THORN & CAPPELLO STARS @ IRWINDALE SPEARS MFG DOUBLEHEADER–
By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Jul. 20 – The second appearance of 2019 by the Spears Mfg SRL Southwest Tour super late model series and touring Spears Modified Series presented by Lucas Oil took place Saturday. Bakersfield driver Derek Thorn, 33, won a $25,425 SWT non-stop 100-lap feature convincingly in the Byron and Carol Campbell Motorsports No. 43.
It was the second time R. J. Allen, Inc. presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouses in San Dimas and Colton sponsored a Spears race at the Irwindale Speedway banked half-mile. About 5,000 spectators watched the touring drivers display amazing racing skills on a mid-70s evening. No drivers were lapped on track until after lap 90 and 23 of 26 starters finished on the lead lap.
Thorn, the four-time Spears SRL (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017) and two-time NASCAR K & N West (2013 and 2018) champion, is now the Spears SRL SWT series most prolific feature winner with 39. It was his fourth Spears SWT triumph at Irwindale and his third victory in five Spears SRL point races at five speedways this season. He won the $5,000 winner’s bonus from Performance Friction Brakes.
Dylan Cappello, a past Lucas Oil Modified champion and Irwindale feature winner, won the 80-lap modified main. It was divided into two 40-lap segments. The overall winner was the driver with the best combined finishes in both segments. Cappello, from Peoria, Ariz., became a back to back Spears Modified 2019 feature winner. He also is the fourth different winner in six series point races this season.
Cappello, driving the No. 11c STR chassis as usual, finished second in a 15-car opening 40-lap race won by fastest qualifier Christian McGhee. Cappello won the second 40 in an exciting, lead-swapping duel with newlywed Ryan Partridge, winner of 60 IS main events and three-time Irwindale champion in late models and super late models (2010 to 2014).
The third class on the all-touring series program was the Southwest Tour Trucks. Nine drivers raced a 30-lap main event slotted between the two modified 40-lap races. The SWT 100-lap feature concluded racing at 10:38 pm. Unusual events, including a medical emergency in the grandstand and several red flags to clear the track after wrecks, delayed racing during the evening.
Ironically, the Spears doubleheader winners on March 23 were not present. Preston Peltier, from Colorado, won the SWT race and Trevor Cristiani, from Boise, Idaho, won the modified feature. Cristiani is now racing at speedways closer to his Idaho home. The Colorado car No. 18 raced by Peltier in March was not present.
The eight fastest qualifiers in a 26-car field drew for starting positions in the first four rows. Linny White (4th FQ) and Dylan Lupton (1 FQ as he was March 23) occupied the pole and outside row one. Following in order were: Kyle Neveau, Craig Raudman, Trevor Huddleston, point leader Cole Moore, Bobby Hodges and Thorn.
Lupton led the first seven laps. White, Huddleston and Thorn traded second place during laps 2-5. Thorn used an inside pass in turn four on lap 8 and officially led through lap 100. He won by 6.496 seconds over White, who drove Earl Robbins’ No. 99–a Rowdy Manufacturing chassis (Kyle Busch Motorsports subsidiary). White won Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway 100-lap race June 29 in the same car. He earned $1,500 as runner-up.
Point leader C. Moore, the 2018 SWT rookie of the year, finished 0.001 behind White and collected $1,250. He expanded his series point lead (eight points) after second and third ranked drivers finished outside the top ten. P. 4 Neveau was 7.432 seconds off the lead and earned $1,000. John Moore, father of the point leader, placed fifth, 14-seconds in back of the winner. The top five finishing cars went to post-race tech inspection and passed.
Oakdale resident Blaine Rocha, three-time NASCAR Whelen Series track and California champion Huddleston, Spears 14-year old rookie and open-wheel rising star Jesse Love, 2015 NASCAR K & N West champion Chris Eggleston, and Keith Spangler/Oregonian Gracin Raz completed the top ten. All four SRL rookies in the race finished no lower than 18th. Love’s eighth place earned the rookie of the race honor.
The 56-minute race averaged only 53.287 mph because of five yellow flags and a ten-minute red flag on lap 79 to clear wreckage from a two-car crash near turn one. Spears timing/scoring electronic transponders reported the fastest race lap of 17.627 was an average of 102.116 mph by Eric Nascimento, Jr..
MODIFIEDS 1ST 40:
Fastest qualifier Christian McGhee made his first start in Cristiani’s March 23 Irwindale winning No. 24 modified. The eight fastest qualifiers drew for starting positions in the first four rows. McGhee started third. Cappello started second and led the first 27 laps.
Travis Thirkettle, the 2006 IS late model champion, started ninth and led lap 28 after battling for the lead with Cappello from lap 20. Cappello led lap 29 as Ryan Partridge and Thirkettle traded second place a length behind the leader. On lap 31 Thirkettle’s car got into Partridge, who spun and drove to the infield work area. Under caution, Thirkettle also went to the work area with a flat right front tire.
McGhee passed Cappello for the lead on the lap 31 restart and led the final ten laps. He edged Cappello by 1.354. Jeremy Kay, Ryan Schartau and rookie Kyle Keller, 14, from Las Vegas, completed the top five in a 20-mintue event. Partridge returned from the work area four laps down and placed 13th. Cody Kay dropped out on lap 31 with damage. Cappello logged the fastest lap of 18.921 (95.132 mph).
MODIFIEDS 2ND 40:
The first seven finishers in the first 40 were inverted by finishing positions for the second 40. Doug Carpenter and William Guevara were on the front row. Two cars were unable to start, so 13 cars took the green flag at 8:34 pm. Guevara led the initial three laps. Sixth starter Cappello led laps 4-16. Tenth starter Partridge led laps 17-35 after charging past Cappello on the inside approaching the third turn. He drove his own No. 9 Racecar Factory-built car sponsored by Sunrise Ford.
The entertaining Partridge-Cappello duel continued with Partridge on the outside and Cappello inside. That was a reversal of their track positions when Cappello was leading. On lap 36 Cappello shot past Partridge on the inside at turn four and took the lead for good. Cappello opened a ten-yard advantage during the closing laps and beat Partridge by 0.762.
The second modified 40 had four yellow flags for spins or debris and one red flag on lap 3 for a multi-car crash. P. 6 Keller spun high in turn three and involved Jerry Toporek, whose car hit the third turn wall and had to be towed to the pits. The crash also sidelined first 40 winner McGhee, ending his chance for the overall victory.
The final caution flag on lap 34 involved the brothers Kay, from Reno. Cody was third and younger brother Jeremy was fourth when he hit Cody’s ex-No. 51A series championship car of Austin Barnes. Cody spun into the fourth turn infield grass. Jeremy was penalized to the back by Spears officials for causing the incident. Both Kays returned, charged forward from the back during the final seven laps, and finished in the top five.
Third through ninth place drivers completed 40 laps. Guevara, C. Kay, J. Kay, Carpenter, rookie Travis McCullough, Jeff Longman and Keller all finished within 6.029-seconds of winner Cappello, who ran the fastest lap of 19.290 (93.313 mph). The race took 35-minutes, including the lap 3 ten-minute red flag.
TRUCKS: A nine-trucks field had the three fastest qualifiers inverted. Fast timer and March 23 Irwindale winner Ronnie Davis, Jr., from Whittier, shot into the lead on the inside by the third turn on the initial lap. He opened a half straightaway lead over second quickest qualifier Tom Mikla. A red flag because of a medical emergency in the grandstand halted racing for 20-minutes. All nine trucks restarted on lap 11.
With a half-straight advantage on lap 20, Davis’ No. 78 Chevy Silverado began smoking. The starter black-flagged him and he parked in the infield. Mikla’s No. 21 Toyota Tundra led laps 21-30 and won for the first time by 1.038 over George Perret. Steve Reeves was a close third. Mike Kelperis, Barry Kelperis, Jr., Robert Vandermooren, and Gary T. Howard followed. DNFers were Davis and Neil Conrad, who was third on lap 15 when he retired to the infield. Perret ran the quickest race lap of 19.049 (94.493 mph).
The two Spears series have three races remaining this season. Both SWT and modifieds will race next at Madera Speedway on September 28. SWT has a KCRP, Bakersfield race October 26.Modifieds have a Lake Havasu, Arizona race on November 2. Both Spears series will conclude the 2019 season at the Las Vegas Bullring on November 23.
The full moon Saturday night might have influenced the event at IS. Qualifying for all three touring series was scheduled for 4:15 to 5:45 pm. The usual 45-minutes autograph session for fans on the front straight was to follow from 5:45 to 6:30.
Nine trucks qualified from 4:15 to 4:25. SWT cars started qualifying at 4:45. The 13th car driven by Tyler Fabozzi, the leading series rookie and second in overall SWT points, blew its engine on the second timed lap entering turn three. It oiled the third and fourth turns and the third-mile front straight as it slowed to a stop near the third-mile first turn.
It took IS workers from two trucks about 45-minutes to put down oil-dry to eliminate the synthetic oil sufficiently to resume qualifying. They swept it into the surface with brooms and then used the track sweeper truck to finalize the cleanup and resume qualifying. SWT qualifying lasted from 4:45 to 5:56 pm. IS Racing Director Mike Atkinson supervised the cleanup operation trackside from his golf cart.
Fifteen modifieds qualified from 5:57 to 6:18 pm. Unfortunately, track management had to cancel the autograph session to allow for the usual pre-race ceremonies.
Proving that SWT drivers who qualified 14ththrough 26th had a racy track surface, the eight fastest qualifiers of the night qualified after the oil spill cleanup. Fabozzi and Jace Hansen, who had an engine problem also during qualifying, both drove backup cars in the feature and started at the back.
Toni McCray, a 16-time Irwindale main event winner in SLM and late models, raced at IS for the first time in about three years. She was the third driver to qualify in her usual No. 90 and posted the tenth fastest time in the 26-car field. Toni started tenth and finished 14th in the IS 100-lap feature. She drove the former No. 75 that Jeremy Doss drove to a Spears 125-lap victory April 13, 2019 in Roseville. Jeremy last raced the car on May 4 at the Las Vegas Bullring. He has now been absent from two Spears SWT races. He raced a late model at Roseville July 20. Toni said she purchased the car from owner Mike Doss after Linny White told her the car was for sale. Her plans for future Spears races are indefinite at this time.
Later during the truck race, the red flag flew on lap 11 to allow track ambulance EMTs to drive across the track to the back of the main grandstand where a fan had collapsed with a medical emergency. They worked on the person and called in LA County Fire paramedics who took over the situation and transported the victim via ambulance to a hospital. The 20-minute delay lengthened the 13-minute caution-free truck race to more than 30-minutes including down-time.
After the second modified 40-lap race, SWT crews moved their “war-wagons” containing tools and equipment from the pit area beyond turn one to the infield designated work area. To entertain spectators while SWT teams moved their equipment, track management provided another performance by stuntman “Super Mike” at 9:18 pm. He used the same all-black small motorhome to drive at speed up a dirt ramp at the Figure-8 intersection and launch over six old sedans parked in a row. He cleared all six cars on his initial jump. He tried a second jump and this time landed and stopped upright atop the fifth and sixth cars in line. He exited the vehicle to applause and left it there until Monday with fans eager to see the SWT 100.
Following driver introductions by PA announcer Tommy Mason, the feature started at 9:43 pm. Drivers reeled off 17 rapid laps before a brief yellow flag for a solo spinout. Only three laps counted during yellow flag incidents and drivers restarted two-by-two. Near mid-race, drivers Bobby Hodges and Trevor Huddleston were swapping fifth place every couple of laps. On lap 49 exiting turn four Huddleston contacted Hodges, who spunout to the front straight infield. Jacob Gomes, third-ranked in 2019 points, and Dan Holtz also spun to miss past IS SWT winner Hodges. All drivers returned quickly .Spears officials penalized Huddleston for causing the incident and sent him to the back of the 25-car field. Hodges dropped out on lap 58 with a brake problem. After that incident the scoring pylon did not register laps or positions for six laps following the green flag, leading some to believe the race actually ran 106 laps.
A lap 76 crash involved Jack Wood and Tracy Bolin. Both cars slid into the first turn wall just past the opening to the pit area. Neither driver was injured, but a red flag was necessary to clear the track. Wood’s car was sidelined; Bolin completed 98 laps officially. Lap 80 started at 10:30 and the race ran under the green light all the way (26 laps ?) to the checkered flag at 10:38 pm. Fans departed knowing they had seen professional stock car drivers put on another outstanding main event at the always competitive Irwindale progressively banked half-mile.