flags lengthened the race, creating a real concern about fuel consumption. Mike Spencer, five-time CRA champion, challenged race leader Cody Williams for first place. Although Spencer got the lead, contact between the two resulted in a flat left rear tire on Spencer’s car.
After passing Williams on the previous lap, Bernal took advantage of Spencer’s handicap and charged past him for the lead.
Immediately following the action another caution flag waved. With fifteen laps complete, Spencer ducked into the work area for repairs and Bernal assumed the lead with Williams second.
Bernal led the second half of the race way virtually unchallenged. But on lap 27 the car skipped a beat and dimmed any hope for a win. Hawkins, who started thirteenth in the 21-car field, was in the right place at the right time and led the final two laps for the win.
Bernal managed a top-five finish with Richard and Jace Vander Weerd second and third. Jay Waugh of Canberra, Australia finished fourth.
Damion Gardner, winner of the USAC race in June, had contact with Matt Mitchell and took an unexpected touch-and-go flying lesson on the opening lap. The car flew end-over-end, crashing down the back stretch and landing in turn three.
Tony Hunt, Nathan Washam, Shana Hogg and Nick Larson completed the top ten.
Heat race winners were Hawkins, Gardner, and Mitchell. Austin Williams set fast time in qualifying with a 12.975 second lap.
Shawn Jones, 2011 Bay Area Dwarf car champion, won his first main event of the season.
“We haven’t hadn’t had the best of luck this season at the speedway,” Jones said. “But I hope these last two weeks are an indication of a better second half.”
Jones of San Jose led the entire 20-lap feature race starting from pole position. Jones, current leader Camron Diatte and Gene Pires Jr. finished on the podium for the second week in a row. Doug Penny and Nick Squatritto finished fourth and fifth.
Diatte, Jones and Pires were also heat race winners. The dwarf cars return to action August 30 for the Boy and Girl Scout Night at the races.
Joe Willoughby of Corralitos won his fifth main event of the season in Ocean’s American stock division.
Willoughby, having last week’s win taken away on a technicality, started from pole position and led the entire 20-lap feature race. Ron Bonnema, a two-time feature winner, finished second. Watsonville’s Tony Oliveira finished third driving his Ford Mustang.
Sean Markley Jr. finished fourth and maintains a five-point lead in division standings. Matt Hagio of Prunedale finished fifth.
Jill Merlin and Bonnema were heat races. Merlin of Santa Cruz enjoyed one of her best nights of racing by winning her first American stock trophy dash.
Bobby Huckaby Jr. won his first main event of the season in Ocean’s 4-Banger division. The 17-year-old Harbor High student has five top-five finishes in the last five races. His father, Bobby Huckaby Sr., has joined him in four of the last five races.
Luke Babcock, a junior at Aptos High, finished second and remains third in the standings. Al Sotomayor, 4-banger point leader, added another podium finish in third place. Huckaby Sr. and Robert Gallaher finished fourth and fifth. Gallaher is second in the standings.
Babcock and Sotomayor were heat race winners.
Next week is the final round of qualifying for the Johnny Key Memorial race on August 24th. Ocean’s non-wing sprint car division, American stocks, 4-Bangers, and IMCA’s sport modified division will be the supporting cast for the Taco Bravo-sponsored winged sprint car series.
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