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 The Spears Mfg Southwest Tour super late model 100 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse in San Dimas raced on the banked half-mile Irwindale Speedway Saturday for the second time this season. More than 3,000 spectators witnessed competition by SWT and five local series during three hours of almost non-stop action.
Spears SWT visits five speedways in California and Nevada. An early February non-points season opener in Bakersfield and nine point races from March through November are scheduled. Tracks include Irwindale, Bakersfield's Kern County Raceway Park, Stockton 99, Madera, and the Las Vegas “Bullring” short track.
Derek Thorn, from Bakersfield, conquered an impressive field of 26 drivers from three western states. Thorn, originally from Lakeport, is a current NASCAR K & N West driver and 2013 K & N West champion. He also has won four Spears SWT driving championships (2012, 14, 16 and 17) driving the No. 43 Byron and Carol Campbell Motor-sports Toyota. He set the fastest qualifying time of 17.434 (103.247 mph) during 5:00 pm time trials with 27 cars in the pits. It was 93 degrees at the track when qualifying started; Thorn was the 17th driver to qualify.
The fifth of nine Spears SWT point races this season resulted in Thorn, 32, becoming the second two-time winner of 2018. He entered the event 18th in current SWT points. He missed two of five SWT events this season because of his commitment to the K & N West Series in a Bob Bruncati Sunrise Ford. He won the K & N West 175-lap race in Colorado in the No. 6 Bruncati Ford June 9 while SWT teams raced at Irwindale.
Following driver introductions, the eight fastest SWT qualifiers drew cards with their actual starting positions printed on them. IS three-time NASCAR late model champion/seventh fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston drew pole position. Second fastest Jacob Gomes drew position two. Thorn and Carlos Vieira drew positions three and four. Ryan Partridge and first-time SWT driver/2015-16 K & N West veteran Gracin Raz, 21, from Oregon, drew P. 5-6. Fourth row starters were two-time 2018 SWT race winner Jeremy Doss, the third fastest qualifier, and Jeff Bischofberger.
FEATURE: At the 9:43 pm green flag, Huddleston beat Gomes into turn one and led the first two laps. Thorn shot from third to first with an inside move on lap 3 and paced the final 98 laps despite pressure from Partridge early and Doss late. Thorn won by 4.958 seconds over Doss. The race had two and three-wide racing and frequent position changes in the field; 24 of 26 starters reached the checkered flag at 10:14 pm with the temperature still 79.
John Moore spent most of the race in the infield pits and returned to the track on lap 60. The all-green light race took 31:07.591 and averaged 96.381 mph. It was an Irwindale SWT main event new track record by six minutes over a Ryan Cansdale June, 2016 victory that took 37-minutes. Thorn revealed his winning car only had three races on it and the team expects to improve it.
Thorn won his third career SWT 100-lap feature at Irwindale in the Campbell Race for Autism No. 43. He received the $5,000 winning share of the purse. His first IS triumph came in June, 2015 and then August, 2017. Thorn won the 2018 Spears SWT 100 at his home track, Kern County Raceway, on April 14 in a 31-car field. Saturday was his 34th Spears SWT feature victory, tying past series champion M. K. Kanke for the series lead.
Saturday was the 13th Spears SWT event at IS since the initial race in 2008, won by Jim Pettit II. Troy Ermish and M. K. Kanke won a pair in 2009. Jonathon Gomez and Kanke won in 2010. No SWT events were held at IS until 2014 when Greg Voigt won. Thorn won in 2015 and IS regular Cansdale won both SWT 100s in 2016. Winners of 2017 SWT visits to IS were Bobby Hodges in a thriller and Thorn. Eric Schmidt won the first 2018 SWT race June 9. In the two IS SWT 2018 races Schmidt scored the most points with first and third finishes. Doss scored third and second at his favorite half-mile.
The second Spears SWT Irwindale event of 2018 in five weeks produced a 27-car field for Friday night practice from 4:30 to 8:00 pm and Saturday's race. Blaine Rocha was the quickest of 13 drivers in the 4:30-5:15 session. Thorn was fastest of 25 drivers in the 5:45-6:30 session; 16th quickest SWT rookie Tyler Fabozzi blew his engine and scratched from the event. Thorn had the fastest lap of 17.597 in the 7:00-8:00 final session.
Eric Schmidt, the June 9 IS winner, did not get on track because his transporter had a mechanical problem en-route south from Nor Cal and arrived late. Some drivers ran as many as 42 laps. On Saturday, SWT ran a one-hour practice session for 26 cars from 12:50-1:50 pm. Gracin Raz ran 18 laps and had the fastest lap of 17.905.
Most drivers ran more than 20 laps in the hottest part of the day (mid-90s). Schmidt got onto the track and ran 43 laps with the seventh best time. However, Jeremy Doss ran only 13 laps after getting into the wall on the car's right side. The first place driver and car in SWT points made repairs and raced to maintain the 2018 point lead.
TOP TEN: Local favorite Partridge shot from fifth starting to second by lap 5 aboard the Dave Eshleman Chevy-owned No. 9. Grand-daughter Kayla Eshleman, 16, raced it as No. 09 at IS June 9. Partridge closed within ten yards of Thorn immediately and through lap 40. However, his car got tight and RF tire wear slowed his pace. Doss (No. 75) took second on lap 56 with an inside move in turn two. He trailed Thorn by 35-yards and was unable to close the distance significantly without a caution flag that never came.
Ninth fastest qualifier Schmidt took third from Partridge on lap 75; he trailed winner Thorn by 5.122 at the finish. On the final lap Schmidt went to the inside in the final two corners to pass Doss, but he fell short of second by 0.164. Huddleston, 22, raced his No. 50 HPR Chevy past Partridge for fourth on lap 80 after a ten lap duel. With Partridge using the outside groove, Spears SWT rookie Huddleston made an inside pass through the third and fourth turns. Remarkably, co-IS promoter Bob Bruncati had all three of his K & N West Sunrise Ford drivers finish in the top five in P. 1, 4 and 5.
Sixth through tenth finishers were: Vieira, Dan Holtz, Bischofberger, Raz, and SWT rookie Kyle Neveau, the fourth finisher in the SWT 100 five weeks earlier. Neveau was lapped on lap 94, so nine drivers finished all 100 laps. P 11-15 were SWT rookie point leader Cole Moore, 22, Jacob Gomes, Blaine Rocha, Ricky Schlick (the June 9 FQ and second finisher), and Craig Raudman; all completed 99 laps. P. 16-20 were: Cale Kanke, Donny St. Ours, Keith Spangler, Bob Lyon and Jason Gilbert, who all logged 98 laps. Only two drivers retired their cars to the infield with mechanical problems.
Winner Thorn clocked the fastest lap of the race at 17.798 (101.135 mph). His qualifying fast time of 17.434 (103.247 mph) was his record 49th in Spears SWT. Thorn did not break his own Irwindale one-lap record of 17.272 (103.3 mph) that he set in March, 2017. The next Spears SWT race date is August 18 at Stockton 99 Speedway.
LOCAL DIVISIONS: Five Sharkey's Spec Late Models (former S2 cars) raced with a fully-inverted starting lineup on the half-mile. John Butler started fourth, led all 20 laps and won by 4.343 seconds. It was his second triumph in four IS races this season. Craig Yeaton took second from fastest qualifier Kenny Smith on lap 19 with an inside pass in the furn four. Jason De Long and Tony Jackson finished fourth and fifth with 19 laps. The all-green race took only 6:58.104 and averaged 86.103 mph. Smith's 87.843 mph lap early was the fastest race lap.
LEGEND CARS: Seventeen INEX legend cars drivers used a fully-inverted lineup on the third-mile. The field included four first-time IS legend car drivers--two from Las Vegas, one from Bakersfield and one from Saugus. LVMS “Bullring” veteran Jaron Giannini, 13, led the initial 18 laps from pole position. FQ Chad Schug led lap 19 before second fastest qualifier and four-time track champion Darren Amidon took charge and led the final 11 laps. It was his fifth victory in six main events at IS this year.
Runner-up Schug trailed by 1.430. Tyler Hicks, Giannini and Austin Farr finished in P 3-5, all within 4.069 seconds of the winner. Ricky Leigh and older brother Brandon Giannini, from Henderson, NV, also completed all 35 -laps in another all-green light, 9:44.761 race that averaged 71.752 mph. Schug's 73.004 mph was the quickest lap of the race. Legends drivers raced two 8-lap heat races to open racing at 7:05 pm. Jaron Giannini and Hicks won the heats.
Between main events Robert Rice, the “Master of Mayhem”, drove a Honda Accord into the infield. He entertained spectators by driving up a ramp, through wooden barriers set ablaze by co-workers, and through the fiery wood and through the side of an old PYP orange van. He then returned to the now topless van and drove it to the pits.
SWT TRUCKS: The independent Southwest Tour Truck Series, which races at four speedways of different sizes, made its second IS appearance this season. Eleven trucks, inverted seven by qualifying times, raced on the half-mile. Outside row three starter Dustin Vandermooren, of Cerritos, shot into the lead immediately and led all 30 laps. He ran the fastest lap of 88.496 mph.
A two-truck crash on lap 2 in the third turn sidelined trucks of Barry Kelperis and Hiroyuki Ueno, from Japan. There was a ten minute red flag for track clean-up. Vandermooren won his fourth main event in the series in recent seasons. He beat Ronnie Davis, Jr. by 1.417 seconds in a 24-minute event. Ron Nava, Ed Cutler and Stevie Reeves also completed all 30 laps with seven finishers in a ten truck starting field. One truck broke a drive-line during practice.
ENDURO 30: A field of 17 four-cylinder compact cars ran a 20-lap main on the third-mile oval with a fully-inverted lineup for a rolling start. As an added twist, track officials ordered drivers to race in a clockwise direction—a rarity. The purpose is to keep car set-ups honest. The entertaining race had four leaders—Shane Cameron (L 1), eighth starter James Bolinas (L 7-11), 11th starter Michael Hudson's 1994 Acura Integra (L 12-24), and his younger brother Daniel Hudson's 1998 Acura Integra. (L 25-30). It was his fourth feature triumph in seven races this year as an Irwindale racer.
The 12-minute contest had one caution flag at lap 22 to remove two stalled cars. Daniel beat his older brother by 1.316 seconds. Bolinas' Honda Accord was third, 2.763 back. Dewitt Jones, Troy Anderson, fast timer Bory Molina's 1990s Toyota Celica, skid plate cars all-time feature winner Mike Di Gregorio, Robert Rice, Nico Argo and Robert John Rice also completed 30 laps in P. 4-10. Molina ran the quickest race lap of 63.513 mph.
JUNIOR LT MODELS: Six youngsters from ages 11-15 raced full-size late models on the third-mile oval with restrictor plates limiting top speed. They raced a pair of 20-lap mains Friday and Saturday. Cody Kiemele, 11, won Saturday by 1.271 after leading laps 15-20. R. J. Smothermon, 13, newcomer Jake Bollman, 11, Braden Connor, 11, Kyle Keller, 14, and Rylee Davidhizer, 15, followed. The 15-minute event had four caution flags following solo spins. There were four race leaders—Davidhizer (L 1), Smothermon (L 2-6), Keller (L 7-14) and Kiemele. Keller spun out of the lead low in turn four on lap 15 and restarted at the back. Fastest qualifier Keller's 75.070 mph while leading was the quickest lap.
Junior LM 20 (Friday): After the third and final Spears SWT practice session, six junior late model drivers (three from Las Vegas) practiced and qualified at 9:00 and at 9:15 pm raced a 20-lap main. Keller's 15.901 (75.391 mph) was the FQ time. A fully inverted starting lineup by qualifying times was not a problem for Las Vegas resident Keller. He won the 20-lap race by 0.229 over Kiemele, son of a late model driver at Orange Show Speedway. Smothermon also ran 20 laps, 1.687 off the lead.. Bollman and Connor completed 18 laps. Female driver Davidhizer dropped out on lap 4. Keller's 75.117 mph was the fastest lap.
After four weekend Friday/Saturday doubleheaders (eight main events) have been run for the newest Irwindale racing division. Seven drivers have raced. There have been four different main event winners. Keller has three wins, Kiemele two, Austin Edwards two, and Smothermon one.
The next oval track event at IS on Saturday, July 28 will be another of the popular Night of Destruction mayhem events. The Irwindale Race Trucks division will start action at 7:00 with a main event on the half-mile prior to the destructive events that litter the track.