Sprint Car Insider- Feature Series. Story by Steven Blakesley. BAKERSFIELD, Ca. (November 1, 2018) . It would seem unlikely that the top Micro Sprint driver in California and a driver who raced at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway would share the same venue this weekend. But there is no other venue in California like Kern County Raceway Park and no drivers competing this weekend like Tyler “TJ” Smith and Davey Hamilton, Jr. For each driver, this weekend will be their comeback races and both have their eyes firmly on victory lane.
The entire weekend pays tribute to George “Ziggy” Snider, himself a journeyman racer who drove for many different teams in his decades-long careers in open wheel racing and in the Indianapolis 500.
Saturday night will see the Kern County Raceway Park Dirt Track play host to unsanctioned non-winged 360 Sprint Cars and Midgets. TJ Smith has not sat in the seat of a non-wing sprint car since 2014. His last full time season with the USAC West Coast 360s was back in 2011. He previously had a four win season in 2010 to finish third in the points as one of the brightest stars in the series and finished fifth in the championship in 2009 as well.
A career reset of sorts has come by the way of Salmon Motorsports and Micro Sprint Racing. Smith’s run over the last four seasons has been one for the record books, including winning the California Speedweek title three times out of those four attempts. In 2018, his resume is impeccable with 25 wins and five championships. Sweeping Delta Speedway, Lemoore Raceway, and Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park track championships, Smith has also added the Speedweek and King of California crowns. He also scored the Mark Hagopian Memorial and Turkey Bowl XVIII as part of his huge season.
Smith’ resume would seem an instant attraction for sprint car owners but Smith has had to wait by the sidelines until this weekend. Smith will return to his central valley California Sprint Car roots driving for Jayson May in Saturday’s event at the KCRP Dirt Track.
On Sunday afternoon, Davey Hamilton, Jr. will try to make his triumphant return to Kern County Raceway Park’s paved half-mile during the King of the Wing National Sprint Car championship. Hamilton, from Boise, ID, is a third-generation driver whose father is an Indianapolis 500 veteran himself.
Hamilton’s comeback comes under different circumstances. After winning the 2016 King of the Wing championship with a fourth place finish at Kern County Raceway Park, Hamilton turned his attention to many different racing series in 2017 including USAC Silver Crown cars and Stadium Super Trucks.
He climbed aboard Glenn Hutchison’s Winged Sprint Car at Irwindale Speedway last November and used daring maneuvers low on the apron, Indy-style, to make more than half a dozen attempts at the lead. Hamilton’s luck eventually ran out when he tagged the turn two wall hard. He emerged under his own power but suffered a severe concussion and broken ribs.
After a lengthy recovery, he was approved by doctors to return to competition this spring. Hamilton hit the ground running, sitting on the pole for the prestigious Little 500 sprint car race at Anderson Speedway in Indiana and also making his Indianapolis Motor Speedway debut in the Freedom 100 for the Indy Lights. Saturday will mark his return to Irwindale Speedway for another try before his first Kern County Raceway Park start since 2016 on Sunday.
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