After overtaking Greg Bragg on Lap 74, USAC-Western States Midgets points leader Ronnie Gardner never looked back, scoring the 101-lap Johnny Soares Classic Midget triumph aboard the Six-8 Motorsports Baldozier Racing #68 Stewart/Esslinger at the 3/8-mile Petaluma Speedway on Saturday, October 5.
The win did not come easy, as Gardner trailed Bragg in BCRA Hall of Famer Dave Thurston's #11 Spike/Esslinger for most of the race, trying everything to get by Bragg. With an amazing three-car move, Gardner finally powered by for lead on Lap 74, passing Bragg on the high side while advancing past two lapped cars through Turns 1 and 2. Gardner took second on Lap 11 while approaching lapped traffic.
From the pole, led from the opening Lap through the re-fueling intermission at Lap 50, and continued to lead through Lap 73, though consistently contested strongly by David Prickett, Chris Ennis, Gardner and inaugural race winner Shane Golobic in Doug Bock's #26 Spike/Esslinger - who climbed to fourth from his 11th starting position by Lap 20.
At the refueling break at midway, Bragg led over Gardner, Golobic, Ennis, Alex Schutte, Shannon McQueen and Taylor Simas among the 10 cars remaining on the lead lap of the 14 cars still competing after 50 laps.
A caution unfurled with five laps remaining, setting up a five-lap dash, in which Gardner held off all challenges for the win - his ninth USAC-WS win on the year and 13th win overall. Golobic wrestled around Bragg to snare second, earning hard charger honors after starting 11th.
At the finish, Gardner bested Fremont's Golobic , Visalia's Bragg, Shannon "Lightning" McQueen of Bakersfield in the McQueen Racing #7 Spike/Esslinger and recent race winner Taylor Simas of Orland aboard Doug Bock's #62 Spike/Esslinger rounding out the Top 5. San Jose's Nick Foster, Jr. claimed sixth in the Dave LaMott #0 TCR/Wirth Honda - the last car on the lead lap after receiving a "lucky dog" late in the race when Atascadero's Randi Pankratz spun in Turn 2. Pankratz claimed seventh, one lap down in her #8x Edmunds AutoResearch/Fontana. Popular local Sprint Car veteran Sparky Howard of Santa Rosa claimed eighth aboard Petaluma Speedway GM Rick Faeth’s #3 Beast/Chevy V4 with Rough & Ready's Gary Conterno just behind, despite fighting a flat tire in the Conterno/Neverlift Motorsports #55 Spike/Mopar. Eight-time BCRA champion and current BCRA points leader “Ageless Wonder” Floyd Alvis rounded out the Top ten aboard his #18 Stealth/Gaerte. Carson City, Nevada’s J.R. Williams claimed 11th in his #74 Stealth/Brayton Chevy, the final car running at the finish.
Gardner also claimed a new track record and fast time with a 14.200 lap, over two tenths faster than second-fast. Gardner perviously hauled in the gold in the co-sanctioned USAC-WS/BCRA at Petaluma in June and has now compiled nine USAC-WS Midget triumphs on the year, and 13 total Midget victories.