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James Bickford

Left to right, Tom Bickford, James Bickford, crew member Ralph Halford and Teresa Bickford celebrate at All American Speedway in Roseville. Jeannie Broussal photo

Coming into Saturday night’s Late Model race at All American Speedway in Roseville, Napa’s James Bickford, a rookie, driving the No. 25, Buffship.com Chevrolet, was two points ahead of Ron Chunn in championship points. All Bickford had to do was finish ahead of Chunn to win the NASCAR Whelen All American Late Model Series championship at the track. And that’s what he did.

Bickford posted the fastest time in the first practice session, with a 14.225-second lap. In the second practice session, Chunn posted the fastest time, with a 14.256-second lap time. Bickford went on to qualify No. 1 with a 13.965-second lap, and Chunn was second with a 14.044 second lap.

After No. 24 Danny Allen, of Lincoln, Calif., won the Late Model trophy dash, next up was the 60-lap main event. With a six-car invert, Bickford started on the outside of row three.

No. 7 Tony Mangini started from the pole and led laps 1-34. Meanwhile, Bickford moved up to third on lap eight, while Chunn raced in second. Bickford took second away from Chunn on lap 30, then took the lead from Mangini on lap 35.

From there on it was clear sailing for Bickford, who pulled way ahead of the field. A couple of late restarts brought the field back together, but Bickford was able to lunge ahead on every restart. He took the checkered flag for the race, and also became the 2013 NASCAR Whelen All American Late Model Series champion at Roseville, in his sixth win of his rookie season.

Bickford’s cousin is Jeff Gordon.

“I went in knowing the race was 60 laps, so I took my time getting to the front,” Bickford said in his pit after the race. “I didn’t use up my stuff.”

He said he was a little nervous before the race because it was for the championship.

“I feel like I am on top of the world,” 15-year-old Bickford said after the race. “I came into this season just looking to get some practice, but I never imagined winning the championship.”

Bickford won the championship, finishing nine points ahead of Chunn.

Buffship.com and Cliff and Jane Marden from Snap-On-Tools are Bickford’s sponsors.

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