BAKERSFIELD, Ca — MK Kanke overcame an on track incident on lap 36 to come from the rear of the 26 car field to win Saturday night’s “Melo’s Gas & Gear 125 presented by AmeriPride Services” at Madera Speedway.
"I really want to dedicate this race to Carol Hansen and Dan Flynn. We lost them the last few months and that's what this is all about tonight."— MK Kanke
With just five laps remaining, Kanke drove under friend and on-track rival Jim Pettit II, who had led the race from lap 55. The race win propelled Kanke into the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series point lead after his season opening fourth place at Stockton 99 Speedway on April 7th. Pettit held on for second, Colton’s David Ross scored a career high third place finish, Jason Gilbert was fourth and Keith Spangler, who also rebounded from the lap 36 incident to finish in the top five.
"I really want to dedicate this race to Carol Hansen and Dan Flynn," Kanke said from the winner's circle. "We lost them the last few months and that's what this is all about tonight."
Through the first 53 laps, it was Roseville's Zane Lovelace that was the race leader. Lovelace, who started on the outside of row one, maintained a comfortable lead over Eddie Secord, with Dave Byrd in third.
Coming off a lap 38 restart, Pettit moved passed Secord and Byrd to get into second behind Lovelace.
On lap 54, Pettit caught Lovelace and moved into the lead. From there, Pettit built a comfortable lead over Manteca's Ross Strmiska in second and Secord in third.
"This is a brand new car and we've only ran it twice this year," Pettit said. "The first race, we were running third and had a flat tire, but got back to 10th. Tonight we had a great car, but the right rear just went away on us. That was the difference between him (Kanke) winning the race and us losing."
After a restart on Lap 95, Kanke made his way into the top five with Pettit out in front followed by Strmiska, Secord and Jason Gilbert.
With 10 laps to go, Kanke was second. With five to go Kanke moved passed Pettit for the lead and drove on to victory.
“You never worry about (who's in front) until the last 10 laps…ever," Kanke said. "Once you're up there, you just keep going. That's all you can do, you have to be patient and take care of your car so you can be there. We got lucky tonight."
It was a tough way to finish the race for a competitor like Pettit.
"We just have to work on our car a little bit better to save the right rear," Pettit said. "We didn't need to be so good early on. If we could back that up a little bit, the late part of the race wouldn't have even been close. We've got a little bit of work to do, but we'll be okay."
Ross was third, Gilbert finished fourth with Spangler rounding out the top five. Greg Voigt of Goleta was sixth, Secord seventh, Strmiska eighth, Derek Thorn overcame a flat tire for ninth and Victory Circle Rookie-of-the-Year contender Brandon Loverock tenth.
It was the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series first race on Madera Speedway's newly repaved surface and 12 drivers broke the previous track record of 14.320 set by Derek Thorn last season. Thorn broke his own record with a time of 14.009, followed by 11 drivers including Gomes (14.037), Pettit (14.134) and Strmiska (14.198).
"Kenny (Shepherd) did an excellent job on this race track and we can run all over now," said Kanke, who's qualifying time was 14.307. "It's way better than it was before and our car is set up for this track. That's what made us persevere tonight."
The SPEARS Southwest Tour Series next race is Saturday, May 12th at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the “GoLiveStream.TV – Blackjack 121”.