By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

Local race car driver Howard Ford ended the North State Challenge Series season with a strong third place finish at the Win-River 125 at the Shasta Raceway Park in Anderson on Sunday afternoon.

The race capped off a memorable year for Ford, who in his previous race in Eureka on Sept. 29, placed first to earn his first NSCS championship since 1999.

He had the option of not racing in Anderson, but decided to participate because it's a favorite race of his.

andquot;The competition is really tough,andquot; Ford said. andquot;They start the 24 best cars.andquot;

While Ford said he believes he had the best car, it just didn't work out for him on Sunday and said that can happen in the unpredictable world of racing.

On lap 114 out of 125, he was able to move into second, but was called back to third on a caution by the officials. Ford said he tried to move ahead, but the No. 2 car did andquot;a heck of a job blocking me.andquot;

While it would had been nice to win the race and complete the season with a victory, Ford said he was pleased with the year he and his Rumiano racing crew have had.

andquot;It's been great,andquot; he said. andquot;It's been a dream year for me and my team.andquot;

For the season, Ford won four races, including winning three in a row.

After winning it all in 1999, Ford struggled for a few years and wondered at times if he would win another race or championship again.

Now with the season complete, Ford can rest for the year and prepare for next season, which will begin in the spring of 2008.

Ford said he and his crew tentatively plan to race in areas such as Washington and Arizona.