Over the last two years, many people have asked where California racer James Bickford disappeared to. After bursting onto the scene by winning NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year honors in 2014 and winning two races in two years, Bickford vanished from entry lists in 2016.
The good news is that Bickford has not vanished from the racing scene, but he has been under the radar these last two seasons. But that will soon change as Bickford makes his return to competitive racing this summer, a time which cannot come soon enough for the now 20-year-old driver.
“Oh my gosh you have no idea,” Bickford said excitedly. “It was a very spontaneous opportunity but I'll be back in a car soon. I'll be racing for Matt Scott Family Racing. The way it worked is that Matt Scott is the car chief for Derek Kraus with Bill McAnally racing and he asked me to fill in throughout the year with the Pacific Challenge Series doing Super Late Models.”
Bickford will also be getting backing from SlideBelts in a fresh new partnership, as well as Kamps Propane for the 2018 season. Though he will not compete for the PCS championship, Bickford will get his fair share of seat time as he looks to whip himself back into racing shape.
“Right now I'll be doing up to eight races,” he explained. “The team is really good and have been successful for a really long time. I can't wait to get back into Late Models and being a part of the short track world again. Hopefully we can pick up some wins.”
Bickford will have some work ahead after racing competitively in Legend Cars only the past two years off and on. He is using this opportunity in 2018 as the first step to getting back on the path to the national side of NASCAR.
“It's been tough, a lot of the funding has been the biggest problem,” Bickford stated. “I've been off the radar and I'm really hoping this opportunity being back in a car is leverage for me to put myself in a position next year to be racing something bigger. Whether that's Trucks or partial XFINITY, that's what I'm looking towards and that's what I've been looking towards the last two years.”
Bickford had been poised to make this very step up in 2016, first by moving to the East Coast, until his plans came unraveled due to lack of funding. This time he is intent on not letting that happen again.
“Me being out of a car, that original transition going from the West to the East Coast just didn't work out to the full plan. I was caught in a position just in the middle of being able to sell sponsorship after a deal didn't go through. It was really difficult and I've never had that financial backing, it's always been a matter of putting myself in the right position at the right time. What I'm looking forward to is working my tail off and getting something going.”
To stay in racing form, Bickford has spent time in full-size racecars, not to race, but to teach.
“I’ve been helping out around the Legend Car world and I’ve been helping out the Richard Petty Driving Experience for a long time to keep myself in a car. A good amount of time has gone into that. Plus, just staying active in the racing community.”
It is the community that Bickford is also most excited to get back to, especially his home track fans.
“You have such an intimate relationship with the fans at the short track level I feel like, everything is more accessible, your time is more accessible, and I’m looking forward to going back out to my home tracks of All-American Speedway in Roseville, Stockton, Madera, and Shasta. These are tracks I raced in K&N, Late Models and Legends.”
For the remainder of this spring, Bickford will use the time to prepare for his eight-race slate, and then go racing at the start of summer.
“My first race is June 23 at Shasta Speedway,” he said. “I have a test session coming up April 20 where I’ll get in the car for the first time at Shasta. I wouldn’t hope for anything short of winning, being a competitor I want to go out and win every single race and I don’t have any doubts of that. It’s going to be all about how I develop my senses to a new car and team straight out of the box. But I think that with the Scott family and what they’ve done for me to have me in the car, we’ll be in good shape for a win.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com