PEORIA, Ariz. — Dave Darland rebounded from a rough Winter Challenge opener to top the second leg of the series in Saturday night’s 30-lap USAC Southwest vs. USAC West Coast sprint car feature atop the third-mile Canyon Speedway Park clay oval.
The Lincoln, Ind., racer chased down stable mate Ryan Bernal in traffic on the 18th round and led the remaining distance in the $2,000-to-win affair to give car owner Casey Minks a sweep of the top two positions in the second leg of the six-race set.
“That wasn’t as much about as experience as it was luck, traffic just worked to my advantage to take the lead,” Darland explained. “Ryan (Bernal) is a good young racer and he’s got a lot of wins coming in his future.”
While Darland took sprint car accolades, Ricky Thornton Jr., held off Tim Ward in the IMCA modified ranks, Ty Warner bested the pure stocks, Brenden Priest took mod lite honors on the final round and Dustin Cormany earned the micro sprint win.
After being eliminated from action on the opening lap of Friday night’s feature, Darland gridded Saturday’s feature outside the second row with Bernal directly in front of him alongside pole starter Tye Mihocko.
After the initial start was waved off for a multi-car tangle in turn one that brought an early end to Colby Copeland’s night, Bernal gunned into the lead with fellow Minks shoe Darland on his tailtank in second.
Bernal set the pace through the first half of the race, with Darland’s opportunity presenting itself when the lead duo approached a gaggle of lapped cars on the 17th lap.
Darland took quick advantage of the slightest of hesitations to take command and after one final caution for a Josh Grady spin in turn two cleared the way with just ten laps to go, Darland held point the rest of the way with Hollister, Calif., shoe Bernal settling for a close runner-up finish.
For the second night in a row, reigning USAC Southwest sprint car champion R.J. Johnson advanced in the double digits in feature action, this time by racing from 15th to take third away from Josh Pelkey on the white-flag lap.
Pelkey settled for fourth with round 0ne winner Brady Bacon rounding out the top five after starting eighth.
According to Dick Jordan, USAC historian and vice president of communications, Darland’s victory marked the 22nd consecutive season he has won a USAC feature, setting an all-time USAC record, breaking a three-way tie with A.J. Foyt (1959-1979) and Mel Kenyon (1962-82).
Dave Darland, Ryan Bernal, R.J. Johnson, Josh Pelkey, Brady Bacon, Aaron Reutzel, Charles Davis Jr., Tye Mihocko, Nic Faas, Josh Hodges, Mike Martin, Casey Shuman, Dalten Gabbard, Shon Deskins, Stevie Sussex, Jimmy Crawford, Matt Rossi, Michael Curtis, Mitch Mack, David Dykes, Josh Grady, Colby Copeland.