Jeff Bischofberger may have entered the 2018 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series season under the radar, but as the series enters its fourth event of the season Bischofberger has proven to be one of the drivers that merits consideration for the season championship.
The 36-year-old driver who now hails from Long Beach, California sits fourth in the SRL point standings, just 37 points out of the lead, as the series heads to Irwindale Speedway (CA) Saturday night.
Despite his success early on this season, Bischofberger is still relatively new to oval track racing, with approximately 50 career starts. But since teaming up with Jeremy Doss (JD) Motorsports in 2015, the commercial real estate broker has shown ability far beyond his minimal experience.
Bischofberger began his racing career in 2012, finishing third in the ASA Truck Series, garnering his first win that season. He ran a couple of Truck Series events in 2013, as well as four SPEARS Southwest Tour Series events, scoring a best finish of eighth at Stockton 99 Speedway (CA). The following season Bischofberger attempted a full season with the SRL with his family’s team, BP Racing. He completed the season ninth in points, despite failing to make every event. He scored a victory at Stockton 99 Speedway that season, but he also began a relationship with JD Motorsports that would benefit the driver in succeeding seasons.
“My brother Allen reached out to Mike Doss for help setting up the car,” Bischofberger told Speed51.com. “Our relationship has just grown from there. My brother and I really learned a lot once we teamed up with JDM. We have really grown, between Mike’s abilities, teaching my brother how to setup and tune these cars and Jeremy’s knowledge that he has shared with me as a driver.”
The 2016 season was an opportunity to show off the new relationship when Bischofberger and competed together for the Pacific Challenge Series (PCS) championship. Doss was able to secure that championship, while Bischofberger was able to finish third in the final rundown, right behind two-time series champion Mike Beeler. Despite competing in only 11 of 13 events, Bischofberger was able to secure five top-five and ten top-10 finishes.
In 2017, Bischofberger participated in only one PCS event, but he made it memorable when he scored a victory at Stockton 99 Speedway. In doing so, he became one of only six drivers to win in both the SRL and PCS. That list includes four-time SRL champion Derek Thorn, two-time PCS champion Jeremy Doss, SRL and PCS champion Eric Schmidt, 2015 SRL Champion Jacob Gomes, multi-time Redwood Acres Raceway (CA) Super Late Model winner Brandon White and Bischofberger. It was no surprise that the win occurred at Stockton’s tight ¼-mile track.
“Stockton is my favorite track,” Bischofberger began. “It provides hard, door-banging racing and really allows the drivers to get up on the wheel.”
Bischofberger also competed at this weekend’s SPEARS Southwest Tour Series destination, the 2017 SRL season opener at Irwindale Speedway. During that event, he qualified 11th but missed a top-10 finish, ending up 12th.
At the mid-point of the season, the JD Motorsports team decided to make some changes and upgrade their older equipment with new cars from Senneker Performance. That decision produced immediate success with Jeff’s teammate, Jeremy Doss, scoring back to back feature wins at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV).
Bischofberger’s first opportunity to try out his new ride occurred during the prestigious “Senator’s Cup Fall Classic 150,” also at The Bullring. Bischofberger proved in that event that he was going to be a driver to keep an eye on, as he finished third behind Derek Thorn and teammate Doss. He followed that event with a start in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series finale at Las Vegas, earning a runner-up result, once again behind his teammate.
With two finishes in a row behind Doss, Bischofberger is quick to offer an opinion on racing with his teammate and whether he races him differently than his fellow competitors.
“Well, yes and no,” Bischofberger explained. “Early on in the race, I may let him by in an effort to follow him through the field (because he always heads to the front). But late in the race, there are no team orders, and we race each other as hard as anybody else.”
Entering the 2018 season, the JD Motorsports squad decided to compete for the SRL championship. It is a decision that Bischofberger is happy to be a part of.
“The Tour this year is very competitive and a lot of fun to be a part of,” he commented. “Ricky Brooks has really helped to put drama aside. Brian (Olsen), Larry (Collins), and their team have done an awesome job of providing a series to race in that is operating at the highest level on the West Coast.”
Both teams got off to a quick start, with Doss taking two wins and Bischofberger garnering two third-place efforts. After the first two events, Bischofberger sat second in the standings, but suspension failure and a 20th place finish in round three dropped him to fourth overall.
As the series heads to Irwindale Speedway for the SPEARS Manufacturing 100 presented by Coleman Powersports, Bischofberger will be looking for his first top-10 finish at the facility. In three starts at the progressively banked half-mile, Bischofberger’s best finish is a 12th-place effort in 2017. Despite his previous struggles at what he considers his home track, Bischofberger believes that he and the team have what it takes to succeed, for various reasons.
“[We have had success because of] good equipment, detailed prep at the shop, and good communication between our team,” Bischofberger explained. “My brother Allen has really helped this year in his new role as crew chief.”
He also has his opinion of the track and what it will take to finish up front at Irwindale.
“Irwindale is a track that offers multi-grooves of racing, which provides for great racing. Saving tires will be the biggest challenge. Saving tires and having a car that will handle good, both at the top and the bottom of the track, will be of the utmost importance.”
With the series averaging over 29 cars per event in 2018, it will be important for the championship contenders to avoid any additional poor finishes. Over the history of the series, the SRL has averaged 25 cars per event at “L.A.’s Little Super Speedway,” meaning that a poor finish could be disastrous.
Buddy Shepherd will lead the series into Irwindale, as not only the Rookie of the Year leader, but also the championship leader. Jeremy Doss sits second, with 2017 Rookie of the Year driver Ricky Schlick in third. Rounding out the remainder of the top-five in the series standings are Bischofberger and Carlos Vieira. Sixth through tenth are made up of Cole Moore, John Moore, Eric Schmidt, Jack Wood and Derek Thorn.
The SRL will open the weekend with practice on Friday, June 8. On Saturday, June 9 spectator gates will open at 4:00 pm PST, with qualifying for the INEX Legends, Junior Late Models, Mini Stocks, Spec Late Models and the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series following at 4:15 pm. An autograph session for all divisions is scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Opening Ceremonies will commence at 6:45 pm with the National Anthem and Main Events for each division to follow.
With winning drivers in the Super Late Model ranks, such as Craig Raudman, Jacob Gomes, Blaine Rocha, Keith Spangler, Bob Lyon and Dan Holtz looking to break into the top 10 in the standings, the competition is sure to be intense in round four. If Jeff Bischofberger and his JD Motorsports, Earnest Performance, PFC Brakes, Senneker Performance, S&S Sports Enterprises and Swift Springs Chevy have their way, each of those gentlemen will have to wait for another event to make an addition to their victory columns.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Southwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com