A gentle breeze may have moderated the temperatures at Bakersfield Speedway on Saturday evening, but the racing at the fourth annual Richie McGowan Memorial was as hotly contested as ever.
The event is named after local petroleum industry executive and longtime driver Richard McGowan, who was found dead in his home in February 2013 at age 50.
A West High graduate known for his easy-going charisma, McGowan competed in nearly every racing division over his decades-long career, and also financially supported several cars and drivers over the years.
American Stocks was the first main event on the docket, with Roger Welch’s Triple-R 21 car taking the victory over Kody Sly.
Sly was in control for most the cautioned-interrupted race, with the 99 of Don Mead pushing him early on.
Welch sat in fourth after 11 laps, living on the inside lane until lap 16 when he took the top spot from Sly on a restart.
The Bakersfield native held off Sly’s 25 car the rest of the way, eventually crossing the line in front of the hard-charging Wade Eurto (8) and Sly for his third win in six main events.
American Stocks points leader Brian Childress started 12th but steadily moved up throughout the 20-lap event to finish fourth.
“It felt good—I was right on the bottom,” Welch said of his strategy. “(The car) likes it down there, so I just let her go.”
The fireworks show followed the American Stocks (the Speedway is dark on July 4), and the lights were turned out at a packed Speedway to allow the thousand or so fans in attendance to fully appreciate the colorful explosion.
When the lights were raised and smoke had cleared, the IMCA Modifieds hit the third-mile clay oval.
Brad Pounds started in the pole position, and stayed clear of a sizeable pile-up on the backstretch during lap 4 that saw several cars get turned around in a collision. Pounds rocketed out of the restart and put some distance between himself Steve Noland, only to have the advantage erased after another yellow flag was brought out.
IMCA Mods points leader Robby Sawyer’s 198 stayed in the hunt throughout the first half the race, moving into second place on lap 16. But Pounds’ car was just flat-out faster, and he effortlessly maneuvered through heavy lap traffic in the middle portion of the race before a caution caused the field to bunch up just three go-arounds from the finish.
Pounds held on for the victory followed by Sawyer and the 00 of Levi Kiefer.
McGowan’s daughter, Tina, was in action in the Hobby Stocks, racing the No. 32 car in honor of her father.
McGowan cruised through her heat, leading wire-to-wire to nab a spot in the main event, which did not feature points leader Kevin Collier due to a stall-out in his prelim.
The Hobby Stocks and Sport Mod main events had not started before deadline.