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NMRA-TQ Midget Series teams opened the 2017 racing season Saturday at the third-mile, banked clay Bakersfield Speedway as part of a five-division racing program. NMRA teams present honored 2016 season participants during a one-hour, early afternoon BBQ tri-tip luncheon prior to the start of practice.

With 11 of the 16 NMRA-TQ cars in the association present, veteran Bruce Hiroshima, from Camarillo, led all 20-laps of the feature. It was the first of 14 scheduled NMRA events this season at two clay third-mile speedways—Santa Maria Speedway and NMRA's home track in Bakersfield.

AWARDS: Instead of the usual championship awards dinner in Moorpark (Ventura County) shortly after the season, NMRA used a Bakersfield pit area BBQ luncheon to honor 2016 participants and champions. Award winners for the 2016 season were:

   > Wes Cummings – Curly Merrill Rookie of the Year trophy, 

  > Shawn Buckley and his wife Stephanie – Otto Family Sportsmanship trophy. Shawn, a two-time USAC Ford Focus Midget Series driving champion, assisted NMRA as an official; his wife did on-line and behind the scenes work on behalf of NMRA.

  > Ace Kale – Most Improved driver,

  > Scott Dobson – Hard Charger trophy.

West Evans, the NMRA leader since the rebirth of the organization in 2002, won the TQ driving championship for the third time. His other title seasons were 2010 and 2013. The Moorpark-based owner of Evans Motor-sports three-car team also won his eighth NMRA car owner championship. He was the car owner champion in 2006, 2008, 2010-13, 2015-16.

The first round of 2017 TQ racing started with a pair of 8-lap heat races. Chuck West, of Clovis, started fourth and won the six-car first heat. Hiroshima started third and captured the second, five-car heat race. All 11 cars completed every lap in the heat races.

The 20-lap TQ feature started ten of the 11 cars present. The Chris Thomas No. 40 scratched after placing fifth in the first heat race. The Kale team occupied the first row of the main event. Dad Ace, the 2015 TQ rookie of the year and now owner of five TQ midgets, occupied pole position. His son Kevin Kale was alongside. Row two had Scott Niven, in Steve Parke's No. 59 Stewart/750cc Clerc-built Honda, and Hiroshima on the outside in his own No. 5 Stewart/750cc Honda.

At the first lap green flag Hiroshima jumped into the lead and remained out front all 20 laps. Runner-up Niven trailed by 3.195 seconds. West, in the No. 38 Evans Motor-sports Spike/Bob Wirth-built 750cc Suzuki, started fifth and finished third. Rookie Don Mosley, son of TQ owner/driver Doyle Mosley and nephew of the late Indianapolis 500 driver Mike Mosley, started eighth. The Ohio resident placed fourth in his dad's No. 11 Stealth/Suzuki, theWest No. 38 ride from last season.

Scott Dobson started seventh and finished fifth in his own No. 18 Stewart/Honda. Kevin and Ace Kale placed sixth and seventh in Team Kale cars. They were the final drivers on the lead lap. Dave Lambert started tenth and completed 19 laps. Rounding out the top ten were West Evans and second-year TQ driver Wes Cummings, the most recent rookie of the year. Both had 18 laps.

The touring USAC Western Midget Series 30-lap main winner in a 23-car field was Ronnie Gardner, the series champion for the last four seasons. He drove the No. 68 Mitchell Johnson Stewart/Esslinger. It also was the season opener for other local track divisions--IMCA stock cars, sport modifieds, and mod lites.

TQ Midget Summary:

Heat 1: Chuck West, Scott Niven, Kevin Kale, Wes Cummings, Chris Thomas, Scott Dobson.

Heat 2: Bruce Hiroshima, West Evans, Ace Kale, Don Mosley, Dave Lambert.

Main: Hiroshima, Niven, West, Mosley, Dobson, K. Kale, A. Kale, Lambert, Evans, Cummings, -DNS-Thomas.

NMRA 2017 Point Standings:

       Drivers                                   Car Owners


1 Bruce Hiroshima   66       1 No. 5 Bruce Hiroshima  69

2 Scott Niven          66        2 No. 59 Steve Parke      64

3 Chuck West         60        3 No. 38 West Evans      63

4 Don Mosley ®      54         4 No. 11 Doyle Mosley   57

5 Scott Dobson       53         5 No. 18 Scott Dobson   56

6 Kevin Kale            48         6 No. 07 Ace Kale         51

7 Ace Kale               47        7 No. 77 Ace Kale         50

8 West Evans           40        8 No. 36 West Evans     43

9 Dave Lambert         39        9 No. 55 Dave Lambert   42

10 Wes Cummings    33      10 No. 70 Ace Kale          36


Bakersfield Speedway – April 8 and 22, May 20, June 3, July 22, August 5, Sept. 30;

Santa Maria Speedway -June 10 and 24, July 8, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, and Oct. 7.