WM: Bakersfield season opener preview

BAKERSFIELD WESTERN MIDGET OPENER SATURDAY; RODELA AIMING FOR THIRD STRAIGHT TITLE The 2007 USAC Western Midget Car Series continues Saturday at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway, a track which has hosted 84 such events in the past...

BAKERSFIELD WESTERN MIDGET OPENER SATURDAY; RODELA AIMING FOR THIRD STRAIGHT TITLE

The 2007 USAC Western Midget Car Series continues Saturday at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway, a track which has hosted 84 such events in the past 20 years.

The series actually opened Feb. 10 in Phoenix, Ariz. when Cory Kruseman scored a victory in "The Copper on Dirt" at Manzanita Speedway. Darren Hagen, who finished second at Phoenix, emerged with the early series lead.

Jerome Rodela of El Monte, Calif. has won the last two USAC Western Midget titles and is aiming for a third straight. If successful he will join 12 previous drivers who have taken at least three consecutive USAC series driving championships. They are Shorty Templeman (1956-58 National Midgets), Sleepy Tripp (1990-92 Western Midgets), Michael Lang (1994-97 Speedrome Midgets), Steve Butler (1986-88 National Sprints), Butch Hartman (1971-74 Stock Cars), Jason Leffler (1997-99 National Midgets), Jimmy Davies (1960-62 National Midgets), Brian Redman (1974-76 Formula 5000), Dean Roper (1981-1983 Stock Cars), Robbie Stanley (1991-1993 National Sprints), Ted Hines (1990-1992 Speedrome Midgets) and Chase Scott (2004-06 Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus). Tate Martz also won three straight Midwest Ford Focus titles (2004-06) but the third was on paved tracks only.

Garrett Hansen, Tyler Brown and Robby Flock won USAC Western Midget races at Bakersfield last year. Hansen and Brown have moved on to the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series, while Flock's USAC victory total of 52 ranks second only to Sleepy Tripp's 104.

-credit: usac

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Series USAC
Drivers Jason Leffler , Brian Redman , Cory Kruseman , Robby Flock , Darren Hagen , Chase Scott , Garrett Hansen