Preston Peltier wasted little time getting to victory lane with the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway (CA). In his first series start, the Brighton, Colorado driver won both 50-lap segments of the RJ Allen Inc. 100 presented by Traffic Management Inc.
Peltier’s victory came against a stout field of 35 Super Late Model drivers, 33 of which started the main event, a record number of feature event starters for the series in its 19th season. As a result of the “Winner’s Bonus” presented by Senneker Performance, he earned $5,000 for the victory.
For Peltier, the win was a homecoming victory of sorts, as Peltier grew up in Frazier Park, just 90 miles northwest of Irwindale. Although he had never competed at Irwindale Speedway, it was special for the 2010 PASS National Champion to score the win close to his old stomping grounds.
“It’s pretty cool (to win near home),” Peltier told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “It’s cool that this many cars came out. It’s nice to see the series this healthy. I really hope it continues to grow. Larry, Ricky and those guys do a great job. What can you say, I’m proud of my guys. They gave me a helluva car, and this is fun.”
The unique event was scored as two separate races, with the best average finish securing the overall win and championship points. In the event of a tie in average finish, the best finisher in the second segment of the evening’s activities would secure the better position.
Dylan Lupton started the weekend off with another record, setting a new track record of 17.055 at the racy half-mile oval. The top eight cars in qualifying included Trevor Huddleston, Peltier, Jeremy Doss, Derek Thorn, Jacob Gomes, Eric Schmidt and Linny White. The top eight qualifiers redrew for position at the front of the field, with Doss scoring the coveted number one card. Linny White lined up alongside him with Thorn and Huddleston making up row two.
At the drop of Noel Dawson’s green flag, Doss jumped to the lead, as White faded in the outer groove. An early yellow on lap 3 slowed the field as Mark Meech and Barry Conover ended up turned around in turn two. By that time Thorn had moved past Doss for the lead and Peltier had advanced to third from his sixth starting spot.
Another quick yellow slowed the field a few laps later, but the field then went clean and green until lap 43. In the meantime, Peltier got by Thorn on lap 12 as the field behind them swapped positions, frequently three and even four-wide at times. Doss eventually got back by Thorn for second and slowly began to reel in Peltier in lapped traffic.
The lap 43 caution, for 2018 Colorado National Speedway (CO) Rookie-of-the-Year Cody Dempster, gave Doss a shot at the top spot. Despite applying pressure, Doss was unable to wrestle the lead away from Peltier over the next seven circuits, giving Peltier the segment win and the KHI (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) Management Halfway Bonus.
Thorn held on to finish third, with new track record holder Lupton fourth. A hard-charging Craig Raudman rounded out the top-five after coming from 12th starting. Jeff Bischofberger, Jacob Gomes, Eric Schmidt, Kyle Neveau and Linny White completed the top 10 prior to a 10-car invert for the second segment.
Segment two featured Linny White and Kyle Neveau on the front row, with Doss and Peltier lined up in row five. Two quick cautions marred the opening laps, eliminating front runner Eric Schmidt and six-time Irwindale winner M.K. Kanke by lap 54.
Neveau led with Thorn advancing quickly to second. Upon resumption of the race, the battles throughout the field intensified, with front runners Craig Raudman and Kyle Neveau losing positions when contact ensued between several competitors, including Peltier and Neveau. Both Neveau and Peltier made remarkable saves, which resulted in Peltier earning the FLUIDYNE High Performance “Cool Move of the Race.”
“In the beginning it was pretty wild and intense,” Peltier recalled. At one time, I was inside the 71 (Neveau) coming off of turn two. He got sideways and I thought, ‘Oh man, this is it. It’s all over with.’ He just clipped me a little bit, and I had the evil death wobble going, but I got it gathered back in.”
By the lap 67 caution, Thorn led Doss and Peltier, who were engaged in a furious battle for second. Bischofberger had advance to fourth, as Raudman had worked his way back to tenth. On the restart, Doss wrestled the lead away from Thorn, who refused to give up. On lap 74, the race turned for Thorn, who got loose and slid up slightly into Doss, causing Thorn to spin down the backstretch, realistically ending his chance for victory.
The following restart found Doss holding on for dear life over Peltier, but slight contact from Peltier gave the Colorado driver the opening he needed to take the lead, with Doss’ teammate Bischofberger following him through.
On lap 81, the scariest incident of the race occurred when Neveau hit the turn three wall after contact. It was the end of a top-five run for the San Clemente, California driver.
There were two more slowdowns in the event, but each restart would find Bischofberger and Doss waging war on the backside of Peltier, battling for the lead. In the final few laps, Doss began to fade, while Raudman and Jace Hansen made strong moves to the front, battling three-wide at several points.
In the end, Peltier held off Bischofberger and a closing Raudman. Hansen secured fourth with a momentary four-wide battle for fifth ending in a top-five finish for Lupton. Doss, Gomes, Tyler Fabozzi, Bobby Hodges and Eric Nascimento Jr. completed the top 10.
With the results combined from both segments, Peltier was declared the winner with Bischofberger, Raudman and Doss tied for second. With the tie-breaker being the second segment finish, Bischofberger secured second, with Raudman, Doss, Lupton, Gomes, Hansen, Fabozzi, Bobby Hodges and Thorn the overall top 10.
Despite winning both segments, the victory did not come easy and Peltier was thankful for the support of his sponsors.
“I’d really like to thank Swift Springs, Tilton, Bassett, PFC Brakes, Generator Source, Ed (Vecchiarelli) and the crew for all of their support. I couldn’t do it without them”
Jeff Bischofberger and his JD Motorsports crew had their best finish since the final SRL event of 2017 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The former SRL winner at Stockton 99 Speedway was very strong in the event, challenging Peltier for the lead on several occasions and feeling he may have had something for the winner.
“We were just a tick tight at the end, otherwise I think we could have got him (Peltier),” Bischofberger stated. “My brother Alan did a really good job of spotting, and this is definitely one of my better runs. We tried to save a little bit in the beginning of the race and just find a place to ride for a few laps. But man, with these 50-lap segments, it really felt like we did 100 qualifying laps to tell the truth. There was very little riding.
“I had a car that didn’t get beat on too much and I tried to keep it clean. I felt like we did, other than when I got into Jacob (Gomes) once, and I apologize for that, where I think I cut him off, off of two. But he was nice enough to lift, so I didn’t pack it in the wall, so I owe him a beer.
“I appreciate everything SPEARS does for us and I’d like to thank Terry and Heather Senneker, JD Motorsports, Mike Doss and his son Jeremy who work on the cars.”
Another driver who was happy about his performance was 2001 NASCAR Southwest Tour Series Champion Craig Raudman. Raudman, who just announced his retirement tour, may want to reconsider his decision after Saturday night’s results. The Cottonwood, California driver wasn’t a fan of the format, but the effort is a good sign for his goal this year: a win.
“It felt like running two fifty-lap trophy dashes, with everybody running really hard and doing some crazy stuff out there,” Raudman appraised. “I’m not a real fan of this format, as it is really rough on equipment. We came out alright, but a lot of people didn’t. My car was really good on top, but not on the bottom. It took a little while for people to get in line so I could get going, but I had a good time and it was fun.”
Raudman continued, “It feels really good to be back up front again. We are doing this retirement thing, and I don’t know that I’m totally set on it but the biggest thing is I want to win some races. I want to win a race, and it’s been a while, but close isn’t close enough. I want to get a win. Dave (Reed) has given us all the tools and I’ve got the best guys and friends on this team. We have a great crew chief in Bond Suss and it’s coming.”
The next event for the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series is at All American Speedway in Roseville, California. The April 13 event will be the first time the series has competed on the 1/3-mile oval since 2012. If the season opening event is any indication, race number two is going to be a can’t miss event.
Final Combined Results: 1) Preston Peltier, 2) Jeff Bischofberger, 3) Craig Raudman, 4) Jeremy Doss, 5) Dylan Lupton, 6) Jacob Gomes, 7) Jace Hansen, 8) Tyler Fabozzi*, 9) Bobby Hodges, 10) Derek Thorn, 11) John Moore, 12) Blaine Rocha, 13) Eric Nascimento Jr*., 14) Cale Kanke, 15) Cole Moore 16) Kyle Neveau, 17) Jack Wood, 18) Linny White, 19) Eric Schmidt, 20) Andy Allen, 21) Bob Lyon, 22) Jesse Love*, 23) Carlos Vieira, 24) Brandon Lovelock, 25) Joe Farre’, 26) Bear Rzesnowiecky, 27) M.K. Kanke, 28) Trevor Huddleston, 29) Cody Dempster, 30) Dennis Furden, 31) Matt Meech, 32) Scott Sanchez, 33) Barry Conoyer, DNS) Don Zoll Jr., DNS) Willie Allen
-Story and Photo by: Kevin Peters, SRL