By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Perris, CA
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Perris, CA -- Having worked all night to get an engine together for the first XTRA Topless Dirt Late Model event at Perris Auto Speedway, Bartels Harley Davidson and Drees Wood Products sponsored Ron Bartels was rewarded with a $700 victory as he out dueled Midwestern invader Al Purkey in Saturday afternoon’s 20 lapper. The new division is sponsored by Art’s Concrete Pumping. A top five finisher for several seasons, Ron Bartels broke through with his first Dart Heads Western Dirt Late Model Tour feature win in 2005 at Antioch Speedway. R Bartels had rare engine woes at both Tucson and Casa Grande in January, then purchased an engine from Missouri’s Sonny Findling. R Bartels broke that power plant in Wednesday night’s practice at Perris and then scrambled to piece together a motor for the Saturday race. That effort lasted until 5:30 Saturday morning, but he made a late pass on his father Bill Bartels to capture his heat race in his Rayburn. The heat win placed R Bartels on the pole for the 16 car feature run and Purkey had to come from the 7th row after crashing in his heat race. Purkey was wheeling one of his former mounts that he sold to Perris racer Mark Anderson during the off season. Purkey lives in Coffeyville KS and is a four time MLRA champion. R Bartels led the first 14 laps from his pole start, but was fighting a vibration from mud packing in a wheel when Purkey drove underneath him to pace lap 15. R Bartels switched to the lower line, repassed Purkey for the top spot on lap 16 and pulled away in the closing rounds. Purkey, who had run several Perris races in the old truck class, settled for a $400 second and Billy Griffin brought his old car out of mothballs to gain the $250 third place money. Arroyo Grande’s Devin Crockett made the long tow south and finished in the $200 fourth slot in his Rayburn after being involved in the Purkey heat race crash. The Perris purse structure calls for the feature to pay $1000-$500-$300 to the top three if the car count hit’s the 20 mark. The top four finishers will all make limited Perris appearances in 2006 as they all support other series. R Bartels plans to emphasize the Western All Stars events in Bakersfield in 2006, but will also race the Western Dirt Late Model Tour and the Arizona events when the schedule allows. Griffin still has his Santa Maria based Rick Fringer ride for the races away from Perris.
Seventeen cars appeared at Perris for the first event in a very busy first season for the new class on the clay half-mile. Dino Napier missed the event because he was ill and long time Perris regular Mike Hixson’s dirt late model debut was delayed by a broken engine suffered in the Wednesday night practice. The cars were divided into a pair of six lap qualifying heat races knowing that the heat winners would share the front row for the 20 lap feature. The four cars that came to the track on the Bartels team trailers shared the front two rows for heat 1. Super Stock graduate Carla Laney led the first lap of heat one before bobbling on lap 2 to hand B Bartels the lead. R Bartels raced into second and Chet Buckley pitted the Pete Van Iderstine mount. The day was over for Buckley. After leading three rows, B Bartels bobbled in turn 2 like Laney had and R Bartels was out front for the final 2 laps. R Bartels best lap was a 18.34 and B Bartels had run a 18.62 leading. B Bartels ran second ahead of sixth starting Jeff Dunham and pole starter Laney. Griffin started in the back row and ran fifth. The action in heat 2 was wild as Purkey spun out of second on lap 3 and got hit by both Crockett and Kevin Hocking. All three fell out. Ron Meyer broke on the restart and Terry Hershberger got into the back fence to leave just four cars in action. Hershberger was a two time super stock track champion and wheels a car that he purchased from Northern California star Jeff Decker. Former truck racer Russ Wernimont led wire to wire with another truck graduate Art Peterson second in another former Purkey mount. Track newcomer Chad Jones from Temecula ran third from ninth starting. Wernimont’s best lap was an 18.99.
Buckley was the only feature scratch although both Jones and Hocking barely made the call. R Bartels and Wernimont shared the front row and R Bartels raced into the lead over Wernimont, Peterson, B Bartels and Jones. Dunham took advantage of a Jones bobble to gain fifth on lap 2 and Hocking parked his mount. Leader R Bartels was racing in the high 18’s as Griffin settled into sixth ahead of Laney and Meyer. Dunham began to smoke and he parked the Bobby Goodwin owned car when Hershberger spun for the first yellow flag on lap 4. Crockett spun to miss Hershberger and Purkey had advanced to 8th. On the restart, Griffin raced into fourth ahead of B Bartels. Sixth place Meyer made contact with the fence in turn 3. Hershberger spun right in the groove in turn 3 and Peterson spun, collecting B Bartels on lap 6. The day was over for both Hershberger and Peterson. Purkey made a big move on this restart, charging into third behind leader R Bartels and Wernimont. B Griffin was now fourth ahead of Meyer. Meyer crashed into the turn 1 fence to end his day and bring out the third yellow flag on lap 8. Another green flag saw Purkey again gaining a spot as he drove underneath Wernimont for second in turn 2 on lap 9. Laney lost a couple laps in the pits to hand fifth to Crockett. Wernimont spun out of third on lap 12 for another caution. R Bartels now led Purkey, Griffin, Crockett and Jones. The final caution fell on lap 14 for a spin by Virgle Haney, who also wheels a Shaw mount. The track had slowed down as the leaders were racing in the low 20’s for the final ten laps. R Bartels had been racing the high line for the whole race, but Purkey drove underneath him as they finished lap 15 to take the lead for the first time. R Bartels switched to a lower line and was able to nip Purkey as they finished lap 16 to reclaim the lead. In the different line, R Bartels was able to stretch his lead over Purkey to five laps in the remaining rounds. Crockett was challenging Griffin for third, but got out of shape on the final round. Crockett was able to salvage fourth ahead of an impressive Jones, Wernimont, B Bartels, Doug Aldridge and young Nick Bartels, who was making his dirt late model debut. N Bartels is R Bartels son and won the street stock special at Perris in December. He is driving one of Ron’s older cars sporting a spec head engine in the Perris races, but will emphasize another hobby stock season at Bakersfield Speedway in 2006. Haney was also lead lap in 10th.
The XTRA topless dirt late models return to Perris for their first night race on Feb 25th and this date also has no western states conflicts. B Bartels plans to run the Tucson AZ SWDRA point opener on Feb 18th, but R Bartels will miss that show as his wife has spent the last three weeks in the hospital.
Summary Heat 1-Ron Bartels, Bill Bartels, Jeff Dunham, Carla Laney, Billy Griffin, Nick Bartels, Virgle Haney, Chet Buckley. Heat 2-Russ Wernimont, Art Peterson, Chad Jones, Doug Aldridge, Ron Meyer, Terry Hershberger, Al Purkey, Devin Crockett, Kevin Hocking. Main-R Bartels, Purkey, Griffin, Crockett, Jones, Wernimont, B Bartels, Aldridge, N Bartels, Haney, Laney, Meyer, Peterson, Hershberger, Dunham, Hocking.