DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – James Bickford set many goals for himself at the beginning of his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season. Seven races into his NASCAR career, he can check “victory” off the list.
The Napa, California, native passed former champion Greg Pursley with four laps to go in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 en route to capturing his first career win on July 12 at State Line Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho. With his first checkered flag in the books, Bickford can continue to focus on some of the other goals he set out for himself this season.
“I would say there’s a little less pressure,” commented the driver of the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Springs/Interstate Plastics Ford. “I definitely wanted to get a win for the year so that’s definitely a weight lifted off my back.”
Bickford, who turned 16 in March, is the cousin of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. His previous best finish was a fourth-place run at Iowa Speedway in May. The young driver now turns his attention to Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colorado, site of Saturday’s NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150.
“I think the win gives us momentum going into the next race and definitely a lot of confidence on the short tracks,” said Bickford, whose victory at State Line came on a .25-mile track. Colorado National Speedway is a .375-mile banked oval.
When asked about his strategy for Saturday, Bickford quickly responded that his goal was to have a good qualifying session and secure a strong starting position.
“It’s trending that whoever qualifies on the pole wins the race. It’s beneficial to start on the front row because you’re pretty much going to stay up front for most of the race, so qualifying well at short tracks is definitely a focus point for us.”
There have been seven different pole winners through the first seven events of the season. Four drivers have won a race from the pole and, outside the combination event at Iowa Speedway, the worst starting position for a race winner was sixth.
With a win in the books, Bickford says he can now focus on his remaining goals for the season, gaining experience at the tracks the series visits and trying to have good races.
“I’m excited going in to the rest of the races,” said Bickford. “There’s less pressure to win a race and now it’s just going out and doing your best.”
RACE: NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150
PLACE: Colorado National Speedway, Dacono, Colo.
DATE: Saturday, July 26
TIME: 8:30 p.m. MT
TV Schedule: FOX Sports 1, Aug. 3, 10 a.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .375-mile paved oval
2013 POLESITTER: Derek Thorn
2013 WINNER: Derek Thorn
EVENT SCHEDULE: Saturday: Practice 12-12:45 p.m., 1:15–2 p.m., Qualifying 5:30 p.m..
The Race: This event is the eighth of 14 events on the 2014 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
The Procedure: The starting field is 22 cars, including provisionals. The first 18 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (56.25 miles).
The Track: Colorado National Speedway is a .375-mile paved oval with four degrees of banking in the straights and progressive banking of six to 12 degrees in the corners.
Records: Qualifying: Brian Ickler, June 2, 2007, 82.057 mph, 16.452 seconds; Race: Derek Thorn, July 27, 2013, 66.788 mph, 50 minutes 32 seconds.
History: This race will be the 12th series visit to Colorado National Speedway.
Colorado Race Note
Pursley Looks To Stay Hot At Colorado: Greg Pursley has been nothing if not consistent at Colorado National Speedway. The points leader has one win, five top fives and five top 10s in all of his starts at the track. Of the 17 drivers currently entered into the event, only Jack Sellers has more starts, 10, than Pursley.
Importance Of Qualifying: Throughout the first seven races of the 2014 season, there have been six race winners and seven pole winners. Four drivers have won an event from the pole this year and no winning driver outside of the combination event at Iowa Speedway has started the race worse than fifth all season.
Lupton Hopes To Bounce Back: Dylan Lupton had a rough outing the last time out at State Line Speedway, that is, a rough outing by his 2014 standards. Lupton recorded his worst finish of the season, an eighth place effort, the last time out, breaking a streak of three consecutive top-five finishes. Through the first seven races of the season, Lupton has three top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of five. He finished 10th in his lone career start at Colorado National Speedway last year.
Last Time Out: State Line
The seventh race of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season was contested on July 12 at State Line Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho. Here are some highlights from the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150:
- Bickford won his first series event in just his seventh race with the series, passing former champion Pursley with four laps to go en route to capturing the checkered flag.
- Pursley finished as the runner-up, his seventh top five of the season, increasing his point lead to 27 points over Lupton and 34 over Brandon McReynolds.
- Braeden Havens earned his first career pole prior to the event and finished fourth. It was his 13th career race but first of 2013.
- The NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 was the third all-time K&N Pro Series West event at State Line Speedway, and first since 1985.
Next Time Out: Iowa
The series heads back to Iowa for the second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race of the season. The Autolite Iridium XP 150 is set for Friday, Aug. 1. K&N Pro Series East driver Ben Rhodes won the first combination event at Iowar earlier this year while David Mayhew scored the best finish amongst K&N Pro Series West competitors.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release.
-Photo Credit: NASCAR/Getty Images