Heckman gets elusive Bakersfield win
BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
After finishing in second place three times during the first four races of the year, Kyle Heckman was more relieved than excited to finally win an IMCA Modified feature race.
Heckman passed Rodger Holder with four laps remaining to win an exciting 25-lap IMCA main event Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway.
“It’s just a relief,” Heckman said. “We’ve been up there all year and it’s just like a second, a second, a second.”
Holder finished second followed by Robby Sawyer, Brett Bennett and Justin Schweitzer.
Heckman, already the division’s points leading coming into the race with his three near-misses and an eighth-place finish, got his win the hard way, starting at the back of the field.
He methodically moved his way to the front before making one final move, slipping inside of Holder coming out of turn four to take the lead.
Holder and Bennett combined to lead 21 laps on the third-mile clay oval.
The two drivers swapped the lead twice before Heckman snatched the top spot away.
“This car here, it’s been awesome all year,” Heckman said. “Probably the best I’ve ever I had.”
Rick Childress Jr. out-dueled Lloyd Wren Jr. to win the 25-lap Hobby Stock main event.
Childress and Wren swapped the lead back-and-forth three times before claiming his first Hobby Stock main event win of the year. Last week he won the track’s Sport Mod feature race.
Childress and Wren were side-by-side coming out of turn four coming to the checkered flag.
But Childress Jr., who led a race-high 13 laps, had just a tad more momentum and won by half a car length.
Kevin Collier was third. Jerry Keaton took fourth and Colby Quinton finished fifth.
Childress’ main competition early in the race was Kevin Irwin.
Irwin diamond-cut Childress in turns three and four before bolting to the inside to take the lead coming to the flag-stand at the completion of lap 15.
Childress regained the point-position later, but he and Irwin side-swiped each other in turn four, allowing Johnson to take over the lead.
However, because of a loose right-rear body brace that was dragging on the ground, Johnson had to pit with three laps to go, giving Childress the lead back.
Dan Hilbert of Placentia capped of a perfect night by winning the 20-lap Californian Lightning Sprint feature.
Hilbert, eighth on the starting grid, powered inside of early leader Jeremy Queenie going into turn three to take over the lead with 17 laps to go and never looked back.
Earlier in the evening, Hilbert was the division’s quick-time qualifier. He followed that up by winning his heat race.
“I love this racetrack,” Hilbert said. “We’ve always been kind of snake-bit out here. For us to come out and pull this off big tonight, with quick-time, heat race and main (event) is incredible.”
Queenie held on to finish second. Jeff Dyer was third followed by Stephen Limon and Cory Hoover.
Hilbert entered the night second in the California Lightning Sprints standings, 10 markers behind Limon.
Bobby Michnowicz, third in points coming into the night, suffered a blown engine during qualifying and didn’t compete in the feature race.
Kevin Johnston dominated the American Stock main event. The local driver led all 20 laps to get the first-ever feature win of his career.
Dakota Brown took second. Mike Hill Jr. was third. Tyler Irwin finished fourth and Dale Frye Sr. came in fifth.
An excited Johnston, who came into the night 14th in the American Stocks points standings, thanked God, his wife and a plethora of other people during his post-race interview in Victory Lane.
Bruce Hiroshima of Camarillo led wire-to-wire in winning the 25-lap National Midget Racing Association (NMRA) feature.
Hiroshima took off at the drop of the green flag and was never seriously challenged for the lead.
He crossed the finish line more than 10-car lengths ahead of second-place Anthony Lopiccolo. Kenny Wiley was third followed by Chuck West and 2013 series champion West Evans.
“We got lucky on that one,” Hiroshima said. “There were a lot of fast drivers. We started on the pole and that was 90-percent of the race right there.”