Rutherford battles to win USAC Sprint Car race
BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
A field full of fast cars and aggressive drivers combined with a smooth track made for a wreck-filled USAC West Coast Sprint Car main event Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway.
Troy Rutherford of Ojai withstood five cautions and a late battle with Huntington Beach’s Nic Faas to win the 30-lap race, which lasted nearly an hour.
Rutherford went around Faas on the bottom with four laps to go and then hung on for his first victory of the young season.
“Nic’s a (heck) of a race car driver,” Rutherford said. “It’s fun to race with someone that you can trust and run side-by-side with.”
Markus Niemela of Rauma, Finland led 12 laps and finished third. Defending series champion Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton was fourth and Jace Vander Weerd of Visalia took fifth.
“We struggled the first two races (of the year),” Rutherford said. “We had a little mechanical issue that we had to remove from the car.”
Austin Liggett, the series points leader coming into the night, was involved scary looking accident on lap 11. In the apex of turns three and four Liggett’s car glanced off another car and then proceeded to do a barrel roll before going end-over-end a couple of times.
Liggett, who led the race’s first five laps, was pulled from the car by ambulance workers on the scene and taken to a local hospital.
According to track officials the Tracy based driver was conscious but complaining of neck and leg pain.
Vander Weerd set a new track record of 12.597 seconds during qualifying.
All of the top five qualifiers eclipsed the previous quick time mark of 12.890 seconds, posted in 2013 by Niemela.
Mark Irwin held off Dakota Brown in a green-white-checkered finish to win the 20-lap American Stock feature.
Welch dove inside of Mark Irwin coming off of turn four to take the lead with 14 laps remaining.
But later, just after a lap 14 restart, Irwin powered from third to first with a strong move on outside to pass both Welch and Dakota Brown.
A late caution flag setup an exciting finish, with Irvin narrowly out-dueling Brown for the win.
Irwin, the pole-sitter, led a total of 13 laps, the first six and the final seven.
“That was something else,” Irwin said. “…Welch got by me and then Dakota got by me. I saw them bumping a little bit and I thought I could get them on the restart. I was lucky enough to do it.”
Eric Silvius finished third followed by Mike Hill Jr., and Traci Childress.
Jacob Shepherd dominated the Mini Stock main event on the third-mile high-banked clay oval.
The 30-year old Bakersfield driver led all but the first four laps of the 25-lap race.
Shepherd grabbed the lead away from early race leader Gene Glover and then pulled away.
Tina Bell was second followed by Gary Spiller Jr., Doug Shepherd, and Scott Black Jr.