Eddie Mulder's West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series
Kern County Fairgrounds – Bakersfield, Calif.
Article by Jamey M. Blunt
One hundred sixty two entries made up twenty five heats, three semis, one dash 4 cash, and sixteen main events in one hundred plus degree heat at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield Calif. for Eddie Mulder's West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series fifth annual (Digger Helm Short Track National).
The Dash 4 Cash kicked off the nights final races where all eight pro heat race winners were staged for a five lap shootout with $1,800 up for the taking. The field consisted of Jared Mees, Stevie Bonsey, Sammy Halbert, Kayl Kolkman, Jimmy Wood, Henry Wiles, Mike Rush, and Luke Gough. Mees led from pole into turn one Halbert fell in behind with Bonsey third, Wiles in fourth. Down the back straight Wiles shot past Bonsey on the outside for third as Mees was inching away. A lap later Wiles put a move on Halbert to take over second with Bonsey in fourth and Mike Rush in fifth. By the white flag the finishing order had been set with Mees flag to flag, Wiles second, Halbert third, Bonsey fourth, Rush fifth, Kolkman sixth, Wood seventh, and Gough eighth.
The Maxxis Tires/ Saddleman Senior main event saw Tom Horton shoot to the front of the field of nine with Jerry Kennedy second and Randy Griffith third. Griffith quickly moved into second and set Horton in his cross hairs while Jeff Lessley and Jim Wood Sr. were finding their rhythm from a lesser starting position. By lap two Kennedy was sliding backwards and Griffith threw it away just past the start/finish line. This moved Lessley up into second with Wood third and a slow starting, but forward moving Ryan Gifford up to fourth. Steve Craft would also knock Kennedy back another spot to sixth as Craft took over fifth. At the finish the order remained the same with this being the first of Horton's three victories on this night.
The Motion Pro/A&A Racing Vet "A" main event had former pro Ronnie Brown make a return to racing. A class for riders over the age of thirty five (where has the time gone) this field had many former pros and was large enough to require an A and B main event. Ronnie Brown whose all business when his helmet goes on led the field from the start with no one capable of matching his fast 12.30/100 second lap times aboard his Lazer framed Honda. Chuck Monosmith ran second with Gary Ritchie third and Robert Bush fourth. With three laps complete Brown had a full straight gap over the next closest rider. On the run to the checkered flag Bush got the drive out of turn four and won the drag race to the strip to take third away from Ritchie, making the final order Brown, Monosmith, Bush, and Ritchie.
For the Barnett/K&N Super Senior main Mel Stoner got a little over excited and had to start from the back row. Herb Wolf led into turn one only to have Tim Thomas take it away on the exit from turn two. Jack Alexander ran in third with Dave Cheney fourth and Stoner up to fifth. Exiting turn four for the second time Wolf worked the inside on Thomas to take the lead back up the front straight. At the white flag (one lap remaining) Alexander had caught Thomas and was pressuring for second. Entering turn three for the final time Alexander played it perfect and went up the inside of sleeping Thomas to take the second podium spot. This made the final tally Wolf, Alexander, Thomas, Chaney, and Stoner.
The Youth classes are always a crowd favorite at Bakersfield, mix that with the female factor and you have the crowds on their feet. Young Clayton Williams won the 50cc class after no less than two crashes by heat race winner Colin Rankin. While crowd favorite Allison Stacey took a hundred dollar bill for her trouble topping the 65cc class over Hunter Stanley and then came back to finish second to Damon Coca in the 85cc class.
The "Run Whatcha Brung" Open Amateur class (no pros) had twenty four riders fight for one of twelve spots in the "A" main. Chris Podergois led off the line with David Bush second, Dillon Allen third, and Bronson Bauman fourth. By lap three six riders were all in the hunt for the fourth place position. This allowed the front three to separate themselves as Bauman, Josh Evans, Eric England, Patrick Osmer, and Jess Garcia waged war. With a lap remaining one rider went down causing this war to be scrambled, Evans quickly seized fourth England fifth, Osmer settled in sixth with Garcia seventh as the front three stayed Podergois, Bush, and Allen.
Fifty pros had to fight through eight heat races and three semis for one of fourteen spots in the Digger Helm twenty lap short track national. First only from a heat race put you straight in the main, with only the six fastest heat race times starting on the front row. Two riders from each of the semis went to the final as well and all eight heat race winners made the $1,800 Dash 4 Cash!
The front row for the main according to their heat race times was Jared Mees on pole, Stevie Bonsey, Sammy Halbert, Kayl Kolkman, Jimmy Wood and Henry Wiles with Mike Rush and Luke Gough filling the last two direct transfers on the second row.
Jimmy Wood nailed the start from starter Fred Allen's green flag to lead through turn one. Jared Mees dropped in behind in second with Henry Wiles third, Stevie Bonsey fourth, Chad Cose fifth, and Kayl Kolkman sixth. Two laps down and Wood and Mees were getting away from Wiles as he in turn had gapped Bonsey. Sammy Halbert had found a way around Kolkman into sixth while Mike Rush was up to eighth and pressuring Kolkman. On lap four in turn three Kolkman and Luke Gough tasted tera firma putting Kolkman out for the night, as Wood was desperate to get away from Mees.
By lap six Brad Baker who was initially off the radar had moved up to sixth position and Bonsey had closed the gap to Wiles and was looking for a way around. At the front Mees was applying pressure to Wood showing him a wheel in turns one and three every lap getting ready to set up a pass. Light contact was being made between Wood and Mees but it was clean racing at its best, as these two really respect and trust each other. Around lap eight the higher line Wood was running was brushing off and Wood made a wide exit from turn two while Mees shot up the inside of the back straight. Once on the inside Mees held position through turn three and took over the lead exiting turn four. At the half way point the running order was Mees, Wood, Wiles, Bonsey, Cose (quietly in fifth) Baker, Rush, Halbert, and Horizon award winner Briar Bauman. Mees who had the fastest lap time of the night at 11.86/100 seconds was attempting to get away from Wood before he might retaliate. All the while Mikey Avila who had given Wiles a scare in their heat race was mounting a march toward the front from a back row start and was all over the back side of Halbert. With five laps remaining Mees had a 1.2 second gap over Wood, with a battle between Wiles and Bonsey (riding very hurt from a moto-cross accident two days earlier) fighting over third. This lap also saw Cose lose it coming out of turn four and hit the ground hard on the front straight. Thankfully Cose jumped to his feet and avoided being hit by anyone in the fast charging field as he clung to the crash wall. The next go round Bonsey set Wiles up perfectly and made the pass between turns one and two, once in third Bonsey immediately pulled away from Wiles leaving him alone in fourth. Bonsey then went on to put in the second fastest lap of the evening at 11.94/100 seconds as he was closing in on Wood who had the third fastest lap at 12.06 seconds. With just a couple laps left Rush had caught up to Wiles and was knocking on that back door. When the checkered flag flew Mees won by a straight away with Wood second, Bonsey third, Wiles held on for fourth, Rush was fifth, Baker alone in sixth, with Avila finding a way past Halbert for a deserved seventh and Halbert eighth. After the race Mees had this to say, "Jimmy and I went back and forth it was a lot of fun, he and I are good buddies we call each other a couple times a week. It's good to go out there and have a good battle with one of your buddies. We rode each other so clean for it being a short track I mean just so smooth, we bumped and banged a little bit, but it was good clean racing. It's five in a row here at Bakersfield, every time I come here I get more nervous, this motorcycle is unreal, I want to thank Mr. Ed and hopefully he never wants to sell it on me or I'll have to buy it. My hats off to Digger too for all he does. "