THREE SPEARS SERIES CONCLUDE 2022 @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
IRWINDALE, Calif., Nov. 12 – Three touring Spears Mfg SRL Series concluded the 2022 season at Irwindale Speedway half-mile on the second Saturday of November. About 2,500 spectators attended the event on a mid-50s evening that also concluded the IS season. Spears usually concluded each season at the Las Vegas “Bullring” short track, but weeks before the race Spears SRL management moved the finale to Irwindale. It was a season-high fourth race of the year for Spears at IS and the eighth Spears super late model race of 2022.
All three divisions practiced from 3:30 to 8:30 pm Friday on the half-mile. Andre Prescott’s No 80 SLM broke an oil line near turn three and oiled the track, causing other cars to crash. Drivers were not injured, but damage eliminated four cars from Saturday competition. Buddy Shepherd, the September 17 Spears winner at IS, traveled home to Bakersfield, and returned Saturday with his backup No. 22s and raced it Saturday.
Practice Saturday was from 11:00 am to 12:40 pm for all divisions. Individual qualifying laps started at 4:15 and concluded by 5:20. The on-track autograph session was canceled because of the one hour earlier starting time to accommodate the PPV live streaming of the SLM 100. There were 19 SLM, 15 modifieds, and 19 pro late model qualifiers. Bradley Erickson, 16, from Phoenix, broke the Spears pro late model track record with his qualifying lap of 18.938 (95.047 mph) in the Naake & Klauer No. 54 from central California. He eclipsed the 19.018 mark set by Dylan Cappello on 2/5/22.
Each division had the eight fastest qualifiers pull their actual starting positions at the Spears trailer in the pits. Sealed envelopes on the counter contained playing cards one through eight. Feature winners received $6,500 in the SLM division, $2,500 in the pro late models, and $1,500 in the modified division, which formerly was the Lucas Oil Modified Series. The event was billed as a prelude to the January 20-21, 2023 IS All-Star Showdown high-dollar event.
SLM 100: First up was the SLM 100-lap feature. Fastest qualifier Jeremy Doss, from Upper Lake in Nor Cal, drew fifth starting spot for his Bob Lyon-owned No. 44 and raced forward in three-wide racing. Second starter Dustin Ash led the first 49 laps. Impressive ninth starter Cale Kanke arrived in P. 3 by lap 30 and led laps 50-60 with all cars still on the lead lap. On a lap 61 two-by-two restart Doss, 25, shot to the inside to pass outside-runner Kanke and took the lead. He held it to the finish and beat second consecutive runner-up Kanke by 0.715. It was his 12th victory in the series and first at IS for the Spears modified multi-winner at Irwindale.
Series 2015 champion Jacob Gomes, 29, from Manteca, entered the race with a 17-point lead over Doss. He started seventh and placed third. His lap 80 pass of Austin Herzog gave him enough points to win his second series crown by two-points over Doss. It was the closest championship finish in Spears history. Herzog, from Clovis, started sixth and placed fourth, 1.1 in back of Gomes. John Moore started 11th and completed the top five.
Las Vegan Ash, rookie Sean Hingorani, 16, from Newport Beach, Idaho resident and series rookie of the year Zack Telford, Andy Allen, and Keith Spangler rounded out the top ten and completed 100-laps. Fifteen of 18 starters were racing at the finish of the 43:41.262-race that had two caution flags. Ash ran the fastest lap of 17.791 (101.175 mph). Eight 2022 series races at four speedways were run and two speedways had to cancel races because of a forest fire near Eureka and a festival at Stockton. There were five winners—Gomes (three), Doss (two), plus one each by past multi-year champion Derek Thorn, Jace Hansen and Buddy Shepherd.
FINAL POINTS – SPEARS MFG SRL SLM – 1-Jacob Gomes- 2497; 2-Jeremy Doss-2495; 3-Cale Kanke-1258; 4-John Moore-1212; 5-Dustin Ash-1204; 6-Buddy Shepherd-1162; 7-Zach Telford-1088; 8-Scott Sanchez-1050; 9-Jace Hansen-976;10-Blaine Rocha-901.
MODIFIEDS 60: Fastest qualifier Travis Thirkettle, 44, started fourth and led the final 54 laps after passing second starter/Speed Sport News website columnist Nathan Byrd, from Goodyear,Arizona. Dominant Thirkettle, whose father Jim was a NASCAR Southwest Tour Series winner and star, led by 50-yards on lap 40 when the only yellow flag brought Andrew Anderson (in another Racecar Factory-built car) alongside for the restart. Thirkettle, from Canyon Country, quickly expanded his lead to 20-yards and beat Anderson by 0.786.
Jaron Giannini, from Las Vegas, drove the Chris Gray No. 25 Pathfinder chassis to third, 0.975 behind the winner. The 18-year old series champion and rookie of the year drove a partial season in 2021. Jimmy Sloan and Travis McCullough completed the top five and also were interviewed at the finish line by IS president Tim Huddleston. P. 6-10 were: William Guevara, Stephen Brucker, Coloradan Holly Clark, 17, Kevin Vossen, and Byrd. All 15 starters finished the 24-minute event. Thirkettle ran the fastest lap of 19.104 (94.221 mph). Thirkettle’s feature victory was his 41st at IS. The IS 2006 NASCAR Late Model champion ranks ninth all-time in feature victories. More than 620 drivers have won a main event at IS since the track opened on March 27, 1999.
Thirkettle won $1,500. He won seven of the nine 2022 Spears Modifieds main events in 2022. He was not present for the January 15 season opening race at Havasu 95 Speedway, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The series raced at four speedways—Roseville, Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, and four times at Irwindale. Thirkettle won the final six features of the season, including three at his IS home track. He also won three times at Bakersfield.
FINAL POINTS – SPEARS MODIFIEDS presented by Sigma Performance Services: 1-Jaron Giannini-1516; 2-Jimmy Sloan-1369; 3-William Guevara-1325; 4-Travis Thirkettle-1245; 5-Kevin Vossen-1134; 6-Ray Mros-1116; 7-Sam Jacks-1039; 8-Chris Dalton-991; 9-Holly Clark-989; 10-Kyle Jacks-984.
PRO LATE MODELS 60: All 19 pro late models raced in the final feature before the usual IS post-racing fireworks show. With his rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season concluded, Dean Thompson, 23, returned home and raced his 2020-21 IS championship HPR No. 51 NASCAR pro late model Mustang. He drew the pole position next to first-time IS competitor McKenna Mitchell, 16, from Loomis, north of Sacramento. Feature winners Trevor Huddleston and Tyler Reif were in row two, with Dylan Zampa and older brother Tanner Reif in row three. Fastest qualifier Erickson drew seven and started inside row four.
Huddleston, in the No. 50 HPR Mustang-bodied No. 50, led the first four laps before a yellow flag caused a double-file restart. Zampa’s No. 92z, from Napa, made an inside pass in turn four and led lap 5. A caution on lap 6 caused a double-file restart. At the green flag, Huddleston’s LF fender hit the RR of Zampa’s car, causing it to spin wildly across the starting line to the first turn. All cars avoided contact with Zampa’s car and he returned to the back of the field. Spears officials penalized Huddleston to the back as well for avoidable contact. They both raced forward quickly.
Series point leader Seth Wise, from Bakersfield, worked his way from 15th starting position to second by mid-race and chased Thompson closely for 11 laps. Wise took the lead on lap 56 with an inside pass near the starting line. He held a narrow lead for five laps and won his second Spears Pro LM victory and first at Irwindale. He also won the Bakersfield April 2 feature. Wise, 17, beat Thompson by 0.533 and earned his first Spears championship in his Bill Wise-owned Victory chassis No. 87 Chevy.
Impressive female racer “Kenna” Mitchell placed third, only 0.888 off the lead in her first IS race. Fastest qualifier Erickson came from seventh to fourth place and edged comeback driver Donny St. Ours, an IS regular in several series for years who has not raced recently. Jake Bollman, 16, Oregon’s Jadon Walbridge, Pro LM rookie Holly Clark, Trevor McCullough, and Hans Beeler followed with 14 of 19 starters still on track.
Huddleston took second position from Wise on lap 29 and was pressuring teammate Thompson for the lead on lap 35. He slowed suddenly and dropped out to the infield pits with a broken clutch and was scored 15th. Thompson ran the fastest lap of 19.113 (94.177 mph) in the 42-minute race that had four yellow flags. The ten race series visited three tracks—IS, KCRP and Stockton. Five drivers won the ten features. They were: Zampa (four), Cappello and Wise (two each), Erickson and Nick Joanides (one each). Note: Zampa received the annual Alan Kulwicki rising star / driver to watch national award for 2022.
FINAL POINTS – SPEARS PRO LATE MODELS presented by MAVTV: 1-Seth Wise-1783; 2-Dylan Zampa-1661; 3-Tyler Reif-1641; 4-Christian Bazen-1461; 5-Tanner Reif-1446; 6-Mike Beeler-1391; 7-Hans Beeler-1386; 8-Logan Zampa-1059; 9-Bradley Erickson-748; 10-Jason Romero-558.