Soils of Bakersfield: Racing Dirt Track at the County Fair

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Cernicky

When our Associate Editor packs up the steel shoe, it won’t be long before it’s Crying Time.

**** by** Mark Cernicky and the Buckaroos**

**** photos by** Jamey Blunt**

With the forecast in the 100+ temp range, it seemed like the perfect time to flee the Pacific coast and head over the Grapevine to Bakersfield for the Kern County Fair. What? Am I insane? No more than usual. But the fifth annual Eddie Mulder West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series/ Digger Helm Short-Track National, specifically its $18,000 purse, was crying out to me. Then the perfectly prepped Cycle World 2010 Honda CRF450F DTX machine chimed in with its baleful, whiney thump from the garage. There was no reasonable excuse not to get off the couch and give it a whirl.

A lot of other guys had the same idea. No bull, the 1/3-mile bull ring drew 162 to the riders meeting—50 of them Pros, including: current National singles champ and six-time Peoria TT winner #1 Henry Wiles; #7 Sammy Halbert; #49 Chad Cose; #37 Jimmy Wood; #80 Stevie Bonsey; and current Grand National Champion #21 Jared Mees all the way from Clio, Michigan—all of them in Bakersfield for a shot at one of 14 starting spots and some of that $18,000.

And, yours truly was there, too.__

All 50 first fought through eight 6-lap heat races; the winner of each heat race would advance straight to the main. Three semis would transfer six more riders to the final field of 14 in the 20-lap Digger Helm Short-Track National. Finally the time came to strap on the steel shoe. The green flag waved and there I went with the holeshot WOOOO HOOOOO! Then I got rammed by Open Amateur class winner # 83y Chris Podergois and went flying over the high side of my horrified Honda, landing heavily in that fertile Bakersfield soil, from where I was able to provide traction for quite a few of my fellow contestants as the twittering birdies and stars circled around inside my helmet. I could see that faraway look in my eyes. Then my right thumb and hand turned a pretty purple. My semi didn’t go so well, either; we seemed to be more sideways than usual for all four laps.

Alas. As I loaded the disappointed Honda back into the van, I noticed its rear Maxxis, freshly plucked from Ron Wood’s dumpster, was damn near flat. Well, that explains a lot. A mechanic would’ve been nice tonight. Or somebody with a tire gauge who hadn’t just been run over by a pack of wild motorcycles…__

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Oh, well. The upside was I was at the Kern County Fair on a Saturday night with an Advil buzz. Back in my street clothes, I sat on the wall with the 36 other pros who didn’t make the money show. When the flag flew, #37 Jimmy Wood led them round the bull ring for 10 frantic laps. At half distance, current Twins national champ #21 Jared Mees pulled alongside for a bar-to-bar discussion before passing a motion to take over the lead exiting turn four. Meanwhile #80, Stevie  Bonsey, came from the back to pass Henry Wiles with two laps remaining to podium behind Jimmy Wood’s Southland Racing Suzuki, who crossed the stripe behind Mees on the Mr. Ed's Honda 450 framer.

It was not a bad night at the fair for Mr. Mees, who stepped right up and hit the bull’s-eye repeatedly: the five-lap Dash for Cash, the 20 lap Digger Helm Main, plus the fastest out right time. The prize wasn’t a stuffed bull or monkey, but two big handfuls of crisp green lettuce.

I almost hate to admit it, but I’ll probably be back.

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