Chad Nichols, with tears in his eyes, talks about his win in the BRCA midgets race just a few weeks after his mother passed away. (Courtesy of Madera Speedway)
Both Chad Nichols and Cody Gerhardt were driving with a high level of determination and motivation during the annual running of the Fred Gerhardt Classic at LoanMart Madera Speedway.
Chad Nichols lost his mother just a few weeks back, and it was with a heavy heart that drivers, officials and fans paid tribute to the Nichols family with a touching memorial during opening ceremonies Saturday night. The tribute included a memorial lap with Chad driving with a checkered flag waving in the air alongside two other midgets.
Nichols started in the middle of the second row for the midget main event later that night. He wasted no time slicing and dicing his way to second place. Just when it looked like fans would get a shootout featuring Nichols and race leader Cody Gerhardt, Gerhardt’s car failed and went into the pits. Nichols seized control of the race and led the field of blazing fast BCRA midgets to the halfway break at 25 laps.
The top five midget drivers did interviews for the Madera Racing MAVTV show with pit reporter Audra Sasselli while crew members refueled the cars and prepared them for the second half of the race. The 10-minute break went by fast and before the drivers knew it, the green flag was back in the air and it was Nichols that set a furious pace to the checkered flag, followed by Scott Pierovich and Courtney Crone.
With a smile and tears streaming down his face in victory lane, Nichols told the crowd about spending time as a young boy in the Madera grandstands with his mother, watching his father Ken Nichols race. Sasselli asked Chad who he had to thank most for winning the race, and with a big grin and watering eyes he replied, “my mother.”
Cody Gerhardt was visibly heartbroken when his BCRA midget broke in the main event, but he had one last chance in the final race the night of his famous grandfather’s event to pick up a victory. The only problem was it was in the MAVTV televised Madera Winged Sprint Car Series and Gerhardt did nothave a victory in the Winged Sprint cars at Madera. The other problem was that race No. 3 winner Bryan Warf charged into the lead early in the 30-lap feature and was so far ahead, he appeared as though he was going to drive the Glen Hutchison-owned yellow No. 8 sprint car all the way back to his home in Idaho.
By the halfway point in the race Gerhardt fought his way to second place and, once he was clear of the third place car, set his sights on tracking down race leader Warf. Little by little, Gerhardt was closing in on Warf, and with just five laps to go, he found himself on the rear bumper of the race leader. What followed next was a spectacular battle for the lead that ended with Gerhardt making a late race pass on the outside for the victory.
Much like Nichols you could feel that Gerhardt certainly had some extra motivation, if not some help from above while seeking victory lane on this special night for open wheel drivers. The soft spoken Gerhardt expressed how happy he was in another emotional victory lane scene.
Gerhardt was followed by Bryan Warf in second and Justin Kawahata in third with all three drivers getting television interviews on MAVTV.
Other event winners of the night included Cody Jessop in the HPD midgets, Jessop also won the NCMA Sprint car race, AJ Russell won the CSS Super Modified race, the NCPro4 winner was Jim Badeker, and point leader Brian Collins won the Twisted Tea Modifed race.
The Gerhardt Classic Winged Sprint Car race and the Midget race will air on MAVTV in August, go to www.racemadera.com to see the MAVTV airing schedule. Fans can watch Madera Racing on MAVTV every Thursday at 5 p.m.
The next event at the LoanMart Madera Speedway is the Spears Southwest Tour race on Saturday.