SPEARS TRIPLE-HEADER = EXCITING RACING – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA, Sept. 17 – The regional touring Spears Mfg SRL Southwest Tour Series, based in Bakersfield, brought three series to Irwindale Speedway Saturday, September 17 for the third of four scheduled 2022 races. Three main events, totaling 220 laps, were run on the progressively-banked half mile. Pits contained 28 super late models, 19 pro late models, and 18 modifieds. More than 5,000 spectators watched three exciting features with three and four-wide racing. Spears RacingTVstreamed the race live and MAVTV recorded the races for later telecast.
As usual, Spears races attract many competitors from out of the area. This event had drivers from eight states—Arizona (two), Colorado (two), Idaho (one), Nevada (eight), Oregon (one) Utah (one), and Washington (one). California drivers from northern, central and southern regions of the state comprised the balance of the 60+ driver field.
Super late model and late model chassis builders included: VanDoorn, Fury, Rowdy, Hamke, Port City, Senneker, and Victory Circle. Bodies in the field were Chevrolet SS and Camaro, Ford Fusion and Mustang, Toyota Camry, and a Dodge. Modified chassis builders included RCF, STR, Pathfinder, Lefthander, plus home-built creations.
Single car qualifications with two timed laps took place from 4:30 to 5:28 and all cars qualified without incident. The usual 5:45 to 6:30 drivers autograph session with fans followed on the front straight. Two of 28 SLM entries had problems during Friday’s 3:30 to 8:30 pm practice session that prevented them from racing Saturday. Pro late models ran 60 laps and the winner received $2,500. Modifieds then raced 60 laps and the winner received $2,000. Super late model drivers raced 100 laps with a total of $30,425 on line and the winner received $6,500. All three series had a competition yellow flag near mid-race.
SLM—the LiUNA Feel the Power 100 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse: Buddy Shepherd, 22, started fifth in his family-owned No. 22s VanDoorn-built Chevy and led all but the first two laps. The Bakersfield driver did not compete at one of six events this year and is not chasing points. He won his first race at Irwindale and second career victory in Spears SLM racing. His first triumph came at Madera Speedway in July, 2017. Shepherd credited Butch VanDoorn for chassis suggestions that made the car perform perfectly all night.
Dan Holtz started seventh in his own Fury and was sixth at lap 20. He raced into second on lap 28 as positions changed frequently during three and four-wide racing. The rapid field did not have a car lapped until lap 37. Fastest qualifier/point leader Jacob Gomes, 29, started on pole after the eight fastest qualifiers drew pills to set starting positions. He passed Holtz for second on lap 47, but Holtz retook second on lap 63. Gomes said his car “was free” the entire race.
Shepherd won the 41-minute race over Holtz by 1.515 with Gomes 1.779 back. Austin Herzog, 19, came from 14th to fourth and trailed the winner by 4.5 seconds. Jace Hansen, from Colorado, started third, led the first two laps and placed fifth, 11-seconds off the lead. Fifteen of 24 finishers completed all 100-laps. Shepherd, the fourth winner in six 2022 races, ran the fastest lap of 100.379 mph.
During post-race tech inspection Holtz’ car was disqualified for having too much left side weight. He placed last (26th) and received no money or points. The official top ten was: 2015 series champion Gomes, who received $1,500, series rookie Herzog, Hansen, hard charger award winner Kole Raz, Jeremy Doss, rookie Sean Hingorani,16, Jeff Bischofberger, Jonathan Mawhinney, and John Moore. Gomes is the point leader with 1167 and Doss has 1135 with two races remaining.
PRO LM 60 presented by Sigma Performance Services: Fastest qualifier Bradley Erickson, 16, from Phoenix, drew fourth position but dropped out before the start. The exciting race had three leaders and seven lead changes. Dylan Zampa, 18, from Napa, led laps 1, 4-49, 55, and 59. Dean Thmpson, Irwindale 2020-21 NASCAR late model track champion, flew in Friday from Charlotte, N.C after racing in the NASCAR Bristol truck race Thursday night. Thompson, from Anaheim Hills, led laps 2-3, 50-54, and 56-58.
On the final lap, Thompson, 22, hit the back of Zampa’s leading car, which spun low. Thompson continued and in a three-car pack at turn four was passed on the outside by Nick Joanides. The elated winner called the race the most memorable of the IS features the three-time IS track champion (2008-09 SLM and 2009 late model) has won. For spinning leader Zampa, Spears officials dropped runner-up Thompson to 14th, one position behind Zampa, who also finished all 60 laps.
With the thrilling finish still fresh, infield announcer/IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston, excitedly exclaimed on the PA mic, “Holy cow, the last ten laps were some of the best laps we’ve ever seen at Irwindale Speedway. Old guys still rule at Irwindale.” Joanides, 52, drove a two-race old car built locally by Jackson Race Cars. It was his first victory this season and his 58th at IS, which is the fifth most in IS history. Joanides, from Woodland Hills, thanked his long-time car owner Joe Nava and No. 77 team sponsor Jan Quakenbush (Jan’s Towing).
The official finish showed positions two through ten as: Cody Kiemele, 16, just 0.445 behind the winner in his two-race old Hemke chassis, Jeff Peterson, Ricky Schlick, 25, Seth Wise, 17, Sean Woodside, Mike Beeler, rookie Ryan Martin, 24, from Petaluma, Christian Bazen, 17, and Corey Neveau. Seventeen of 19 cars finished the 30-minute race with 14 drivers on the lead lap. Thompson clocked the fastest lap of 92.760 mph. Wise, from Bakersfield, is the point leader with 1278. The Reif brothers from Nevada, Tanner with 1213 and Tyler with 1207, follow with three races remaining.
MODIFIEDS – Factory Canopies 60 presented by General Tire: Travis Thirkettle, 44, started second and led the final 57 laps of the 60-lap modified main in his own 2015-built RCF chassis. It was his fourth Spears victory in a row and fifth in seven 2022 events He has won all three series 2022 races at Irwindale. Thirkettle, Irwindale’s 2006 NASCAR late model champion, scored his 39th IS feature triumph, which ranks ninth on the list of most prolific IS winners.
Fastest qualifier/pole starter Andrew Anderson, 30, led the first two laps in his 2021-built RCF mount. Arizonan William Guevara, led lap 3 in his RCF car. Series 2021 rookie of the year Anderson retook second on lap 4 after Thirkettle had moved from third to first. Anderson pressured Thirkettle all the way and drew even with the leader from laps 57-59, but he trailed by 0.222 at the finish. Rookie Jaron Giannini, 17, from Las Vegas, Guevara, and IS NASCAR 2005 super stock champion/17th starter Jimmy Sloan, from Indio, completed the top five.
Colorado resident Holly Clark, 16, drove 20 hours with her family to race at IS. She started 11th and finished sixth. Fifteen of 18 starters finished with nine on the lead lap. Anderson ran the fastest lap of 93.667 mph. Giannini leads in points with 1171 and runnerup Sloan has 1082 with two races remaining. Thirkettle ranks third with 1065 despite his numerous victories. He did not race in the Janurary 15 season opener.
The fourth and final Spears tripleheader at Irwindale will take place on Saturday, November 12, a date moved this year from the usual season finale site—the Las Vegas “Bullring” short-track on the LVMS premises.