|The 4th Annual Digger Helm Short Track in Bakersfield, Ca was a real barnburner! The Kern County Fair grandstands were packed with over 3,500 screaming enthusiasts. They were there when the 28 heats started and almost all stayed glued to their seats until the final 20 lap pro main was completed. With $12,000 up for grabs there were 36 Pros who signed up to try for a piece of that action. Including many current National numbers as you can see from the results. The program went off like clockwork and the biggest cheers came when the 50 and 60cc youths rode out onto the track. There was a lot of close, exciting racing with lead changes and thrills that gave the fans a real glimpse as to how great flat track racing is. We even had the worlds fastest Lawnmower competing in the Guinn Construction Lawnmower class run every year at our event at the fair. Gary Guinn went 85 mph on the salt flats of Bonneville last week on his competition "tractor" as they call them in Diggers hometown, lol. Mike O'Neil's IROC Indian Arrow class is always spectacular and we watched some of the best brakeless riders compete on identical 49 Indian Arrows. Boy, that doesn't look easy! The Vintage bikes are great to have in the pits because they are like fine art. They tell the story of flat track that is so important to keep alive and pass on to the next generation of racers and motorcycle fans. What's even better is to hear them out on the track! Here are the results from the night. Thanks to Digger, Vizzo Racing, Zanotti Racing, A&A Racing, Gene & Gail Cummings,& McKee Electric, Coors Light, Wayne E Long C.P.A., Healthland Insurance Services and Fred Cummings Motorsports,the local sponsors who made this event a huge success. See you at Willow Springs next weekend for the 2008 Series finale doubleheader. Thanks!!!|
West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series Round #4
Article & Photos by Jamey Blunt
The fourth annual Digger Helm Short Track National held as round four of Eddie Mulder's West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield Ca. was an overwhelming success. More than two hundred participants made up the twenty eight heat races and twenty main events that saw more than $13,000 in cold hard cash awarded at the end of the evening.
Starting off the night's final events was the Vizzo Dash for
Cash, where the six pro heat race winners squared off for five laps. The
combatants staged from inside pole were Mike Besemer, Sammy Halbert, Jared
Mees, Brandan Bergen, Kayl Kolkman, and Garrett Stout. Halbert launched off the
starting line into the lead followed by
Eight riders made up the Motion Pro/Tuffplates Senior final. As starter Fred Allen waved them off Bultaco mounted Jeff Lessley lead only to have Ken Thiebaud making one of his rare appearances shoot past on the exit from turn two. Steve Craft, Ron Lessley, Ron Alexander, Patrick Hayes Merritt Moore and Hugh Blacka all dropped in behind and gave chase. By the half way point Thiebaud and Jeff Lessley had a straightaway length lead over the field with Lessley applying pressure at every corner. With three laps remaining Jeff Lessley got a drive on the outside upon the exit from turn four to take over at the front, this was also the fastest lap of the race at 13.17 seconds. From here to the checkered little changed other than Hayes found his way past Alexander making the final tally Jeff Lessley, Thiebaud, Craft, Ron Lessley, Hayes, Alexander, Moore, and Blacka.
Only ten from a field of twenty one transferred to the
Rod Lake Racing/Simi Valley Kawasaki Vet "A" main event.
Brown's Cycles Joe Brown has become the force in the Barnett/JRC Engineering Super Senior class. Eleven riders all over the age of sixty dropped in behind Herb Wolff as the pack went through turn one. Joe Brown ran second followed by Mickey Alzola, Merritt Moore, and Steve Baker. At the front Brown on a smaller Yamaha 250cc mount was trying to find a way around the 750cc Triumph of Wolff, while Alzola had Moore putting on pressure to his back side. Out of nowhere Baker found some speed and joined the battle for third which slowed Moore and gave Alzola some breathing room. With three and a half laps complete Ted Hubbard went a lap down with the leaders doing the same to eighty-four year old Bob Harris a lap later. On the entrance to turn four with two laps remaining Brown made his move and took over the lead and just as quick Alzola and Moore both hit the dirt moving Baker up into third and Dave Cheney to fourth. Brown would go on to the victory with Wolff still in second, Baker third, Cheney fourth, Chuck Walton fifth, Harris sixth, and Hubbard seventh.
A unique addition to the series is when Mike O'Neil brings his stable of seven identically prepared 1949 Indian Arrows, all 250cc four stroke single cylinder machines. Originally built by Bob Stark patterned after one he raced. Joe Suebert, Jeff Gonzales, Jeff Lessley, Chris Rudy, Ron Lessley, and Kenny Malaguarnero were the selected riders for this event. Jeff Lessley led into turn one with Ron Lessley close behind only to come as close to crashing as possible and to drop back to fifth. This left Gonzales in second with Malaguarnero third and Rudy fourth. Down the back straight Rudy went past Malaguarnero into third while Jeff Lessley was getting away at the front putting in his best lap time of 14.40 seconds. On the fourth lap Rudy was all over Gonzales and pushed underneath to take second place away. Now as the laps wound down Gonzales was receiving pressure from Malaguarnero for his third place position. Down the back straight with a lap and a half to go Gonzales succumb to the pressure and gave up the third place spot. Jeff Lessley would go on to the victory by six bike lengths with Rudy the biggest gainer on the track second, Malaguarnero a hard fought third, Gonzales fourth, Ron Lessley never recovering from his first turn mishap fifth, and Suebert a lone sixth.
The Berkeley Honda Yamaha Youth Classes had some great racing as AJ Alves on his 50cc mount gave chase to Jayce Elsberry who was on a bigger 65cc ride. This did not deter Alves as he gave it everything he had but still lost out to the horsepower difference to finish second on the track, but first in his class as Elsberry was scored separately. Christian Payne, Clay Williams and Ryder DiFrancesco were second, third and fourth in the 50cc class with none of them leaving anything on the table. The main show in the 85cc division was between Michael Manhire and Brandon Rothell who out paced the rest of the field by a large amount. Manhire had the fastest lap of the race at 12.70 seconds and would take the victory over Rothell, Hadley Melton, Casey Cahoon, Ethan Gray, James Cagnina, and Austin Williams.
The Browns Cycles Modern 500 Class had few entries but was a highlight of Jim Lundgren's life as he fought tooth and nail with a determined Steve Craft for a hard fought victory. Lundgren turned the fastest lap of the race at 13.52 seconds, but not by much, as Craft posted a 13.70 on his way to second ahead of Jason Lessley and Shane Melton.
Paul Herman led the K&N Filters/Bartels H.D. Modern 750 field into turn one with Joe Suebert and Ron Alexander side by side in second. With one lap in the books Herman was already on cruise control leaving everyone else to fight over second. Which Suebert won, with Patrick Hayes moving his Yamaha past Alexander's Triumph for third, and Merritt Moore finishing in fifth.
The Maxxis Tires/ AGV Helmets 250 Open main event was a war. On the first start attempt Jess Garcia making a return to dirt track lead while behind him Zach Lenhof, James Cagnina, Pauly Herman, Jason Lessley and Ryan Foster all went down. On the second start little changed except the names on the ground. It would take four attempts before the field would complete a lap without a red flag. This time Garcia nailed the start to lead with Briar Bauman attempting to mussel his way up the inside but Garcia held firm to lead the first complete lap. PJ Osmer ran in third, while Garcia settled into a mid to high line on the track leaving the door open for Bauman. Lap three was Garcia's fastest at 13.03 seconds with Bauman keeping pace. On lap four entering turn one Bauman gave Garcia a love tap pushing Garcia wide out of turn two and handing the lead over to Bauman. Osmer was too far back to make a move while Foster running in fourth was coming under attack from Tony Davila. With two laps remaining Garcia was all over Bauman when they came upon Austin Williams who was about to go a lap down. Bauman got by cleanly but Garcia was held up giving Bauman a six bike length gap to bring it home for the victory. Garcia who hadn't raced dirt track in a few years was second, with Osmer third, Davila made a last lap push past Foster for fourth, and Lenhof finished sixth ahead of Lessley.
A&A Racing's/Works performance 500 support class is always a great show and highly contested. Mike Gonzales on his newly cleaned and detailed Knight framed Yamaha led into turn one as Danny Ritchie went down bringing out a red flag for a full restart as four other riders hit the dirt as well. Jeff Gonzales, Mike O'Neil, Joe Steffen, and Dave Tice would all make the restart though be it somewhat shaken. Mike Gonzales took over where he left off, up front with Jeff Hiatt in second, Paul Lane third, and Paul Herman fourth. On lap two Herman and Mike O'Neil both shot past Lane like he was tied to a post to take away third and fourth. At the front Mike Gonzales would run in deep and square up the corners while Hiatt carried more corner speed but gave up the drive out. All the while from mid pack Robert Bush and Tony Sigala were catching a fading Lane. Gonzales had his fastest lap of 13.51 seconds on lap five as Hiatt just couldn't quite match the pace, and by this point Bush had passed Lane for fifth. This would also see Jeff Gonzales call it a day as he left the race. On the final go round Sigala would drop Lane to the seventh place position where he would finish making the final order Mike Gonzales, Hiatt, Herman, O'Neil, Bush, Sigala, and Lane.
Only twelve riders would make the Maxima Racing Oils/Megacycle Cams Open Amateur "A" main event from a field of twenty five. Eric England nailed the start to lead in front of Dillon Allen and Chris Canepa. Jason Craven ran in fourth, with Kruz Griffith fifth, David Lucas sixth, and Joey Alves seventh. The only changes during the entire race was when Griffith would drop back to finish eighth moving everyone behind him up one position. England went wire to wire with Allen keeping him honest the entire distance.
Sammy Halbert sat on pole by virtue of the fastest heat race victory for the twenty lap Digger Helm Open Pro main event. From a field of thirty six, only fourteen made the final through six heat races and two semis'. Halbert was away first with Besemer, Bergen, Jethro Halbert and Mees in his shadow. Mees ran an outside line through turns one and two wide open to drop in behind Halbert in second down the back straight. Kayl Kolkman ran sixth with Kenny Malaguarnero seventh and Jake Mataya eighth. On the exit of turn two for the third time Eric England hit the dirt and was out of the race. Mees made his first of many moves on the entrance to turn three on lap four taking over from Sam Halbert while Jethro Halbert was fading in third. On the next trip through turn three Sam Halbert returned the move to regain the lead, but Mees came right back on the exit from turn four, but Sam lead across the stripe. The running order at this point was Sam Halbert, Mees, Jethro Halbert, Bergen, Kolkman, Mataya, and Kenny Malaguarnero. By lap seven Mees had regained the lead as the track became more slippery and had a two bike length cushion. At the half way point Mees with a clear track turned the fastest lap of the night at 12.36 seconds. With five laps remaining Mees was into lapped traffic as he put Garrett Stout and John Hlebo a lap down allowing Sam Halbert to gain some ground. Bergen and Kolkman at this point had both found a way around a fading Jethro Halbert who appeared to be having problems. Finding their rhythm late in the race were Shaun Russell and Steve Murray who would eventually finish in eighth and tenth positions. As Mees took the white flag Sam Halbert was just two lengths back but could do nothing but follow a mistake free Mees home for second. Bergen held a solid third with Kolkman looking better than ever fourth and Jethro Halbert hanging on to fifth by his fingernails over Mataya. Mees relived his race with this, "I knew going into the main event that this Mr. Ed's bike was a little better, I just needed to get off the corner good enough so Halbert couldn't stuff me in the next one. We passed each other a few times and I just let him have it, then he made a bobble and I knew it was my time to get away and as the track slickened up I just used a little finesse to win."
49y Chad Cose - 45e Ian Foulds
79 Joey Alves - 96 Merritt Moore - 77 Joe Suebert
Cindy & Steve Vizzo Rochelle Mulder