FORD FOCUS MIDGETS Irwindale, CA, Nov. 27 - Ryan Pace saved his best effort in the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series for the season finale and biggest race of the year. He drove his Pace Motorsports Beast/Ford Focus to his first feature triumph in...
FORD FOCUS MIDGETS
Irwindale, CA, Nov. 27 - Ryan Pace saved his best effort in the USAC Ford Focus Midget Series for the season finale and biggest race of the year. He drove his Pace Motorsports Beast/Ford Focus to his first feature triumph in the two year old series on Thanksgiving evening on the third-mile Irwindale Speedway. It was the initial race of a USAC triple-header at the traditional "Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix".
The 21-year old home-builder from Arroyo Grande, CA started on the pole as the sixth fastest qualifier in the huge 29 car field-an all-time record for the growing FF Series. The old record was 22 cars (twice). Pace paced the field for the first 14 laps in a tight five-car battle. Josh Lakatos, a United States Olympian in trap-shooting at the last two Olympic Games, started 15th and shot his Beast/FF into the lead on lap 15. The FF California North 2003 champion led three laps before contact from behind in the fourth turn caused Lakatos to spin across the starting line in a shower of sparks after he lost his right rear wheel. His car was eliminated.
Pace then led lap 18 to the lap 30 checkered flag from Tony Roberts. Garratt Boyden started and finished second in his Stealth/FF. He trailed the winner by 0.223 seconds (about three yards). Todd Hunsaker, the 2002 California FF champion and 2003 California South Series title winner, started sixth as fastest qualifier in his Stewart/FF and finished a car length behind Boyden in third place, 0.341 seconds in back of winner Pace. During mid-afternoon FF Series time trials, Hunsaker set fast time of 14.516 to break the track record-14.527-set by Garrett Hansen on October 19, 2002. Second quickest Lakatos also bettered the old mark with a 14.523 lap.
Chris Rahe started seventh and finished fourth in his Stealth/FF. Eric Pace, 23-year old brother of the winner, started 12th and finished fifth in his Beast/FF. Rounding out the top ten (with starting position and chassis in parenthesis) were Steve Davis (19th-TCR), Bobby McGowan (fourth-Beast), Scott Nogrady (ninth-Stealth), Derek Crasi from Ohio (18th-Kunz) and Steve Koster, Jr (13th-Ellis).
McGowan finished fifth but USAC officials penalized him two positions for passing before the green flag. Nineteen of the FF Series record 27 starters ran all 30 laps, which was ten laps more than the usual FF Series main event distance. Sixteen drivers completed all 30 laps.
Pace became the 11th different winner after 21 California FF Series races and the sixth first-time FF feature winner in the competitive series. Nine drivers won the 18 California FF Series features in 2002. Pace joined Darren Hagen, Lakatos and Ryan Kaplan as FF main event winners at Irwindale this season. Hunsaker won five of six Irwindale FF features, including the first Turkey Night GP FF race, last year.