Valley sprint car owners and drivers dominated the podium Saturday night in season-ending events in Stockton.
The Oakhurst-based Williams Motorsports team wrapped up its third Northern Auto Racing Club/King of the West series championship, and the Easton-based Roth Motorsports team won the inaugural Sprint Car Challenge Tour championship.
Race winners were Kingsburg’s Cory Eliason in NARC/KWS and Fresno’s Dominic Scelzi in SCCT.
The series represent the top winged sprint car racing in California. NARC/KWS, which has been sanctioning races since 1960, allows cars powered by 410-cubic-inch engines. SCCT, launched with the backing of NASCAR star Kyle Larson among others, is for cars powered by 360-cubic-inch engines, a rule growing in popularity around the country.
The NARC championship came down to a single point, with 37-year-old Williams driver Bud Kaeding of Campbell scoring his first series title over 15-year-old Giovanni Scelzi of Fresno in a Roth car, 910-909.
The thrilling duel between Kaeding, whose resume includes national championships, and the rising star in Scelzi was a grind all night. The drivers posted identical qualifying times and each won a heat race, putting them side-by-side on the third row for the 30-lap main event with Kaeding protecting a three-point lead. Scelzi finished fourth and Kaeding sixth.
The Williams-Kaeding team was series runner-up each of the past three seasons. His title is the 29th by the Kaeding family in the combined series (there have been 16 seasons when NARC and KWS crowned champs) – father Brent Kaeding won a combined 26 and brother Tim Kaeding, who was runner-up Saturday night, won two.
Eliason started outside front row, beat Dominic Scelzi to the first turn and stayed out front the rest of the way on the fast three-eighths-mile clay oval at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.
Eliason also won the NARC season-opener in an eventful year that included racing in the A main event at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, the country’s most prestigious sprint car race.
Driver Kyle Hirst of Paradise, who delivered a King of the West championship to Easton-based Tarlton Racing last season, scored the inaugural SCCT title (worth $10,000 from the series championship fund) for a Roth team that has World of Outlaws experience and has won three KWS titles.
Dominic Scelzi, Gio’s older brother who’s expected to be part of a contingent of Valley drivers heading soon to race in Australia, inherited the lead in the 35-lap SCCT race on lap 19 when something broke on Eliason’s car, sending him into a wild spin. Scelzi (who was also dominant in NARC until an accident) went on to the victory with Hirst third, Cole Macedo of Lemoore sixth in a Tarlton car and DJ Netto of Hanford seventh.