IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY SPEARS 2ND ANNUAL SUNRISE-FORD ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA. – The Irwindale Speedway second annual Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown, presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, showcased Spears Manufacturing Southwest Tour Super Late Models, Spears Pro Late Models, and Spears Modifieds on Saturday, February 6. Two days of practice from 11 am to 9 pm preceded practice, qualifying and racing Saturday. A pair of 25-lap B-mains for Pro LM and modifieds began at 5:30 pm.
Los Angeles County health regulations allowed only competitors to attend. Everyone had to wear face masks as a precaution during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Fans at home were able to watch all racing for $24.99 via the SpearsRacingTV.com live telecast with track announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best calling action. MAVTV Network taped racing for later telecast.
The inaugural Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown on February 1, 2020 attracted about 5,500 spectators in the main grandstand with 67 cars present in the same three divisions. Without the pandemic restrictions attendance surely would have topped 6,500. The car count increased from 67 in 2020 to 105 this year—23 modifieds (up from 13), 38 Pro LM (up from 22), and 44 SLM (up from 33 last February). All three Spears racing divisions awarded 2021 championship points in the first of ten scheduled events.
Feature winners earned trophies containing bundled stacks of new $20 bills encased in a locked glass base. Winners of each trophy received keys to access their first place reward after their winning cars passed post-race tech inspections. This year co-promoters Tim Huddleston and Sunrise Ford owner Bob Bruncati increased prize money by awarding the SLM winner $30,000 instead of $25,000 and Pro LM winner $15,000 instead of $10,000. The modified winner again received $5,000.
The So Cal paved track opening race on a sunny, mid-70s day proved the increased cash attracted competitors and some towed 20 to 24 hours to compete. The popular new showdown reprised the annual 2003-2011 $500,000 Toyota All-Star Showdown for NASCAR regional touring divisions. All races this year used straight-up lineups with the fastest qualifiers starting in front
Last year drivers came from ten states. SLM drivers lived in eight states, Pro LM drivers resided in four states and one came from Japan. Modified drivers came from four states. This year drivers came from 13 states—ten states for SLM, four for Pro LM and six for modifieds.
States represented in the 105 entries present were: Arizona–two mod. & one SLM; California–13 mod. 32 Pro LM and 26 SLM; Colorado–one mod. & one SLM; Florida-one SLM; Georgia—one SLM; Idaho—three mod.; Indiana—one Pro LM; Nevada—three mod., three Pro LM & five SLM; North Carolina–one SLM; Oregon—one each Pro LM & SLM; Texas—two SLM; Utah—one mod., and Washington—five SLM.
This year 23 drivers competed at Irwindale for the first time. Seven newcomers at IS were in the modified division, nine raced in the Pro LM class, and seven were SLM drivers. Ambitious Jeremy Doss, from Nor Cal, raced in all three divisions and had 450 potential laps of racing ahead of him. He won the first two of the three features and DNF race three. There were a total of 500 scheduled laps, including a pair of 25-lap B mains.
Winners in all three divisions of the inaugural Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown returned this year to repeat. Multi-time Spears champion Derek Thorn, from Bakersfield, again drove his No. 43 SLM and was one of three leaders before dropping out. Indianan Cole Williams, in a Pro LM from Bakersfield, returned in the same car this year. So Cal owner/driver Travis Thirkettle again drove his RCF-built modified.
Modifieds and Pro LM racing used the third-mile oval, while SLM raced on the progressively-banked half-mile. Drivers in all three divisions set new one lap track records during mid-afternoon single car qualifying. Modifieds-Doss ran 15.040 to break Eddie Secord’s 15.493 (77.377 mph) mark on 9/19/20. Doss’ 15.025 run in his Pro LM eclipsed the 15.221 (78.760 mph) record by Robby Hornsby on 2/1/20. First time IS racer Casey Roderick, from Georgia, ran 17.035 to break the 17.055 (105.541 mph) standard set by Dylan Lupton on 3/23/19.
All 40 SLM qualifiers ran 17 second laps from the 17.035 fast time to 17.601 by the 40th fastest qualifier. The field was so competitive that drivers raced three wide and lapping did not occur until lap 35. There was frequent passing for positions throughout the field and only one brief caution flag flew for a two-car tangle on lap 71. There was a ten minute intermission after 100 laps and crews were allowed to make adjustments after all cars stopped on the front straight. No tire changes were allowed.
The SLM field had nine rookies and eight started the 200 lap feature. Four rookies finished in the top 11. Thirteen drivers finished on the lead lap with seven non-Californians in the top ten. There were 25 of 35 starters still racing when the checkered flag flew at 10:26 pm after 177 laps because of the strict track curfew. Winners of all three divisions passed post-race instections and collected their trophies and bundled cash.
Prominent stock car and modified constructors again this year included: Van Dooren, Fury, Rowdy, Hamke, Senneker, Farre P1, Racecar Factory, STR, Port City, Five Star Bodies, Jackson, and Pathfinder. There were three bodies—Chevy, Ford and Toyota.
This year winners of the three divisions were:
(SLM)-Preston Peltier, 43, a transplanted Colorado driver/race car fabricator now living in Las Vegas. He drove a self-built Sigma Performance P1 chassis for owner Joe Farre, in a one hour and 18 minute event that concluded 23 laps short of the scheduled 200 laps because eof the strict track curfew.
(Pro LM)-Jeremy Doss, from Upper Lake, Calif., won the 150-lap main (with a ten-minute halfway break for minor adjustments) in one hour and 16 minutes. He drove his father Mike Doss’ No. 75.
(Modifieds)-Doss, 27, began his challenging three main event evening by driving the No. 75 Eddie Wilcox STR-built modified to victory in a 100-lap race, without a halfway intermission, in 46 minutes. It was the car he used last year to win five of the eight Spears Modified features and the 2020 series championship. Versatile Doss also won the 2018 Spears SLM championship.
SLM MAIN: The featured main on the half-mile started 35 cars at 9:07 pm. First-time Irwindale driver Casey Roderick, 28, was on pole with Spears veteran Jacob Gomes, from Manteca, alongside. Gomes, 27, led the first two laps over Roderick and fourth starter Peltier. With cars racing two and three wide Peltier shot from third to first on lap 3 and led through lap 24. Gomes and Roderick traded second at times. The top four raced in a tight pack and were virtually nose-to-tail for 20 laps.
Multi-time Spears SLM champion and frequent Irwindale winner Derek Thorn, who started fifth, shot from third to first on lap 25. Thorn, from Bakersfield, led Peltier, 11th starter Jace Hansen, from Greeley, Colo., Roderick, and Gomes. Spears rookie Buddy Shepherd, Dan Holtz, rookie Kole Raz, 17, from Oregon, Christian McGhee, and Doss (a lap 88 dropout) followed. The first car lapping occurred on lap 35 as the rapid field exchanged positions every lap. The second car was lapped on lap 44.
At lap 50 outside-running Thorn led inside runner Roderick by mere yards. Hansen, Shepherd and Peltier joined them in a tight five car pack. By lap 55 Peltier charged to P. 2 and on lap 57 he and Roderick passed Thorn for the top two positions. At lap 80 the top ten were: Peltier, Hansen, Roderick, Raz, Gomes, Shepherd, Cale Kanke, Nevadan Jonathan Mawhinney, North Carolinan Tyler Tanner, and Jeff Bischofberger with 32 cars still racing. Thorn pulled to the infield from P.4 with an engine problem under a lap 72 caution flag and lost many laps.
The mid-race ten-minute break after 100 laps had all cars stop on the front straight. Crews swarmed cars to make needed adjustments, but tire changes were not allowed. After 12 minutes 29 cars received the green flag two abreast. Outside runner Peltier led fellow front row starter Hansen and the top five were all within ten yards for the next 20 laps. Peltier led Roderick, Hansen, Shepherd and Gomes in the top quintet.
At lap 150 Peltier led impressive Roderick by ten yards as they put 40-yards on Hansen and Shepherd. Gomes, Raz, Tanner, Kanke, 22nd starter Mawhinney, and Texan Chris Davidson completed the top ten. On lap 155 Thorn retired to the infield pits behind K-rails. On lap 160 Roderick’s nose pushed Peltier’s tail down the front straight as Peltier covered his passing attempt. Las Vegan Jimmy Parker, Jr, an Irwindale NASCAR night SLM 50-lap feature winner last October 17, was in P. 14 on lap 170 when Peltier lapped him.
After 177 laps Spears Series starter Noel Dawson waved the checkered flag following the white flag because the track was receiving phoned in noise complaints. With 25 of 35 starters still on track, Peltier edged Southern Series SLM champion Roderick by 0.952. Roderick, who said he has wanted to race at Irwindale for about six years, earned $12,000 for his effort. Third through tenth positions went to: Hansen, Shepherd, Gomes, leading rookie Raz, Tanner, Kanke, Mawhinney and Davidson.
Rookie Corey Neveau, Bischofberger and McGhee also completed all 177 laps in the 1:18.06.172 timed race that had 25 cars racing at the finish. Peltier won his first Irwindale Spears twin-50s feature on March 23, 2019 in the Colorado-based No. 18 while living in working in Boulder, Colorado. He logged the fastest lap of the initial 2021 IS race at 17.333 (103.848 mph). The top five finishers stopped at the finish line for post-race interviews with infield announcer Tim Huddleston.
Peltier stated, “I’ve got to thank Joe Farre for believing in me. I went through a spell there. I’ve got three young kids. It’s hard man. We don’t get much sleep. This is tough. Super late mdel racing is the hardest racing that there is. Anytime you can win, dude you’ve got to cherish the moment. I’m getting older, I feel it. I’m not as sharp as I used to be. So I really was questionning myself. Like, can I even do this anymore? I built this new P1 chassis with help from Joe and the guys at the shop and man, this thing was just on a rail.”
PRO LM 150: The second main, on the third-mile, had fastest qualifier Doss on pole with late model rookie/legend car veteran Tyler Reif, from Nevada, alongside. At the 7:17 pm green flag Reif, 13, shot into the lead and paced the first seven laps in his No. 7 over Doss. On lap 8 Doss used an inside move at turn four and led the final 143 laps.
At the lap 75 mid-race intermission, Doss held a straightaway advantage over Eric Nascimento. Past multi-time Lucas Oil Modified champion Austin Barnes. Indianan Cole Williams, Kyle Meyer, early leader Reif, Parker Malone, Oregonian Jadan Walbridge, Nevadan Tanner Reif, 15, and Dylan Zampa, 17, rounded out the top ten. On lap 96 Barnes passed Nascimento on the inside at turn four for second. Reif took third on lap 113. Zampa, from Napa, took fourth from Nascimento on lap 119. Doss maintained a comfortable 15-yard lead over Barnes, who was returning to modified racing for the first time in years after selling his own No. 51A modified.
The final 25 laps had 17 of 25 starters on track with Doss holding a steady 30-yard advantage over Barnes. Tyler Reif, Nascimento, Zampa (No. 92z), Mike Lovell, from Willits, and first All-Star Showdown Pro LM winner Williams followed. Walbridge, who passed Meyer exiting turn four on the last lap and edged him by 0.097), and Malone completed the top ten. All logged 150 laps.
Doss won by 2.400 seconds but rookie Tyler Reif ran the fastest lap of 15.327 (78.215 mph). Doss told the TV and track audience: “We had a really good car. I got a little bit worried there after the halfway break when we got a little bit of pressure. But it seemed like on the long run we could get away from them.”
MODIFIED 100: The opening 100-lap main took place immediately following a pair of 25-lap B-mains. All 22 modifieds available started with Doss on pole and Travis McCullough outside. Doss trailed for 14 laps and used a two-by-two lap 15 restart following a single car spin to pass McCullough leaving turn two. Doss remained out front during the final 86 laps. At lap 50 Doss led eighth starter Travis Thirkettle by 30-yards with third starter Eddie Secord a length back and McCullough fourth. Dylan Caldwell, from Nampa, Idaho, and Las Vegan Jaron Giannini, 16, followed.
The three-way battle for second held interest as 2020 IS Showdown winner Thirkettle, McCullough and Secord traded positions frequently. At lap 75, runner-up McCullough, Thirkettle and Secord trailed Doss by 40-yards. Doss held a 3.904 seconds lead over McCullough at the checkers. Thirkettle, Secord, and 20-year old rookie Sam Jacks, from Las Vegas, completed the top five. Caldwell, Bakersfield’s Jim Coffey, Idahoans Kyle Latham and Jeremy Kay (in a one-off ride in Dave Arce’s San Diego-based car), and Giannini completed the top ten; all ran 100 laps.
Doss ran the fastest race lap of 15.272 (78.497 mph). Versatile racer Holly Clark, a 14-year old from Colorado, started 19th and was lapped on lap 59 while in P. 15. She spun to a halt near the third turn wall on lap 98 and finished three laps down. The top five finishers stopped for post-race interviews. Winner Doss told listeners: “This thing is flawless. I’m just lucky enough to be the one driving it. Thanks to car owner Eddie Wilcox.”
B MAINS: Pole starter Jadan Walbridge led all 25 laps of the Pro LM B-main in an 11-car field of the slowest qualifiers. Bandolero graduate Seth Wise, 16, from Bakersfield, started fourth and placed second, ten yards off the lead. Sheldon Cooper started tenth and finished third to earn the final transfer to the feature. He took third on lap 14 from second starter Robby Hornsby. The race ran without a caution flag. Nick Joanides and Hornsby completed the top five.
The SLM 25-lap B main had eight cars come to the grid after Dean Thompson and Scott Sanchez used provisional starting berths to start at the back of the feature. Past two-time Midwest ASA stock car champion Mike Garvey started on pole in a car owned by Texan Chris Davidson. The now Pensacola, Florida resident and racing businessman was racing at Irwindale for only the third time. He raced with the ASA Series at IS in 2001-02. Garvey suffered back and leg injuries in a 2016 crash at Montgomery, Alabama and has raced only twice since then.
Garvey led all 25 laps of the B and won by 15-yards over Nor Cal’s John Moore. Moore’s son/2019 Spears SLM champion Cole, 25, did not start because of handling problems. Andy Allen and 16-year old Kyle Keller, the 2018 Irwindale Junior Late Model track champion from Las Vegas, earned the four transfers to the 200. Keith Spangler placed fifth with seven cars running at the finish.
The Spears Mfg Series, based in Bakersfield, has ten race dates scheduled for the 2021 season. This year the SLM and Modified Series will be joined by a third Spears point championship series for pro late models. It was an open comp race at IS last year. Host speedways are: KCRP in Bakersfield, Stockton 99, Roseville, and Irwindale (on April 10 and July 17). The next Irwindale Speedway race will be the NASCAR weekly racing series opener on Saturday, March 13.
Super Late Model 200 (cut to 177 laps by curfew): Preston Peltier, Casey Roderick, Jace Hansen, Buddy Shepherd, Jacob Gomes, Kole Raz, Tyler Tanner, Cole Kanke, Jonathan Mawhinney, Chris Davidson, Corey Neveau, Jeff Bischofberger, Christian McGhee, Jimmy Parker, Jr., John Moore, Carlos Vieira, Dean Thompson, Kyle Keller, Scott Sanchez, Kyle Neveau, Brandon Farrington, Tracy Bolin, Andy Allen, Haeden Plybon, Dylan Garner, Derek Thorn, Dylan Lupton, Blaine Rocha, Mike Garvey, Tyler Fabozzi, Bobby Hodges, Colby Potts, Jeremy Doss, + Dan Holtz, Logan Bearden, Tayler Riddle. Time – 1:18:06.172 – (25 cars RAF and 13 on lead lap).
Race Leaders – Gomes L 1-2; Peltier L 3-24; Thorn L 25-56; & Peltier L 57-177 & won by .952.
Pro Late Model 150: Jeremy Doss, Austin Barnes, Tyler Reif, Eric “Bubba” Nascimento. Dylan Zampa, Mike Lovell, Cole Williams, Jadan Walbridge, Kyle Meyer, Parker Malone, Jeffrey Peterson, Tyler Herzog, Logan Zampa, Matt Erickson, Mike Weimann, Sheldon Cooper, Cody Kiemele, Tanner Reif, Austin Herzog, Jason Romero, Mike Beeler, Trevor Huddleston, Ross Strmiska, Seth Wise, Cole Brown. Time – Time – 1:16:33.452 – (17 cars RAF and ten on lead lap).
Race Leaders – Tyler Reif L 1-7; Doss L 8-150 & won by 2.400 seconds.
Modifieds 100: Jeremy Doss, Travis McCullough, Travis Thirkettle, Eddie Secord, Sam Jacks, Dylan Caldwell, Jim Coffey, Kyle Latham, Jeremy Kay, Jaron Giannini, Brian Collins, Ian Elliott, Jeff Longman, Ed Coffey, Doug Carpenter, Noah Morris, Holly Clark, Jerry Toporek, Andrew Anderson, William Guevara, Nathan Byrd, Mike Neilson. Time – 46:05.149 – (18 cars RAF and ten on lead lap).
Race leaders – McCullough L 1-14; Doss L 15-100 & won by 3.904 seconds.