I thought before the 2012 season gets under way it would be interesting to see how race car drivers from Northern California did last year in the National and Regional racing series.
The average person living in Antioch, Weed or Escalon, probably has no idea of the amount or the quality of professional race car drivers that come from Northern California. In fact in 2011, Jimmy Boyd from Woodland was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa and in June of 2012, Johnny Anderson of Carmichael will be inducted in the Hall of Fame as well.
National Series Champions
Bryan Clauson who grew up in Antelope before moving to Indiana, won his second straight USAC National Drivers Championship. Bryan also won the USAC National Midget Championship. He came in 8th in Silver Crown and 8th in National Sprint Car. Bryan also ran a partial schedule in the Firestone Indy Lights Series and hopes to qualify for the Indy 500 this year.
Joey Hand from Sacramento had the best year of his career winning GT Championship in the American LeMans Series. He started the year as teammate to Scott Pruett winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Later he won the 12 Hours of Sebring, making it a clean sweep of the 2 biggest sports car races in the country. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans he came in 3rd nearly winning the Triple Crown of endurance racing.
Jason Meyers from Clovis won his 2nd consecutive World of Outlaws Sprint Car Championship with 9 wins in 2011. Jason recently announced that he is retiring after 14 races in 2012 to spend more time with his growing family.
Scott Pruett from Auburn won the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series for a record fourth time. In 2011, Scott with teammate Memo Rojas, won 5 times including the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He is definitely the Richard Petty of Sports Car racing.
Regional Series Champions
Tyler Dolacki from Madera won the USAC Western Dirt Focus Championship.
Geoff Ensign from Lakeport won the Inaugural USAC Western Classic and Western Classic Dirt Championships.
Andy Forsberg from Auburn won the California Sprint Car Civil War Series Championship with 5 wins for the year.
Tony Hunt from Lincoln is now an eight-time USAC champion, claiming both the USAC Western Sprint Car Series and USAC Western Classic Pavement championships for the 2011 season.
Tim Kaeding from San Jose won the Golden State King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series Championship.
Garrett Peterson from West Sacramento won the USAC Northern Pavement Focus Championship.
Tommy Tarlton Jr. from Easton won the ASCS Southern California Region with 5 wins in the series.
Richard VanderWeerd from Visalia won the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Championship.
Some other Northern California race car drivers who had successful seasons include:
Robert Hight, orginally from Alturas, came in 4th place in NHRA Funny Car standings.
Karen Stoffer, from Minden, NV finished in the 6th spot in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycles.
A.J. Allmendinger from Los Gatos finished 15th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings with 1 top 5 and 10 top 10 finishes. After the season, A.J. was signed to drive the No. 22 car for the legendary Roger Penske. He also got off to a great start to 2012 by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Matt Crafton from Tulare ended the year in 8th place in the Camping World Truck Series with 1 win and 5 top 5’s.
Matt DiBenedetto from Grass Valley, at the age of 19, finished in the 4th spot in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with 1 win and 7 top 5’s.
Justin Funkhouser of Paradise finished in 12th place in the K&N Pro Series West.
Jeff Gordon who grew up in Vallejo before moving to Indiana, finished in 8th place in the Sprint Cup standings. Jeff a 4-time champion, won 3 races in 2012, making 85 for his career.
Cody Hodgson from Escalon, 19 years-old, finished in 11th place in the K&N Pro Series East.
Eric Holmes, the 3-time champion from Escalon, was the 2nd place finisher in the K&N Pro Series West with 2 wins in 2011.
Ryan Philpott from Tracy was 9th in the K&N Pro Series standings in his first full year in the series.
Greg Rayl from Salida finished the season in 11th place in the K&N Pro Series West.
Jack Sellers, the 66 year-old from Sacramento, finished in 13th place in the standings of the K&N Pro Series West. Jack has raced in the series every year for the last 27 years.
J.R. Hildebrand from Sausalito, finished 14th in his rookie year in the IndyCar Series. J.R. the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion finished 2nd in the 2011 Indy 500 after a dramatic last lap wreck.
Jonathan Bomarito from Monterey finish in the 3rd spot in the Grand-Am Rolex Series GT division.
Dane Cameron of Glen Ellen was 4th in the Grand-Am Rolex Series GT division. He also competed in the American Le Mans Series finishing 14th in the LMPC class.
Jon Fogarty from Palo Alto, a 2 time champion, finished in 4th place in the Grand-Am Rolex Series DP division.
Bill Lester, who grew up in San Jose and Oakland, finished 2nd in the Grand-Am Rolex Series GT division. Bill was only 2 points behind the champion while winning 2 races in 2011.
Seth Neiman of San Francisco finished 7th in the American Le Mans Series GT standings.
Henri Richard of Los Altos Hills was the Grand-Am Rolex series Rookie of the Year and finished in 9th place in the DP standings.
Johannes van Overbeek of Sacramento was the 6th place finisher in the American Le Mans Series GT standings.
Robert Ballou from Rocklin finished in 7th place in the 2011 USAC National Sprint Car Series standings. Robert also finished 11th in the National Drivers standings.
Keith Bloom Jr. from Anderson finished in 11th place in the USAC National Sprint Car Series.
Damion Gardner from Concord was 6th in the USAC National Sprint Car Series and 13th in the National Drivers standings.
Bud Kaeding from Campbell finished tied for 8th place with Bryan Clauson in the USAC Silver Crown Series.
Kyle Larson, the 19 year-old from Elk Grove had a breakout season in 2011. He was the only driver other than Tony Stewart to ever win a race in all five of the top Sprint Car Series in the same year. He won in World of Outlaws, ASCS, and the top 3 USAC divisions. He also won the biggest race on the West Coast, the Gold Cup in Chico. Kyle finished 2nd in the USAC National Drivers Championship. He also finished 3rd in both the USAC Midgets and Silver Crown while winning Rookie of the Year in both divisions.
Paul McMahan from Elk Grove was the 4th place finisher in the 2011 World of Outlaws standings. Paul had 4 wins and 10 Quick Times.
Kody Swanson from Kingsburg, after suffering a near fatal crash in Indiana, still finished in 10th place in the USAC Silver Crown standings and 14th in the National Midget Series. Kody also was the 5th place finisher in the National Pavement Series.
Tanner Swanson from Kingsburg was 7th in the USAC Silver Crown and 10th in the USAC National Midget Series. Tanner also finished 2nd in the National Pavement Series and 14th in the National Drivers standings.