One driver is looking for his first series championship. Another is looking to grab a couple of those big cardboard checks and the real money they represent.
Sacramento's Kyle Hirst can win his first King of the West 410 Sprint Car championship Saturday night at the Stockton dirt track by holding off Chico's Jonathan Allard during the annual Tribute to Gary Patterson main event.
"If I go out and have a good, solid night and stay out of trouble, we should win it all," said Hirst, who will drive Roth Enterprises' No. 83 car. "My lead over Allard is only 45 points and you can win 44 points just by winning the main event. We just have to do the same thing we've been doing each week and that's just be solid."
Citrus Heights driver Sean Becker will pull double duty by competing in both the 360 cubic-inch race and against Hirst, Allard and other drivers from throughout the country in the Tribute to Gary Patterson finale. While Hirst and Allard will be duking it out for the series title, Becker aims to win the most money.
"I've done double duty at the same race four or five times in my career, but that's always been with my 360 and into a midget race car," said Becker, who will drive M&M Structures' No. 35 car in the 360 and M&S Racing's No. 27 in the 410. "This will be the first time in a 360 and then a 410 on the same night. It should be fun."
Becker said he's used to racing his 410 on Fridays at Chico's Silver Dollar Speedway and then traveling to Placerville on Saturdays to compete in the 360 sprint car track championship. Becker recently won his second consecutive and third career 410 championship at the Chico track.
He also beat the World of Outlaws drivers in a preliminary race at the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway, and he won his third Civil War Sprint Car Series title this season for owner Dan Monhoff.
"I'll be out there to win, but I don't have any pressure like Kyle or Jonathan do," said Becker, 32, who has 77 career wins, seven championships and one King of the West title (2005). "I'm not going out to the Tribute to Gary Patterson race to be the spoiler. But I am going out to win."
Patterson was a popular driver who lived in Sacramento when he died after a Sprint Car crash at Calistoga Speedway on Memorial Day weekend in 1983. The first tribute race was that year in Calistoga.
Patterson began his racing career at Stockton 99 Speedway, making the Stockton dirt track at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds a great place for the 30th anniversary of the event.
"My dad (Rick Hirst) raced for many years before me and has told me about Gary Patterson many times," said Hirst, who has been to the podium 12 times in 17 King of the West starts this season. "This is a prestigious race, much like the Dave Bradway Memorial each year. People get emotional about these races and it would be wonderful to win it Saturday."
"I'm too young to remember Gary Patterson but I've met his son, Jimmy, and he's a great guy," Becker said. "The racing community is really just one big family."
Lupton wins rookie honor – Dylan Lupton, 19, of Wilton has clinched the 2013 Rookie of the Year award in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with one race remaining, NASCAR announced Thursday.
Lupton had 11 straight top-10 finishes, highlighted by a win at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., and he's fifth in the standings heading into Saturday's Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway.
IF YOU GO
What: 30th annual Tribute to Gary Patterson Sprint Car event
Where: Stockton dirt track, 1658 South Airport Way
When: Saturday; gates open 3:30 p.m; qualifying 5 p.m.; racing 6 p.m.
Cost: $20 general admission, $10 6-12-year-olds; free 5 and under; $30 reserved seats; pit pass is an additional $40
Info: www.kwssprints.com or call (916) 370-9417
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com.