Written by Brandy Phillips
Photography by the author
It’s undeniable that the sixth Nitto Tire NMCA WEST Auto-X event was the most anticipated event of the year. It would mark the announcement of the overall class grand champions. Though the main focus was on the point leaders, the event brought several racers new and old. As the season drew to a close, it was clear that the final round would be a game-changer for weekend warriors and season veterans.
Running an autocross can be a lot of work, but the Racing Byrds are no stranger to coordinating smooth and exciting events. After six years of organizing autocross events across the Southern California region, Rob Byrd thought it was time to pay tribute to his original track layout that started the Racing Byrds back in 2013 at the Santa Anita Race Track. The track would prove difficult for some, but everyone went away pleased with the course layout, which closed out the season’s festivities with technicality and speed.
After his brother received the award for craziest shorts, Parker Phillips, who is all of six years old, made it his mission to be the next Craziest Shorts Award recipient. After trying all year to be the next honorable awardee, little Parker finally had his moment of fame during the sixth and final event.
As the month of October paid tribute to Breast Cancer Awareness, the Racing Byrds also followed suit with a Special Recognition Award to an important lady in the pits, who was not only supporting her husband throughout the weekend, but also a survivor. Cari Bokkes fought her battle and won and the Byrds wanted to recognize her struggles and triumph Sunday evening during the award ceremony.
Racing does not come without its struggles and challenges, but for some, these challenges can be a little more overwhelming than others. Lester Davis was one whose struggles were hard to ignore, which resulted in him earning the hard luck award during the sixth and final event. Davis’ Pontiac had caught fire three months prior to the final race leaving him without a car during event number five. With a great group of people and a lot of dedication, Davis had his Pontiac rebuilt within three months, just in time for the sixth and final event of the 2019 season.
Another not-so-lucky racer was Bryant Morris whose car had fallen off his trailer just before the sixth NMCA West AutoX. Unfortunately, this meant that his car was out of commission for the final event. Fellow racer, Tom Kamman, offered his 1987 Corvette for both him and Morris to co-drive. Morris took the opportunity to finish out the year and as a result was honored with the second hard luck award during the final award ceremony.
Jason Flaherty has been racing the NMCA West AutoX series for several years, but his competition has kept him from seeing the podium in the Modern Muscle Class during most events. Due to this, Flaherty founded the Mid Pack Group, which started as a small group of modern muscle vehicles that were good, but not fast enough to make it to the podium. The Mid Pack Group grew over the past couple years and the Mid Pack Leader became one of the most sought after awards. So when Flaherty finally won Modern Muscle during the final event of the 2019 season, there was much to be celebrated as the Mid Packer was finally bumped into the Pro Class during the final race.
Fastest female is an award that has been given out at every NMCA West AutoX for the past couple years. It exchanged hands between several different women throughout the years, but 2019 would recognize a particularly special female. Jane Thurmond was the Woman of the Year as she was awarded the most Fastest Female awards within the 2019 season. Though Thurmond shared her award with fellow racer Ryan Thacker as a joke on Saturday, she gladly accepted her final Fastest Female Award for the 2019 season during the Sunday award ceremony.
Over the years the Modern Muscle and Sports Car categories dominated each NMCA West AutoX and claimed the weekend champion, but that soon changed during the sixth and final event. Both winner and runner-up of the October 2019 autocross originated from the Classic Muscle group. With that said, Eric Sheely and his 1972 Corvette were honored as the overall runner-up during the sixth NMCA West AutoX. In addition, Sheely was recognized for the fastest lap time on Sunday.
The overall victor for the weekend proved he still had it in him to climb to the top. Chad Ryker and his 1968 Camaro maintained consistently fast and clean runs, earning the title as Grand Champion for the sixth and final NMCA West Nitto Cup AutoX. The final results were close between Ryker and Sheely, but Ryker was able to maintain a slightly faster average throughout the weekend earning the victory.
Nitto Tire NMCA WEST Auto-X Saturday Class Award Winners
CLASSIC MUSCLE: Justin Dejaynes, 1965 Nova; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Eric Sheely, 1972 Corvette; MODERN MUSCLE: Don Gonzales, 2010 Camaro; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Mike Horn, Mustang; SPORTS CAR: Kevin Schultz, Porsche; SPORTS CAR PRO: Scot Spiewak, Focus RS; COMPACT: Bob Knudson, 2013 Focus; COMPACT PRO: Mario Torres, 2004 Honda S2000; TRUCK: Pat Sheely, 1965 Ranchero; TRUCK PRO: Mike Williams, 1969 C-10; EXHIBITION: Sammy Valafar, 2003 Miata
Nitto Tire NMCA WEST Auto-X Sunday Class Award Winners
CLASSIC MUSCLE: Tom Berry, 1971 Camaro; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Eric Sheely, 1972 Corvette; MODERN MUSCLE: Jason Flaherty, 2018 Camaro; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Greg Nelson, 2018 Camaro; SPORTS CAR: Sean Mckillop, 2006 Evo; SPORTS CAR PRO: Kevin Schultz, Porsche; COMPACT: Ashton Robinson, 2016 VW; COMPACT PRO: Pelton Barnes, 2015 BRZ; TRUCK: Bill Kinsman, 1972 Ford Bronco; TRUCK PRO: Mike Williams, 1969 C-10; EXHIBITION: Sammy Valafar, 2003 Miata