Joey Bickers Wins Club Racer Shootout

The latest Mazda Motorsports success story is 21-year-old Joey Bickers from Moorpark, Calif. After a grueling day of on- and off-track tasks, Joey edged out four other Mazda-powered club racers to win $75,000, the largest prize in all of grassroots motorsports, at the annual Mazda Club Racer Shootout.

“Wow, what a day! I am so excited to be chosen as the winner of the 2013 Mazda Club Racer Shootout!” Bickers said when he was told he had won the shootout, the richest in all of club racing. Bickers continued, “Thank you to Mazda and the NASA Teen Mazda Challenge West for the opportunity to race in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. Thank you to my family for providing me a start in racing, and to everyone else who has helped me get to this point. I can’t wait for 2014 to begin.”

Charles Espenlaub, who has been a judge for every shootout remarked, “It is truly one of the highlights of my year to be able to participate in the Mazda Club Racer Shootout. What a great process Mazda has implemented. It offers a true ladder system for racers to move up and provides a great bonding opportunity for all in the Mazda family. The talent level is always high and every year it is difficult to choose a single winner. Hopefully all the participants realize they accomplished an incredible feat just qualifying for the shootout and will take the new knowledge and friendships to the next level.”

The five shootout finalists were:
• Joey Bickers, Moorpark, Calif. – NASA Teen Challenge (California)
• TJ Fischer, Vacaville, Calif. – Formula Car Challenge
• Zachary Munro, Granby, Colo. – NASA Teen Challenge (Colorado)
• Cal Vandaalen, Grand Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada – Toyo Tires Spec Miata Championship
• Michael Whelden, Sausalito, Calif. – Formula Car Challenge

The five finalists, from left to right: TJ Fischer, Joey Bickers, Cal Vandaalen, Michael Whelden and Zachary Munro.

The criteria: Given that each of the finalists had proven themselves on the track by winning a championship, the criteria to move up needed to be more encompassing. To succeed on the professional level requires a balance of both on-track and off-track skills including the following:
• Driving ability – Fast laps
• Driving ability – Consistent laps
• Technical feedback – Understanding of vehicle dynamics and suspension
• Technical feedback – Ability to evaluate vehicle handling
• Technical feedback – Ability to analyze data
• Technical feedback – Ability to improve vehicle handling
• The business of motorsports – Business proposal
• The business of motorsports – Business presentation
• The business of motorsports – PR skills

The driving sessions were conducted at Buttonwillow Raceway Park using a Mazda MX-5 Cup Car prepared by ProParts USA.

The judges: Each year Mazda invites a panel of outside judges to make the selection. The judges brought a wealth of both on-track, and off-track expertise. More than a dozen professionals were involved in either the preliminary business proposal review, on-track activities, or both. The panel consisted of:
• Pete Calhoun – BFGoodrich
• Charles Espenlaub – Mazda Racer
• Pete Evanow – Cal State Fullerton
• John Fabijanic – Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
• Jon Flack – JMI
• Eric Foss – Mazda Racer
• Julie Garner – Project Yellow Light
• Ed Justice Jr. – Justice Brothers
• Karl Koenigstein – BFGoodrich
• Jeff Lepper – WC Vision
• Lisa Natale – Playboy
• Ken Payne – BFGoodrich
• Jan Refsdal – Motorsports Consultant
• Scott Shelton – ABC Television/Past Shootout Winner
• Barry Toepke – Mazda Raceway

The tally: After a full day of both driving, and classroom activities, the judges added the objective and subjective scores – discussing the merits of each driver. The judges deliberated carefully before declaring Bickers the champion.

The prize package: The $75,000 breaks out as follows:
• $50,000 for the running of his car for the season
• $10,000 in parts support
• A Mazda Motorsports driving suit and helmet
• Professional media training (Courtesy of Mazda)
• Twelve sets of BFGoodrich tires, one set per race (Courtesy of BFGoodrich® Tires)
• Twelve entry fee waivers (Courtesy of SCCA Pro Racing)