The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series closed out their 18th season at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV) Saturday night. When the curtain closed on the season after 150 laps, it was Jeremy Doss doubling down by scoring the $10,000 win and his first SRL championship.
The Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas was a wild event that saw a record 18 cautions, with Doss surviving a back-and-forth battle with Ricky Schlick to take the victory.
“I was a little bit worried about Ricky (Schlick),” Doss told Speed51.com. "We kind of took a little different approach this time. I feel like everyone started to play the same game that I was in the past races. So I changed it up a little and kind of got out in the lead to set my own pace.
"I was a little worried about Ricky because he was fast. He was pushing me hard, but I think the caution laps kind of helped my advantage of saving tires with them counting the laps. These Senneker cars just come alive with 50 to go, and we ended up running our fastest lap on lap 133 of 150. I just have to hand it to Terry for building such fast cars and the whole JD Motorsports crew who make this car so fast. I'm just so happy to get this championship."
The day got started with Doss' main championship rival Eric Schmidt setting fast time over 31 qualifiers. The top 24 qualifiers automatically made the starting field, with the remaining six cars relegated to the Last Chance Qualifier after Scott Sanchez earned the provisional starting spot. The field was separated by 0.349 seconds and a 14.631-second lap was required to make the show on time.
The Last Chance Qualifier was scheduled for 20 laps and ran green the entire distance. Two-time Pacific Challenge Series winner Matt Wendt scored the win over Randy Hedrick, Cale Kanke, Keith Spangler, 2002 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion Eric Norris and Washington's Rod Schultz Jr. with the top three earning positions 25 - 27.
John Dillon drew the pole for the rich event, with Jeff Bischofberger starting on the outside of the front row.
At the start Dillon jumped to the lead as Doss allowed Bischofberger the opportunity to get down in the lower groove. A lap 18 yellow bunched the tight field, with Doss moving to second on the restart. On lap 25 Doss was able to get under Dillon for the lead before caution number two fell.
A series of starts and stops ensued, with the field having trouble gaining traction for more than a few laps. On each restart, the outside line would shuffle backward and mix the standings. As the field neared the halfway break, a long green flag run ensued with Schlick pressuring Doss and wrestling the lead away from the point leader. Doss, however, would cross him over and hang onto the lead at the premature Lap 70 break.
Upon the restart after the break, the stop-and-go action continued with Doss leading Schlick. Cole Moore, Eric Schmidt, Cameron Hayley, Tyler Fabozzi and Carlos Vieira continued to shuffle in and out of the top five based on restart position. When the field finally settled down, Schlick and Doss continued their torrid feud for the lead, with Schlick taking the point several times after Lap 100.
A lap L12 yellow, however, changed the complexion of the race. On the restart, Schlick began to lose ground on the outside and was shuffled back to sixth. Eric Schmidt would take up the chase of Doss, but the continuing cautions prevented anyone from making a serious challenge to the leader.
Over the remaining laps, Doss was able to fend off all challenges of his competitors, and take the checkered flag first. Schmidt was able to hold on for second after yo-yoing back and forth in the top three. Schlick made a late charge to get back to third, with Cole Moore surviving a heated duel with Cameron Hayley to place forth. Last-lap contact between the two produced a slide-for-life that allowed Tyler Fabozzi to slide into the top five ahead of Hayley.
John Dillon, Carlos Vieira, Cale Kanke and Craig Raudman rounded out the top 10.
Schmidt, the 2006 SRL champion felt the cautions played into Doss’ favor but wasn’t sure if a long green flag would have resulted in a victory.
"I think I was better on the long runs and he could fire off a lot better in the short ones than I could,” Schmidt commented. "Those cautions would hurt us because it would take me five or six laps to get going. But by that time, I was 10 car lengths back. If it had gone green for a while, we could have at least given him a better run for his money but it didn't play out that way tonight."
Even though Schmidt finished second to Doss in both the race and the championship, he was happy with his results in both.
“The race played out how the season had played out all year,” Schmidt observed. “Jeremy and I have been glued together. First and second or fourth and fifth, it just seems like we are on top of each other. Winning the championship wasn't our goal at the beginning of the season. We wanted to run competitive every week. We won a race at Irwindale and it was a successful season for us.”
“I wanted to get a win here and Jeremy wanted to get a win here, and we are both pretty good here,” he continued. “We will have a couple of more chances to get that win here next year.”
Although Schmidt ultimately finished second, it was Schlick who seemed to have the best shot at wrestling a win away from Doss, but the race didn't play out the way he hoped.
"Well first of all, congratulations to Jeremy on winning the championship this year,” Schlick began. "I really think I had the car to potentially beat him tonight but the constant yellows made it really difficult to get a good run on him. A majority of the cautions landed me on the outside for most of the restarts, and with a full line of fast cars on the bottom you really had to muscle your way down there."
Cole Moore finished fourth in the race and in doing so clinched the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year Award for 2018. For Moore, it was an exciting race from the front of the field.
"The race went really well,” Moore commented. "It was a battle the whole time between me, the 05 (Schmidt), 75 (Doss), 48 (Schlick), and the 7 (Hayley). We were crossing swords the whole time. There was contact here and there but everyone held it together. Honestly, without all the cautions, it was probably one of the funnest races I've ever been a part of. Hats off to Jeremy and Eric.
"We got the Rookie of the Year and It means a lot to me. I came into the season wanting a championship, but we came in unprepared. Coming out with the Rookie of the Year is awesome, and we have a good setup and package for next year."
The man of the night was Jeremy Doss, who celebrated his 22nd birthday a day early. Doss was the SRL championship runner-up in 2013 and 2014, as well as a two-time Pacific Challenge Series champion and its all-time wins leader.
"I think this championship ranks number one on my list,” Doss commented. "To come and win this championship means a lot to my team and I. The series is just so competitive and like I have said before, I think it is the most competitive in the entire country. It really means a lot, especially coming in second twice in a row. It feels really good to come out on top.”
Doss brought home the $10,000 prize from Vegas twice this year and in doing so he also claimed a very special trophy from long-time series supporter David "Homie" Mulcahy.
"I like It, Homie does an awesome job,” Doss said. "I can't thank him enough for what he does for the sport. I am thanking him for all of us racers. It is really cool and we really appreciate all his help."
Doss knows that the championship is a team effort, and he is appreciative for all those who have helped him get there this season.
“I've got to thank my entire team and all my sponsors; Earnest Performance, Senneker Performance, Peters Racing Engines, who has been so much help, S&S Sports Enterprises with Stevie Gonzalez has been a lot of help as well. Franks Radios, Swift Springs, PFC Bakes and Speedy Signs, who always make my car look really good. I’d also like to thank Pit Stop USA, who has just come on board. I just can’t thank them all enough.
“I’d also like to thank Speed51.com for helping get the word out though social media. I’d like to thank the SPEARS Southwest Tour and all the officials because they do an awesome job. They are very welcoming and it is a great series to run in.”
The 2018 SRL Champion will now look forward to the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway and feels his win at The Bullring will help springboard his effort heading into that event.
“This win definitely builds some momentum,” Doss began. “Last year we won this race and we went there and qualified top-five and ran pretty good. I think this proves how good we are to run that good late in the race, and that’s what you need to win the Snowball Derby. With that and a little bit of luck on our side in a couple of weeks, I think we will be pretty competitive for a win.”
The next event for the SRL will be the 2019 Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway on February 1-2. The fifth annual event paying $30,000-to-win and over $150,000 in purse money for the Super Late Models has become the crown jewel event for West Coast Late Model racing.
For the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, it will be a short winter break and then back to action to where they hope to improve even more on 2018’s successes.
Race fans can find full on-demand coverage of Saturday's SRL season finale by visiting Speed51.com's Race Day Now.
-Story by: Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Southwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Michele Martin
Official Results: 1. Jeremy Doss, 2. Eric Schmidt, 3. Ricky Schlick, 4. Cole Moore*, 5. Tyler Fabozzi*, Cameron Hayley, 7. John Dillon, 8. Carlos Vieira, 9. Cale Kanke, 10. Craig Raudman, 11. Bob Lyon, 12. Scott Sanchez, 13. Randy Hedrick, 14. Mike Beeler, 15. Jack Wood*, 16. John Moore, 17. Matthew Wendt, 18. Joe Farre’, 19. Thane Alderman, 20. Jeff Bischofberger, 21. Austin Herzog*, 22. Bear Rzesnowiecky, 23. Chris Clyne, 24. Tracy Bolin, 25. Blaine Rocha, 26. Kyle Neveau*, 27. Jacob Gomes, 28. Dan Holtz
Last Chance Qualifying Race Results: 1. Matthew Wendt, 2. Randy Hedrick, 3. Cale Kanke, 4. Keith Spangler, 5. Eric Norris, 6. Rod Schultz Jr. DNS. M.K. Kanke
Unofficial Points: 1. Jeremy Doss: 1,470, 2. Eric Schmidt: 1,415, 3. Carlos Vieira: 1,295, 4. Cole Moore: 1,286, 5. Ricky Schlick: 1,257, 6. Jeff Bischofberger: 1,231, 7. John Moore: 1,167, 8. Craig Raudman: 1,137, 9. Jacob Gomes: 1,081, 10. Blaine Rocha 1,081
PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award: Eric Schmidt
Coleman Powersports Hard Charger Award: Cale Kanke
FLUIDYNE High Performance Cool Move of the Race: Jeremy Doss
Top Rookie of the Year Contender: Cole Moore