By John Tejeda, NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – James Bickford set many goals for himself at the beginning of his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season. Seven races into his NASCAR career, he can check a victory off the list.
The Napa, California, native passed former champion Greg Pursley with four laps to go in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 en route to capturing his first career win at State Line Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho. With his first checkered flag in the books, Bickford can focus on some of the other goals he set out for himself this season.
“I would say there’s a little less pressure,” commented the driver of the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Springs/Interstate Plastics Ford. “I definitely wanted to get a win for the year so that’s definitely a weight lifted off my back.”
Bickford, who turned 16 in March, is the cousin of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. His previous best finish was a fourth-place run at Iowa Speedway in May. The young driver now turns his attention to Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colorado, site of Saturday’s NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150.
“I think the win gives us momentum going into the next race and definitely a lot of confidence on the short tracks,” said Bickford, whose victory at State Line came on a .25-mile track. Colorado National Speedway is a .375-mile banked oval.
When asked about his strategy for Saturday, Bickford quickly responded that his goal was to have a good qualifying session and secure a strong starting position.
“It’s trending that whoever qualifies on the pole wins the race. It’s beneficial to start on the front row because you’re pretty much going to stay up front for most of the race, so qualifying well at short tracks is definitely a focus point for us.”
There have been seven different pole winners through the first seven events of the season. Four drivers have won a race from the pole and, outside the combination event at Iowa Speedway, no driver has won a race outside of the top six starting spots.
With a win in the books, Bickford says he can now focus on his remaining goals for the season, gaining experience at the tracks the series visits and trying to have good races.
“I’m excited going in to the rest of the races,” said Bickford. “There’s less pressure to win a race and now it’s just going out and doing your best.”