The Formula Dodge Western Race Series enters a critical juncture of the season this weekend at California Speedway.

The ultra-fast 3.0-mile combination oval and road course in Fontana kicks-off the second half of the Western Race Series season, a period in time when new challengers can emerge or championship contenders can solidify their position.

In both the Masters Division and in the overall points standings there are drivers poised to move up and frontrunners who can begin to open up some distance on the field.

The Masters Division (for drivers 40 years old and older) features several intriguing matchups between the points leaders.

Group 1 pits Kent Lebo (fourth in points) against Peter Ackroyd (fifth) and Ze'ev Drori. Drori has two victories and the fourth highest points average among drivers in the Top 10, but has made only four starts.

Lester Quam (third in Masters points) faces a similar challenge in Group 2 from Peter Ponder-Pistor and Richard Smith-Allen. Ponder-Pistor recorded three victories at Phoenix International Raceway, another combination oval/road course, in January. Smith-Allen had his best outing in his last start at Laguna Seca with a victory and second-place finish.

Smith-Allen also will race in Group 4 where he will face Steve Sylvester, who is second in the standings, and John Browne. Browne posted a victory at Phoenix.

In the overall points standings, Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winners Ryan Howe and Patrick Long have given their competitors a very small margin for error. After a fourth-place finish in his first race, Howe has reeled off seven consecutive victories to assume the lead. The only "blemishes" on Long's record are a second- and third-place result in eight starts. Three points separate Howe and Long heading into Fontana.

Despite their brilliance, Davy Cook is still in the hunt for the championship, trailing Long by 20 points. Cook will face some tough competition in Group 1 from John Knudsen and the always fast Damian Della-Santina.

Howe will face Knudsen in Group 3 and Long will be challenged by Jon Van Caneghem and Christian Szymczak in Group 4. Van Caneghem will double up in Group 2 and race against frontrunner Brian Angen.

- Roy Hasty