Home tracks are special, but competitive edges are hard to come by in stock car racing.
Last season, David Mayhew took a step back from his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule to pursue a late model championship at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif., in its inaugural season. He completed the mission with 15 wins in 22 starts. Despite all the laps run at the half-mile oval the driver from Atascadero, Calif., does not expect to have any advantage in the May 24 Armed Forces 150 at his home track.
“It would be nice to have an advantage, but everybody in this series can get things figured out pretty quickly,” said Mayhew. “It is nice to race in front of friends and family, though. That’s what makes it special.”
In fact, the K&N Pro Series cars and track’s late models behave quite differently on the track.
“The load in (K&N Pro Series) cars is higher than a late model which puts you on a completely different racing line,” he said. “Pretty much everything is different. I think one advantage we do have is getting to go home after the long trip back from Iowa. Just about everyone else will have to travel again, but we won’t.”
Something not different this season is that Mayhew behind the wheel of his familiar orange No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet on a full-time basis and contending for a championship.
“It’s fun to be back with the series and visiting different tracks again,” he said. “Our goal is the championship. Been close before and we’d like to close it out this year.”
A fuel pump problem in the season opener at Phoenix International Raceway resulted in a 24th-place finish to get the campaign off on the wrong foot. The rebound, however, has been strong. After a runner-up finish at Irwindale Speedway, the 76-race veteran went to Victory Lane at Stockton 99 Speedway for his first series win since March 2012 at Phoenix. On May 17, Mayhew earned a second-straight win by being the top K&N West finisher in the combination race at Iowa Speedway with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
“The fuel pump deal at Phoenix was disappointing. After we got back out there, we were every bit as good as the leaders – just six laps down,” Mayhew said. “Finishing second at Irwindale felt good and winning at Stockton let us continue the momentum. We still have a little ground to make up in points. We need to keep having solid runs.”
Mayhew enters the Armed Forces 150 on Saturday trailing points leader Greg Pursley by 12 points.
The Race: The Stockton 150 is the fifth race of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season. It is the fifth of 12 oval track events and 14 races overall on the schedule. This is the series’ second visit to the track that opened in May 2013.
The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 22 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining four starting spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps covering 75 miles and will be run in two segments with a break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75.
The Track: Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif., sits on 120 acres and opened on May 18, 2013 with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event. The facility has seating for 5,000 spectators and is expandable to more than 15,000. The half-mile oval with progressive banking of 12 and 14 degrees in the turns and eight degrees of banking on the front and backstretches.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record was set by Gray Gaulding on Oct. 26, 2013 at 17.908 seconds (100.514 mph). The 150-lap race record was established by Greg Pursley on Oct. 26, 2013 at 1 hr., 10 min., 46 sec., for an average speed of 63.589 mph.
KERN COUNTY RACE NOTES
Last And First: The last time K&N Pro Series West points leader Greg Pursley went to Victory Lane was in the series’ inaugural event at Kern County Raceway Park last October and the 2011 series champion is back looking for his first win of the 2014 season. Pursley has top-five finishes in each of his four series starts this season and leads David Mayhew by 12 points in the season standings.
Let’s Play Two: Kern County Raceway Park is one of three tracks to host a pair of K&N West events this season. The series already has made its first trips to Phoenix International Raceway and Iowa Speedway with return visits coming up later in the year. The second Kern date is set for Saturday, Aug. 30.
New Places: The K&N Pro Series West made its inaugural visit to Kern County Raceway Park last October and has made first-time visits to a number of tracks in recent seasons. In 2012, the series competed at Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and NAPA Speedway in Albuquerque, N.M., for the first time. Last season, a trip to Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway was a first-time event. This year, the K&N West returned to Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway for the first time since 2011 and will return to Stateline Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho after not racing at the quarter-mile track since 1985.
Back To The Future: NASCAR Next driver and 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year Jesse Little returns to the K&N Pro Series West in the Armed Forces 150 after making his series debut in November 2013 at Phoenix International Raceway with a runner-up finish to fellow NASCAR Next class member Cole Custer. Little is the son of 1987 K&N Pro Series West champion and current Managing Director of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Chad Little.
Home Tracks Update: Brian Richardson has the early edge in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Citgo Lubricants Late Model classification standings at Kern County Raceway Park. The Bakersfield, Calif., driver leads Lance Wilson and Buddy Shepherd as all three drivers are seeking their first premier division title at the track.
LAST TIME OUT: Casey’s General Stores 150 at Iowa Speedway
David Mayhew, as the top-finishing K&N West competitor in the East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway on May 17, picked up his second straight series win while Greg Pursley and Patrick Staropoli nabbed the second and third positions, respectively.
Staropoli was the top-qualifying West car, but had to go to the rear of the field prior to the initial start after an unapproved adjustment to his car after they were impounded.
With a fourth-place finish among the K&N West entrants, rookie James Bickford collected his first series top five.
Thomas Martin claimed his second straight top-10 finish with a sixth-place effort.
NEXT TIME OUT: Carneros 200 at Sonoma
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West makes its annual trip to California wine country for the Carneros 200 at Sonoma on Saturday, June 21. It will mark the series’ 25th standalone event at the 1.99-mile road course. Last season, eventual series champion Derek Thorn took the checkered flag followed by pole sitter Cameron Hayley and Michael Self, both are alumni of the NASCAR Next program.