Jeremy Doss avenged his loss to Derek Thorn in last month’s Senator’s Cup Fall Classic when he passed the now four-time SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series Champion late in the race to win the series finale held at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win was the fifth series victory of his career and his first since the 2014 season.
Doss, and his teammate Jeff Bischofberger led a JD Motorsports sweep of the top two positions in the 2017 Season Finale 125 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse. It was the team’s combined best effort to date and gives Doss momentum heading to the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, in Pensacola, FL in two weeks.
For Thorn, his third-place effort was abundantly sufficient to clinch his series record fourth SRL title.
“It feels really good, because he (Derek Thorn) is the top guy on the West Coast, and he is the man to beat at every track we go to, so it feels really good,” Doss told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Doss was strong all weekend, setting quick time in all four practice sessions, encompassing Friday and Saturday. The qualifying master, however, was able steel the Rockwell Time Fast Qualifier Award when Thorn set the quick lap of the weekend at 14.267 for the 30 cars present. It was his 46th career fast time award and continued his domination in that category.
The top eight qualifiers redrew for position at the front of the field with Blaine Rocha securing the coveted number one position to lead the field. Dustin Ash drew the number two, with Bischofberger, Ricky Schlick, Doss, Bobby Hodges, Thorn and Eric Schmidt following.
Rocha took an early lead at the green, but surrendered the lead to Ash on lap 18 as the car’s handling started to go away for the 2016 winner of the event. Meanwhile, Thorn was powering his way to the front, moving to third, while Doss fell back saving his tires.
The first yellow appeared on lap 32 when Cole Moore suffered a flat tire. When the green reappeared, Schlick began to apply pressure to Ash, with Thorn pressuring Schlick for second. The only serious incident of the night occurred on lap 39, with a chain reaction incident between Buddy Shepherd, Bob Lyon and Carlos Vieira. Lyon was the only car not to continue, but Vieira returned, sans the sheet metal on the right side of his car. Following the restart, Thorn wrestled the lead away from Ash with an outside pass of the multi-time “Bullring” Champion. By lap 50, Schlick had supplanted Ash for second and made his way under Thorn for the lead a few laps later. Thorn broke back to the lead on lap 60 and led to a lap 66 yellow for Keith Spangler and Jimmy Parker Jr.
Meanwhile, Doss had turned up the wick and advanced to third. Following the restart, Schlick and Thorn battled side by side for several laps, but by lap 94 Doss chased the leaders down and took the lead.
“I felt like Thorn was beginning to fade away a little bit there at the end,” Doss speculated. “I tried not to get in there too hard and I got by him when I needed to. I didn’t want to be overly aggressive or anything like that. I just let it play into my favor and let it play out.”
The remaining laps saw Doss pull out to a two-second lead, with Bischofberger getting by Thorn with just a few laps remaining to secure the runner-up position. 2017 Rookie of the Year Ricky Schlick held on for fourth, with an ill Buddy Shepherd advancing to the final spot in the top five.
Doss may have lost to Thorn at the Bullring a month ago, but he used that defeat to learn from the result.
“We had a really good car and I saved a little bit in the beginning. I felt like the last time (at the Senator’s Cup), I got a little bit overly aggressive too early in the race and I felt like it cost me,” Doss admitted. “I just tried to play it smart, and let everyone run it off. The car just kept coming to me and it got better and better. It just ended up playing in our favor with no late caution.
“I just have to hand it to the JD Motorsports crew. They gave me such a good car and they worked their butts off all weekend. I just have to thank Senneker Performance, Earnest Performance, Team PFC, Swift Springs, Franks Radios, Speedy Signs, S&S Sports Enterprise and everyone else. I really appreciate it.”
Bischofberger may have had the quickest car at the end, but was happy with the finish and how the JD Motorsports Team is progressing.
“It feels really good (to finish second to Doss),” Bischofberger told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We have been trying to put together a little bit better team this year and we took a lot of races off to build new cars. We partnered up with Senneker Chassis. Terry and Heather (Senneker) were actually out here helping us to put together a stronger program. I’m not going to lie to you; it feels really good to beat Thorn here. Derek is a standup driver and is very impressive. He is a qualifying machine and he raced me with a lot of respect, and I tried to do the same. When you pass someone of that caliber, it feels really good.”
Thorn finished third, but was very thankful for the opportunity to drive for Campbell Motorsports and the opportunity to win his fourth series championship.
“We didn’t have the car to win tonight, but I drive for the best team on the West Coast,” Thorn began. “I am so thankful to Byron and Carol Campbell for the opportunity to drive this car and for this team. Mike Keen does such a great job and I have to thank everyone on this team. I am so blessed to have the chance to win a fourth championship here and these guys deserve all the credit.”
2017 Rookie of the Year Ricky Schlick had a good car, but might have chosen a little different strategy, following his fourth-place finish.
“We were digging early in the race and we just burned the tires up too early,” Schlick stated. “We had to put pressure on these guys, especially the 43 (Thorn) and the 75 (Doss). The car was really good on the short run and we battled with the 43 a little bit. We were a little bit better than him for a while, but our car did fall off a little bit at the end there and I couldn’t get it off the corner like I wanted to. The 75 came out of nowhere, with about 20 to go, but it was pretty fun out there.”
The next event for the SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series is the non-point, $30,000-to-win Winter Showdown on February 2-3, 2018 at Kern County Raceway (CA). The series ends its 17th season averaging over 23 cars per points-counting event with six different winners in those nine events. The series paid out nearly $350,000 in 2017 and is looking for an even more successful 2018. With many new teams looking to join the series for its 18th season, hopes are high for that additional success for both the teams and the series.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Official Results: 1. Jeremy Doss, 2. Jeff Bischofberger, 3. Derek Thorn, 4. Ricky Schlick*, 5. Buddy Shepherd*, 6. Dustin Ash, 7. Eric Schmidt, 8. Cale Kanke*, 9. Trevor Huddleston*, 10. Christian McGhee, 11. Bobby Hodges, 12. Jacob Gomes, 13. John Moore, 14. Cole Moore*, 15. Blaine Rocha, 16. Stan Mullis, 17. Keith Spangler, 18. Scott Sanchez, 19. Cole Cabrera*, 20. Kayli Barker*, 21. Kolby Berry*, 22. Jimmy Parker Jr., 23. Nick Joanides, 24. Carlos Vieira, 25. Bob Lyon, 26. Colby Potts, 27. Logan Bearden, DNS: Craig Raudman, Justin Simonson, Matthew Meech.
*Rookie of the Year Contender