The 2016 NASA Western States Championships presented by Toyo Tires will take place at one of the most challenging tracks in the Golden State: Buttonwillow Raceway Park. In a first for any NASA Championships event, the races will feature two track layouts over four days of testing, qualifying and racing. Here’s how to make the most of your Championships experience.

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History

Like many tracks in this country, Buttonwillow was created through the efforts of a local Sports Car Club of America region. The long running Cal Club chapter purchased some vacant farmland near Bakersfield in the early 1990s and then set out to create a premier facility to serve racers in greater Los Angeles and beyond. The track construction project was led by a dedicated group of board members and has been under the sage management of track president Les Phillips since the beginning. Les is an accomplished racer himself and his experience behind the wheel shows in the design of the track and the layout of the entire facility, which opened for competition in 1996. If you have read enthusiast car or motorcyle magazines for any length of time, you have heard of this track because so many publications have tested there.

There are major upgrades planned to be in place before the Western States Championships event, so the track will be even more accommodating than it already is. The track also includes a kart track that host many races during the year.

Bakersfield foothills Credit Visit Bakersfield

Getting There

Buttonwillow lies roughly 150 miles north of downtown Los Angeles on Lerdo Highway just off Interstate 5, which is the major freeway linking Southern California to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Buttonwillow is also not far from Bakersfield, so you can fly into the smaller regional airport there (BFL) or just make the climb over the steep up-and-down “Grapevine” mountain pass from metropolitan Los Angeles and its major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX) or the much closer Burbank airport (BUR).

Bakersfield Wildflowers Credit Chris Huot (42)

 

Staying There

Since Buttonwillow is so close to Interstate 5 and other highway junctions, there are many budget-friendly choices within an easy 10- to 15-minute drive from the track. The most popular choice is the Highway 58 junction because there are more good dining options there and the hotels tend to be a little better kept. You also can find lodging at the Highway 46 junction, the Stockdale Highway exit, and farther away at the intersection of I-5 and Highway 41. If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, there are more luxurious options in Bakersfield, but the commute will be nearly an hour. There is also plenty of paddock space with some RV slots that feature dedicated electrical and water hookups available if you prefer to stay on site. The track also rents day garages so you can do your wrenching out of the elements.

Bakersfield Wildflowers_Credit Chris Huot

 

Eating There

I started my racing career at Buttonwillow many years ago, and the cuisine has certainly seen some upgrades since the early days when there weren’t many places to go except for joints that serve combo meals from drive-through windows.

Blooming Almond Trees Credit Visit Bakersfield (12)

If you enjoy BBQ, look no further than the famed Willow Ranch at the Highway 58 complex. The tri-tip is sublime and the other grilled options on the menu are also solid choices. Other savory options in the same neighborhood are Tita’s Pupuseria and Taste of India, which serves a blistering curry. If you are looking for something fancier and don’t mind a bit of a drive, Harris Ranch is an hour north of the track off Highway 198 and offers excellent steaks, including selections you can take home with you to grill up later. Harris Ranch also has its own airstrip, so more adventurous racers can track down a pilot and make the short hop back to the track in style.

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The Wool Growers restaurant in Bakersfield is another interesting choice, serving traditional Basque-style dinners, which include many simple but tasty courses along with the main entrees that are guaranteed to fill you up. The track also offers sandwiches and other items at the Tower Cafe located inside the control tower building.

Bakersfield Wildflowers Credit Chris Huot (10)

Driving There

One of the neatest things about Buttonwillow is that it can be configured into many different layouts and also can be run clockwise and counterclockwise with ease. The direction and configurations have been chosen, and you can read the finer points of driving there in the “One Lap Around” feature on Page XX. Rest assured the elevation changes over the Cotton Corners and Phil Hill complexes can be tricky, and you should approach them with some caution until you get the hang of them, because they are pretty wild if you miss your marks.

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For consumables and service, Buttonwillow has its own tire shop and fueling station on site, and the 7’s Only shop of Tom and Bette Dragoun located at the track offers full-service repair, dyno testing, and fabrication, as well as a great selection of parts and accessories all served up with a smile. If you need other parts, there is a NAPA auto parts store in the town of Buttonwillow just west of Interstate 5 on Highway 58, and east of the track off Lerdo Highway in Shafter. Most major auto brands also have dealerships in Bakersfield.

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Big fields are already shaping up for many of NASA’s most popular classes out West, so get your plans in order to go for the win at the 2016 NASA Western States Championship presented by Toyo Tires at Buttonwillow Raceway Park!

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The Facts

Buttonwillow Raceway Park

24551 Lerdo Hwy.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5333

www.buttonwillowraceway.com

 

7’s Only Racing

18218 Cal Club Rd.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5456

www.sevensonly.com

 

NAPA Auto Parts Buttonwillow

www.napaonline.com

42914 CA-58

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-6505

 

NAPA Auto Parts Shafter

200 S. Shafter Ave.

Shafter, CA 93623

661-399-3611

 

Dining

Willow Ranch

27770 Lagoon Drive

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-6605

www.willowranchrestaurant.com

 

Tita’s Pupuseria

20643 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5111

http://titaspupuseria.com/eng/

 

Harris Ranch

Harris Ranch Rd.

Coalinga, CA 93210

559-935-0717

http://www.harrisranch.com/dine

 

Wool Growers

620 East 19th St.

Bakersfield, CA 93305

661-327-9584
www.woolgrowers.net

 

Taste of India

20687 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5858

 

Lodging

Motel 6 Buttonwillow South

20645 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5121

https://www.motel6.com

https://www.motel6.com/en/motels.ca.buttonwillow.4533.html

 

Motel 6 Buttonwillow North

20638 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5153

https://www.motel6.com

https://www.motel6.com/en/motels.ca.buttonwillow.1354.html

 

Super 8 Buttonwillow

20681 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5117

www.super8.com

http://www.super8.com/hotels/california/buttonwillow/super-8-buttonwillow/hotel-overview?WID=LC:SE:20150901:Rio:Local

 

Econo Lodge Buttonwillow

20688 Tracy Ave.

Buttonwillow, CA 93206

661-764-5207

www.choicehotels.com

https://www.choicehotels.com/california/buttonwillow/econo-lodge-hotels?source=gyxt

 

Best Western Heritage Inn

253 Trask Blvd.

Bakersfield, CA 93314

661-764-6268

www.book.bestwestern.com

http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/US/CA/Bakersfield-hotels/BEST-WESTERN-Heritage-Inn/Hotel-Overview.do?propertyCode=05560&group=false&srcPage=SelectHotel&isMapOpen=false&selectedHotels=

 

Vagabond Inn Buttonwillow

200 Trask Blvd.

Bakersfield, CA 93314

661-764-5221

www.vagabondinn.com

http://www.vagabondinn.com/california/vagabond-inn-buttonwillow-i-5.aspx

 

Days Inn Lost Hills

14684 Aloma St.

Lost Hills, CA 93249

661-797-2371

www.daysinn.com

http://www.daysinn.com/hotels/california/lost-hills/days-inn-lost-hills/hotel-overview?WID=LC:DI:20160226:RIO:Local:SM-dipaci

Bakersfield_Citrus_Fields_Credit_Chris_Huot
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Images courtesy of Brett Becker, Visit Bakersfield, Chris Huot and Chris_Huot