Australian James McFadden races to victory in his first career King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series start on Saturday at the 29th Cotton Classic

By Gary Thomas

Tulare, CA – October 12, 2014…Making his first ever King of the West Series start on Saturday night Brisbane, Queensland, Australia wheel-man James McFadden became the third different leader of the main event and pulled away at the end to claim victory at the 29th annual Cotton Classic in Tulare.

The immensely talented Aussi sat aboard the Kaeding Performance/ Factory Kahne No. 4 machine for the night and looked very comfortable in his Merle Stone Chevrolet Thunderbowl Raceway debut. McFadden started from the fifth row and steadily made his way to the front in the Willie Kahne wrenched Sprinter, taking the lead on a lap 21 restart.

“It’s pretty cool to come out here tonight and I’m pretty pumped to get a win in California,” said McFadden, who will be back in the same car for Trophy Cup this coming week. “I can’t thank Kaeding Performance & Factory Kahne enough for the opportunity. It’s a pleasure to drive such a great car like this and I can’t wait to come back next week.”

The 30-lapper came to the line with Dash winner Kyle Hirst on the pole alongside Roseville’s Sean Becker. The main event was slowed by a number of stoppages, but in between those featured some great racing on the one-third mile clay oval. Hirst jumped out to the early lead, as he looked for KWS win number five on the season. Tight battles took place all over the speedway with close quarter action on each end. The driver on the move that everyone kept their eyes on was certainly Hanford’s DJ Netto, who had the Netto Ag/ Penny Newman Grain No. 88n on a roll.

Netto made some great moves to get by cars and sliced into third, passing Sean Becker on lap 10 and then into second on lap 13 getting around Bud Kaeding. The 18-year-old would then take the lead from Hirst on a lap 16 restart as the crowd came to their feet. The defending KWS champ and current point leader didn’t let him get away however, and gave it hard run to try and track Netto back down. Hirst ran the extreme high-line in exciting fashion, while hounding Netto’s rear bumper, until getting into the wall a little too hard and slowing to a stop with right side damage.

At this same time McFadden had charged up into second and when the green flag waved again he would take the lead. Bud Kaeding then charged by Netto off turn two and the pair went into the third corner full bore battling for position. Netto’s machine took a hard bicycle and moved up the track, creating a chain reaction that ended with Jonathan Allard getting upside down and Becker also being involved. Under the red Netto exited to the work area and McFadden now found himself out front for the single file restart.

After this there was no slowing McFadden, who charged away from the field to take the Willie Williams checkered flag and gave himself lots of momentum heading into the Trophy Cup. The battle for second waged on with Sacramento’s Willie Croft able to get around Bud Kaeding to secure the position. It was another very strong run for the veteran driver, who has had one of the finest years of his career in 2014. Croft has been one of the most impressive drivers in all of California this season.

“This was another great run for us tonight, but I’m tired of finishing second,” Croft joked in victory circle. “We’ve had a great season and I really have to thank all the guys that have helped me out this year. We plug people in at times and they’ve all worked really hard. As bad as the month of July was to us, the rest of the time we’ve been consistently in the top-five every night. I’m excited for the Trophy Cup next week in the Rudeen Racing 26.”

Bud Kaeding held off his dad Brent Kaeding in a close late-race battle for the third spot. It was another consistent outing for the three-time USAC Silver Crown champ. “Things were definitely exciting out there tonight and it was a lot of fun,” Bud commented. “This is one of those races I’ve always wanted to win. That cotton bale trophy is such a cool piece and I remember coming to this event when I was a kid. Hope everyone comes back for Trophy Cup next week because you’re going to see some pretty insane racing with slide jobs and more.”

Brent Kaeding earned the KSE Hard Charger Award with another solid outing in KWS competition by charging from 20th to fourth. Hirst made an impressive rebound to carve his way back to fifth at the conclusion. The 26-year-old was one of the fastest cars on the track at the end and showed he will be a definite contender at next week’s Trophy Cup. The top-10 was rounded out by Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs, Fremont’s Shane Golobic, Allard, Netto and Grass Valley’s Jason Statler.

Kyle Hirst claimed the six-lap Dash and also won his heat race, with Evan Suggs, Shane Golobic and Tim Kaeding earning the other three 10-lap heats. Willie Croft won the Last Chance Showdown, while Jonathan Allard opened the night by setting fast time. Full results will be available at

The King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series will now get set for championship night at the Stockton Dirt Track on November 1. Tickets for that event are on sale by calling 916-370-9417. The Merle Stone Chevrolet Thunderbowl Raceway is right back in action next Thursday, Friday & Saturday with the 21st annual Southwest Contractors Trophy Cup. Tickets are on sale at 559-688-0909. All seating is reserved at the Trophy Cup.

Photos courtesy of Collin Markle Photography