A pair of former Mesa Marin Raceway track champions wore huge smiles Saturday afternoon.
They were back on a racetrack in their hometown -- the new Kern County Raceway Park.
The paved half-mile oval, which many think is a bit larger than that, will open May 4. Cousins Brian and Eric Richardson could not be happier.
"It's awesome we have a track back at home," said Brian Richardson, who won the Late Model title at Mesa Marin in 2003. "Going out of town racing is really no fun at all. Coming back to Bakersfield at a half-mile track where we can go fast again, there's a lot of buzz for us racers in town."
Eric Richardson won the last Late Model title at Mesa Marin in 2005 as the east Bakersfield rack closed in October of that year.
“Oh man it’s great,” Eric Richardson said of being able to compete near his home. “The best past is this track reminds me a lot of Mesa Marin, which is awesome.
“It has a little of a feel like an Iowa (Speedway) or something like that. Real fast, real smooth. Beautiful facilities. I can't wait until opening night.”
Neither Richardson has logged much time making laps at the track (Saturday was the first official practice), but both said it is larger and faster than Mesa Marin.
“When the touring divisions (Spears SRL Southwest Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West) come to race it's going to be by far the fastest place they go to,” Eric Richardson predicted.
“(Turns) one and two remind me a little bit of Mesa Marin,” Brian Richardson said. “Three and four are quite a bit different because the exit off of four (has) so much room. I think it's going to be quite a bit faster than Mesa Marin. I think it's a titch longer but I think our laps times will actually be faster.
“This place is bad fast and, you know, this is what we live for. My golf handicap is going up now.”
Another practice day is set for April 20.