Still Climbing—Extended for this year, the Nitto NMCA WEST Auto-X season heated up at the fourth event

Written by Brandy Phillips

Photography by Brandy Phillips and Claudia Robles

In past years, the Nitto NMCA WEST Auto-X series hosted four events throughout the season, but 2019 marked the addition of two more race events. The June race would be the fourth event in the six-event series. Typically, the fourth event marked the final race, but the addition of two events has made the competition a little unpredictable. During June, we saw drivers who were normally on top fall down the ranks to third, fourth, and fifth place positions, while other seasoned drivers surprised the field as they took to the podium.

Extremely fast in Chad Sage’s Porsche GT3 RS, Tom Berry was one to watch from the start of the season. During the fourth event, Berry took home the overall win for the weekend including the Sports Car Pro win on Saturday.

Wes Drelleshak took home the overall runner-up in Pat Sheely’s Porsche Carrera. Apparently it’s a good time to race a Porsche because both first- and second-place finishers were almost a second faster when comparing their weekend averages to the remainder of the racers.

There is one particular group at these NMCA events that endures the most demanding and exhausting job throughout the weekend — cone worker. The Cal State Fullerton Baja Group came out last minute to substitute for the usual group of college students in fulfilling that job title. Having to stand in the heat for several hours shagging cones is the most difficult job during the entire weekend and the Baja Group earned recognition for the hard work over the two-day event.

Another spotlight went to those sponsoring the Nitto NMCA WEST Auto-X Series. There are several companies that supporting the six-part race series, but Wilwood Disc Brakes backed the series from the beginning. As a local company, not only does Wilwood support the series as a sponsor, the company typically has a big setup along with a handful of racers in its booth who support the Wilwood name.

It is not clear where this award came from or when it started, but the award for craziest shorts became quite popular at the Nitto NMCA WEST Auto-X events. There is typically at least one person with wild shorts at these events, but this past June there were a handful of people sporting zany attire. However, it was Lester Davis taking the award for craziest shorts on Saturday.

Creativity flourishes with the Spirit of the Event Awards at the NMCA Auto-X events this season, but the Cone Carnage Award is always a highlight. Nicole Shumate came out from Arizona with her family to race their 2015 Challenger. Her laps improved throughout each session, but there was a particular cone she loved to hit. Unfortunately, that meant she had a long ride back to the Grand Canyon state with the Cone Carnage Award in the passenger seat.

Another Spirit of the Event Award that is new to 2019 is the BriggsEfrain Award. This award honors someone who skillfully (though accidentally) crosses the finish line backward and continues to the timing tent in reverse. Why would a competitor do this you may ask? In order not to earn a DNF and get a lap time of 99.999, a driver is not allowed off the course during his or her lap. Matt Alcala not only went through the finish line backward, he continued through the finish line to the timing tent in reverse in his 1969 Camaro.

The 2019 season brought out some unique vehicles, including this white Lamborghini driven by Robert DeuPree. Though the Lamborghini now competes in the Exhibition Class — since it is the full race car built by Lamborghini — DeuPree shakes down the car at the Nitto NMCA WEST Auto-X events this season. Though the Lambo broke Saturday, DeuPree got it back on track to finish off the weekend and finished strong against the rest of the field.

NMCA West Nitto Cup Autocross Saturday Class Award Winners

CLASSIC MUSCLE: Eric Sheely, 1972 Corvette; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Greg Thurmond, 1965 Corvette; MODERN MUSCLE: Dane Gonzalez, 2014 Mustang; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Paul Molina, 2017 Mustang; SPORTS CAR: Chad Sage, 2015 Porsche GT3; SPORTS CAR PRO: Tom Berry, 2015 Porsche GT3; COMPACT: Kerryann Adams, 2017 Ford Fiesta; COMPACT PRO: Marc Lewis, 2017 Miata MX5; TRUCK: Rob Phillips, 1972 C-10; TRUCK PRO: Richard Trujillo, 1965 Ranchero; EXHIBITION: Robert DeuPree, 2013 Lamborghini

NMCA West Nitto Cup Autocross Sunday Class Award Winners

CLASSIC MUSCLE: Matt Alcala, 1969 Camaro; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Eric Sheely, 1972 Corvette; MODERN MUSCLE: Steven Pierik, 1998 Camaro; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Mike Horn, 2016 Mustang; SPORTS CAR: Dannie Pinard, 2009 Corvette; SPORTS CAR PRO: Wes Drelleshak, Porsche; COMPACT: Mark Allison, 2013 Fiat; COMPACT PRO: Marc Lewis, 2017 Miata MX5; TRUCK: Sean Kelly, 1967 C-10; TRUCK PRO: Richard Trujillo, 1965 Ranchero; EXHIBITION: Robert DeuPree, 2013 Lamborghini