BAKERSFIELD, California -- Atascadero, California's David Mayhew began the 2004 season as a rookie NASCAR Weekly Racing Series, by Dodge, Late Model program at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield. By the time the regular season ended in late September, Mayhew was the Rookie of the Year and the 2004 Late Model points series champion. He capped off the perfect season by becoming the first local winner in the Late Model 27 year history of the October Classic.
Mayhew collected $3,000 and a beautiful trophy, with a giant bronze eagle on it, after winning the October 17th Racing West 125. The race featured the largest Late Model purse, in excess of $21,000, in Mesa Marin history.
For any driver to collect the big paycheck and the beautiful trophy they had to work their way through a unique qualifying procedure held the day before. The 41 drivers, entered in the race, ran two qualifying laps, around Mesa Marin's half mile oval, to determine the line ups for the twin, 40 lap, qualifying races presented by the Clevage Creek Winery.
Mayhew made it crystal clear that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with and easily won the first 40 lap qualifier. He was followed across the line by Keith Spangler, Tony Green, Shane Thomas and Josh Horn.
The second 40 lap qualifier got off to a rocky start with a five car pile up in turn one. Once the race was able to start, Tim Huddleston jumped into the lead and led all 40 laps. Andrew Meyers, Eric Richardson, Mike Lay and Butch Gilleland rounded out the top five. Gilleland, the former NASCAR Winston West champion, was making his first start in several years and a lot of fans were glad to see him back.
With the line up now set for the Racing West 125, the teams were allowed one final practice session on race morning to make those all important final adjustments for the $3,000 winner's share of the history making purse.
Mayhew and Huddleson led the 29 starters under the initial green flag and Mayhew quickly proved that he was going to be tough to beat. He quickly established a healthy lead and the only time Huddleston reached him was during a series of yellow caution flags. The most serious of these flags occurred early, on lap 15, when a three wide situation resulted in contact between pre race favorite Eric Richardson and David Hulsey. Richardson crashed in turn two and sustained major damage to the front end of his Chevrolet. Hulsey made an effort to continue but eventually also went behind the wall.
Going into lap 90 Mayhew checked up because he thought another yellow flag was coming due to a spinning car. Brian Jones spun in turn two but was able to continue. No yellow was thrown and that was the break Huddleston was looking for and he was able to take over the lead. However, this was not going to be Huddleston's day for basking in glory on a Bakersfield Sunday afternoon. On lap 120 Huddleston got loose off of turn two. Mayhew quickly passed him for the lead. In an effort to save his car, Huddleston accidentally tapped the rear of Mayhew's car. Mayhew was able to hold on to his car and continue around the track. Huddleston was not so fortunate and slid across the backstretch and onto pit road. Mayhew made quick work of running out the final laps for the win.
In victory lane a very happy Mayhew said "we got caught off guard late in the race. My spotter was claiming there was a yellow and it turned out not to be one so we lost the lead. During the final laps I was just pressuring Huddleston as much as I could. He was really loose off,(the turns), and really sideways a couple of times. I thought he was going to lose it so I just kept putting the pressure to him. Finally, he made a big enough mistake and I got by him."
Mayhew had high praise for his crew as well saying "the Victory Circle Ford Taurus was awesome. I can't thank all of the guys enough they did a great job as did everybody who has helped us all year long."
In a surpise comment Mayhew said that one of the strongest NASCAR Late Model cars at Mesa Marin was now for sale. Explaining that further he said " we're going to sell this car, We're not running late models next year. We're trying to get a NASCAR Southwest Series cars and do some select races and maybe even the SRL Series. We're keeping our options open to see what comes up and try to get some sponsorship together."