By Robert Haugh
After overcoming adversity earlier in the evening, “Fremont Flier” Shane Golobic methodically piloted Doug Bock’s #26 Spike/Esslinger to the win in the inaugural 101-lap Johnny Soares Classic at the beautifully manicured 3/8-mile Petaluma Speedway on Saturday, October 6.
Having started 11th on the grid after suffering a broken rocker arm in Hot Laps, Golobic overtook USAC-Western States points leader and track record holder Shannon McQueen, inching by her #7 McQueen Racing Spike/Esslinger on Lap 94 for the win in the race honoring one of Northern California’s most fabled and respected racing legends.
Petaluma Speedway General Manager Rick Faeth hopes that the event, presented by 101 Casino (http://www.the101casino.com) of Petaluma and Western Performance Parts (559-485-7442) and sanctioned by both USAC-Western States and Bay Cities Racing Association Midget series transitions to becoming the premier Midget race West of the Chili Bowl. In addition to being sanctioned by both California Midget organizations, the race awarded points towards the series championships in both organizations.
Golobic began his race to the front from the 11th position of the 20-car field after easily claiming Qualifier #1. Golobic cautiously worked his way to the Top 5 by at the halfway intermission, moving into third on Lap 60 and second on Lap 77 before passing McQueen after catching her in heavy lapped traffic on the heavy, yet smooth track surface.
A caution unfurled on Lap 96, giving fans an exciting five-lap Dash to conclude the 101-lap race, with McQueen pressuring Golobic, with dicey racing action transpiring throughout the field in the waning laps – and through most of the race, with several two, and sometimes three-wide battles.
Golobic was all smiles in victory lane, picking up back-to-back wins after winning the previous night in a Winged Sprint Car. It was his second Midget win of the year for car owner Doug Bock.
Fighting a tight car towards the end of the race, McQueen admitted Shane [Golobic] had the “better car in the final laps,” and was pleased with the intense, clean battle her and Shane had for the fans. It was McQueen’s third consecutive second-place finish at Petaluma.
McQueen, who led 67 laps, picked up the $500 bonus for leading at halfway, as well as the $100 award for setting fast time with a 15.110 lap time. Though the track was extremely fast, McQueen’s track record of 14.360 was untested on Saturday.
Fresno’s Tanner Swanson, who started fifth on the grid in Dave and Wendy Thurston’s #11 Spike/Esslinger nearly fell from the Top 10 early, also fighting a tight condition, rebounding to score third in the BCRA Hall of Famer’s potent mount that had won the three previous BCRA Dirt races. It was Swanson’s first Dirt Midget start in over a year, having mostly been competing on pavement and in Sprint Car and Silver Crown races.
Current USAC-WS Dirt points leader and former BCRA champion David Prickett of Fresno charged from ninth to claim fourth aboard the Neverlift Motorsports #15 Spike/Van Dyne, followed by three-time 2012 BCRA Midget winner Gregg Bragg of Visalia aboard Dave LaMott’s #0 Stealth/Wirth Honda in the car’s first appearance in over six months.
Popular local Sprint Car veteran Sparky Howard of Santa Rosa had locals on their feet cheering wildly, masterfully chauffeuring Rick Faeth’s #3 Beast/Chevy V4 to third from his sixth starting position by Lap 13 where he remained until Lap 48, running fourth at the mid-point and remaining in the Top 5 until Lap 83 when he was involved in an incident. After restarting, the unique V4 entry was billowing smoke – as oil on the breathers were burning off of headers – the cunning veteran played it safe and pulled it in.
San Diego’s Chris Ennis claimed sixth in the Neverlift Motorsports #151 Spike/Chevy followed by hard charger Rick Holbrook of Vacaville aboard wife Peggy’s #6 Spike/RRE Stage II Chevy EcoTec and Rough and Ready’s Gary Conterno aboard Floyd Alvis’ #83 Stealth/Wesmar. Holbrook received the $100 hard charger award courtesy of M&M Racing Photos (www.mmracingphotos.com).
Past USAC and BCRA Midget winner “Nitro” Nick Chivello of Manteca claimed ninth in the Chivello Motorsports #27 Spike/Esslinger, despite having gone laps down early after a spin that caused damage to his right side nerf and right rear tire.
Former USAC-Western States Midget champion Alex Schutte of Redding rounded out the Top 10 aboard Mason Cook’s #10 Beast/Fontana, a team debuting a brand new Beast chassis after having a chassis severely damaged just two weeks ago. Schutte raced from 16th to seventh by Lap 13 and moved into the Top 5 on Lap 56.
Early race leader and pole sitter Danny Parker of Oakdale claimed 11th in Bob Roza’s #21 Spike/Esslinger followed by San Rafael’s Frankie Guerrini III in the F&F Racing #63 Stealth/Gaerte Ford, who finished the final several laps with no tear offs remaining. Guerrini started eighth and moved up to fourth by Lap 13 before spinning on Lap 27 and again on Lap 66. Parker was running strong for initial 50 laps, leading Laps three through 26 and running second at the refueling intermission at Lap 50, but his car went away and he eventually fell several laps down.
After being involved in a spin on Lap 13, multiple-time BCRA and USAC victor Scott Pierovich of Alamo fell a lap down aboard his #35 Spike/Wirth Mopar, eventually settling for a disappointing 13th place finish. Pierovich has claimed three consecutive Midget features at Petaluma from 2009 through 2011 with Fast time in 2010 and 2011.
Angwin’s Britton Bock claimed 14th in grandfather Doug’s #62 Spike/Esslinger, while Howard was credited with 15th after dropping out when Faeth’s gorgeous home-crafted V4 mount billowed in smoke.
Seven-time BCRA champion and current BCRA points leader “Ageless Wonder” Floyd Alvis unofficially clinched his eighth BCRA Midget championship, despite exiting about two-thirds into the race with engine woes aboard his #18 Stealth/Esslinger.
Additional entrants included Arizona’s Connor Kassik in the Neverlift Motorsports #115 Spike/Van Dyne, Carson City, Nevada’s “Mr. Popular” J.R. Williams in his #74 Stealth/Brayton Chevy, Pete Davis of Pleasanton in his #00 Hothead Engine Heaters Spike/Esslinger and veteran Midgeteer Bill Lindsey of San Carlos in Stu Donaldson’s #8 Stealth/Pontiac.
Golobic handily claimed Qualifier 1 over Alvis and Bock while Bragg easily cruised to the win in Qualifier 2 over Kassik and Schutte. Parker unofficially claimed the BCRA Dirt Midget championship while owner Roza unofficially clinched the BCRA Dirt owner championship. Unofficially, there were six total cautions during the 101-lap race, with 15 of 20 cars running at the finish, a remarkable feat, with zero red flags or flips on the evening. The Top 5 at the refueling intermission was McQueen, Parker, Swanson, Howard and Golobic. Chivello led the first two laps followed by Parker leading 24 laps before yielding to McQueen, then Golobic.
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Shannon McQueen, 7, McQueen-15.110; 2. Chris Ennis, 151, Neverlift-15.343; 3. Nick Chivello, 27, Chivello-15.447; 4. Danny Parker, 21, Roza-15.509; 5. Tanner Swanson, 11, Thurston-15.543; 6. Sparky Howard, 3, Faeth-15.757; 7. Scott Pierovich, 35, Pierovich-15.803; 8. Frankie Guerrini III, 63, Guerrini-15.822; David Prickett, 15, Neverlift-16.005; 10. Bill Lindsey, 8, Donaldson-16.010; 11. Shane Golobic, 26, Bock-16.045; 12. Rick Holbrook, 6, Holbrook-16.074; 13. Floyd Alvis, 18, Alvis-16.092; 14. Greg Bragg, 0, Lamott-16.112; 15. Britton Bock, 62, Bock-16.186; 16. Connor Kassik, 115, Neverlift-16.231; 17. Gary Conterno, 83, Alvis-16.241; 18. Alex Schutte, 10, Cook-16.309; 19. Pete Davis, 00, Davis-16.353; 20. J.R. Williams, 74, Williams-16.687.
QUALIFIER #1: (10 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Alvis, 3. Bock, 4. Davis, 5. Conterno.
QUALIFIER #2: (10 laps) 1. Bragg, 2. Kassik, 3. Schutte, 4. Holbrook, 5. Williams.
FEATURE: (101 laps, start in parentheses) 1. Shane Golobic (11), 2. Shannon McQueen (4), 3. Tanner Swanson (5), 4. David Prickett (9), 5. Greg Bragg (12), 6. Chris Ennis (3), 7. Rick Holbrook (18), 8. Gary Conterno (19), 9. Nick Chivello (2), 10. Alex Schutte (16), 11. Danny Parker (1), 12. Frankie Guerrini III (8), 13. Scott Pierovich (7), 14. Britton Bock (15), 15. Sparky Howard (6), 16. Connor Kassik (14), 17. Floyd Alvis (13), 18. Pete Davis (17), 19. Bill Lindsey (10), 20. J.R. Williams (20)
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: 1-2 Chivello, 3-26 Parker, 27-93 McQueen, 94-101 Golobic.