NASCAR & Auto Racing

Local motor sports notes: Kyle Hirst closes in on back-to-back King of the West titles

This time last year, sprint car driver Kyle Hirst was worried that his 45-point lead heading into the King of the West series finale at Stockton Dirt Track wouldn’t hold up. It did, as the Sacramento native won his first King of the West title.

This year, Hirst has the luxury of a 101-point lead over Campbell’s Bud Kaeding and just needs to start the A-Main at Sunday’s annual Tribute to Gary Patterson race at Stockton Dirt Track to win back-to-back series championships. That hasn’t happened since Brent Kaeding – Bud’s father – won consecutive titles in 1996-97. A Kaeding has won the King of the West title 15 times in the series’ 28 years. Brent Kaeding has 13 titles. His other son, Tim Kaeding, has two titles (2002, 2011).

“Having that (large) lead takes the pressure off,” said Hirst, 26, who moved this year to Chico. “Now we just need to finish off the year with another win.”

Hirst is the only King of the West driver with four victories this season. Chico’s Jonathan Allard and Rutherford’s Rico Abreu each have three wins. Abreu is looking for his third consecutive Tribute to Gary Patterson A-main victory. The race has been rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday because of a storm expected to hit the area Friday and Saturday.

Patterson won at every level of sprint car racing. The colorful driver with nicknames such as “Preacher,” “Hostile Hippie” or just “GP” died in 1983 after a sprint car crash at Calistoga Speedway. The memorial race has been held every year since. Patterson moved to Stockton in 1957 and began his career at Stockton 99 Speedway.

Hirst said it would be nice to cap an impressive season with a win for his team. He’s driven the Roth Motorsports/ HR Livestock Transportation No. 83 for two seasons. The team is based in Fresno.

“We’ve run well all season,” Hirst said. “The team has been busting their butts all week and there have been no mechanical errors all season. All errors this season were driver errors. So it would be cool to not only win the title but the race, too.”

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Hangtown race moved up – The Hangtown Motocross Classic will once again kick off the AMA motocross outdoor nationals, but this time the race has been moved up from its normal late-May date to May 16, 2015.

Tickets will go on sale Nov. 28.

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IndyCar to end season at Sonoma – For the first time in series history, the final IndyCar Series championship race will be held at Sonoma Raceway. It’s also the first time in series history that the final race will be held on a road course. The race weekend is scheduled for Aug. 28-30, 2015.

IndyCar celebrated its 10th anniversary at Sonoma Raceway last year, and the 11th annual event will conclude the 17-race 2015 season. It’s the first time the track has concluded a season for a major motor sports series. The IndyCar Series championship has come down to the last race each year since 2006.

Will Power will be the defending champion and is a three-time winner at Sonoma (2010, 2011 and 2013).

“Sonoma will be an outstanding place to end the Verizon IndyCar Series season,” Power said in a release. “It’s an awesome venue with fans who really love our sport.”

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at or @editorwriter001