Exciting late-race duel sees Justin Sanders top Ryan Bernal to lock himself into 56th Johnny Key Classic

Exciting late-race duel sees Justin Sanders top Ryan Bernal to lock himself into 56th Johnny Key Classic

Watsonville’s own Justin Sanders battles past Hollister’s Ryan Bernal in heavy traffic to earn the final automatic spot into the 56th running of the Johnny Key Classic

By Gary Thomas

Watsonville, CA – July 29, 2016…A thrilling late-race duel at the Ocean Speedway on Friday saw last year’s Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo champion Justin Sanders sneak by Ryan Bernal in heavy traffic to claim victory and score the final automatic bid into the 56th running of the Johnny Key Classic.

It marked Sanders second triumph of the season aboard the North County Plastering/ Lancaster Locksmith No. 17 and couldn’t have been more exciting, as he made the move with just three-laps left for the lead that he would never relinquish.

He now joins Easton’s Tommy Tarlton, Roseville’s Sean Becker and Visalia’s Steven Tiner as the fourth driver locked in for the Saturday August 20 Johnny Key Classic at Ocean Speedway. The feature on Friday reminded the fans a bit of last year when Sanders made a number of similar exhilarating late-race charges.

“It feels great to be back up here in victory lane tonight and I couldn’t be happier,” said a jubilated Sanders on the front stretch. “We’ve really fought with this car all year long, but have definitely been making gains and it was great tonight. It’s huge having the chance to lock into the Johnny Key Classic with all the great cars that will be here. Lapped traffic sure was wild in the feature tonight and kept us all on our toes. Ryan Bernal did a great job out front, but luckily it worked out for us and we’re standing up here. I’m looking forward to going back to Knoxville now for the 360 Nationals next week and then it’s back here to get ready for the Key.”

The 30-lapper started off with Bernal getting the jump on pole sitter & dash winner Ryan Robinson from Foresthill. Bernal had his way out front for much of the race and kept his composure through various stoppages early on. The Hollister driver held command working traffic to perfection, but the complexion certainly changed when Sanders moved around Robinson for second just past a restart on lap 16.

As the race wore on Sanders methodically closed the gap between himself and the leader. With just under 10-circuits remaining things heated up and it became a battle for the top-spot between the two locally based competitors.

13669009_989918844460691_3071909390865306776_nBernal was able to do a nice job fending him off, until lapped traffic bunched everyone up on the front stretch coming down for lap 27. Bernal got pinched just enough and Sanders executed a pinpoint move to slip under and steal the lead away.

Bernal stayed close and looked to his inside coming down for the white flag, but Sanders cut a great corner, which allowed him the breathing room he needed to take the checkered flag by just under half a second for the win. Despite being disappointed after the race Bernal had an ultra impressive night and continued to show the versatility that makes him one of the very best Sprint Car drivers in California.

Los Angeles wheel-man Tyler Walker had a great run in the feature to charge from 13th to third, earning the High Five Pizza Hard Charger Award. Fremont’s Shane Golobic came home fourth at the checkered, with Robinson rounding out the top-five. The remainder of the top-10 was comprised of Easton’s Tommy Tarlton, Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson, Fresno’s Giovanni Scelzi, Stockton’s Brad Furr and Fremont’s Dustin Golobic.

As noted Ryan Robinson captured the dash, while the three heat races were picked off by Justin Sanders, Brad Furr and Tommy Tarlton.  Ryan Bernal opened the night by pacing the 21-car field in qualifying to earn his first ever Ray Scheidts Electric Fast Time Award with a blistering fast lap of 11.523. Full results will be available at www.racepmg.com

A-main finish: #17 Justin Sanders #56 Ryan Bernal #3C Tyler Walker #22 Shane Golobic #83 Ryan Robinson #21 Tommy Tarlton #72W Kurt Nelson #41 Gio Scelzi #2 Brad Furr #9J Dustin Golobic #58 Jerry Bonnema #33 Lucas Ashe #21X Cole Macedo #25Z Jason Chisum #99 Wayne Katen #34 Darrell Taylor #4S Buddy Kofoid #7H Jake Haulot #34B Glenn Bryan #88 Koen Shaw

The Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo will now take a couple weeks before returning on Saturday August 20 for the 56th running of the prestigious Johnny Key Classic. The event also marks the final appearance of the season by the traveling Civil War 360 Sprint Car Series presented by Flowmaster. More info on the night will be out soon.

The Ocean Sprints would like to thank Taco Bravo, High Five Pizza, Ray Scheidts Electric, Beer Optics, Hoosier Tires West, Flowmaster, Budweiser and Kaeding Performance for their support.

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Tyler Walker charged from 13th to third in the feature last night at Ocean Speedway. Photos courtesy Dave Spencer TDS Shots and Collin Markle Photography

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