Markus Niemela - USAC West Coast Sprint Point Leader. Photo by Steve Lafond / Tear-Off Heaven Fotos.
Markus Niemela - USAC West Coast Sprint Point Leader. Photo by Steve Lafond / Tear-Off Heaven Fotos.
Markus Niemela – USAC West Coast Sprint Point Leader. Photo by Steve Lafond / Tear-Off Heaven Fotos.

From Lance Jennings


Sana Maria, CA — (May 28, 2014) — This Saturday, May 31st, the popular USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series will invade the Merle Stone Chevrolet Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare. Promoted by Steve Faria, the seventh point race of the season will also feature the Honda USAC Western Midgets, winged Racesaver 305 Sprint Cars, and IMCA Modifieds. The front gates will open at 4:30pm and racing is scheduled to begin at 7:00pm.


Saturday’s race will be the fourth of five dates at the Tulare County Fairgrounds. Dennis Howell claimed his first checkered flags on March 14th and rain washed out the April 26th show. Ryan Bernal won the May 17th “Faria Memorial” and reclaimed the series lead with sixteen career victories. Since March 2010, nineteen USAC West Coast Sprint Car races have been held at Tulare and Bernal leads all drivers with five victories. In addition, Ryan holds the current 1-lap qualifying track record of 15.158 set on October 8, 2011.


Heading into the event, Markus Niemela of Rauma, Finland holds a thirty-eight point advantage over the competition. Piloting Keith Ford’s #73 Berry Pack / King Racing Products Spike, Niemela scored third in the May 17th “Faria Memorial” after starting seventh. To date, last season’s USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year has two Woodland Auto Display Fast Time Awards, six top-10 finishes, and 12 feature laps led to his credit. Markus will be looking to extend his point lead and claim his first West Coast feature at Tulare.


Visalia’s Jace Vander Weerd is second in the USAC West Coast point chase. Racing the family owned #88 Vander Weerd Construction / Battery Worx Maxim, Jace started twelfth in the “Faria Memorial” and charged to fifth. Currently, the 2010 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year has one feature win, one Woodland Auto Display Fast Time Award, two heat race victories, seven top-10 finishes, and 20 feature laps led on the season. This Saturday, Vander Weerd will have his sights on claiming the $1,500 payday and scoring his sixth career West Coast main event win.


After finishing fourth at Tulare on May 17th, Matt Mitchell of Yorba Linda has climbed to third in the standings. Driving his #37 MPD Racing / ART Enterprises Maxim, Mitchell has one heat race victory, one Competition Suspension Inc. / Rod End Supply Semi-Main win, two Keizer Wheels / Racing Optics Hard Charger Awards and five top-10 finishes on the year. The former USAC Western Midget Rookie of the Year will be looking to earn his first West Coast victory on Saturday.


Ojai’s Troy Rutherford sits fourth in the chase for the championship. Piloting Steve Watt’s #81 JD Machine Tech / AAA Propane Maxim, Rutherford placed twelfth in the “Faria Memorial.” To date, the former VRA Champion has one feature win, one heat race victory, five top-10 finishes, and 13 feature laps led in 2014. At Tulare, Troy will have his sights on claiming his third career USAC West Coast triumph.


After taking second in Tulare’s May 17th feature, “Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton has risen to fifth in the point standings. Racing Junior Bowman’s #2 Buster & & Ziggy Enterprises / DeBoer & Sons Trucking Spike, Faria has two heat race victories, two Keizer Wheels / Racing Optics Hard Charger Awards, and four top-10 finishes on the season. The defending series champion will be looking to score his seventh career West Coast victory at Thunderbowl Raceway.


Currently twenty-first in points, Springville’s Garrett Long leads the chase for Rookie of the Year honors. Terra Bella’s Trent Carter, Robert Nuckles of Hanford, and Hanford’s Connor Kassik are also in contention.


Among the other drivers expected to be in action are Nic Faas, Austin Liggett, Richard Vander Weerd, Dennis Howell, “Shifter” Landon Hurst, Marty Hawkins, Ryan Bernal, Kevin Barnes, Jeff Sibley, “The Wild Child” Chris Ennis, Davey Pombo, Matt Day, and more.


Tulare’s Merle Stone Chevrolet Thunderbowl Raceway is located at the Tulare County Fairgrounds at the corner of Bardsley and K Streets. Reserved tickets are $15 and General Admission seats are $13. Advance tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling the track office at 559.688.0909. For more event information, visit the track’s website at


The USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series thanks Amsoil, Hoosier Tire, Chris Kearns Presents, Competition Suspension Inc., Deist Safety, Engler Machine & Tool, Extreme Mufflers, Five Star Grafix, Keizer Wheels, Pyrotect Racing Cells, Racing Optics, Rod End Supply, Rugged Radios, Saldana Racing Products, SouthWest Contractors, VanLare Steering Repair, Weld Racing, and Woodland Auto Display for their support. If you or your company would like to become part of the series, email PR Director Lance Jennings at


For more information, visit,, follow the series on Facebook (!/pages/USAC-West-Coast-Sprint-Car-Series/369549755817), or Twitter (



1. Markus Niemela-355, 2. Jace Vander Weerd-317, 3. Matt Mitchell-300, 4. Troy Rutherford-289, 5. Danny Faria Jr.-283, 6. Nic Faas-281, 7. Austin Liggett-237, 8. Richard Vander Weerd-233, 9. Dennis Howell-230, 10. Landon Hurst-215, 11. Marty Hawkins-163, 12. Ryan Bernal-143, 13. Kevin Barnes-126, 14. Jeff Sibley-118, 15. Bud Kaeding-116, 16. Chris Ennis-112, 17. D.J. Johnson-98, 18. Michael Pickens-84, 19. Brody Roa-79, 20. Davey Pombo-72.