SPEARS TRIPLEHEADER @ IRWINDALE — GOMES WINS $6,000 – By Tim Kennedy
IRWINDALE – May 21 – Point leader Jacob Gomes, the 2015 Spears SRL series champion, continued his dominant 2022 season Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. He won his third consecutive Spears Super Late Model victory in the fourth race of the ten race season. As the fastest qualifier in a 22-car field, the 29-year old Manteca resident started third and led all 100-laps on the half-mile. He earned a $6,000 check and trophy aboard his usual ride—the black No. 16 Toyota Camry, one of 16 black cars in the feature. Gomes also collected bonus money posted by Loyd McGhee–$500 for fastest qualifying time and $500 for leading lap 17.
Other Spears Manufacturing series victories in a pair of 60-lap main events on the inner third-mile track were:
> Dylan Zampa, 18, from Napa, in a Spears Pro Late Model race presented by Sigma Performance Services. It was the opening race of the evening in a program that attracted about 3,000 spectators. The nine-car race had four leaders and five lead changes. Zampa, an Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program rising star, collected a check for $2,500. He also finished fifth in the SLM 100-lap feature.
> IS veteran Travis Thirkettle, 44, from Canyon Country, started seventh in a 16-car Spears Modified Series field aboard his own Racecar Factory-built No. 5T. He took the lead on lap 19 and won by 2.321 seconds over series point leader Jaron Giannini, 17, from Las Vegas. Jimmy Sloan started second and led the initial 18 laps before settling for third, 4.708 seconds behind Thirkettle, who won his 38th IS feature in various divisions. He now ranks ninth on the list of most prolific winners at IS.
The fourth and final main event was a scored 20-lap RVs towing boat trailers Figure 8 race with 14 entrants. Twelve drivers raced from 8:24 to 9:35 pm without any collisions at the infield X-intersection. Robert Rice trailed two early leaders and took command on lap 9. He won his 68th IS main event in various divisions and broke a second place tie with 67-time winner Rip Michels the long-time leader in main event triumphs. Current leader Trevor Huddleston has 74 victories.
The Spears weekend included a scheduled Friday night practice session for all three divisions from 3:30 to 8:45 pm with a complimentary BBQ by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse of San Dimas for everyone with a wristband. Only the first practice session was completed before light rain and drizzle washed out the final two practice sessions at 5:30. The free BBQ for race teams took place at 6:30 under the main grandstand.
Saturday arrived with temperature in the mid-70s and all events were completed. Total Spears car counts were: 22 super late models, 16 modifieds and nine pro late models. The Pro LM car count was reduced by five or six cars as a result of crashes or engine problems during a NASCAR Pro LM race at IS seven days earlier. There also is a $5,000 to win NASCAR Pro LM race at IS on May 28.
Single-car qualifying took place from 4:30 to 5:22 pm for the 47 Spears cars present. Pro LM and modifieds used the third-mile and SLM used the half-mile as usual. Fastest qualifiers were: modified driver Holly Clark, 15, from Colorado, at 15.258 (78.569 mph); Pro LM’s Tanner Reif, 16, from Henderson, NV, at 15.114 (79.317 mph); and Jacob Gomes in the featured SLM at 17.337 (103.824 mph).
PRO LM 60: Fast timer Tanner Reif started second and led the first two laps. His younger brother Tyler, 14, started on the pole and led laps 3-8. Tanner led laps 9-12 before the two Napa-based brothers came from row two and took command. Logan Zampa, 21, (No. 92L) led laps 13- 57 in a close duel among the top four drivers. Younger brother Dylan Z led the final three circuits and edged his brother by 0.117. It was his second main event victory in five completed races of the ten race series.
Bakersfield’s Seth Wise, 17, the winner during April at Kern County Raceway Park, started eighth and placed third, 1.211 back. Tanner Reif was fourth, 1.468 off the lead. Christian Bazen, 17, from Saugus, took fifth. Sixth place Tyler Reif was the last driver on the lead lap. He trailed the winner by 1.824. All nine starters finished the 18-minute contest. Tyler Reif ran the fastest lap early with his 15.434 (77.673 mph). One yellow flag on lap 55 for a solo spinner compacted lead lap cars and set-up the exciting finish.
MODIFIEDS 60: Second starter Jimmy Sloan, from Indio, led the first 18 laps. Seventh starter Thirkettle was second by lap 8 and the leader from laps 19-60. He wons by 2.321 seconds over series point leader and race winner Jaron Giannini who topped the Lake Havasu, AZ season opener in January. Sloan took third in a 23-minute race with two caution flags. Jeff Longman, from Utah, started and finished fourth. Fastest qualifier Holly Clark, 15, from Colorado Springs, CO, started and finished fifth. Eleven drivers completed all 60 laps with 15 of 16 starters on track at the finish. Thirkettle ran the fastest lap at 15.410 (77.794 mph). It was his third victory in five Spears modified main events this season.
SLM 100: Gomes led all 100 laps for his first career Spears victory at IS in 21 starts. Jace Hansen, from Greeley, CO, started fifth and ran second from lap 6 to the checkered flag and trailed Gomes by 0.488. However, his No. 08 was disqualified during a post-race technical inspection for a left side weight violation. That moved the entire field up one position so second went to Jeremy Doss (No. 44 Bob Lyon), He trailed Gomes by 0.990. Doss started 11th and earned the hard charger award. Buddy Shepherd was third with Linny White fourth.
Newcomer to SLM racing Dylan Zampa, 18, placed fifth in the revised finish driving Joe Farre’s No. 54. Series first time starter/young gun Jake Bollman, 15, from Huntington Beach, made an auspicious debut. He set the second fastest qualifying time, started second and finished sixth, only eight seconds behind the winner. Bollman also ran the fastest race lap of 17.691 (101.747 mph). The impressive teen has won four INEX Legends main events in his No. 71 coupe at Irwindale during the last two seasons.
Dustin Ash, Texas resident Chris Davidson, Cale Kanke, Jeff Bischofberger completed the top ten with 14 of 16 finishers on the lead lap. The 46-minute race had three caution flags and one red flag on lap 24 that consumed nine minutes and involved five cars exiting turn four. Drivers sidelined in the crash were: Trevor Huddleston, John Moore, Dan Holtz and Eric Schmidt. Shepherd was able to continue. No driver injuries resulted.
IS racing on Saturday, May 28 will be another usual Night of Destruction preceded by a 100-lap Pro LM race with $5,000 to win. A jet-truck burndown of an old car and fireworks are also on the card. Spears tripleheader racing will return to Irwindale on September 17 and November 12for the series final races in the ten race traveling series that visits five speedways–Roseville, Bakersfield, Stockton, Eureka and Irwindale.