It seems like the racing season just ended (it did, last month), but the roar of engines at local race tracks is just around the corner. Kern County Raceway hosts the fourth Annual Winter Showdown on Feb. 2-3; Auto Club Famoso Raceway’s biggest event — the 60th March Meet — runs March 1-4 and Bakersfield Speedway begins another season of racing on March 3.
The fourth annual edition of this event is set to be the biggest yet, as the race distance has been increased to 300 laps.
Kyle Busch will be back competing for the second straight year and Daniel Hermic, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year, announced that he will be competing in the event for the first time.
“I know Kern County Raceway and the entire staff out there are all top-notch,” Hemric said in a story posted on Speed51.com “I’ve tuned into Speed51.com for the past two runnings of the Winter Showdown, and every year I’ve been sitting at home watching and wishing I was in it. I am excited to know that I will finally get my chance to experience the race and the facility from the perspective I’ve wanted to for the past three years.”
Hemric will be driving for the Bakersfield-based Wilson Motorsports team, which also announced that Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd will drive for them in the Showdown. Shepherd won his first Spears Southwest Tour race at Madea in a Wilson car this year and also won the Late Model championship there in his own car.
There were 35 entries as of late last week, including Bubba Pollard, who won the first two events and Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn, who won last year.
New Classic Funny Car class at March Meet
No doubt Funny Cars are the kings of the nostalgia racing circuit with the March Meet annually drawing around 30 for a 16-car field.
It pretty much takes a car capable of running consistent 5.60s to have a shot at winning any more with those in the 5.70’s having a decent chance. Heck, it took a 5.939 just to make last year’s 16 car show. At the California Hot Rod Reunion in the fall it took a 5.839 to make the show.
There are a lot of teams out that aren't really capable of keeping up with the trend of quicker, faster and new swoopy bodies. So Famoso’s Blake Bowser is introducing a 5.90-second Classic Funny Car class at the March Meet.
None of the new body styles will be allowed, it will be old school. Drivers can run the open class if they want or the 5.90 class, but must state which class they are running on their entry. The open class will remain a 16-car field with the 5.90 class an eight-car field.
Basically, it’s just more racing for the fans and drivers alike.
“Right now I’m hearing a lot of guys that had parked their cars are going to run again and some new cars are being built,” Bowser said. “Sadly, it takes running an index but it’s what we need to do to keep these guys running.”
Bowser said he expects around 50 to 60 nitro cars (Funny Cars, Top Fuel, Fuel Altereds) for the race with around 500 total cars. He said there are only about 50 spots left for non-nitro cars.
Three Midget races at Speedway
The full schedule has not been released, but Bakersfield Speedway will kick off its 73rd year of continuous operation on March 3, 2017.
As was the case last year, the USAC Western States Midget series will hold three races at the third-mile clay oval — March 17, June 18 and Nov. 17.
The Nov. 17 race will be a combo race with the National series.
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series will be back next year with a race set for March 24.