IRWINDALE, Calif. – The annual Spears Mfg SRL Southwest Tour tripleheader season opener at Irwindale Speedway was Saturday, February 5. A sunny, 75-degree day and the lure of close racing produced a near capacity crowd. A live stream telecast brought action to a nationwide audience. MAVTV Network also will show the event in the future. The All-Star event was the third under Spears sanction and the first of four Spears races at Irwindale during 2022. It was the 11th All-Star Showdown at IS dating back to the 2003 Toyota All-Star Showdown for NASCAR Grand National and Elite touring series. All three races Saturday used straight-up starts with the fastest qualifiers in front based on mid-afternoon qualifying.
All three Spears series raced on the half-mile. Last year the pro late models and modifieds raced on the third-mile. The Spears super late model race, which ran second, was 200-laps as last season. The Modified Series presented by Lucas Oil opening race was 75-laps without a break. The closing race–Pro Late Models presented by Sigma Performance Service–was 100-laps. The two longer races had mid-race breaks during which all cars stopped at infield pits for minor adjustments and fueling. Car counts were: 35 SLM, 37 Pro LM and 21 modifieds. B-mains were canceled and all cars started.
Winners shares were $25,000 for super late model winner Derek Thorn, from Bakersfield, $10,000 for Pro LM victor Dylan Cappello, from Peoria, AZ, and $5,000 for modified winner Travis Thirkettle, from Canyon Country. Total purse paid to 32 SLM starters was $75,578, including bonus money paid in memory of the late stock car No. 56 driver Ron Esau, who died unexpectedly on January 24. Dave Read donated $256 for the fifth and sixth place finishers in the three divisions. Pinnacle Peak Steakhouses awarded $560 to the hard charger. Scott Lynch Foundation and STR awarded $356 to the lap 56 leaders in all three races. Two drivers—Blaine Rocha and Trevor Huddleston—raced in two divisions.
SLM 200: Thirty-two starters took the green flag at 5:55 pm with Preston Peltier, from Colorado, on pole and Derek Thorn alongside. They waged a captivating first place duel for 125 laps. Peltier, 44, led laps 1-15, 17-67 and 102-124 as he tried to repeat his 2021 All-Star Showdown victory in Joe Farre’s No. 54 P1 chassis. Thorn, 35, led laps 16, 68-101, and 125-200. The mid-race break came after 100-laps and cars were serviced once all cars had stopped at the inside of the third-mile oval.
There were still 30 of 32 starters on the track with 21 cars on the lead lap and seven cars down one lap. Thorn and Peltier resumed their duel which ended on lap 125 while Peltier was holding a five-yard advantage. Peltier’s No. 48 pushed up the track, caught rubber from tires and slammed the third turn crashwall. His car slid along the wall and stopped near the fourth turn exit. Peltier escaped injury, but his car was towed into the infield with a smashed RF fender and wheel. The red flag flew for 15-minutes.
Thorn opened half a straightaway lead by lap 150. A caution flag at lap 154 for a slowing car caused another two-by-two restart. Thorn again chose the outside with Owen Riddle on the inside. Thorn quickly opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 160. He built another half straight lead by lap 190. He eased his pace during closing laps and won his series record 59th Spears super late model feature by 4.917 seconds.
It was his tenth consecutive Spears victory in the No. 43 Byron Campbell Toyota Camry. The multi-time Spears SLM champion suffered his last loss in the season opening All-Star Showdown at IS a year ago when he pitted on lap 155 and placed 26th. Thorn then won the final nine races from March to October at four speedways in California. Runner-up Riddle, from Washington, started 20th and received $10,000. Logan Bearden,from Texas, started eighth and finished third, 6.610 seconds off the lead. He collected $6,000. Californians Cale Kanke (-6.901) and Jeremy Doss (-9.166) finished fourth and fifth and received $3,560 and $2,256 respectively.
Rounding out the top ten were: Dan Holtz in his new Rowdy chassis, Coloradan Jace Hansen, Jacob Gomes, and NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran/2016 Irwindale Race Truck champion Riley Herbst, from Nevada. Three-time IS NASCAR late model champion Trevor Huddleston, the all-time IS feature wins leader with 70, placed tenth. Only the top ten drivers completed 200 laps. Twenty of 32 starters were racing at the finish of the 2:00.06.995 race that had seven yellows and one red flag. Peltier ran the fastest lap of 17.353 (103.728 mph) on lap 102. Cody Dempster, from Colorado, started 23rd and finished 15th and was the highest finishing rookie.
The top five cars were impounded and later passed mandatory post-race tech inspections.Thorn had to wait to receive the key to open a locked glass container with $25,000 in new $20 bills visible inside his winner’s trophy. That usual unique All-Star Showdown glass trophy containing the winner’s share of the purse applied to all three divisions. All cars passed tech inspection so they all received the keys and cash.
Special cash awards in memory of Ron Esau, 67, went to fifth and sixth place finishers ($256 each). Kanke collected the $256 hard charger award for starting 22nd and finishing fourth. The lap 56 leader cash from Lynch/STR went to Peltier in the SLM race. Peltier also collected $500 as the fastest qualifier (17.173-104.816 mph). The one lap track record was set by Casey Roderick in this event on February 6, 2021. John Moore won the Fluidyne cool move of the race cash. The 35 SLM drivers this year came from 11 states–Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
MODIFIEDS: Fastest qualifier Andrew Anderson (19.065–94.414 mph) from Mission Hills, started on the pole. He led 18 laps in his own Racecar Factory-built No. 4. The temperature was still 70 degrees for the 5:00 pm start of the opening feature. Jaron Giannini, 17, from Henderson, NV, started fourth and took second on lap 2. Travis Thirkettle, 44, started fifth and took third on lap 6. The three leaders dueled closely for the lead from lap 15 onward.
A lap 19 caution flag for a solo spin by Colorado Springs rookie Holly Clark, 15, resulted in a two-by-two restart. Anderson, 29, selected the outside, but inside starter Giannini, the Spears Modified January 25 season opening 75-lap winner at Lake Havasu City, AZ, shot into the lead. He paced laps 19 through 34. Thirkettle took second from Anderson on lap 26 and took the lead ten laps later. Thirkettle, the 2006 NASCAR late model 2006 IS champion, opened a 25-yard lead over Giannini by the lap 75 checkered flag. He won by 1.362 seconds in his own RCF-built No. 5T.
Thirkettle’s impressive victory in the 21-car field was his 37th main event triumph at IS. It moved him into sole possession of tenth place on the list of drivers with the most IS feature victories. It broke his tie with Todd Burns, the 2002-03 NASCAR late model track champion, who soon retired. Thirkettle collected his $5,000 that was visible in the locked glass container inside the large trophy. His car passed tech inspection so the key he received opened his cash container.
Runner-up Giannini, a Spears modified rookie and current point leader after two races, edged Anderson by 1.134 seconds. Jim Mardis raced from 11th starting to fourth place, 6.691 seconds behind the winner. Travis McCullough (-8.485), William Guevara (-9.558) Chris Dalton (-13.491), series rookie Jimmy Sloan, the IS 2005 super stock champion, (-16.321), and Brice Bonnett (-18.938) finished all 75 laps in fifth through ninth spots. Nevadan Kyle Jacks placed tenth with 74 laps. The race had eight series rookies, three caution periods after spins, and took 35:23.674. Twenty of 21 starters finished. Giannini ran the fastest lap of 19.168 (93.907 mph). Modified drivers came from six states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.
PRO LATE MODELS 100: Past Lucas Oil Modified champion Dylan Cappello, 26, earned pole position by turning the fastest qualifying lap of 19.018 (94.647 mph) at 2:30 pm. He continued his dominance by leading every lap of the feature for his first Pro LM victory in his No. 11. He received a key to the glass-base trophy containing $10,000 cash in new $20 bills. He took it home after his car passed tech inspection.
The 37-car field raced to lap 12 before a two-car tangle produced a caution flag. At lap 20 all 37 cars, running two and three wide, were still on the lead lap. Only green flag laps counted. The third feature started at 8:24 pm with the temperature 56 degrees. Six yellows and two red flags followed. At the mid-race break all cars stopped for adjustments and 35 of 37 cars were still on the lead lap. Top ten drivers were: Cappello by ten yards over second starter Trevor Huddleston. Seth Wise, Jeffrey Peterson, Parker Malone, Tanner Reif, Jake Bollman, Tyler Reif, Kyle Meyer, and Bradley Erickson ran third through tenth.
On lap 56 a car spun in turn one and five cars were involved. On lap 65 four cars spun low in turn two and caused another double file restart. Cappello took the preferred outside lane, putting Huddleston on the inside. On lap 79, Ryan Schartau was in 13th when he spun into the second turn crashwall. Officials began counting yellow flag laps through lap 87. At the lap 88 green flag Cappello led Huddleston, Wise, Peterson, and Bollman.
On lap 90, Wise, a 2021 series winner at Bakersfield, took second from Huddleston. On lap 93 Bollman took fourth from Peterson. A two-car incident on lap 97 sent Malone’s fifth place car into the first turn wall after contact from the sixth place car. A red flag ensued to remove uninjured Malone’s car. The final green flag flew at 9:53 and 14-year old INEX Legends graduate Bollman, from Huntington Beach, shot from fourth to second. The top five were Cappello, Bollman, Wise, Huddleston, and Peterson at the lap 99 white flag. Bollman appeared ready to challenge Cappello for the lead.
On the final lap, sixth place Tanner Reif’s No. 43r got loose entering turn three, swapped ends and slammed hard into the crashwall before the checkers. The red flag waved. Reif walked from the car uninjured, but the removal of his car by a wrecker pushed the time past the 10 pm curfew, so Spears officials did not restart lap 100. The official finish reverted to the lap 99 running order. A planned ten minute aerial fireworks show started at 10:05 pm.
The official finish was Cappello ($10,000 for his first Pro LM victory), Bollman ($2,500), Wise ($1,500), Huddleston ($750), Peterson ($500), Tyler Reif ($450), Kyle Keller ($425), Erickson ($400), Logan Zampa ($375), and Pro LM rookie Frankie Muniz, 36-year old star of the “Malcolm in the Middle” TV show, ($350). The Scottsdale, AZ resident had only raced in celebrity spec stock cars at IS eight years ago. He had practiced in the No. 56 HPR Chevy owned by IS promoter Huddleston. Muniz started 20th and raced in mid-pack most of the way. He dropped to 25th at one point but was among the top 12 lead lap drivers in the closing laps. He plans to race the No. 56 pro late model at all IS NASCAR races this season.
All starters received at least $300. Amazngly, four of the top seven finishers are teenagers and relatively new to the Spears Pro LM series. Bollman and Tyler Reif are 14. Wise and 2018 Irwindale Junior Late Model Series champion Keller are 17. Napa resident Logan Zampa is 19 and his brother Dylan is 18. Seventh fastest qualifier Cody Kiemele is 15. Series rookie/Legends graduate Christian Bazen, 16, finished 17th, a lap down.
Twenty-five of 37 starters were still racing at the finish. The race took 1:25.09.992. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 19.246 (93.526 mph). Pro LM drivers came from four states—Arizona, California, Idaho, and Nevada. Drivers called their home tracks Irwindale, Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, KCRP in Bakersfield, Madera and Roseville.
The next Spears event for all three divisions will be Saturday, March 5 at All-American Speedway in Roseville, 22-miles NE of Sacramento on I-80. Spears also has race dates in Bakersfield, Stockton, and Eureka. The three Spears divisions will return to Irwindale on May 21, September 17, and November 12–the season finale. The Advance Auto Parts NASCAR season at IS will begin on Saturday, March 12.