Irwindale, CA., Mar. 23 – Spears Mfg touring Southwest Tour super late model and Spears modified divisions began 2019 point seasons Saturday on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile. The R. J. Allen, Inc. and Traffic Management, Inc.-sponsored event offered a purse of $25,495 for the super late model series. Senneker Performance ensured the winner would receive $5,000. It was the 19th Spears SWT super late model race at Irwindale during the last 15 years.
The large purse attracted an all-time high Irwindale field of 34 super late models, topping the former record at Irwindale of 30 cars in 2010. Eight past super late model champions (with 15 championships) were in the field. Sixteen drivers had recorded super late model feature victories. Drivers came from five states in each division.
There were 16 modifieds from the former Lucas Oil Modified Series. The series is now called Spears Modifieds presented by Lucas Oil. The same Hoosier tires were used in both racing segments by both divisions. MAVTV Network recorded the event for later telecast.
About 3,000 spectators viewed a pair of 50-lap segments for the super late models and a pair of 40-lap segments for the modifieds. Drivers with the best finishes in the combined segments were the winners in each division. Ties were broken by the highest finishes in the second segments. The new format commemorated the 50th year anniversary for long-time racing sponsor Spears, based in So Cal.
Two drivers removed all doubt about the winner in each Spears division. Preston Peltier, a 41-year old veteran super late model driver in major national events, came from his base in Brighton, Colo., and raced at Irwindale for the first time. He won both 50-lap super late model segments and earned $5,000.
Peltier, a 2010 PASS South and PASS National champion, drove the Generator Source Hamke chassis for Colorado-based Ed Vecchicrelli. He has employed Peltier for three years to race and maintain his fleet of five super late models and two modifieds. Peltier left his Bakersfield-area home at age 18 and worked until three years ago as a fabricator at Rick Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 24 NASCAR Cup car driven by Jeff Gordon.
Peltier now races in high-dollar super late model events around the nation, including Snowball Derby 300-lap races in Pensacola, Florida where he earned a pole position. He also excelled at Colorado tracks and at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., where he won two Summer Showdown races. He has raced in the last three high-dollar Winter Showdown 300s in Bakersfield, where he finished third this year in a Rowdy chassis for Hamke/Kyle Busch Racing.
MODIFIEDS: Trevor Cristiani, 25, from Boise, Ida., duplicated Peltier’s dominance by winning both 40-lap segments of the modified event in his own STR chassis. It was his second visit to Irwindale. He duplicated his August 18 victory last season as a modified series rookie aboard a car owned by Don Newman, from Eagle, Idaho.
With cool temperature during late afternoon, one-lap track records in both series were broken. Four drivers topped the Spears super late model record of 17.272 set by Derek Thorn on March 25, 2017. Peltier, Thorn and Trevor Huddleston broke Thorn’s old mark. Then Dylan Lupton, a 25-year old Californian who has raced in NASCAR national series for four years, turned the new record of 17.055 (105.541 mph) as the 19th of 33 qualifiers in a car owned by his father.
Cristiani broke the modified series one-lap track record of 18.470 set by Ryan Partridge on April 30, 2016 with a lap of 18.424 (97.699 mph). Sixteen modifieds raced for Spears Mfg points for the first time. The series has nine events scheduled this season at five speedways in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Both Spears divisions will return to Irwindale Speedway on July 20 for second events this year.
A 35-lap Southwest Tour Truck Series 35-lap main event with nine trucks opened racing as the first event. Ronnie Davis, Jr. led the final 34 laps of a 35-lap event. He won by 5.699 seconds over Mike Kelperis. Steve Reeves, Robert Vandermooren, Ron Nava, Ed Cutler, Barry Kelperis, George Perret and Curtis Burns followed. Davis became the third winner after three SWTT races at three tracks–Lake Havasu, Ariz., Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. and Irwindale.
A 33-car field of super late models participated in time trials. Willie Allen’s car had a stuck throttle during practice and hit the wall during practice, sidelining his car. The eight fastest qualifiers drew for starting positions in the first four rows of the first 50. Fastest qualifier Lupton drew a six, putting Jeremy Doss on the pole. Doss led the first lap and Thorn led laps 2-4. Fifth starter Peltier executed an exciting three-wide inside pass on lap 5 and led three laps. Thorn retook the point on lap 8 after a two-by-two restart following a caution flag.
Peltier retook the lead on lap 12 with another inside move in the second turn and remained in front to beat runner-up Doss by 0.666 in a 26-minute event with four yellow flags. Twenty-eight drivers finished with 20 on the lead lap. Thorn ran the fastest lap of 103.502 mph but he placed third, 1.017 seconds back. Fourth through tenth place finishers in the first 50 were: Lupton, Criag Raudman, Jeff Bischofberger, Jacob Gomes, Eric Schmidt, Kyle Neveau and Linny White.
The second 50-lap segment used a ten-car inverted starting lineup based on the first segment finishing positions. Neveau led the first eight laps over Thorn and Peltier. Thorn took the lead on lap 9 and led to lap 20 when Doss took charge and led through lap 29 with Peltier pressing for the lead. On lap 30 entering the third turn, Peltier shot to the extreme inside in traffic and took command of the race. He won by 0.947 over Bischofberger, who started fifth and took second on lap 32.
Raudman, the 2001 NASCAR Elite Divison SWT champion, was sixth on lap 42 following a red flag to clear an accident scene. He used outside passes during the final eight laps to charge forward quickly and earned third position, 3.082 seconds behind Peltier. Raudman, from Cottonwood, and his long-time car owner Dave Reed have announced that 2019 will be their farewell racing tour.
Peltier said he followed the NASCAR SWT Series as a teenager living near Bakersfield. He had never raced at Irwindale or even seen the track in person. He watched a video of an Irwindale race and after competing on the track Saturday said, “I love this kind of racing. Irwindale reminds me of a big Tucson Speedway because of the progressive banking. This place is cool.” He thanked Linny White for the set-up.
Seventeen of 28 starters finished the second segment and all drivers completed 50 laps. Thorn ran the fastest lap of 101.983 mph, but dropped out of second place on lap 24 after contact between the two leaders near turn three caused Thron to spin to the infield. He completed 31 laps. Fourth through tenth finishers were: newcomer Jace Hansen, from Greeley, CO., Lupton, Doss, Gomes, Tyler Fabozzi, Bobby Hodges and John Moore.
Combining finishes in the two segments (low total wins), the top ten SLM drivers overall were: Peltier (P. 1 & 1 = 2) – $5,000; Raudman (P. 6 & 2 = 8) – $1,500; Lupton (P. 5 & 3 = 8) – $1,250; Doss (P. 2 & 6 = 8) $1,000; Thorn (P. 4 & 5 = 9) – $850; Bischofberger (P. 7 & 7 = 14), Hansen (P. 14 & 4 = 18), Fabozzi (P. 11 & 8 = 19), Hodges (P. 15 & 9 = 24), John Moore (P. 18 & 10 = 28) – $525.
Jason Irwin, from Albuquerque, started second in the first 40-lap segment and led the first 23 laps. Cristiani started fourth, slipped to fifth early and reached second place on lap 20 as the first three cars raced in a tight pack. Cristiani executed an inside pass on Irwin in turn three on lap 24 and held the lead to the lap 40 checkers. Dylan Cappello, from Peoria, AZ, passed Irwin in the closing laps and trailed the winner by 1.039.
Irwin, Las Vegas resident Justin Johnson, and 15-year old Irwindale late model driver Ryan Schartau finished in P. 3-5 respectively. All three drivers were less than four seconds behind Cristiani. Rounding out the top ten were the Kay brothers Cody, 25, and Jeremy, 18, from Reno, NV. Cody raced the former Austin Barnes STR chassis past Lucas Oil Series championship car that he raced as a rookie in 2018.
Newlywed Ryan Partridge, who started at the back after a mechanical problem and lost a lap with a trip to the infield pit area on lap 2. He regained a lap under caution and raced up to P. 7 in his own Racecar Factory-built modified. Rookies Hunter Corbitt and Jeff Longman finished ninth and tenth. All 16 starters finished with 12 on the lead lap. Irwin ran the fastest lap of 96.458 mph. The 20-minute race had two caution flags for debris and a spin.
The second modified 40-lap segment inverted the first seven finishers from the first 40. J. Kay led the first 17 laps from pole position and battled seventh starter Cristiani for three laps. Then Cristiani again used an inside pass entering the third turn and opened a 2.126 second victory margin over J. Kay. Cappello placed third, 2.915 seconds back with 15 drivers racing at the finish.
Rounding out the top ten were: Schartau, Johnson, the 2011 Irwindale NASCAR super late model track champion, Irwin, Partridge, C. Kay, Travis McCullough, and Corbitt. Kyle Keller, the IS third-mile track junior late model track champion at age 14, made his modified debut and first start on a half-mile. He placed 11th with 39 laps. Cristiani averaged 92.493 mph for the all-green, 12-minute race. Cristiani ran the fastest race lap of 94.379 mph.
Combining finishes in both modified 40-lap segments (low total wins), the top ten modified finishers overall were: Cristiani (P. 1 & 1 = 2), Cappello (P. 2 & 3 = 5), J. Kay (P. 7 & 2 = 9), Schartau (P. 5 & 4 = 9), Johnson (P. 4 & 5 = 9), Irwin (P. 3 & 6 = 9), C. Kay (P. 6 & 8 = 14), Partridge (P. 8 & 7 = 15), Corbitt (P. 9 & 10 = 19), and McCullough (P. 11 & 9 = 20).
The next Spears Mfg SWT super late model race in the nine-race schedule will be April 13 at the one-third mile All-American Speedway in Roseville, CA. The next Spears Mfg Modified race on May 4 will be a combined show with the Spears SWT super late models at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring, a three-eighths mile near the 1.5-mile speedway.
The next Irwindale Speedway event on Saturday, March 30 will feature the touring NASCAR K & N West late models for a 150-lap feature on the half-mile. A number of “Night of Destruction” typical events will follow on the third-mile and infield.