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Nitto Tire NMCA West Auto-X Spring Fling—The Nitto Tire NMCA West Auto-X series competition ramps up at the second event of the season

Posted By: Steve Baur
Written by RJB
Photography by Will Estrada

As spring sprung, we headed back to the Auto Club Speedway for the second round of the Nitto Tire NMCA West Auto-X Series Spring Fling Event. Although it}s too early in the season to have a clear picture of how the championship battle will play out one thing is crystal clear—it’s going to be a fight to the finish. The art of winning a championship will require a keen eye, a steady hand, and a passion for racing. 

This passion is the foundation for a new tradition and inspired two new awards for the event. As we celebrate our winners, we also wanted to celebrate the heart and soul of these events, so we will highlight these amazing people throughout the year. 

The excitement level for the second event ramped up and we created a course dubbed The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It had a good flow, a bad-ass straight, and one ugly corner (they can’t all be perfect). Although many people struggled with the ugly corner, the course itself leveled the playing field across the board in all the different classes. In the end, everyone enjoyed the challenging course as we celebrated our freedom doing what we love—racing!

Earl Merz, Sixth: 51.933

Jason Flaherty, Seventh: 51.987

David Reiner, Eighth: 52.02

Dane Gonzales, Ninth: 52.098

Anderson Composites Modern Muscle is always one of the larger groups in NMCA West Auto-X competition. It has, however, evolved over the years. No longer is the dominance of the Camaro. With that said, Kurt Robinson in his Fifth-Gen Camaro took the win on Saturday and Gary Cameron got the win on Sunday in his dad’s Mustang moving them both into the Pro Class. One of the big highlights was the battle that ensued in the mid-pack. Earl Merz, Jason Flaherty, David Reiner, and Dane Gonzales all finished within just over a 10th of a second of each other, man that was a great battle! With an epic display of power and finesse, young gun Matt Ramirez earned a clean sweep in the Pro Class. Pitting an SN-95 Mustang up against the newest muscle cars from GM, Ford, and Dodge showed what some aftermarket upgrades and a lot of hard work and effort can do!

Mike Hogate, Eighth: 51.856

Josh Keller, Ninth: 51.860

Bry Morris, 10th: 51.894

Garrett Randall, 11th: 51.904

Mike Balzer,12th: 51.943

Fred Fogerty, 13th: 51.957

Not to be outdone, the TCI Classic Muscle group put on a heck of a show as well. Tom Kamman and Jason Wilcox both moved up to the Pro group. Chad Ryker continued his winning ways in the Pro class putting everyone on notice that he is a contender for the overall Grand Championship. This is always the largest class in NMCA West competition with some of the most incredible Pro-Touring cars in the nation and just getting into the Top 10 is an accomplishment in itself. This is hard to explain so try this — count from one to 10 and do it in one second, you can’t. Well, that’s what separated six guys, .101sec in the battle to make it into the Top 10. Mike Hogate, Josh Keller, Bry Morris, Garrett Randall, Mike Balzer, and Fred Fogerty showed us the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in one-tenth of a second, it was something to see and we can’t wait to see how it turns out at the next event.

Lisa Berry

Monique Martinez

We are blessed to have so many amazing ladies race at our events. There is nothing better than getting your wife, daughter, mom, aunt, or grandma involved in racing. The family that races together, stays together. One of the new awards this season was created by Cheryl and Bill Shumate (#TeamJustin) and is called the Big Heart Award. This is a way to honor some of the great people that participate in NMCA West Auto-X events and the first two awards were given to two ladies. The first award went to Lisa Berry. This incredible young lady is a fierce competitor with so much joy and passion for racing. She goes out of her way to help anyone she can, it runs in the family! She brings a smile to the hearts of anyone around her. Lisa also won the Sports Car class on Sunday. Next was Monique Martinez, who makes people laugh and is always having fun. With a smile on her face and always a kind word, she truly has a big heart. Notably, several other ladies raced with NMCA West this weekend; Jane Thurmond, Kayla Wolfe, Megan Randall, Samantha Fitts, Francine Verdugo, Ashton Robinson, Nicole Mason, Brittney Fitts, Kerryann Adams, Reese Logan, and of course Trish Byrd along with Darcy and Emma Fisher.

We get to celebrate many things at our events including winners, birthdays, marriage proposals, holidays, and many other occasions. At this event, we were honored to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Chris and Samantha Fitts. Once the racing was over on Saturday, the Fitts Family decorated our spectator tent and set up a catered dinner for everyone that stuck around. There were games with hula hoops and cones; a cool video that Chris put together; and lots of adult beverages. A great time was had by all, these two know how to throw a party. Congratulations on 25 years and hopefully the happy couple can celebrate their 50th anniversary at a future NMCA West Auto-X event.

The newest tradition is the RacingByrds Passion for Racing award, presented to a worthy winner at each event this year. These events remain about so much more than just racing, it’s about the people that attend and make this more than just an autocross. Racing with NMCA West since back in the lot-five days, James Eaton first showed up with his Fox Mustang, it was a really good car but not set up for autocross. He still had stock seats and lap belts. After a couple of events, he asked Chad Ryker to drive his car to get some pointers on what he needed to do to the car. The cool part was he listened and showed up with some good seats and harnesses. He has improved over the years and has suffered some brutal defeats getting knocked out of the top spot on the last runs of the day. With all that he still drives out from Vegas for every event with a smile on his face ready to race. James has a great sense of humor, always ready to give it his all, so it was an honor to present him with the Passion for Racing Award.

Chris and Mary Stoner from Seven7 Designs are some of the most creative, talented, and artistic people to attend these events. They have been part of the NMCA West Auto-X family for many years, and we can’t thank them enough for creating these incredible Passion for Racing Awards so we gave them an award for making the Coolest awards.

Tom Berry, Event Winner

Chad Ryker, Runner-Up

Event Winners
As we close out the second round of the season it’s obvious that this is a fight to the finish. Tom Berry managed the event win and Chad Ryker finished as the runner-up making them tied for the overall points lead. There are legitimately 13 competitors in contention for the top spot. As of the second event, Wes Drelleshak earned the third spot, while Kurt Burris, Jason Wilcox, Chad Sage, and Chris Humphreys are all tied for fourth. That group is followed closely by Paul Molina, Sammy Valafar, Eric Sheely, Tom Kamman, Guy Dreier, and Matt Ramirez. We look forward to seeing some amazing racing as the year continues, stay tuned to see how it all turns out!

Saturday Winners

Sunday Winners

2022 Nitto Tire NMCA West Auto-X Spring Fling Winners
Event Winner: Tom Berry
Runner-Up: Chad Ryker
Saturday Winners
Classic Muscle Pro: Chad Ryker
TCI Classic Muscle: Tom Kamman
Modern Muscle Pro: Matt Ramirez
Anderson Composites Modern Muscle: Kurt Robinson
Custom Machine Performance Super Car: Robert DuPree
Sports Car Pro: Dannie Pinard
Sports Car: Sammy Valafar
Truck Pro: Michael Williams
The Sheely Collection Truck: Rich Alianelli
Compact Pro: Pelton Barnes
Auto Ricambi Compact Car: Nick Elia
Sunday Winners
Classic Muscle Pro: Chad Ryker
TCI Classic Muscle: Jason Wilcox
Modern Muscle Pro: Matt Ramirez
Anderson Composites Modern Muscle: Gary Cameron
Custom Machine Performance Super Car: Robert DuPree
Sports Car Pro: Sammy Valafar
Sports Car: Lisa Berry
Truck Pro: Michael Williams
The Sheely Collection Truck: Thayer McDonald
Compact Pro: Pelton Barnes
Auto Ricambi Compact Car: Michael Knudsen

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