ROSAMOND — It seems like a NASCAR Winston West season doesn't go by without the championship coming down to the final few races.
Last year, Jim Robinson of Reseda beat rookie Derrike Cope of Spanaway, Wash., in the final event of the circuit at Phoenix International Speedway. This year, the defending champion is getting a strong threat from the oldest racer on the series, 57-year-old Hershel McGriff of Bridal Veil, Ore.
With only two races to go, McGriff won Sunday's Suncrest Motorhomes 200 at Willow Springs International Raceway. Robinson finished second, while Ruben Garcia of South El Monte finished third.
McGriff is now only five points behind Robinson in the point standings going into the Timec 200 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield Saturday night.
McGriff won in 1 hour, 36.20 seconds at an average speed of 77.855 m.p.h. He beat Robinson by slightly more than a quarter of a second.
"Everything went fine, except for the ignition," McGriff said after the race. "I really didn't start out with any strategy, we just ran well."
"Hershel ran a great race," Robinson said, exchanging his cap for a cowboy hat. "We're going to have to go to Bakersfield and have it the other way."
Robinson had a shot at McGriff late in the race, but got stuck behind a slower car for a critical lap. It gave McGriff time to secure the win.
"I was running like I had to all day," Robinson continued. "If I had of gotten into second behind Hershel after my last pit stop, I would've had a shot."
It was McGriff's third win of the season.
Pat Mintey of Saugus, who runs a limited race schedule, came in sixth. Top rookie-of-the-year candidate Glen Steurer of Simi Valley was seventh, while Bob Kennedy of Thousand Oaks was 11th.
Bill Sedgwick of Van Nuys suffered ignition failure and went out in the 29th lap. He was 19th. M. K. Kanke of Granada Hills had engine failure in the eighth lap and did not place.