From the time he was in high school Paul Ebersbacher has been drawn to racing.

His first race came at the age of 19 in an enduro at Bakersfield Speedway.

He competed at the old Mesa Marin Raceway for nearly 20 years and he’s been a regular at Kern County Raceway Park since it opened in 2013.

And on Saturday night, at age 51, he could come away with his first ever track championship.

Ebersbacher heads into championship night at the paved half-mile oval with a two-point lead over Roger Holder. Holder, the defending champion, has five wins. Ebersbacher has four. Whoever finishes in front of the other will emerge with title.

“The first part of the year was really good,” said Ebersbacher, who won three of the first four races. “I think there’s been a little bit of rough driving going on in the second half, that’s what I think it is.”

Two races ago Holder and Ebersbacher got together while battling for the lead. Both spun and went to the rear. Holder battled back to finish second and Ebersbacher was fourth.

Last week Ebersbacher led the first 17 laps before Holder got by on a restart before pulling away to win. Ebersbacher was second.

“Last race we missed the set up a little,” Ebersbacher said. “The first third of the race the car was fine. As it went on it got looser and looser and the second half of the race I was just trying to hold on.”

Ebersbacher said he has been drawn to racing since his high school days.

“When I was in high school in Tehachapi, Gene Fife helped build race motors and he was racing at Mesa Marin and I started going down there and watching him so I blame him for getting me into it,” Ebersbacher said.

Ebersbacher was a 19-year-old in the Army and stationed at the reserve center in Bakersfield when he ran his first race.

“It was a 100-lap enduro at the Okie Bowl,” he recalled. “I bought a ’62 Bonneville for 75 bucks. It ran good but the transmission blew up and caught on fire about 50 laps in. It was a lot of fun.”

He started racing at Mesa Marin in 1997 and finished second in Street Stock points in 2004 and third in 2005, which was the year the track closed.

Since KCRP opened, Ebersbacher has pulled double duty quite often, running a Late Model as well as a Super Stock once that division started.

“I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess,” quipped Ebersbacher when asked why he runs both divisions. “Just because I have the cars. And why have the cars if you’re not going to run them?

“In the last two or three years I haven’t missed one race in either of the classes.”

That dedication earned his sportsman of the year honors at the awards banquet after finishing third in Super Stock points and fourth in Late Model points last season.

Ebersbacher also dabbled in off road racing last season and liked the experience, which included a leg in the Baja 1000 in a Spec Trophy Truck. He said he is contemplating on getting more involved in some aspect of off road racing.

Or he could keep pounding the pavement, where he’s now at the top of his game.

Greg Puskarich started driving one of Ebersbacher cars last season and Ebersbacher gives Puskarich credit for much of his success the past two seasons.

“He’s helping set up the cars and he’s made my set up way better than it used to be,” Ebersbacher said.

As for Saturday night’s finale, Ebersbacher said it will be pretty much business as usual.

“I’m just going to do the best I can and hopefully I can stay in front,” he said.

Mike Griffith can be reached at 661 395-7390. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeGriffith54. 

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