NMRA-TQ MIDGET SEASON UPDATE – By Tim Kennedy
LOS ANGELES – The National Midget Racing Assn. Three-Quarter Midget Series (NMRA-TQs) started the 2016 season in March at the third-mile clay, Bakersfield Speedway. Three-year veteran Chris Thomas, 38, won his first ever main event in a ten car field. Two scheduled races in April were lost to rain on April 9 at Bakersfield and on April 30 at Santa Maria because of a scheduling conflict at the site.
Thereafter, the NMRA season rolled on uninterrupted from May 14 through August 6 at the same two clay speedways on the NMRA schedule. Six races had car counts from a low of seven to a high of 14. Two drivers—Scott Dobson and West Evans—won those 20-lap features, with red-hot Dobson reeling off five victories. He missed the opening race in March because his engine was not ready to race.
Following is a chronological race-by-race recap of the most recent six races and the driver and car owner point standings as of August 9, 2016:
MAY 14 – Twelve TQs raced at Bakersfield Speedway in a pair of eight-lap heat races won by outside row two starters Bruce Hiroshima and West Evans. The feature went to 2009 NMRA driving champion Dobson in his own No. 18 Stealth/Kawasaki. It is the ex-Paul Lopiccolo No. 21. Prior to that is was a West Evans No. 36 and in the 1990s the Josh Wise No. 94 ride.
Evans, Hiroshima, Scott Niven, Chris Thomas, five-time NMRA champion Chuck West, rookie Jason Arnolde, rookie Brandon Wiley, from Orcutt, 2015 NMRA rookie of the year Ace Kale, who owns three TQs, Paul Sanders, rookie Wes Cummings, from Westchester, and Kevin Kale, who drives for his father Ace. There were two flips. Thomas and Hiroshima rolled without injury.
JUNE 11 – The annual Ron Otto Memorial race at the third-mile clay Santa Maria Speedway honored the memory of the late NMRA president and race official who succumbed to a heart attack. A season-high 14 TQs raced. Newcomer Jason Arnolde, who is in his 30s and the husband of car owner Rick Poe's granddaughter, set fastest qualifying time of 15.950. He was the only qualifier under 16 seconds. Second through 11th quickest qualifiers turned 16 second laps.
A pair of seven-car, eight-lap heat races went to C. Thomas in his dad Ed's No. 40 and Evans in his own No.36. The 20-lap feature was the second consecutive victory for Dobson in his No. 18 Stealth/Kawasaki. C. West, Evans, A. Kale, Sanders, K. Kale, rookie Don Mosley, in his father Doyle Mosley's No. 87 ex-Ron Ahrendt car, rookie Cummings, rookie B. Wiley, and Thomas completed the top ten. P. 11-14 went to B. Hiroshima, S. Niven, fast timer Arnolde and Dave Lambert.
JUNE 18 – Nine NMRA teams raced at Bakersfield Speedway on the following Saturday. Evans and S. Niven won the eight-lap heats. The 20-lap main event went to two-time NMRA driving champion Evans. He has been the NMRA organizer/leader since it reformed in 2002 after USAC began sanctioning Ford Focus midget racing. Evans drove his No. 36 Spike/Suzuki. Dobson, West, in Evans' No. 38 Stealth/Suzuki, S. Niven, A. Kale, Don Mosley, 41-year old nephew of the late CRA sprint car and Indianapolis 500 veteran Mike Mosley, Lambert, and Cummings finished second through eighth. K. Kale did not start after flipping without serious injury during hot laps.
JULY 9 – Round five of 2016 took place at Santa Maria Speedway with nine TQs present. Dobson set fastest qualifying time of 16.282. Outside row two starters Dobson and West won the eight-lap heats. Dobson started eighth and won his third feature of the season in his No. 18. C. West, Evans, Lambert, USAC FF Midget past champion Shawn Buckley, 38, Sanders, K. Kale, Cummings and A. Kale finished second through ninth.
After the July 9 race West led his first cousin Evans by four points (298-294). Evans Motor-sports Nos. 38 and 36 ranked one-two in owner points with 313 and 309 points respectively. Dobson, despite missing the March 12 season-opening race while waiting for his engine, ranked third in driver points with 265. His car was third in owner points with 277, including appearance points given to owners.
JULY 23 – NMRA competitors returned to their home track in Bakersfield with seven cars on a typically hot summer day in the San Joaquin Valley. Evans won the only heat over teammate West, Dobson, Mosley, Lambert, K. Kale and A. Kale. The 20-lap main became Dobson's fourth feature triumph after he started fifth in the seven-car field. Evans, Lambert, K. Kale, Mosley, West and A. Kale followed.
AUGUST 6 – Nine TQs returned to Mike Kappmeyer's Santa Maria Speedway for round seven of the season. A pair of four-car, eight-lap heats went to Dobson and Evans. Dobson won his fifth feature out of the six he raced. A. Kale, father of fellow 2015 NMRA-TQ rookie Kevin, enjoyed his career-best runner-up finish. Rookie Taelor Janes, 22, from Santa Maria, made her debut in Bruce Hiroshima's No. 20 TQ. The SMS hobby stock driver finished an impressive third. Lambert, Buckley, Cummings, Evans, Hiroshima and West rounded out the field.
Four races in the now 11-race season remain. Next up will be Bakersfield Speedway on August 20 and September 10, followed by Santa Maria Speedway on September 24 and October 15. There are currently four NMRA rookie drivers who earned points this season.
CURRENT POINT STANDINGS: (as of August 9, 2016):
Drivers Car Owners
1 West Evans 405 1 No. 36 West Evans 426
2 Scott Dobson 395 2 No. 18 Scott Dobson 413
3 Chuck West 384 3 No. 38 West Evans 405
4 Ace Kale 333 4 No. 77 Ace Kale 354
5 Kevin Kale 260 5 No. 59 Steve Parke 321
6 Dave Lambert 257 6 No. 07 Ace Kale 278
7 Wes Cummings ® 200 7 No. 55 Dave Lambert 252
8 Bruce Hiroshima 196 8 No. 70 Ace Kale 215
9 Paul Sanders 186 9 No. 5 Bruce Hiroshima 208
10 Shawn Buckley 163 10 No 87 Doyle Mosley 204
11 Chris Thomas 149 11 No 22 Paul Sanders 198
12 Don Mosley ® 141 12 No 20 Bruce Hiroshima 186
13 Scott Niven 140 13 No 40 Ed Thomas 158
14 Jason Arnolde ® 78 14 No 2p Rick Poe 84
15 Brandon Wiley ® 72
16 Taelor Janes ® 57
17 Doyle Mosley 51