The Western States Dirt TQ Midget Championship series at Ventura Raceway produced a new Western States champion and a driver unknown to Southern California racing ran away from the pack to win the 50-lap main event race Saturday night.
Gary Howard of Anaheim Hills and Kara Hendrick of Chino had been battling all summer for the 1989 points championship and only 68 points separated them heading into the Ventura showdown.
While neither driver won a heat race, Hendrick finished second in the main event to gain 35 points in the standings. However, Howard's third-place finish in the main event gave him 31 points for the evening, enough to lock up his first Western States title.
Howard leads Hendrick, 760-696, with only one race remaining in the series this Saturday night at the Oildale Raceway in Bakersfield. Only 42 points maximum are available for Hendrick, even if she could win qualifying, a heat race, and the main event.
"It's a relief to get the pressure off of me," Howard said. "I've been in the top three in points for the last six years until I finally locked it up tonight.
"Winning my first championship feels like a rookie winning his first race."
Mark Holtz of Lynden, Wash., a small town 12 miles from the Canadian border, captured the attention of the Ventura Raceway fans, as he set a TQ track record on the quarter-mile dirt oval with a fast time of 13.757.
He outdistanced a 20-car field, including the favored Howard and Hendrick, to win the 50-lap main event.
Holtz drove his two-cycle Rotex powered TQ past the larger four-cycle Honda and Kawasaki-powered cars to come from sixth and overtake leader Mark Ward of Canoga Park on lap 17. He then held off a hard-charging Hendrick and Howard to claim the main event trophy.
Holtz may have been a new face to Ventura racing, but he had a lot of statistics behind him with 1987 and 1988 track championships at both Demming and Hannagan Speedways in Washington and a main event winning percentage of nearly 50% (21 victories in 53 races).
"I read about this race in a TQ racing paper and decided to come down and give it a try," Holtz said.