Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Harvick To Give Driving Lessons To High School Kids.

Kevin Harvick has announced that he will be returning to his hometown of Bakersfield, Ca. to resurrect a local racing series that has been near to his heart for many years. The Kern County Youth Racing Series will have a special one night event at Bakersfield Speedway on Wednesday October 7. The incredibly popular racing series has been absent from local competition since the famous Mesa Marin Speedway closed in 2005.
The Kern County Youth Racing Series (formally know as the High School Racing Series) was the first of it's kind in the country that encouraged local high schools to build, race, and crew their own stock cars. Seniors working on the cars took turns at the wheel in the weekly racing series. At its peek in the early part of this century, more then a dozen schools were represented from around the central valley area with some traveling as far as 150 miles on race night. The talent of the young drivers, boys and girls, ranged from "scared out of their wits" to "future stars". There where rivalries developing between powerhouse teams from Mojave, Tehachapi and Kevin's alma mater, North High. I remember one Saturday night when my little brother-in-law got his chance behind the wheel of the beautiful blue Frazier Mtn. High School Chevy Nova. He decided to take the cautious approach and let the leaders battle it out. A couple of spins coming out of turn two hard on the gas left him smiling ear to ear and with a mid-pack finish. I must say I was very proud of him and very jealous at the same time.
While the series has it's roots in asphalt racing, the delay of the new Kern County Speedway has forced the high school kids off the track for far too long for Kevin's sake.
"We've been supporting the Kern County Youth Racing Series for a few years now and we want to give these kids the opportunity to race, so we're coming to the Speedway to help make that happen."
In conjunction with Bakersfield Speedway (the local 1/3 mile clay oval) and Kevin Harvick, a special one night race has been sanctioned to get the kids back to racing and show off what they can do. Along with giving the teens helpful advice, as a special incentive, these young racers will have the opportunity to whoop a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver's butt. Yes, Kevin himself will be racing a Hobby Stock class car along with the kids and hopefully not getting too embarrassed in the process. Can you imagine the ribbing he would get from Clint Bowyer and others if he was to get outrun by some snot-nosed high school brat?
This won't be the first time Kevin has taken to the clay oval at the track he grew up so close to. Last year, he made his Inaugural Run In The Dirt at the speedway in a modified race car that brought past champions and hot shots from around the western states. You can check out that story here if you missed it. It was a fun night for all, although I seem to remember a bit of a headache the next morning. I can thank the King Of Beers for that.

Kevin's duties at the speedway won't just be helping the kids get back on track. He will be kicking off the Prelude To The Nationals (where have we head that before) Hobby Stock race that is the start of the Budweiser Nationals for Late Models, Modifieds, Hobby and Street stocks. And curiously the track owner and promoter, Scott Schweitzer, has left a provisional spot open just in case. Will Kevin take to the track again against the best the junker class has to offer? That is, if there is anything left of his car after he concludes driver training with some of today's youth. I hope to bring all the details of the night's action to you following the event, providing I can elude the King Of Beers long enough to log the festivities.

Side note: It's a shame that Mesa Marin had to close because of housing developments that surrounded and engulfed the track. The new facility fell victim to the real estate collapse here in the Bakersfield area. Land sales that were to finance the project never reached close of escrow. The Collins family, who were such pioneers of the Craftsman Truck Series, the High School Racing Series, and the 911 Race For Youth where local firemen, law enforcement, DA's office and other public servants raced each other to help support the D.A.R.E. program and other local activities, are still hopeful that the new track, that is 90% complete, will be finished and the great tradition of Bakersfield racing will once again lead the country in innovative forms of racing.