SPEARS MFG TRIPLE-HEADER @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA, Sept. 16 – The third and final Spears Mfg Southwest Tour triple-header took place Saturday on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile. The event had national television pay-per-view coverage by Low Budget TV. Spears events also have tape delayed coverage on the MAVTV Network. More than 3,000 spectators attended despite live coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series Bristol 500 on NBC’s USA Channel. A gloomy, sunless day in southern California saw the temperature barely exceed 70-degrees and dropped into the upper 60s before 10 pm.
Spears drivers came from five states, primarily California. Two drivers towed 16-hours from Colorado, one from Nevada, and one from Utah. Ethan Myers, 19, flew from Pennsylvania to race a Bakersfield-based pro late model. He flew home to Latrobe, Penn. Sunday at 1 am. The Spears series has sanctioned races for 23 years from its headquarters in Bakersfield. It paid SLM winner Jacob Gomes $7,333 plus $500 for leading lap 33 posted by race sponsor Allie Bakes, the sponsor of Cale Kanke’s No. 33 SLM.
Pro LM 60-lap winner Trevor Huddleston, 27, earned $2,500 for his first career Spears triumph in a 60-lap race presented by Sigma Performance Services. The NASCAR 2015-17 IS and California state late model champion also has won three ARCA Menards West features–two at IS (in 2019 and this year) and one in the Sunrise Ford No. 9 Ford in 2019 at Monroe, Washington. Travis Thirkettle, 44, collected $2,000 for his triumph in the 60-lap modified main. The race awarded double points because of the July Stockton race cancellation. All Spears features had a competition caution flag after 40 green flag laps.
Huddleston (Agoura Hills) scored his IS track record 84th main event triumph in all divisions and increased his existing all-time IS record. Past IS track champion Thirkettle, from Canyon Country, recorded his 44th IS feature victory (seventh most in IS history). More than 600 drivers in all divisions have won IS main events since the speedway opened on March 27, 1999. Thirkettle has won all six Spears modified mains this season and 12 consecutively after winning six of nine Spears modified mains last season.
Gomes, 29, from Manteca, won six of eight SLM 2023 features including two of three in Irwindale. He also raced in the new Spears National Series for super late models that booked races in five states-(California, Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Missouri) from January through September. He won the series inaugural race—the Irwindale 200—on January 21in the No. 16 Toyota Camry. Gomes drew starting position two this week and led all 100 laps. However, he trailed Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd for half a lap after the lap 41 two-by-two restart. Gomes took command in turn three and led the final 60 laps. He recorded the quickest lap of 17.955 (100.251 mph). All 11 finishers completed 100 laps.
White, 45, from Colton, won the first five of seven Spears Pro LM mains this season, including two of three at IS. Dylan Zampa, 19, from Napa, and Huddleston won the last two races. White, the fastest qualifier, started fifth after the eight fastest qualifiers drew their starting positions in the first four rows. White reached second place on lap 41 but pole starter and first 13 laps leader Nick Joanides reclaimed the position a lap later and kept White in third place. Huddleston came from fourth starting spot and led laps 14-60. Leader Joanides, 53, logged the fastest lap of 19.440 (92.593 mph).
Modifieds fastest qualifier Jeff Longman, from Lehi, Utah, started second and finished eighth in his own car. All ten finishers completed 60 laps. Pole-sitter Holly Clark, a 17-year old high school senior in Colorado and third year modified racer, led the first 19 laps. San Fernando Valley resident Andrew Anderson, 30, started seventh and led laps 20-40. Fourth starter Thirkettle led laps 41-60 after the two-by-two restart following a competition caution. He won by 0.659 over Anderson. Both drivers wheeled their own RCF-built cars. Jimmy Sloan, the 2005 IS super stock champion, came from P. 8 on the grid to earn third, 2.641 off the lead. Clark held off four drivers for fourth, 6.850 behind the winner. She has also raced a Spears Pro LM this season. Thirkettle ran the fastest lap of 19.380 (92.879 mph).
The Spears season finale for all three series will be Sunday afternoon, October 15 at the half-mile Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield. Cars of all three IS winners on September 16 passed post-race technical inspections. Spears officials declared White the 2023 Spears Pro LM champion. He also won 11 of 15 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts main events at Irwindale for his second consecutive IS and California state championships. He drove the same Clay Wooster-owned N. 55 Hamke chassis in both series. His five triumphs in seven Spears Pro LM events gave him an impressive 16 victories in 22 combined events this season.
IS management booked pre-and post-Spears triple-header events. A car show in the front parking lot prior to 7:00 offered trophies to winners in various categories. Also, the new IS junior spec late model series for drivers age 12 and up had five of the eight RCF-built cars in a 30-lap race on the third-mile. Charlie Carty, 12, won his sixth main event in the ninth race. Drivers ages 14, 15 and 16 each won a main in the cars that use restrictor plates to limit top speed. Ryan Schank, 13, finished second, 0.863 back in a 14 minute race with three yellow flags. Mikey Killen, 16, Johnie Stamps, 13, and Skyler Schoppe, 12, followed.
AUTO SOCCER: The second auto soccer match of the season used a metal “ball” with concrete K-rails forming goals at the east and west ends of the infield. Longtime IS sponsors Pick Your Part and Jan’s Towing of Glendora each fielded three four-cylinder enduro sedans. The IS black and white ex-Sheriff’s patrol car was the referee car that placed the metal ball in play after each goal. PYP led all 15 minutes and won 5 to 1. Leading scorer Rider Gardner (No. 76) scored three goals in his Honda Accord. The popular IS aerial fireworks show followed for ten minutes over the darkened infield and spectators were on their way home shortly before 10 pm.
OFFICIAL RESULTS SPEARS THREE DIVISIONS:
Modifieds, 60 laps: Travis Thirkettle, Andrew Anderson, Jimmy Sloan, Holly Clark, William Guevara, Kevin Vossen, Stephen Brucker, Jeff Longman, Eddie Secord, A. J. DiMarzo, Josh White. Time—22:26.773.
Pro LM, 60 laps:Trevor Huddleston, Nick Joanides, Linny White, Sean Woodside, Jeff Peterson, Christian Bazen, Seth Wise, Andrew Chapman, Kabe McClenny, Eric Norris, Ethan Myers, Mike Beeler, Ryan Martin, Hans Beeler, Kale McClenny, Johnny Borneman III. DHNS—Brayden Allen. Time – 23:21.255.
SLM 100 laps: Jacob Gomes, Austin Herzog, Buddy Shepherd, Dan Holtz, Cale Kanke, Chris Clyne, John Moore, Scott Sanchez, Jake Bollman, Nick Cooper, Dylan Zampa, Andy Allen, Dylan Lupton, Nick Joanides. Time – 39:00.850.