Bobby Hodges, the 2017 Speed51.com Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series Most Popular Driver, will return to full-time action with the series at Irwindale Speedway (CA) on March 23. Hodges is a two-time winner on the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil and had a best championship finish of fourth in 2016, his only full-time season. He finished sixth in 2017 after missing a single event.
Hodges will make his 48th series start after participating in only three SRL events last season. The team failed to find the handle on a new used car after their primary car was destroyed in an accident at Madera Speedway in 2017. Therefore, Hodges will be back with a new Johnny VanDoorn Racing Chassis, with the potent Naake - Klauer Motorsports Team. Hodges is ready to get back behind the wheel, and he feels it will take only a few laps to get back up to speed.
"This year is going to be interesting for sure after taking a year off from racing," Hodges told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. "It's going to take a lap or two for me to get back up on the wheel, like you have to in SRL. But I'm looking to spend the rest of the off-season getting back into shape and getting healthy again to hit the ground running, and see what this new hot rod can do."
"There's no better feeling than banging through the gears on the back straightaway at Kern (County Raceway) or getting up against the wall coming off of two at Vegas," he continued. "I feel like I've been dormant for the past year, and I can't wait to feel alive again."
Returning to Irwindale Speedway will be an interesting proposition for Hodges. Over the course of his career, the half-mile speedway presented nothing but bad luck for the "Red Rocket". But in 2017, Hodges won the season opener in a thrilling duel with four-time series champion Derek Thorn and east coast star Willie Allen. Hodges would love to repeat the same result in 2019 with Mike Naake, his old team and his new teammate.
"It's going to be great getting back with Mike and the guys," Hodges said. "I miss the banter, the culture in the team and being one of the guys again. Knowing those guys, we'll pick up right where we left off a year ago, like I'd just seen them yesterday. Jesse Love and Duke Love are a great pair, and I'm excited that they are joining the Naake-Klauer Motorsports SRL family. I'm looking forward to working with both Chuck Carruthers and the VanDoorns."
Hodges is excited about his new 14-year-old teammate and the opportunity to work with Jessie. In fact, Hodges feels he may learn a thing or two from the youngest BCRA Midget Champion in its series history.
"Jesse is a shoe, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's teaching me a thing or two on the track this year," Hodges explained. "I am looking forward to seeing him succeed in Super Late Models as well."
Hodges knows the competition in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series will be tough and it will take a team effort to get the job done. He is thankful for those who make the team effort possible.
"I'd like to thank Naake-Klauer Motorsports, Vandoorn Racing, Impact Racing Products, JRI, StopTech, Bassett Racing Wheels, HomeSmiles.com and the Love Family. I'd also like to thank MTFX Graphics, KB Fabrication Co., QA1, Swift Springs, iPull-uPull, and of course my parents and family, all for making it possible to get back behind the wheel for the 2019 racing season."
Race fans are encouraged to head out to Irwindale Speedway on March 23 to see a wide range of extremely competitive SRL racers. From long-time veterans like Craig Raudman and Eric Schmidt, to series stars such as Hodges and Derek Thorn Racing and "young guns" like Jessie Love and Cole Moore, there will be plenty of tough competition and close side-by-side racing.
-Story by Kevin Peters, SRL
-Photo credit: Sal Sigala, Jr.