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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
With the American Flag just outside turn three at half mast, drivers and officials gathered along the front straight at Bakersfield Speedway in a solemn tribute to track official Steve O'Neil.
O'Neil was killed in a accident at the track two weeks ago and the Speedway canceled races last week as racers and friends met up at a local restaurant to celebrate O'Neil's life.
It was back to racing on Saturday night, but not before paying homage to O'Neil.
Silence enveloped the facility as Hobby Stock driver Jimmy Irwin slowly circled the third-mile clay oval three times as the checkered flag he held out the window fluttered in the wind.
A few minutes later, an action-packed night of racing got under way and six divisions took to the track.
And, as usual, Brad Pounds proved to be the class of the IMCA Modified division.
Pounds, nicknamed "the dominator" did just that in the 25-lap feature, methodically working his way form a eighth starting position to take the lead on lap 17th and going on to his eighth win of the season.
Pounds made the winning move by going low in turn four to get past Chett Reeves, then jumping back up into the preferred high groove.
"I was back there in the back and didn't think we had a very good hot rod then I looked up and saw Chett running the top and thought we'd try that."
Jay Marks got around Reeves in the final laps to finish second. Reeves placed third with Larry Hood fourth.
Chad Johnson got past Jimmy Irwin following a restart 17 laps into the 25-lap Hobby Stock feature and went on to his fourth victory.
Irwin, who had a full straight lead before the only caution flew on lap 16, finished second with Steven Johnson third.
"It was real fun racing with Jimmy and my brother," Johnson said. "(Irwin) was checked out, he was gone.
"He made a mistake after that yellow or I wouldn't have been able to to get him."
Johnny Malcom was fourth with Ralph Cooke fifth.
John Piker edged past Darrell hook as the final lap started and went on to victory in the 25-lap feature.
Hood took the lead on the third lap and Piker closed to his bumper with about eight laps to go. Pike tried the high side a coupe of time but could not make up any ground until the penultimate lap when he found just enough traction to drive past as the two took the white flag.
Piker now trails Jared Schweitzer, who finished third, by one point t the championship battle but his toughts were elsewhere.
"This win is for my buddy "Scuba" Steve, I love that guy," he said of Steve O'Neil. "He lived a few houses down from me and the emotional roller coaster has been insane"
Jordan Hager was fourth.
Defending track champion Matt Lewis took another step toward back-to-back championships with a victory in the 20-lap American Stock feature.
Lewis, the division points lead, took the lead by driving under Cody Sly in turn four on the 15th lap. Sly finished second.
"It feels great to be back up here," Lewis said from Victory Lane, before reflecting on the tragedy two weeks ag. I feel sor everyone on their loss. I didn't know Steve (O'Neil) personally, but I'd see him out here every week and everybody said he was a great guy. I'm sorry he isn;t able to be out here with us any more."
In the 20-lap Mini Stock feature, Jacob Shepherd raced to his fourth victory in six outings, beating his dad, Doug, by a half lap. Chris Settlemire was third.
Kenny Wiley passed West Evans on the 11th lap and led the rest of the way to win the 20-lap NMRA Three-Quarter Midget feature. Evans finished second.