SAN BERNARDINO, California — Chuck West, of Clovis, did it again Saturday night in the first race of 2008 on pavement for the dirt track oriented NMRA-TQ Midget Series that began racing in 1957. The 50-year old former USAC Western Midget Series driver started eighth and led the final 13 laps of a 25-lap main event. The first NMRA race in more than a year at the quarter-mile paved Orange Show Speedway was round 11 of the 11-race NMRA series. The race was the sixth at the San Bernardino Country track for the three-quarter midget drivers and first since the 2006 season opener. NMRA ran the historic Orange Show track four times during 2005 when West won one of the four features in the same No. 38 Stealth/Kawasaki.
With 11 TQ midgets present, West set the fastest qualifying time of 13.936 on his second of two timed laps. He was the only driver to turn a sub-14 second lap. The one-lap NMRA-TQ midget track record is 13.362, set by Jody Bandfield on 9-3-05. With the 2008 NMRA season now concluded, West's 71-points Saturday gave the point leader 674 points to 602 for championship runner-up Scott Dobson, the NMRA 2006 rookie of the year. Seven of the top nine drivers in 2008 points raced in all 11 events. West had nine top fives, ten top tens, five heat wins, four feature victories and averaged 61.27 points per event. His first two driving championships came in 2002 and 2006. West's car owner and cousin--West Evans--won the 2008 NMRA car owner championship with 707 points to 672 for Paul Lopiccolo. Evans also won the 2006 NMRA owner championship.
Richard Ortega, Jr., the 2005 N MRA rookie of the year, started sixth and finished second in Dave Lambert's No. 55 Dennis Hart-built chassis with Honda power. It was his first ride in the car usually driven by Randy Moody. Ortega normally drives his own No. 8 Stealth/Kawasaki that has been sidelined since round eight at Santa Maria on August 16. Bruce Hiroshima, in his own No. 5 Rick Stewart chassis with a Honda engine, started fourth and finished third. Rookie Anthony Lopiccolo, the second fastest qualifier at 14.116, came from seventh grid position to earn fourth in Steve Parke's No. 59 Stewart/Honda. Scott Dobson started and finished fifth in Guy Barber's No. 18 Stewart/Honda.
Rounding out the top ten finishing positions were Ron Ahrendt, who started first and led the initial 12 laps in his own No. 87 Dave Ellis chassis with a Honda, West Evans in his Stealth/Suzuki, Mike Bliffen in a second Hiroshima entry, Scott Niven and rookie Jimmy Dodson. Kenny Wiley, NMRA's 2007 driving champion, finished 11th after parking on lap 2 with a broken drive-line. He dropped from second to third in final points. His car owner, Paul Lopiccolo, entered the race first in owner points (638 to 633 over Evans' No. 38). The DNF (did not finish) of Lopiccolo's No. 21 caused his bid for consecutive owner titles to fall 35-points short. Evans won the owner championship with 707 points to 672 for runner-up Lopiccolo. Eight drivers completed all 25 laps.
In the rookie of the year battle, Anthony Lopiccolo (son of the car owner) entered the race in eighth position with 440 points. The 22-year old Brea resident, who raced in three of the 13 NMRA events last year, earned 59 points to finish sixth with 499. Newcomer Jimmy Dodson entered the event in sixth place with 446 points. The 35-year old Bakersfield resident earned 35-points and finished eighth with 481, 18-points in back of his rival. They swapped sixth and eighth positions. West started fourth and won the four-lap trophy dash for the four fastest qualifiers. Lopiccolo, Dobson and Ortega followed. A pair of eight-lap heat races went to Bliffen, from second starting spot, and Ahrendt from pole position.
Next on the schedule for NMRA competitors will be the annual NMRA championship awards banquet at The Grinder Restaurant in Moorpark (Ventura County) shortly after January 1 on a date to be determined. The 2008 NMRA point season ran from April 19 through October 11. The car count averaged 11.45 cars per event, with a high of 13 and a low of 11. Nineteen drivers and 16 car owners earned NMRA points during 2008. Four drivers won the 11 points-paying main events. West and Wiley each had four wins. Scott Dobson won twice and Randy Moody once. NMRA teams raced those 11 point events at four tracks—Santa Maria Speedway (5), Bakersfield Speedway (4), Ventura Raceway (1) and Orange Show Speedway (1).
Fast Time: Chuck West, 13.936.
Trophy Dash, 4 laps: West, Anthony Lopiccolo, Scott Dobson, Richard Ortega, Jr.
Heat 1, 8 laps: Mike Bliffen, West, Dobson, Bruce Hiroshima, Scott Niven.
Heat 2, 8 laps: Ron Ahrendt, West Evans, Ortega, Lopiccolo, Jimmy Dodson.
Feature, 25 laps: West, Ortega, Hiroshima, Lopiccolo, Dobson, Ahrendt, Evans, Bliffen, Niven, Dodson, Kenny Wiley.