For the first time since 1979, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West is taking to the dirt.
For points leader Derek Thorn of Bakersfield the stakes are high in Thursday night’s Star Nursery 100 at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For fellow Bakersfield driver Buddy Shepherd, who will be making his first start of the year, there is nothing to lose.
“Oh boy, yeah,” Thorn replied when asked about racing on the dirt. “We could come back extremely happy or extremely disappointed.”
Thorn is in the same boat as the majority of racers competing: confident on pavement, unsure of the unknown (dirt).
“I’ve been saying this the entire season, I’m just going to wing it,” said Thorn, who got in some practice in a dirt car last month at Perris Auto Speedway. “Our goal, and it sounds pretty unrealistic, is to not spin out. We have the opportunity to gain a lot of points or lose a lot of points.”
Thorn does have dirt track experience — he raced small open-wheel cars on the dirt as a youngster, before switching to stock cars on asphalt where he has gone on to win four Spears Southwest Tour titles and one West championship.
Shepherd also started out in small winged cars on dirt as a kid before hitting the asphalt where he has track championships at Kern County Raceway and Madera Speedway.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Shepherd, who tested cars for Jefferson-Pitts racing a couple of weeks ago in Oregon. “The test went well. I felt like the car drove pretty good and was hooked up.”
Among the entries is Christopher Bell, the 2017 Camping World Truck Series champion who is now competing on the Xfinity Series. Bell raced Sprint Cars on dirt before getting into NASCAR.
Titles on line at KCRP
Three out of four championships remain in doubt heading into Saturday night’s regular season finale at Kern County Raceway Park.
Late Models, Super Stocks, Spec Mods and Legends are in action with little doubt as to who will win the Late Model title. Four-time winner Jagger Jones holds a 60-point lead over Zackary St. Onge and could sew up the championship in the first of twin main events.
There is plenty of drama in the other three classes.
The closest battle is in Super Stock where four-time winner Paul Ebersbacher is two points up (one finishing position) on red-hot Roger Holder. Holder has won four of the last five races and has won five times.
In Spec Mods, Jim Coffey holds an eight-point advantage over Jason Galvin. Galvin is coming off a win last week, his third. Coffey has five wins.
Four points is the difference between lead Josh Ayers and Colton Page in the Legends division. Both drivers have six wins with Page having won two in a row.
Racing starts at 7.
Five divisions at Speedway
Western Racesaver Sprints, American Stocks, Mod Lites, Mini Dwarfs and Mini Mods will be in action on Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway.
Grant Duinkerken won the June 30 WRS Sprint Car race at the Speedway and has the points lead.
Brandon Ratcliff holds a 26 point lead over Kenny White heading into the next-to-last points race. White has two wins.
Zach Forster has won all but one of the Mod Lite races but holds just a two-point lead over Anthony Balcazar, who is looking for his first win. Those two have run 1-2 in the last two races.
Racing starts at 7.
Summit Series finale at Famoso
Summit Racing Series track champions will be determined this weekend at Auto Club Famoso Raceway as the final two races will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
Mark Simonian has won two races in Super Pro and holds a commanding 119-point lead over Greg Dreher. In Pro, three-time winner Dean Kirkman is 105 points up on C.W. Hoefer.
Just 22 points separate the top three drivers in Pro. Sacha Hoefer leads the way over David Dowdell and C.W. Hoefer. In Motorcycle, two-time winner Manny Taylor is 53 points up on Ray Myers.
The track is also available for testing and tuning both days. Gates open at 7 a.m. on Saturday and 8 on Sunday.
Buddy Shepherd won the $10,000-to-win Late Model race at All-American Speedway in Roseville last Saturday night. Shepherd was about to be passed for the lead with 10 laps left when a caution saved him. He then pulled away for the win after the restart.
Bakersfield’s Ethan Dotson finished fourth in the IMCA Modifieds Super Nationals Saturday in Boone, Iowa. Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa lead all 40 laps for the win. Thirty-three drivers started.