All you could say was Wow Wee! The high touted and anticipated sixth annual Buddha Kinser Memorial more than lived up to its name. “The most competitive & exciting indoor dirt race ANYWHERE…PERIOD” Since the inaugural BK event back in 2008, the Buddha Kinser Memorial Race has grown into a well respected and well known indoor speedway event and one that speedway competitors would love to capture. It’s an “A” game only event and although all are welcome, the weary need not apply. Just how tough? Names like open wheel ace Michael Laughton, “Bad” Brad Berg, “Rocket” Ronnie Cox, Joe “the Ironman” Stackman, and Holiday Classic winner Ryan “The Hitman” Diatte just to name a few…in two words…DAMN TOUGH.
The anticipation buzz for this event was off the charts, and you could cut the competition in the air with a knife, it was just awesome. That being said it would be real easy to get caught up in the hype, but organizer “Rocket” Ronnie Cox and Promoter Roger Freeborn of Freeborn Racing Promotions did an outstanding job making sure that all the competitors understood what the event was truly about..question was, did they hear it or did they HEAR it?.. Only time would tell. A nice drivers meeting/opening ceremony in which those who wanted to got a chance to tell a quick “Buddha” tale and pay tribute to their fallen comrade.
An awesome undercard was in attendance as well with Kid Kart and Junior classes, Yamaha light & Yamaha heavy, AKRA clones, Super sport 200 light & heavy, and a UAS sportsman division. As usual, doctor dirt Bob Leach had the race track in superb condition for the event, spending 7 full days before prepping and re-prepping the indoor dirt surface..the stage was set and it was GAME ON, starting with qualifying.
Qualifying was a far cry from Friday practice, with most of the teams using AM practice to fine tune their final set ups for qualifying. First out was Lake Stevens, Washington’s Kevin White who put down a 12.261 to kick off BK6 qualifying. In the prior 5 BK events, just MAKING the field is feat in itself and BK 6 would be no different with just .194 separating the pole from the fifth spot, .233 to seventh, and .645 to tenth. With the top three qualifiers separated my a miniscule .132 of second…yep, tough.
Madera, California’s Stephen Chase who also was BK5’s runner up, took the pole with a blistering 10.340. Fellow Californian “Bad” Brad “The Bergeyman”Berg was 2nd quick .065 off Chase with a 10.405. Day two Holiday Classic Winner Ryan “The Hitman” Diattte was third quick just .067 behind Berg with a 10.472. Chris “The Italian Assassin” Passanante was fourth quick and another Californian, Michael Laughton rounded out the top five with 10.534 stop of the tickers. Inaugural BK1 winner Rene Angel was entered but did not attempt to qualify due to an healing broken collar bone that she sustained competing in a Ford Focus midget event several weeks earlier.
Not sure about you, but you have just gotta love the heat races and consi’s… It’s put up or load up, and that consequence produces some the best ( or worst, depending..) racing on the planet. It’s on the verge of animalistic trying to knock the guy on the bubble out to get in…Personally?…I love it. With only 14 spots open in the BK6 and 22 plus Unlimited All-Stars, with some putting up some big numbers miles and drive time wise,,,the heats and the consi’s were like lunchtime in grammar school…pushes, bumps, and cuts were happening everywhere trying to get in one of the 14 open spots.
…but the surprises were everywhere as Wayne Felch fans everywhere got a good scare when Felch broke while leading his heat race and had to use the last chance consi to make the BK6 field…I know right?…Who would ‘a thought.
Wanna hear another?…Eric Stansberry fans while cheering when Felch had to use the consi, were quickly eating a bit of clutch, when Stansberry was relegated to the consi as well to get in…the Buddha, like quicken loans..never ceases to amaze. For example tenth quick qualifier Curt Fosdick gets sent home on a late lap pass, but then you have Tim Lawrence from Boise, Idaho (Lawrence Racing Engines) who’s power was a modified four stroke Animal engine tagged to start seventh in the feature…Seriously go figure, but that is truly the beauty of open motor racing; if your mind can conceive it, it can achieve it…its all about the better mouse trap, and that is why this event is so amazing…besides being for Buddha of course.
With heat races and consi’s concluded it was time. The most highly anticipated dirt of the winter had its stage set and gladiators set to do battle for twenty five laps on the fastest dirt indoor dirt track west of the Mississippi. It was an awesome sight watching the crews pushing the machines to their front stretch starting spots, with the buzz of final air pressure, drivers gear adjustments and final race strategy discussions. Drivers were introduced and the most famous words in motorsports given with the fourteen nasty beasts roaring to life. Let me just say there is nothing like the feeling you get when the command is given and the engines come to life and the way the butterflies hit your gut on the warm up and parade laps…it’s the best.
Bad Brad Berg and Ryan Diatte paced the fourteen monster field off of turn four as Jeremy Means green flag turned all fourteen loose with the wave of his green Flag. It was the “Hitman” Ryan Diatte wasting no time instantly going to work taking the lead into turn one Berg falling into second on the inside, Stephen Chase in the middle and
“One Time” Shane Smith on the outside as they come off turn two three wide. Smith somehow gets by Chase underneath and with a slick up and under by Michael Laughton he two gets by, dropping Chase to the fifth spot. If you blinked you were passed that’s how quick passes were being made, absolute poetry. Shane Smith tries to take second from Berg. Berg is having no part of it as the two go sideboard to sideboard through turns one and two and down the back stretch, Berg not going anywhere hanging tough on the outside until he goes around in the middle of three and four but somehow hangs on to it but still bringing out the first caution on lap five
…and it was probably a good thing as the “Hitman” Diatte was on his way to checking out with a five or six kart advantage and it was growing. Diatte on the point, Berg ssomehow gets his second spot back third is Smith, fourth is Laughton and Chase rounds out the top five. Meanwhile, like a stealth defending two time champ Wayne Felch was only two spots away from the top five in seventh. On the restart Diatte goes immediately to work pulling a kart length on the field right out of the gate, Chase decides he no longer likes the view in fifth and goes under Laughton as they battle side by side…in turn four Chase spins bringing out caution number two on lap eight.
On the restart it is Diatte again with another killer restarts ( dude was ala Ron Hornaday on the restarts!) but this time Berg hangs in there. Felch and Laughton have a battle for fourth, Laughton goes around on lap twelve for caution number three…Lakewood, California’s Chris Gibb has mechanical issues and is done as well..two years in a row Gibb as been plagued with mechanical issues and has failed to finish..Tough break for the classy Californian. Felch regroups and takes over fourth on lap fifteen and its off after Shane Smith in third who has been working like a dog to get my Berg. The work pays off as Smith goes by Berg on lap eighteen…Berg stays third for two laps before something locks up and spins him in turn four.
So the stage is set on lap twenty…a five lap shoot out to the finish with Diatte leading, Smith in Second, defending champ Felch third, Laughton fourth and BK2 champ Rocket Ronnie Cox fifth. On restart number one coming for green, Diatte gets loose off four and spins in front of the whole field…and with a huge break gets his spot back, at this point Diatte had lead every lap and basically was untouchable, he was absolute “Money” everywhere and put on a very impressive clinic. On the second restart, Diatte goes ghost once again with Felch making a bold and sweet move to the inside of Shane Smith for second, the two get together and both are off into the turn two wall..both OUT spoiling any chance for defending champ Felch who looked like he possibly might have a shot at a tri-fecta, but we will never know because Felch and “One Time” Shane Smith are done on lap 20.
So its Diatte, Chris Passanante, the “Ironman” Joe Stackman, (the closer as he is otherwise known had come quietly from the thirteenth starting position) third, Cox fourth and Laughton recovering from his lap twelve spin fifth..Diatte once again off and rolling, off of turn four Diatte spins with no else around and is out…radiator spews on his right rear and the clinician is done…giving the lead to Passanante…Restart once again only this time its Passanante who is out running out of fuel giving the lead to the “Ironman” Joe Stackman, that is short lived however because during all the “hub bub” Laughton has gotten by Cox and goes back Stackman on the outside of turn four with two to go….and goes on to take the checkers with Stackman second, Cox third, Mark Bryant fourth and Passanante was credited with fifth. It was yet another free for all finish for the BK…stay tuned for BK7 I just know like Quicken loans…it will AMAZE.