Linny White made his way to Kern County Raceway (CA) with a throwback paint scheme that honored short track racing legend Gary Balough. In the end, White threw back to his win at Kern County Raceway in June and Balough by the competition in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series for a hard-fought October Classic win Saturday night.
White’s win closes the championship gap on Cole Moore from 29 to only 19 points as the series heads to its finale at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on November 23.
For White the win was emotional, but despite sweeping both events at Kern County Raceway this season, the jury is still out on his affection for the track.
“The win is hard for me to put into words,” White explained. “Me and this place have such a love-hate relationship. We swept the year here, so they are asking me how I feel about this place here now, and I just don’t know. I’m 41-years-old now and I like to go 100 mph now. You are going 140 to 145 (mph) here, and it’s a little out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t feel that bad but when you see cars in the wall and cars spun out, you can really see the speed. I’m just fortunate to be in the position we are in tonight.”
The October Classic at Kern County Raceway was the penultimate event of the season for the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series and featured a special throwback theme for the event. A track record 31 cars entered the event, but only 26 survived to start after mechanical issues in practice and in the heats.
Derek Thorn extended his record to 55 PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Awards by turning a lap of 17.494 seconds around the half-mile oval. Twenty-two cars qualified in the 17 second bracket in the tight field.
For the first-time since the management team of Larry and Marion Collins and Brian Olsen took over, the series ran an eight-car trophy dash and two heat races to set the feature line-up. Jack Wood won the AKM Maintenance Trophy Dash to place himself on the pole for the main event. Eric Schmidt won the “Odd” heat to place himself ninth on the grid and Kyle Neveau won the “Even” heat to start 10th. All three drivers received $500 for their efforts, thanks to AKM Maintenance.
The 100-lap feature began with championship leader Cole Moore jumping out to a quick lead over Wood, Dylan Lupton and Mark Neff. By the first caution on lap 22, for a chain reaction Craig Raudman spin, Derek Thorn and Linny White had worked their way up to third and fourth, respectively. Another caution on lap 26 found Thorn dropping to fifth, while Linny White supplanted Wood in second, and 2016 Rookie of the Year Christian McGhee up to fourth.
On the restart, both Thorn and White struggled in the lower groove, with the highline being the place to race. Both drivers nearly dropped outside the top five as they battled with Wood, McGhee and Dylan Lupton for position. The worst incident of the evening found Blaine Rocha in the outside frontstretch wall, causing a chain reaction accident involving Carlos Vieira. Rocha was done for the night, while Vieira only completed two additional laps.
Upon resumption of the race, on lap 38, Cole Moore continued to take advantage of his outside starting spot and pulled out to a short lead. Over the next 62-lap green flag run, the top-five of Moore, McGhee, Wood, Thorn and White would pull away from the pack with each position being challenged. By lap 60 Jacob Gomes cleared Dylan Lupton for sixth and began to reel in the top-five.
In the meantime, White was pressuring Thorn, while Thorn was fighting for third with Wood. By lap 70, Thorn and White both got by Wood to close on the rear bumper of McGhee in second.
On lap 77, Gomes charge came to an end, as a clutch issue sidelined the 2015 SRL Champion before he could engage with the top five. As the lead pack navigated through lapped traffic, White was able to get under Thorn and McGhee to take the second position on lap 81. It was a move that earned White the FLUIDYNE High Performance “Cool Move of the Race.” A few laps later, Thorn was able to wrestle third from McGhee and take up pursuit of the leaders.
“We were all nose-to-tail, me and Thorn and the 71-car (Christian McGhee). Thorn was pressuring the 71-car and I was pressuring Thorn,” White explained. “They left me a pocket and I went for it. We were able to make up some space and put our car in a position to win. I think that was probably the move of the race that allowed me to win.”
It didn’t take White long to reel in Moore, who had built up a slight lead over the battling pack of four. On lap 89, White used a bump-and-run move to secure the lead from Moore and slowly pull away for the victory. That gap was something White wasn’t too worried about.
“I knew I could get to him. I found something there, and I had seen him kind-of going up the track. He looked like he was getting a little tight,” White stated. “So, we just started searching around and we started charging on him. I didn’t think I would get there as quick as I did. I thought we would get there with five to go. We started picking up a tenth to two tenths a lap and before you knew it, we were there.”
Moore had a similar view of White closing the gap on his short lead at the end.
“That was rough, man,” Moore described. “With 15 laps left, I thought I had it. He was about five cars back, and it really seemed like he closed-up in a matter of about two laps to my bumper. He gave me a little bump and that was kind-of it, he was gone.”
At the end, Thorn closed on Moore’s back bumper, but was unable to make a clean pass and settled for third. Wood was able to get by and cross the line fourth, with McGhee the last top-five finisher.
Moore recalled his feeling about finishing second to White, while beating Thorn. It was an emotional evening for the 2018 SRL Rookie of the Year, who was looking for his first career SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series victory.
“The car was really good tonight,” Moore began. “If you had told me I was going to beat Derek tonight, I would have thought I was going to win. I’m not sure of my emotions right now. We may have had a shot to win, but we grew on rear stagger at the end of the race. If there had been a caution with about 15-to-go, my car was really fast on the short runs, but that is not how it played out. We got beat.”
Thorn was disappointed not to win at his home track, but took the defeat in stride.
“We had the speed to win tonight, but we just didn’t have the track position,” Thorn said. “We kept getting caught on the bottom on the restarts, and we could just never get the track position to get the win. It just wasn’t our night.”
Jesse Love was able to make the climb to sixth from 15th to secure the Rookie of the Race honors, while John Moore drove all the way from 22nd to seventh. Dylan Lupton crossed the line next, with Mark Neff and Tyler Fabozzi completing the top 10.
Upon post-race inspection, however, Wood was deemed to have too much left-side weight and was disqualified. That moved the rest of the top 10 up one position, with Jim Wulfenstein now securing the 10th position and the Coleman Powersports “Hard Charger Award” for coming from 26th.
The next event for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series will be at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The “$10,000-to-win Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse” will wrap up the nineteenth season for the Super Late Model touring series. With $10,000 on the line for the winner, the field is sure to be stacked. And with Moore, White and Thorn sitting 1-2-3 in the standings, the championship is sure to come down to the last lap.
- Linny White, 2. Cole Moore, 3. Derek Thorn, 4. Christian McGhee, 5. Jesse Love*, 6. John Moore, 7. Dylan Lupton, 8. Mark Neff*, 9. Tyler Fabozzi*, 10. Jim Wulfenstein, 11. Tracy Bolin, 12. Bobby Hodges, 13. Bob Lyon, 14. Eric Schmidt, 15. Craig Raudman, 16. Tanner Wattenbarger*, 17. Eric Nascimento Jr.*, 18. Cody Dempster*, 19. Andy Allen, 20. Scott Sanchez, 21. Jacob Gomes, 22. Kyle Neveau, 23. Keith Spangler, 24. Carlos Vieira, 25. Blaine Rocha, DNS. Dean Thompson*, DNS. Dan Holtz, DNS. Logan Jewell*, DNS. Joe Farre’, DNS. Jacob Smith*, DQ. Jack Wood
-Story by: Kevin Peters, SRL
-Photo credit: SRL