Jeremy Doss used a dramatic last-lap pass to score the victory at Madera Speedway (CA) Saturday night to open the season for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series.
The pass was a surprise to nearly everyone in attendance, as Derek Thorn took the white flag with a comfortable lead. But a turn one and two collision in heavy traffic saw Thorn shoot to the high side to avoid the incident. Doss went low and the two made contact down the backstretch, with Thorn brushing the wall. Doss emerged in turn four with the lead and the $5,000 victory in front of a stunned crowd.
“Two lapped cars were running really hard, and I don’t know if one slid into the other, but the next thing I knew one was spinning,” Doss told Speed51.com. “Derek went up to the high side and I chose the low side, hoping it was clear, and I ended up beating him off (the turn). It’s not over until it’s over. I just decided to keep digging and keep digging, and we just ended up getting the win.”
Earlier in the day, Doss’ win in the “2018 Championship Opener 125 presented by 51 FIFTY Energy Drink” seemed even more problematic, after finishing final practice in the 19th position of 27 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series cars. Craig Raudman led that session and Derek Thorn followed that up with his 47th PFC Brakes Zero Drag Award for the fast qualifier. Doss narrowly make the eight-driver redraw, but drew the number one card to earn the pole. Thorn drew the number two card to line up alongside.
Thorn jumped out to the initial lead from the preferred outside groove, while Doss slowly drifted back though the top five. Eric Schmidt made a strong move from the eighth starting spot to the rear bumper of Thorn before the first dozen laps were in the book. Schmidt took the lead several laps later and headed the field for a few laps as he battled side by side with Thorn. By the Lap 17 caution flag for Kayla Eshleman, Thorn had retaken the lead position and would not relinquish it until the final lap of the event.
Numerous cautions followed with Doss nearly falling outside the top ten early in the event. Schmidt would remain in the runner-up position until the lap 86 red flag for two separate incidents, which resulted in the elimination of third-running Blaine Rocha and a hard-charging Craig Raudman. Rocha’s strong run ended from broken suspension parts after contact with Carlos Vieira and Jeff Bischofberger, which resulted in the spin. Raudman’s accident was much more severe and resulted in major damage to his Approved Memory Chevy.
By the Lap 96 caution, Doss had worked his way into the second-place position and was ready to take up the charge of Thorn. It was a position that Doss felt he might not get to.
“In the beginning, I wanted to save the car a little bit, but the car wasn’t turning like it I wanted it to,” Doss explained. “Honestly, I was on the radio debating on pitting and I was just complaining about the car. The longer the race went on, it kept turning better and better and I had really good grip and it just ended up working out.”
After the restart, the field finally settled out and ran to the checkers, with Doss falling to a little over one second deficit behind Thorn. On lap 124, the eventful exchange occurred and Doss crossed under Noel Dawson’s checkered flag first to the surprise of the patrons. It was a pleasant surprise to Doss as well.
“I thought we might have had something for him, but it was really hard to tell,” Doss began. “We never really had open track together up until that point. Although my car got better and better, he definitely had a better car than me. I just couldn’t be happier. We came in and would have been happy with a top five after practice and with how the car was handling. I just couldn’t be more happy with our result.”
Thorn was disappointed with the result and when asked about it by track staff, Thorn had an understandable reply.
Doss’ JD Motorsports teammate, Jeff Bischofberger, ran in the top five nearly the entire event, taking home an impressive third-place finish. Although he was happy about his effort and the quality of his team, he couldn’t help to feel a little bittersweet about the outcome.
“We were saving our tires a little bit in the beginning of the race,” Bischofberger told Speed51.com. “The JD Motorsports, Senneker Chassis and Ernest Performance Shocks car was really good. I was taking it easy and the car really came to life mid race. It fell off a little bit in the end, but with about 35 (laps) to go on a restart, I overdrove turn one and lifted up Blaine Rocha a little bit in the 21 car. It moved him up a groove and I think somebody else plowed him.
“In light of what we do out here in trying to have fun and whatnot, I have a real sour taste in my mouth. I definitely don’t want to do that to the CMS (Collins Motorsports) crew, and Blaine, who was having a good run. Sometimes drivers make mistakes, and I’ll just have to move on and try to learn from it.”
The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series will next move on to Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, CA for their second event of the season on April 14. It will be another opportunity for Thorn and Doss to renew their rivalry, and a chance for others to inject their names into the championship hunt.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
SRL Official Results from Madera Speedway:
- Jeremy Doss, 2. Derek Thorn, 3. Jeff Bischofberger, 4. Eric Schmidt, 5. Buddy Shepherd, 6. Carlos Vieira, 7. Dan Holtz, 8. John Moore, 9. Ricky Schlick, 10. Cole Moore, 11. Michael Sandoval, 12. Jack Wood, 13. Ryan Philpott, 14. Cale Kanke, 15. Kolby Berry, 16. Tracy Bolin, 17. Matthew Wendt, 18. Bobby Hodges, 19. Scott Sanchez, 20. Linny White, 21. Kyle Neveau, 22. Blaine Rocha, 23. Craig Raudman, 24. Eric Nascimento Jr., 25. Jacob Gomes, 26. Bob Lyon, 27. Kayla Eshleman