NASCAR & Auto Racing

Valley motorsports season starts Saturday with debut of new Hanford-Tulare series

Sprint car driver Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford holds the Cotton Classic trophy after winning it in 2018 for the second straight year.
Sprint car driver Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford holds the Cotton Classic trophy after winning it in 2018 for the second straight year. courtesy Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds

The central San Joaquin Valley motorsports season gets an early start Saturday night when a new series debuts.

The Valley’s two premier dirt tracks, Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds in Hanford and Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, have teamed for a 14-race sprint car series called Kings of Thunder.

The first race features a special start time of 6 p.m.

The series is set up to highlight the wealth of dirt-track racing talent in the central San Joaquin Valley, talent that spans generations. Saturday night’s lineup, for instance, figures to include Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford, two-time defending champion of the Hanford track’s Cotton Classic and son of eight-time track champion Monte Faccinto; Steven Kent of Fresno, son of four-time track champ Steve Kent; and Tucker Worth of Coalinga, son of former champ Tim Worth.

Two Easton-based race teams that have been staples at the track will also be in action: Roth Motorsports with new driver Dominic Scelzi of Fresno and Tarlton Racing with Lemoore’s Cole Macedo. The Roth team is entering its 28th season of sprint car racing that began with a track championship at Hanford.

Other notable Valley racers are defending Kings champion Mathew Moles of Raisin City and Hanford’s DJ Netto.

Keller will host 11 dates total in 2019 including the World of Outlaws national touring series Friday, March 29.

Thunderbowl has 11 nights of racing, too, including a weekend stop by the Outlaws on March 8-9 that kicks off their eight-race California March swing.

The Outlaws have two compelling Valley storylines: Lemoore driver Carson Macedo is racing full-time for NASCAR star Kyle Larson’s team; and Roth Motorsports’ entry driven by Oklahoma’s Daryn Pittman, who swept the first two races of the season in Florida.

Modified midgets — The most significant offseason development came in January in Oklahoma when Coalinga’s Ben Worth won the feature race of the prestigious Tulsa Shootout.

Locally, modified midgets have full seasons at Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park in Visalia and Lemoore Raceway.

Madera Speedway The Valley’s pavement track has practices set for the next two Saturdays before it starts its 48th season March 9. The one-third mile oval showcases late-model stock cars among many different divisions and series in 26 nights of action.