USAC West Coast 360's

USAC West Coast 360'sFrom Dick Jordan

Bud Kaeding returns to the Tulare (Calif.) Thunderbowl Raceway Saturday to open the 2012 USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series and is stamped as the overwhelming favorite after his 2011 successes at the one-third-mile dirt oval.

Kaeding won last Thursday night’s “Sin City Showdown” at the Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway dirt track, passing Ryan Bernal on the white-flag lap for the win. Last year at Tulare, Kaeding won in three straight starts and finished second in the series finale to Bernal, who ended up claiming the series “Rookie of the Year” honors. Bernal’s 2012 Tulare record included a win and three seconds.

Defending USAC West Coast Sprint Car Champion Richard Vander Weerd of Visalia, Calif. had a pair of podium finishes in last year’s five Tulare outings.

Kaeding’s Las Vegas victory earned him $2,500 as he polished off the USAC vs. ASCS “Grudge Series” field on the half-mile dirt oval. The race was the first of a special three-race series which carries its own point fund but does not offer USAC West Coast Sprint points. The remaining races are September 22 and 29 at Peoria, Ariz. and Santa Maria, Calif. respectively.

Other 2011 Tulare podium finishers included Peter Murphy, who had a win, Dennis Howell, who had a second, and Greg Alexander, Troy Rutherford and Jace Vander Weerd, each of whom had thirds.