Ryan Bernal, high school student from Hollister, waged a wheel-to-wheel battle with All Star Wingless Sprint Car standouts Alex Shute and Billy Macedo in the 25-lap main event.
Troy Foulger, reigning track champ in the DIRTcar West modifieds, ended his long streak of second-place finishes with a win. Jon Haney of Brentwood scored his first win ever in the Mini-Trux division after nine years of trying.
Dan Downey of San Jose inherited a win in the Four-Bangers after Richard Dragonetti was disqualified. Antioch Speedway 50-year veteran Mike Gustafson of Concord ended the Fred Ryland and Larry Damitz domination by winning the Limited Late Model main event.
“I love racing here – the track is banked, racy and has two grooves,” Bernal said in victory lane. “It was cool battling side by side with Macedo – he’s a really good driver.”
Macedo and Bernal dueled lap after lap in the sprint car thriller. Shute stormed into second with a lap to go.
“My car was perfect and the race was perfect,” Bernal said. “As long as I’m in a race car, I’m happy. Winning a good clean race makes me more than happy. You can’t describe the feeling.”
Foulger’s win brought the fans to their feet. It seemed he couldn’t catch leader Kenny Neu, but on the last turn of the last lap, Neu was slowed by lapped traffic and Foulger dove to the inside to claim the checkered flag.
“I’ve been waiting for this win all season,” he said in victory lane. “I set the right rear in the tire ruts high on the track waiting for the opportunity.”
Foulger’s triumph came in his old car – the one he’s driven in every win of his career.
“I’ve had 20 seconds in the new car, but only the old car can win,” he said. “Kenny is always fast. Lapped traffic saved me.”
Neu finished second, and early leader Michael Salazar made an impressive run to take third.
“Finally!” Limited Late Model winner Gustafson said in victory lane. “The car was flying – like it’s supposed to.”
Gustafson has been a consistent top runner all season, nearly cracking into the top two positions dominated by Larry Damitz and Fred Ryland. Damitz and Mike Hynes made contact in turn four, the resulting spin causing a radiator hose to break in Damitz’s car. Ryland finished second.
Third-place racer Jim Freethy was three abreast with leaders at one point in the race.
“That was the most fun I had on the race track in a long time,” he told Gustafson and Ryland in victory lane.
Downey’s first win in Four-Bangers came with a lesson. “Don’t wear your sunglasses at night,” he laughed in victory lane. “I had them on for the sun, but couldn’t see in the shadows on turn three and four. I wound up dropping to last before I could rip them off.”
Downey worked his way all the way to the front and was chasing Richard Dragonetti by time the checkered flag flew. Dragonetti, however, was disqualified in post-race inspection.
Haney raised his fists to the air in victory lane after nine years of falling short in various divisions. His dad, Gene Haney, point leader in the Super Hobby Division, joined him for the celebration.
“This is so exciting,” the Local 342 Steamfitter said. “I tried and tried, week after week, for nine whole years. I can finally know how it feels to win – and it feels real good.”
Racing continues Saturday night at the Speedway when DIRTcar West modifieds, Winged 360 Sprint Cars, Hobby Stocks, Super Hobby Stocks and Mini-Trucks are on the schedule.
– Contributed by Mike Adaskaveg