Cole Moore entered the 2019 season with high expectations. The 2018 Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series Rookie-of-the-Year had finished fourth in the championship standings, but was looking for more. He certainly achieved that goal by winning the 2019 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Title. In doing so, he became only the third driver in series history to win a title and the Rookie-of-the-Year Award, joining Jacob Gomes and Jeremy Doss. He was the first one to do it in back-to-back seasons.
“The championship has definitely not set in yet”, Moore told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “As I look back to the start of my racing career, and the perception I had upon the drivers and champions amongst the Southwest Tour field, it’s pretty crazy to call myself a champion now. It’s a short list, and it’s not an easy one to be on. The accomplishment is an honor, and I think as I get older and older, I will continue to appreciate my championship run in 2019.”
Moore won the title on the strength of his consistency. He was the only series regular to have zero DNF’s (Did Not Finish) on the season. That occurrence pushed him to the top of the career record books in that category, with only one occurrence in 24 races. Moore did not win a series race in 2019, but finished inside the top-five in seven events, with one additional top-10, in nine starts. He had a season best finish of second, at the October Classic at Kern County Raceway, and a worst finish of 15th, in the season opener at Irwindale Speedway.
The Granite Bay, CA driver averaged a 5.2 finish, while his qualifying average was 8.9. He led two events for 130 laps, which was second behind Derek Thorn. He completed 1,065 of the 1,077 possible laps for the season.
Although Cole didn’t score a victory during the championship season, he did cross the finish line first during the final segment of the “Bulwark Protection ‘FR 50/50 presented by Spears Manufacturing”, at Kern County Raceway in June. He ultimately finished third in the event overall, but showed the teams that he was a serious contender for the crown. Moore took the championship lead on that night, and was never headed for the remainder of the season. That night also set the stage for their strategy over the last four races of the campaign. A strategy that Moore plans to change in 2020.
“For 2020 my Crew Chief Mario (Isola) and I are focused on winning races”, Moore explained. “In 2019, once I had the points lead, the goal going into every race was to be smart, make no mistakes and try to stay in front of the 99-car (Linny White). That ultimately paid off in the long run, but it didn’t equate into race wins. This year is a different story and I hope to capture as many wins as possible.”
The final half of the season saw Moore step up to the plate, and fight off all challengers. He finished the season with six consecutive top-five efforts to clinch the championship. The worst of those finishes, a fifth, ended up being the highlight of the season for the ex-motocross star.
“I would say the highlight of my season was the Vegas Finale” (Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas), Moore recalled. “We had to claw our way into the top-five, to put ourselves in a position the win the championship. The car was a bit off in the race, compared to practice, so we had to make some championship caliber moves, and force the issue to make it happen. I’ve never been so happy to see a checkered flag.”
Although Moore didn’t collect any SRL wins in 2019, it didn’t mean he went winless. After a three-win season in the Pacific Challenge Series in 2018, Moore struck twice in the Pro Late Models at ALL AMERICAN SPEEDWAY – ROSEVILLE CA. He capped off his partial schedule with a victory in the $10,000-to-win JM ENVIRONMENTAL, INC. 100”, holding off 2018 SRL Champion Jeremy Doss and 2019 Track Champion Jason Romero.
In 2020, the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series will have a plethora big events, with each announced event potentially paying $10,000 or more. The additional competition that is sure to appear, is something that Moore looks forward to.
“I am excited to race with the best in the west, Moore stated. “A stacked field of drivers makes winning, and doing well, all the more better. I just hope I can live up to my own expectations this year. I know that as always, Derek Thorn will be extremely hard to beat, and I believe he really sets the bar on the west coast, so we just have to show up and be perfect.”
Of all the big races on the 2020 SRL schedule, there is one event that Moore has his eye on. It is an event that finds the series returning to the facility after a 12-year absence. It is a facility that Moore has visited previously in the NASCAR ARCA Menards West Series, where he qualified third, and finished 14th, after a late race incident with Riley Herbst.
“Right now, I’m actually really excited to race at Colorado National Speedway”, Moore conveyed. “I raced there a few years back in a K&N West car, and it really suited my driving style. I’ve been saying ever since that I want to race there in a Super Late Model. My wish has finally come true!”
As the defending SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Champion, his 2020 plan are not a surprise. He would like nothing more than to repeat his title and join Derek Thorn as the only back-to-back champion.
Moore said, “My 2020 plans are to race the full SPEARS Southwest Tour Series and select Pro-Late Model races up and down the west coast. Those races, as well as the Snowflake 100 and Snowball Derby, are what I am looking forward to this season.”
To win a championship in the SRL, there are an abundance of factors that must come together. It takes a team effort to put it all together and Moore is thankful for those who helped him achieve the biggest highlight of his racing career.
Moore began, “I would like to thank my mom and dad, and our family business, JM Environmental. They back everything I do, and nothing would happen without there continued support and love. I would also like to thank Mario Isola, for all the hours in prep and managing our operations, not to mention his skills as a Crew Chief. Finally, the whole crew; Chris McGinnis, Chris Paulson, Michael Mulder, Justin Hamilton and our Driver, Bert, for being at every race and working hard for our team. Not to mention the good times. In 2020 we are coming back with the same team, and we are ready.”
The next event for Moore is the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway, that will take place on February 1st. It will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford’s, Bob Bruncati and Ken Clapp from the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program. If needed, the Last Chance Qualifying race will pay $1,000 to those on the SPEARS Frequent Flyer Program, who do not make the Feature Event.
Linny White had earned himself a reputation of being an excellent racer, throughout the Southern California region. In 2019, he confirmed it by finishing as the championship runner-up in the Spears Srl Southwest TourSeries presented by Lucas Oil. The two-time Senator’s Cup Fall Classic Super Late Model winner from the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track scored his first two series wins, by sweeping the championship events at Kern County Raceway. The championship finish was as improbable as the two Kern County Raceway wins, after the team’s 2019 season start.
“Our season got off to a slow start, because we were bringing a dull knife to a gun fight”, White told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “Once we got our equipment up to par to our team’s capabilities, we started gaining momentum and confidence, and we were able to accomplish some pretty cool things.”
That new equipment was a new “Rowdy” Super Late Model from Kyle Busch, Kyle Busch Motorsports and Rowdy Manufacturing. The “Colton Cowboy” debuted the car at the third event of the season, in Las Vegas. In that event, the team had new car blues and finished 21st, after brake issues sidelined their effort. But starting at the following event at Madera Speedway, White would not finish outside the top-three for the remainder of the season. He would go on to score his first two SRL victories, along with seven top-five efforts. White would go on to lead three events and 68 laps on the season. He finished the season with a race average of 6.0 and a qualifying average of 5.3.
White completed the 2019 championship season only nine points behind series champion Cole Moore. In what equated to two positions on the track, the back-to-back Havasu 95 Speedway Late Model Track Champion would look back to one finish, in particular, for his short coming in the final standings. It was a DNF at the season opener at Irwindale Speedway. A track at which he also held a Super Late Model title.
“It’s kind of hard not to look back, White recalled. “I mean in 9 or 10 races, to come up two positions on the track being the difference (in the championship), is a hard pill to swallow. I mean, if I would of just took what I could at Irwindale, the first time around, instead of running out of talent, and giving us a DNF in the second half, that alone could have made the difference. But we must move on.”
The three-time Orange Show Speedway Track Champion is excited for 2020. After two victories at Kern County Raceway, the driver of the #99 Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, HPSI, Swift Springs Chevy is ready to challenge for a championship. And if White can sweep the season, at a track that he admits to not being as comfortable at, there is no doubt his fellow competitors will have to keep an eye on him.
“As of now, we feel like we can’t stop now”, White exclaimed! “We have momentum and chemistry on our side, so we are planning on a full 2020 effort (to win the championship).”
With an abundance of big money races during the 2020 season, many drivers have an event that they are most looking forward to. In the case of Linny White, he says bring them all on.
“I’m looking forward to all of them, even Kern’, White chuckled.
With big events scattered throughout the entire SPEARS Southwest Tour Series schedule in 2020, there is sure to be increased competition for those wins. It is something that White expects, and credits to the series and its owners.
White began, “I hear we are going to see some new faces this year. You have got to expect that, when the series has grown into what it has, and ran by the team it is run by.”
To come so close to the championship in 2019, it takes a big effort on the part of the team, sponsors and family. For those efforts, White is appreciative to those who made the season possible.
“I have got to thank Earl Robbins, Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas, Swift Springs, HPSI, SAG Graphics, Rowdy Manufacturing, and Progressive Race Engines for all their support”, White stated. And of course I need to thank my team; Earl, Sunny, my dad, Glenn, Chris, Sparky, Zack, EJ and Josh.
As the 10-race championship season opens at Irwindale Speedway once again, White will be sure to keep the big picture in mind. But if he is within striking range of the $25,000 victory on February 1st, don’t be surprised to see the “Colton Cowboy” throw caution to the wind. After all, Linny is a racer. And he will do what races do best……go get that checkered.
The resumption of the All-Star Showdown, on February 1st, will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford’s, Bob Bruncati and Ken Clapp from the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears ManufacturingFrequent Flyer Program. If needed, the Last Chance Qualifying race will pay $1,000 to those on the SPEARS Frequent Flyer Program, who do not make the Feature Event.
Four-time Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series Champion Derek Thorn had a dominant season in 2019, but ended up third in the championship countdown. He finished a mere 29 points behind first-time champion Cole Moore, despite missing a single event at Kern County Raceway in June. Thorn’s five wins led the series, along with his four Performance Friction Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Awards. Thorn completed the season with seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes, while leading 461 laps in his eight starts. His finishing average was an amazing 2.5, while his qualifying average was an identical 2.5. Thorn won a series record $38,650 for his efforts.
Despite finishing third in the standings, Thorn was pleased with the season, and the performance of the Campbell Motorsports FURY Race Cars Super Late Model.
“We were happy to finish the season with five wins, after only running a partial schedule”, Thorn told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. Byron Campbell and Mike (Keen) have put together an awesome program.”
That “awesome” program resulted in big wins both within, and outside the series. The Lakeport, CA native, along with the Campbell Motorsports Team, made the trip across the country for the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby Weekend, at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. Thorn won the pole for the “Derby” and nearly won the 300-lap feature. But a controversial call, before a green-white-checkered finish, sent Thorn from third to the tail end of the field. It ultimately resulted in his retirement. In the “Snowflake 100” Pro Late Model event, Thorn qualified second, and became the first driver west of the Mississippi to win the event.
His favorite moment in his SRL season, was an accomplishment that had continued to allude him for years. It was a victory in the $10,000-to-win “Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas”, that included a custom trophy. It was a six-foot-tall custom brass cupola, from long-time series supporter David Nava Mulcahy, better known as “Homie”.
“We’ve been wanting one of Homie’s Retro Custom Metal trophies for a while now, so to win Vegas, take that, and the $10K home was awesome”, Thorn exclaimed! “Then to cap it off with a Derby Pole and “Snowflake 100’ win, made it just that much better.”
The 2020 season, in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series, is sure to be a record breaker. With big payouts, special formats and other exciting occurrences, the competition level is sure to increase. It is something that Thorn looks forward to, whether he runs for the championship, of participates in a limited schedule.
“The better the competition, the more fun it is”, Thorn explained. “We don’t know what our full race schedule is yet for 2020. We’ve only run the SRL full time in four years. Every other year there has been a schedule conflict. Time will tell how races overlap this year.”
Thorn is enjoying his time behind the wheel of a Super Late Model. He is happy to have the chance to compete with a first-class team, and to be able to compete at the highest level of short track racing.
“Byron and Carol have given me such a great opportunity to race the last 8-9 years”, Thorn stated. “Just to be racing, and have the chance to go out and run competitively at some of the biggest races in the country, is all a driver could ever ask for. The memories will last a lifetime.”
For the opportunities that he has been afforded, Thorn is appreciative to the team, and his sponsors that make it possible.
First off, I really need to thank Byron and Carol Patrick Campbell for making this all happen”, Thorn began. “I really appreciate my Crew Chief Mike Keen, as well as Vicki Duke Keen, for all that they do to make this program so great. I have the best crew in Sal Arceo, David Coley, Steve Rodriguez and Adrian Arceo. I am also very fortunate to have great sponsors like 51 FIFTY LTM, H & M Motorsports, Santa Maria Brewing Co. Inc, Double Eagle Transportation, Reeves Complete Auto Center Inc. S and S Insulation, Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services, AP Racing Brakes, Advanced Racing Suspensions, FURY Race Cars, EibachSprings, Strange Oval, Magnus Rear Ends, Hightower Transmissions, Joes Racing Products, Victory Circle Chassis & Custom Fabrication, Finishline Signs, Joiner Motorsports, Performance Parts Supply and West Air.”
The next event on the schedule is the season opener at Irwindale Speedway. The event will be very special for Thorn, as his former NASCAR ARCA Menards West Series car owner Bob Bruncati, will be one of the driving forces behind the weekend. The resumption of the All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears ManufacturingFrequent Flyer Program.
Tyler Fabozzi had a great rookie season in the Spears Srl Southwest TourSeries in 2019. Fabozzi scored the Rookie-of-the-Year Award following other such drivers as Cole Moore, Ricky Schlick, Christian McGhee, Parker Stephens, Garret Archer, Jeremy Doss and Jacob Gomes. In 2020, he hopes to follow Gomes, Doss and Moore as the only drivers to score both the Rookie-of-the-Year Award and the championship in the SRL.
The 2019 season saw the Anaheim Hills, CA driver complete the season fourth, in the overall championship rundown. He racked up three top-five and seven top-ten finishes, in the nine championship events. Fabozzi led three different events, for a total of 98 laps, to rank fourth among all drivers. He was the “Rookie-of-the Race” on three different occasions, tying Colorado’s Jace Hansen for the lead in that category.
The story of Fabozzi’s season, however, was consistency. The team, led by Crew Chief Rj Johnson and Car Chief T.j. Clark, completed all but one lap, leading the series. He was only the third rookie in series history to score zero DNF’s, and his 99.9% of laps completed, was the best of any rookie contender in series history. The former USCLI Legends Champion at the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track, had a best finish of second and a worst of 13th. That runner-up finish was in the season finale, showing the teams growth in a season of multiple achievements.
Fabozzi stated, “As a team I think we learned a lot and accomplished a lot of goals. I couldn’t be happier to get Rookie-of-the-Year as a driver.”
As Fabozzi moves into the 2020 season, he feels his rookie season has prepared him for the upcoming campaign. He is also looking forward to a schedule that includes a new venue for the 23-year-old driver.
“I feel a lot more prepared going into next season. I really enjoyed going to new tracks, so I can’t wait to race at Colorado National Speedway.”
With all the big paying events, on the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series schedule, Fabozzi knows the competition level will only increase. He also knows that he will need to remain consistent to contend for the SRL Title. It is a goal he is eyeing for the upcoming season.
“I know the competition will be tough in 2020”, Fabozzi said. “We’re going to have to be consistent with good finishes to get the championship. I think we’ll be very successful in the 2020 season. I know I’m excited and so is the team.”
The beginning of the season is right around for the MSI Racing Team, but Tyler would like to thank those who made 2019 such a successful one.
“I’d like to give a big thank you to the guys; RJ Johnson, TJ Clark, MSI Racing and everyone who’s been a part of this year!”
The next event on the schedule is the season opener at Irwindale Speedway. The resumption of the All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program.
We now move into the top-five of the 2019 championship standings of the Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series. Holding down spot number five is a former Pacific Challenge Series Champion, and last year’s seventh place competitor, John Moore. Moore jumped up two spots, racing for JM Racing and JD Motorsports, with championship Crew Chief Mike Dossturning the wrenches, and maintaining the car.
Moore would score one top-five and five top-10 finishes in his nine series starts. He led 55 laps, at the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track, in the season finale. Moore’s best finish was a fifth at the July Irwindale Speedwayevent. His two DNF’s, in 2019, were the first of his SRL career, after 27 career starts. Moore completed the season with a finishing average of 10.7, while the team struggled in qualifying a little bit, averaging a 16th place effort. It did lead to two “Hard Charger” Awards for the veteran driver, as he improved the most positions in a race, twice.
Despite getting into the top-five, Moore would have liked to have finished a little bit higher in the standings, as the team gained on the driver’s preferences in car set-up throughout the year. By season’s end, the pairing was gelling and Moore became a threat to win.
”For the 27-car it was a bit frustrating”, Moore told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “I had a race car on the verge of being fast the whole year. With two to go, we found the adjustment, and I had a laser. All in all, it was a solid top-five season, and I got to know some talented folks. It was a reminder that our sport is racing not winning, and to enjoy the experience. Its special and not many get to experience it.”
Those improvements culminated in the season finale at the Bullring. The result was his worst finish of the season, with rear end failure, but the effort was the most encouraging performance of the campaign. Moore led 55 laps, and dueled with Tyler Fabozzi and Derek Thorn for the lead, before succumbing to mechanical failure. The performance showed that the veteran driver could still get it done behind the wheel.
“Vegas was a thrill going in”, Moore glowed. “I knew I had a fast racecar under me. I was able to keep it in the top-10 throughout all the practice sessions, and felt I could make the redraw (the top eight redraw for position for the feature event). We started in the top eight, and quickly took control of the race. I felt something going astray with the handling, and soon after, the pinion broke in the rear end. What it showed my peers is that the old dog can still hunt.”
Despite the success Moore had, by finishing in the top-five, the biggest success was represented by his son Cole Moore. The youngest Moore brought home the championship in the series, making his father proud. It was an accomplishment that John felt honored Cole’s big brother “JD” Moore, who had passed after a practice accident 15 years ago at Stockton 99 Speedway.
John began, “Cole, my youngest son, winning the SRL Southwest Tour Championship, is still unbelievable to all of us closest to him. Not because we didn’t feel he had the talent, it’s just an incredible accomplishment. It is absolutely surreal, and I believe he honored his big brother.”
Despite the improvement throughout the season, Moore will be uniting with an old friend and racing champion this next season. The new year will find John teamed up with well-known crew chief, and former NASCAR ARCA Menards West Series Champion, Mike David.
“In 2020 I’ve got a new team, new race cars, and the plan is to pass everything in front of us”, Moore explained. “I’ll be racing with David’s Racing Products, with the highly experienced, and dedicated to the sport, Mr. Mike David as my crew chief. My goal is to keep smiling, and having a good time.”
Not only will Moore be with a new team in 2020, he will also be a big part of the series, through his company JM ENVIRONMENTAL, INC.. John will sponsor a series of three events, that will take place at ALL AMERICAN SPEEDWAY – ROSEVILLE CA and The New Stockton 99 Speedway. Two of the events will be in Roseville, with one in Stockton. They will be known as the “JM Environmental Wild West Shootout”. The Roseville races will pay $7,000-to-win, while the Stockton event will pay $10,000-to-win, with a $2,000 halftime leader bonus, for the 227-lap affair. $15,000 in bonus money is also up for grabs for the winners, over the three-race series, on the SRL’s shortest tracks.
The sponsorship is something Moore enjoys doing for the racing community, and he is excited to be a part of making racing exciting for his local tracks.
“The Wild West Races, that JM Environmental Inc. is sponsoring, are going to be super fun”, Moore expressed. “I like to give back to the sport, and keep everyone excited when I can. Helping the SRL with the races was not difficult. They make it fun, and do all the work.”
Moore enjoys giving back to the racing community, but he is also thankful to the individuals that give back so much to him.
“The main person that I would like to thank is the anchor, the rock, and the backbone to just about everything good in my life. That is my wife Tonja! Also, of course, I’d like to thank Mario Izola for dedicating his time and passion to JM Racing.”
The next event on the schedule is the season opener at Irwindale Speedway. The resumption of the All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program.
2015 Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series Champion Jacob Gomes is the next driver in our countdown to this year’s champion. Gomes finished sixth in the 2019 “SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil” Championship Standings. Gomes came up 23 points shy of his sixth appearance in the top-five of the standings. He ended the season with two top-five and five top-10 finishes, while leading 48 laps in the nine event 2019 schedule.
One statistic, that doesn’t show up in the books, is his near victory at Kern County Raceway. The popular Manteca (CA) driver, nicknamed “Bacon Boy”, entered the final lap of the “Bulwark ‘FR 50/50 presented by SPEARS Manufacturing’s 50th Anniversary” with the overall lead in the segmented feature. But with Linny White’s last turn pass of Bob Lyon for fourth, Gomes was relegated to the runner-up position in the second segment and as well as overall.
Gomes knew the stakes going into the green-white checkered finish, but couldn’t get by Cole Moore for eventual career win number eight.
“When we got that last restart, I knew I was either going to have to get Cole, or let him go and hope Linny didn’t get around anybody. I guess he got him (Lyon) on the last lap, I just don’t know. I really thought we had it, but with those split combination races, it was a little tougher. You have got to do well in both halves. You want to do good no matter what, but changing it up with the format like that, really keeps you on your toes.”
As most drivers in the second half of the top-10, in the championship standings, Gomes was not happy with their results. His finish average of 11.8 was one of the poorest of his career. The team was good in qualifying, however. They had the third best qualifying average, in relation to the season regulars, at 7.6. In the events Gomes completed his finish average was 9.0.
“Our results were not good at all”, Gomes stated. “It was a huge struggle for the season, and we had a lot of not the best results, but we ended the year with a some-what decent points result.”
In looking ahead to 2020, the Ironman of the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series will make his 100th career start in the SRL. He will be the first driver to accomplish the feat. The Sunrise Ford sponsored All-Star Showdown will set the stage for Gomes accomplishment on February 1st at Irwindale Speedway. What makes the achievement even more remarkable is that he has not missed a start since his first event in 2009. It is a testament to the team’s resilience and fortitude over the years.
“I’m just excited to be racing still, and have the support of my dad and Dell’Osso Family Farms, Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats, with Bill Andreettaand Treva Holmes Andreetta, and Dennis and Julie B. Arbini. Without all of them, I wouldn’t have even made one start. To get to 100 is just unbelievable! I hope it can make history forever.”
As is usual for the SunnyValley Race Team, their 2020 plans are not set in stone at this point. But it appears it may be more of the same for the championship team.
Gomes began, “I’m not too sure what we are doing. We really don’t make a plan until the year starts. We are gonna be at Irwindale to make start 100, and most likely trying to run for the SRL Championship again. We are also gonna run some Pro Late Model races at Madera, that fit into our work schedule.”
To be able to participate in 100 SRL starts, it takes support from many sources. Gomes is thankful for that support.
“I would really like to thank my dad and mom, SunnyValley Smoked Meats, David’s Racing Products, Arbini Farms, Dell’Oso Family Farms, Valley Pacific Petroleum Services, Frontier Performance Lubricants, Luxor Hotel and Casino and my whole entire race team.”
The 2020 season, for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, will begin on February 1st, at Irwindale Speedway. The resumption of the All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event thanks to Sunrise Ford and Bob Bruncati. Over $75,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program.
As we continue our countdown of the top-10 drivers in the “Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil”, we now reach a veteran of the series, who took his last full-time laps in 2019. That driver is a west coast legend on the track, and a former NASCAR Southwest Tour Series Champion. Finishing his last regular season on the “Tour”, is the seventh-place driver Craig Raudman. It was a “Farewell Tour” that Raudman, and team owner Dave Reed, will remember forever, despite the challenges that met them along its journey.
Raudman, and the Dave Reed Racing Team, showed top-five speed and performance throughout the season, but a string of mishaps and bad racing luck, relegated them to the seventh position. The team had three top-five and four top-10 finishes, in the nine championship events that made up the season. The campaign started off strong, with a third-place finish in a 35-car opening weekend field at Irwindale Speedway. The next three events would not be so kind, despite qualifying inside the top-10 in each affair. Flat tires, and other odd maladies, rendered the team with three consecutive DNF’s.
A trip to Kern County Raceway in June, earned Raudman a top-10 finish, but the track continued to be one of the team’s most difficult hurdles. Another DNF, this time in a return trip to Irwindale, had the team reeling, as the flat tire bug reared its ugly head again. But as the true championship team that they are, the Dave Reed Racing force pulled themselves together and followed Derek Thorn across the finish line, to score a second-place finish at Madera Speedway. The team’s nemesis, that is Kern County Raceway, followed with a 15th place effort. But they closed out the season strong, with a fourth place showing at the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track. Two top-five’s, in the final three events, showed that Raudman and Reed still had the muster to get it done.
“Well I would say it was some slight redemption, for probably one of the worst seasons I have had”, Raudman recalled. “I mean, we ran really well at so many of the events, like we were becoming a factor again. But just freak things would happen, like three flat tires, and several other really odd problems. The thing that really kept us going was the performance we were having at the track, prior to these issues, was pretty awesome.”
The team ended the season with a finishing average of 13.0, but it was a strong 6.8 in the events they finished. Raudman completed 2019 with an 8.4 qualifying average, with fields averaging just over 27 cars per event. Raudman made the top-eight redraw in five of those nine events, and in three of the last four. It showed the 2009 SRL Qualifying Champion, still knew how to hustle the car around the speedway.
Despite the speed, however, Raudman and Reed had made a commitment to complete their championship efforts together. It was a difficult decision for the duo, that found Raudman wondering if they had made the right one at times.
“I really question my decision to retire every day”, Raudman declared. “It’s literally all I have done for 40 years of my life. I love being at the track, and being with my crew. I have been so lucky to been able to race these kinda cars, against some of the best drivers in the sport. Yea I question it, but deep down I know it was the right choice to make. I need to be there more for my wife, and help my kids in their endeavors.”
It was difficult for Reed as well, given all the years together, and the success at season’s end.
“As far as Craig and our racing together, it is hard to comprehend and deal with”, Reed stated. “The last Vegas race we ran really well. It just made it even harder to see it end.”
As Raudman’s full-time career comes to an end, he will miss many aspects of the sport. The competition, the comradery and the challenge of winning are just a few facets that he will miss. But most of all, he will miss his friends.
“When I was younger, I would have missed the competition”, Raudman professed. “I just wanted to kick everyone’s a**. I always wanted to lap the field, and did a few times. But as I got older, now the thing I’ll miss now is the people, my crew guys who are some of my best friends.”
The NCARA Northern California Auto Racing Alumni Motorsports Hall of Fame, 2016 inductee, ended the season with 17 combined Southwest Tour Series career victories, and 32 Fast Times. He accumulated 57 career starts in the SRL with three wins, 21 top-5’s and 33 top-10’s. Time will tell if he has a chance to increase those numbers, but there are several venues on next years schedule that tempt him to return.
“I think the event, or events, I will be most interested in will be The New Stockton 99 Speedway, Madera which I think they will have, and Irwindale.”
The plans for Raudman, and the Dave Reed Racing team, are still up in the air for 2020. Reed is looking for a full-time funded driver, to sit in the seat of his SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Super Late Model. But he is also considering events outside the series.
“My plans for 2020 are to find a fully funded driver, for the SPEARS SRL Series, to run as many races as we can”, Reed offered. “In our back-east program, we would like to run five to six big races, with my son Austin Reed, with Bond Suss calling the shots. We hope to start the season in January, at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia (Speedfest 2020 at Crisp Motorsports Park). We had plans to run a few (NASCAR) ARCA West races, but with all the rule changes, it will be costly to get our car updated to take advantage of them.”
Reed continued, ‘We are building a new 8 ” tire Late Model to run at Madera, Roseville and hopefully Irwindale, to race with Matthew Meech. So that will keep us all together racing, if we don’t find a funded driver.”
Raudman’s plans also include helping Dave Reed, but he is also not sure of what that will entail, as Raudman stated.
“My plans are not set yet, but I will be with Dave (Reed), helping him with whatever comes along.”
Through the years, Raudman has met many fans and individuals, whom he has gotten close to. He has raced for several different car owners, in addition to Reed, and is thankful for the chances he has received in his career.
“I want to say thank you to all the many many people who helped along the way, all through my racing career. I have met so many people in this racing game, and have had the opportunity to drive for several race teams over the years, which is pretty amazing to me.”
But Raudman is most thankful for the man who has been by his side for nearly 30 years of his racing career.
Raudman began, “There are way too many people to mention, that have helped or had a hand in getting to me to the track. But one person stands above all, and that person is Dave Reed. He has the same addiction that I suffer from; g** da** racing. You just can’t give it up, there’s really no rehab. But seriously we have been the best of friends, and will continue to be the best of friends, in whatever capacity in racing we find ourselves.”
Raudman and Reed are supported by 25-year sponsors: Approved Memory, Ringers Gloves, Peters Racing Engines and FLUIDYNE High Performance. Their 15 plus year sponsors include Lucas Oil, K&N Filters, Eibach, JDA BRE, Coleman PowerSports and Bubba’s Rear Ends.
The 2020 season, for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, will begin on February 1st, at Irwindale Speedway. The resumption of the All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Bob Bruncati and Sunrise Ford. Over $75,000 will be paid out in the Feature, plus additional cash bonuses to the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program. Those drivers are guaranteed a minimum of $1,400 to start the event.
As we continue our countdown of the top-10 in the Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series Championship Standings, we reach the driver of the Collins Motorsports #21 entry. Two-time SRL winner Blaine Rocha is the driver. Blaine finished in the eighth position at season’s end, with bad luck plaguing the team in the first half of the campaign. It was the second worst championship finish for the Oakdale, CA driver, since he went full-time with the series in 2015. It was an improvement over 2018’s 10th, however, and the team finished on the upswing over the season’s second half. Rocha had previous championship finishes of sixth, fifth and third.
Despite the difficult season, Rocha scored one top-five and four top-10’s, in the nine events. Each of those finishes were in the final two-thirds of the season, with three top-10’s in the final four events, as the team grew stronger. The highlight of the season was a fifth place run at Madera Speedway in June. He finished off the year with two sixths a seventh and a 25th in the final four, each in his new Port City Racecars Super Late Model. Rocha averaged a finish of 12.9 with a qualifying average of 12.0 during the season. He now tallies career totals of 51 starts with 15 top-five’s and 27 top-10’s.
Position number nine, in the “Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil” Championship Standings, is held by San Clemente, CA chauffer Kyle Neveau. The 2018 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year Runner-up improved two positions over his previous year’s effort, finishing the season with one top-five and two top-10 results. He led an event for the first time in his SPEARS Southwest Tour Series career, when the series visited Irwindale Speedway (CA) in March, for the season opener. Although the event ended on lap 80 of 100, for the second-generation driver, he showed the speed that the Class Auto Motorsports Team exhibited throughout the season, at the longer half-mile tracks.
Although the team ran well at the half-miles, even winning the “Odd Heat” at the October Classic at Kern County Raceway (CA), the finishes were not what Neveau envisioned. He was disappointed with the season in general, with three DNF’s (Did Not Finish) in the nine events. He concluded the season with a finishing average of 13.7 and a qualifying average of 13.9. His qualifying average improved at the bigger tracks, however, averaging 10.3 in fields approaching 28 cars per event.
Neveau recalled, “2019 was a disappointment. We just didn’t have speed throughout the season. I honestly don’t even know where we wound up in points, but I know it wasn’t good.”
Headed into the 20th season, for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, Neveau is optimistic that the team will rebound, as a result of adjustments made in the off-season. A new car will hit the ground at the $25,000-to-win All-Star Showdown on February 1st. It is an event that Neveau is eager to attend, especially with his recent success at Irwindale Speedway.
“Moving into 2020, I think we’re making some necessary changes and getting our act together more than we did in 2019”, Neveau admitted. “We’re building a new car, and I’m eager to get to Irwindale to start the SRL season with it. We’ll also be running several non-SRL races again this year, starting with the @Chilly Willy in January (at Tucson Speedway, AZ). I’m looking forward to getting back to the grind.
Although the 27-year-old was disappointed in his SRL efforts, he had several impressive runs outside the series in 2019. He was one of the quickest cars in the 2019 Chilly Willy 150 throughout the weekend, before finishing 25th after a third-place start. He finished fourth in the Open Comp at the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track (NV), and he capped off his efforts outside the series with an eighth in the “All American 400”, at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN).
The opportunity to compete in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series, as well as the special “Open Shows” the team attended in 2019, took a large effort from the team, and a lot of financial support.
“I want to thank everyone who makes this possible, including our guys, sponsors, and everyone else”, Neveau stated. “A lot of people make sacrifices for us to be able to do this, and it really means a lot to me personally. I’d also like to thank my fine sponsors at Santa Monica Brew Works, Gordon Frasier CPA, FinishMaster as well as the help we received from Willie Allen and Michael House with W.A.R. Shocks.”
Today we will begin the countdown of the top-10 drivers in the “Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil” Championship Standings. It was a record setting season for the series, as well as a record setting season for the driver of the Naake – Klauer Motorsports entry, Jesse Love. Love became the youngest driver to ever start a SPEARS Southwest Tour Series event, when he made his debut at the Irwindale Speedway season opener, at the age of 14 years, 2 months and nine days.
Love completed his first season in the SRL, tenth in the final championship standings, and second in the Rookie-of-the-Year chase. Love had one top-five and three top-10 finishes, in a season that started out with a string of five DNF’s. The young driver, from Atherton, CA, rebounded in the second half of the schedule, showing the potential of the driver and team. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver succeeded in scoring his first top-10 at Irwindale Speedway in July. The eighth-place run was followed by another strong effort at Madera Speedway, where he crossed the line ninth.
The two-time Madera Speedway Junior Late Model Champion tallied his best finish of the season, in the next event at Kern County Raceway. Love was able to come from 15th starting, to finish in the fifth position, at the October Classic. It was the highlight of the season, for the youngest winner and champion in the history of the Bay City Racing Association. The 31-car field was one of four events, with fields of 30 or more cars, and showed the young phenom’s ability to traverse the larger half-mile tracks on the circuit. It was also his third consecutive top-10.
Although the season ended with a 27th place finish, in the “$10,000-to-win Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas”, at the LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track, the talented rookie showed that he will be a potent contender in any future endeavors. On the season, Love finished with an average qualifying effort of 11.2 with an average car count of just over 27. His feature finish average was hindered by those six DNF’s, ultimately closing at 15.9. Of the events he completed, that number improved to an impressive 7.3 average.
Throughout the season, the 2018 INEX Road Course World Champion found the competition to be extremely stiff, and to his credit, he enjoyed the challenge. It was cause for his improvement as a driver, during his first season in the SRL.
“My first season, in the SRL, was one I’ll never forget, due to the fact that I’ve gained so much knowledge as a racing driver, in so many ways”, Love told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “The SRL ‘Tour’ was huge for my development, and I know it’s going to help me for years to come. Not only did I learn how to race at 100%, for an entire race, but the ‘Tour’ has taught me a higher level of race craft as well. The ‘Tour’ is no joke… going wheel to wheel, door to door with guys like Derek Thorn, Preston Peltier, Cole Moore, and Jeremy Doss, as a regular occurrence, has taught me a new level of respect for drivers like themselves. There is a common theme here, which is that the ‘Tour’ has taught me things at a level I never would have imagined! I’m very grateful for the opportunity to run this series for Naake-Klauer Motorsports, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Love has had the good fortune to be hooked up with Naake – Klauer Motorsports, and to have great marketability, as a young successful racer. He is thankful for his team, and the sponsors that have helped him achieve the success he has seen thus far in his career.
“I can’t thank Mike Naake and the entire team enough for all of their hard work this year, giving it 100% all of the time, day in and day out”, Love expressed. “And I can’t thank my sponsors 51 FIFTY LTM, Mobil 1, and everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) enough, for giving me the opportunity to do what I love, and pursue our dream.”