Twenty year old, Claremont, CA driver Ricky Schlick entered the 2017 SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series eyeing the Rookie of the Year Award. Nine SRL starts later, Schlick had achieved that goal, also finishing as the championship runner-up to four-time champion Derek Thorn. It was a record setting effort, for the former SRL Legends Tour Champion, which he hopes will springboard him to the championship in 2018.
Schlick partook in four SPEARS Southwest Tour Series events in 2016, driving for Dave Reed Racing. He had a best finish of ninth in those efforts, but heading into the 2017, Schlick and his father Howard, decided to make the move to their own team. The opportunity arose to drive three-time SRL winner Ryan Cansdale’s perimeter car. The move turned out to be a near championship winning decision.
“I feel pretty good overall about this year”, Schlick stated. “I don’t know how this year even started, but with about a month to go before the season opener, we didn’t even have a car or a team. We had nothing. To go from that, to being competitive in every race, and race with the 43 (Thorn) in almost every race, as well as a bunch of other talented drivers in the series was great. To run with the guys at this level, because it is a very high level of fast cars, feels pretty good. I feel like I’ve earned it, and it was pretty fun.”
Ricky was squarely in championship contention throughout the season, until the penultimate event of the season, at Kern County Raceway. The “Bulwark ‘FR/Timberland Pro 101 presented by 51 FIFTY Energy Drink” had a promising beginning, for the rookie. He qualified fifth, and was running third at the halftime break, but discovered a blistered right rear tire. The tire change, by rule, resulted in a two lap penalty, and an eventual 20th place finish as the race ran green the rest of the way. The result was disappointing, but the team still had a sensational first season.
The season included Schlick picking up his first career SPEARS Southwest Tour Series victory. He came home victorious at Rocky Mountain Raceway, in the series most prestigious event of the season, the $10,000 to win “Retro Custom Metals 150”. The event was a combination race with the Northwest Super Late Model Series, and also included Super Late Model stars from Colorado and Idaho. Schlick made the pass on Derek Thorn with nine laps to go, and pulled away for the biggest win of his young career. The victory was only the fourth win, in the last ten years, for a SRL Rookie of the Year contender. He joins Jeremy Doss, Ryan Cansdale and Buddy Shepherd in that category.
“I would say that that was the biggest win of my career”, Schlick commented. “It didn’t seem like it was real for a second! To beat the best in the West was quite an accomplishment and something I won’t forget!”
Schlick’s strong season saw him set the standard, in several statistical categories for rookies, which encompassed the first 17 years of the series. He led the most races with five, set a rookie record for money won with $18,500, and finished with the best qualifying average of any rookie with 5.4. His second place effort, in the championship standings, was only matched by Jeremy Doss (2013) and Ryan Foster (2003). His five top five finishes were only bettered by Ryan Foster (2003), and Christian McGhee (2016), with six each. His average finish of 7.7 ends up fourth best all-time.
As the winner the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year Award, Schlick will be presented a lucrative prize package. It includes product awards from several of the series sponsors. The package includes: a Drivers Suit from DJ Safety, a 55 Gallon Drum of Fuel from Sunoco, a set of tires from Hoosier Tire West, a $1,500 Certificate from VDL Fuel Systems and a $500 Certificate from Five Star Racecar Bodies.
Ricky Schlick Racing’s efforts were led by: Car Owner; Howard Schlick, Crew Chief; Rod Johnson Jr., Car Chief; Rod Johnson, Spotter; Shawn Kirkland, Tire Specialist; Chuck Earl and Crewmen; Dave Reeves and John Michael Reeves. The season was made possible by the financial support of; S&J Towing, Ricky Schlick Racing, Racing 4 Rachel, Pacific Western Bank, Swift Springs, Autism Speaks, Supra Footwear and Reeves Complete Auto Center.
Ricky Schlick Racing is already preparing for 2018, with their sights set on something only one SRL Team has accomplished, in the 17 year history of the series. In 2015 Jacob Gomes became the only driver to win both the Rookie of the Year Award (2010), and an SRL Championship. Schlick, and his team, would like to add one more name to that list, and barring a sophomore slump, there is no reason to believe they can’t accomplish that goal.
-SRL Press Release
-Photo Credit: SRL