Ryan Kaplan records first USAC Midget win in Western Oildale thriller - By Bobby Gerould - Oildale, CA. 05/14/05 - …Sophomore midget racer Ryan Kaplan of Chico, CA. snookered two men with an outside pass in turn four on lap-24 Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway en route to a 30-lap feature victory. The USAC Western States Midget main event win was the first for the 18 year old since he moved up from Ford Focus midget racing. On a lap 24 restart, Kaplan lined up behind leader Tyler Brown, and second place running Robby Flock. As the trio took the green flag and hauled down the backchute, Kaplan used the additional bite from his adjusted shocks to power into turn three on the high side. He drove around both Flock, and Brown with just inches to spare and powered into the lead as the cars raced off turn four.

"Before the restart, I thought to myself, 'this could be good or bad'", said Kaplan in the pits post-race. "I adjusted my shocks during the yellow (flag), and thought I could push it up higher and just see what happens, and it worked!"

The race started with Matt Mitchell out muscling fellow front-row starter Brown for the initial race lead. Mitchell, however, suddenly lost power on his Edmonds #37 on lap three, surrendering the lead to Brown. Brown held steady in front as Robby Flock tried to deal with an ultra racy Stephen Graves. Twice Graves drove around Flock in turn four to steal second place only to have Flock return the favor.

A red flag appeared on lap eleven when Wally Pankratz clobbered the back-chute wall. Pankratz rode back to the pits in the tow-truck passenger seat - his night done. 2003 USAC Western Midget Champion Steven Paden dropped from the race with mechanical problems at the same time.

As the feature approached the midway point, the dirt surface had collected a groove of rubber. Leader, Brown was clearly fighting a car that was getting tighter, and tighter, while runner-up Flock was getting faster, and faster. Flock reduced a lap-15 half-straightaway Brown lead to one car length by lap-19. The were nose-to-tail on lap 20, with Flock probing inside and outside for a way by Brown. The two bumped on lap 22 - when Flock ran up on the rear-nerf of Brown's TCR #34. Just as the excitement of a great race for the lead was hitting a fever pitch - Jimmy Christian's right rear tire popped, and Ryan Pace spun to avoid contact. The caution set up the winning move by Kaplan.

The final drama of the feature occurred on lap 28 when Flock spun out trying to gain second place from Brown. At the checkered flag it was Kaplan, followed by Brown, Travis Berryhill, Jerome Rodela, and Chris Rahe. Rodela paced qualifying with a lap of 13.460 seconds on the 1/3-mile dirt oval. Flock, Christian, and Brad Galedridge were heat race winners on the warm night.

Ventura's Rob Kershaw took home the trophy in the USAC Ford Focus California Dirt 20-lap feature. Lap two of the Ford Focus main event saw an eight car pile-up in turn four. J.R. Williams flipped onto his side but was uninjured and continued. Williams later flipped again in turn two, also without injury. The scariest moment of the night occurred on lap eleven of the Focus feature when Keith Iaia of San Miguel, CA. flipped wildly down the front chute. He was an estimated 20-25 feet in the air before landing flush. Iaia emerged under his own power - but not before being momentarily knocked out. The car came to a rest with the motor free-winding.

Qualifying # Name First Lap Best Lap

  1. 25 Jerome Rodela 13.647 13.460
  2. 88 Dallen McKenney 13.745 13.479
  3. 37 Matt Mitchell 13.777 13.544
  4. 31 Chris Rahe 13.952 13.576
  5. 79 Robby Flock 14.155 13.765
  6. 70 Garrett Hansen 13.783 13.783
  7. 34 Tyler Brown 14.073 13.837
  8. 11 Travis Berryhill 14.504 13.840
  9. 4 Josh Lakatos 14.110 13.883
  10. 21 Ryan Kaplan 13.906 13.906
  11. 12 Rick Hendrix 14.193 13.924
  12. 14x Ryan Pace 14.303 13.993
  13. 86 Steven Graves 14.324 14.013
  14. 87 Wally Pankratz 14.026 14.026
  15. 0 Steve Paden 14.075 14.075
  16. 29 Brad Galedridge 14.119 14.119
  17. 35 Scott Pierovich 14.494 14.146
  18. 15 Michael Trimble 14.312 14.248
  19. 01 Steve Koster 15.170 14.358
  20. 7 Shannon McQueen 14.386 14.386
  21. 16 Jimmy Christian 14.469 14.469

Midget Heat One: 1. Galedridge, 2. Koster, 3. Graves, 4. T. Brown, 5. Rodela, 6. Kaplan, 7. Rahe.

Midget Heat Two: 1. Flock, 2. McQueen, 3. Pankratz, 4. Hendrix, 5. McKenney, 6. Berryhill, 7. Pierovich.

Midget Heat Three: 1.Christian, 2. Pace, 3. Mitchell, 4. Hansen, 5. Lakatos, 6. Paden, 7. Trimble

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Ryan Kaplan, 2. Tyler Brown, 3. Travis Berryhill, 4. Jerome Rodela, 5. Chris Rahe, 6. Robby Flock, 7. Stephen Graves, 8. Josh Lakatos, 9. Shannon McQueen, 10. Jimmy Christian, 11. Ryan Pace, 12. Steve Koster, Jr., 13. Rick Hendrix, 14. Steve Paden, 15. Wally Pankratz, 16. Dallen McKenney, 17. Scott Pierovich, 18. Garrett Hansen, 19. Bradley Galedrige, 20. Matt Mitchell. NT --------------------------- **Pankratz flipped during the feature. …Michel Trimble scratched from the feature with a bent front axel.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-2 Mitchell, Laps 3-23 Brown, Laps 24-30 Kaplan.

NEW WESTERN MIDGET CAR STANDINGS: 1-Flock-195; 2-Paden-152; 3-Kaplan-147; 4-Rodela-143; 5-McQueen-141; 6-Brown-131; 7-Hansen-120; 8-Pierovich-108; 9-Graves-101; 10-Lakatos-101.

NEXT WESTERN MIDGET CAR RACE: June 11 - Ventura (CA) Raceway

Ford Focus entrants: (no qualifying) 91 - Chase Barber, 53 - Cameron Veach, 32 - Randi Pankratz, 11 - Jake Vail, 63 - Chris Veach, 82 - Robbie Whitchurch, 39 - Cal Smith, 59 - Jet Davison, 17 - Audra Sasselli, 5 - Bret Engstrom, 67 - Keith Janca, 2 - Mike Collins, 44 - Nick Carlson, 54 - Alex Harris, 74 - JR Williams, 01 - Todd Carroll, 29 - Jenna Frazier, 20 - Keith Iaia. 40 - Rob Kershaw.

Focus Heat One - 1. Whitchurch, 2. Carroll, 3. Chris Veach, 4. Kershaw, 5. Pankratz, 6. Engstrom, 7.Iaia, 8. Carlson, 9. Williams,

Focus Heat Two - 1. Barber, 2. Janca, 3. Sasselli, 4. Vail, 5. Davison, 6. Smith, 7. Frazier 8. Cameron Veach 9. Harris,

FEATURE: (20 laps) 1. Rob Kershaw, 2. Keith Janca, 3. Chase Barber, 4. Alex Harris, 5. Bret Engstrom, 6. Audra Sasselli, 7. Todd Carroll, 8. Cal Smith, 9. Nick Carlson, 10. Cameron Veach, 11. Jenna Frazier, 12. Jet Davison, 13. Jake Vail, 14. Chris Veach, 15. Keith Iaia, 16. J.R. Williams, 17. Robbie Whitchurch, 18. Randi Pankratz. NT ------------------------- Williams flipped during the feature. Iaia flipped during the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-20 Kershaw.

NEW CALIFORNIA FORD FOCUS DIRT STANDINGS: 1-Sasselli-268; 2-Carroll-244; 3-Whitchurch-240; 4-Davison-227; 5-Barber-226; 6-Smith-226; 7-Harris-219; 8-Chris Veach-216; 9-Janca-188; 10-Engstrom-179.

NEXT CALIFORNIA FORD FOCUS RACE (Paved): May 21 - Stockton, CA - Stockton 99 Speedway.

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