Entering the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series season finale at The Bulling at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV), two drivers have separated themselves from the pack and will compete for the 2018 SRL Championship at the 3/8-mile paved oval. Jeremy Doss and Eric Schmidt will lead the field to Las Vegas for the $10,000-to-win Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse.
Doss will enter Saturday’s event with a 45-point advantage and will need to finish ninth or better to lock up his first SRL championship.
The 45-point advantage and his history of five wins in the last six Super Late Model races at the Las Vegas track has Doss poised to bring home the championship.
“Of course anything can happen, but Vegas is without a doubt my best track on the tour. As long as we’re prepared 110-percent, I’m very confident in being able to bring home the championship,” Doss told Speed51.com.
Schmidt, on the other hand, will have to look for his first SRL victory in Las Vegas and some bad luck for Doss. But he also feels that the pressure is on the young 21-year-old driver from Upper Lake, CA.
“We are going in there with no other mindset than to try to win the race, just like every other race this year,” Schmidt began. “I don’t have anything to lose. To be honest, I think Jeremy has a little more pressure on him than I do. He has to make sure he finishes the race. If something bad happens to me, and I don’t finish, it’s not a deal breaker. I’ve had a great year.
“I feel really good about the race,” Schmidt continued. “We are bringing the same car that we finished third with earlier this year. We found some issues after getting the car home last time that hurt us with our long runs during the race. I’m 100-percent confident that we will have the speed to compete for the win.”
Both Doss and Schmidt entered the 2018 season with two Super Late Model touring series titles. Doss is a two-time Pacific Challenge Series champion, winning in 2012 and 2016. Schmidt possesses a 2006 SRL championship and a 2013 Pacific Challenge Series crown. While both drivers would love to take home the SRL title, both entered the season with different goals.
For Doss and the JD Motorsports Team, the SRL title was their ultimate goal entering the season after finishing as the championship runner-up in 2013 and 2014. He knew winning the championship would take a lot of hard work, but that it would also be a great accomplishment.
“We came especially close to winning the championship in 2014, so winning the championship this year would be extremely satisfying,” Doss said. “Winning the SRL championship would definitely rank very high on my list of racing accomplishments. The SRL is without a doubt the most competitive series on the west coast. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to put together a championship season.”
Schmidt, on the other hand, entered the season looking for improvement over 2017, where he finished eighth in the championship standings. To be in this position was a pleasant surprise for the driver from Roseville, CA.
“Honestly, the goal we set at the beginning of the year was to run better than last year and to finish in the top-five and win a race or two,” Schmidt admitted. “Fortunately, we have been able to do that. That being said, if you race well and finish well, the points will follow. It would be an awesome unexpected surprise to win the championship. It wasn’t something we had thought about at all to begin the year, but it has just kind of played out and it would be really cool to win it.”
Doss and Schmidt will be fighting it out for the SRL title on November 17, and it will be the first time the two competitors have competed for a championship against each other. But it is certainly not the first time they have participated against one another, with many clashes throughout the years.
“I’ve been racing against Eric since 2012 in the AABLM (Airport Auto Brokers Late Model) Series (now PCS),” Doss recalled. “He’s always been a top competitor, and this season he and his team have stepped their game up even more. They’ve been fast week in and week out.”
Schmidt also has respect for his nearest championship rival, even though they have had their share of run-ins in the past.
“He is a good, fast and hard racing competitor,” Schmidt volunteered. “If you have been doing this as long as I have, you have your ups and downs with everybody you race with. We have had issues in the past, and that stuff happens. He is a very good racer, and I have raced with his dad (Mike Doss) when I was younger. Now I am racing with Jeremy, and that is cool.”
Both championship challengers have raced at different tracks and in different series throughout the years, but both feel that the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is the pinnacle of competition on the west coast.
“The competition is the toughest around, hands down,” Schmidt said with emphasis. “There are other series around that you run that you expect to win or run very well in. In the SRL, if you finish in the top-five, you have had a successful night. It is a tough bunch of people. Everyone has good equipment, good crew chiefs and the teams are deep. Everyone has the best parts and the best motors, and it is just a different level of competition. And honestly, that is the draw for me and Randy (Hedrick) the car owner. It is a professional series at a level in which we can compete at. There is nowhere else we can do that.”
The 2013 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year has similar sentiments when it comes to the competition in the SRL.
“As I have said before, there is not a more competitive series on the west coast than the SRL. I really believe it is one of the most competitive series in the entire nation.”
Both drivers have had very successful seasons on the tracks of the west coast and seen improvements in their programs.
Doss has ventured out of the series to win several big events and nearly scored a top-five in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) in 2017. He is quick to credit the team around him for his success in 2018.
“The key to my success this season has been having fast race cars each and every week,” Doss admits. “And that is thanks to my dad, Mike Doss, Brannon Earnest, Terry Senneker and Bubba Pollard. They are the brains, and I’m just the lucky one that gets to drive the race car.”
Likewise, Schmidt has seen his fortunes turn around in 2018 with car owner Randy Hedrick.
“Randy Hedrick, my car owner, he has provided us with the tools that we need to compete,” Schmidt professed. “With the help of Willie Allen at W.A.R. Racing, he kind of got us turned around at the end of last year. And then this year, starting at the opener at Madera, I got my long-time Crew Chief back that I have raced with for 25 years, Eric Snyder. It has just all fell into place. We are running where we expect to run after a couple of lean years, and we are getting up to speed. All that hard work and effort are finally paying off.”
To win a championship, it takes a team effort and a lot of help financially, in the shop and at the track. Doss is thankful to all those who have helped him get to this point in the season.
“First and foremost I have to thank my dad, Mike Doss. Without him, none of this would be possible. I also have to thank my crew for all their hard work this season. We don’t have the budget to be able to pay any of our crew members. They are all volunteers and I really can’t thank them enough for continuing to support me. I have to thank my sponsors as well. Earnest Performance, Senneker Performance, S&S Sports Enterprise, PFC Brakes, Swift Springs, Pacific Export LLC, Speedy Signs, Frank’s Radio, Five Star Bodies and Peter’s Racing Engines.
Likewise, Schmidt’s success is a team effort for which he is grateful.
“I would really like to thank all the guys who help us, because without their help we couldn’t do it. I’d like to thank Eric Snyder, Cory Engelhardt, Steve Meylink, Frank Vincent, Mike Lehman, Chris Egan and my wife Jill. She supports me and spots for me every race. It just wouldn’t be the same if she wasn’t involved as much as she is. On the sponsorship side I have to thank Willie Allen and W.A.R. Shocks for turning us around. I also want to thank McGunegill Racing Engines for his help and Sierra Speed for getting us to the track.”
Heading into the finale, Carlos Vieira sits third in the standings followed by Jeff Bischofberger, Cole Moore and Ricky Schlick. Mathematically any of those four divers could end up third. John Moore finds himself in the number seven slot with Craig Raudman, Jacob Gomes and Blaine Rocha rounding out the top-ten. Kyle Neveau and Jack Wood also find themselves within striking distance of the top-ten. Bob Lyon and Scott Sanchez are the final drivers to have made every event this season and sit behind Derek Thorn in 13th.
Cole Moore will take home the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award by simply starting the event. Moore will be one to watch after finishing second in the series’ first visit of the year in May.
The series regulars will see stiff competition from several part-time SRL drivers and a few new faces. Southwest Tour winner Dan Holtz will make his seventh appearance of the season. Other Super Late Model Touring Series winners entered include two-time PCS Champion Mike Beeler, Northwest Tour Champion John Dillon, PCS winner Matt Wendt, PCS and Nor-Cal Best in the West winner Randy Hedrick, Rocky Mountain Challenge Series winner Thane Alderman and former SRL winner Bear Rzesnowiecky, who will make his first SRL start since 2011. Bullring Super Late Model winners include Tyler Fabozzi and Chris Clyne.
These winners and champions will be joined by several other racing stars and future stars. Cameron Hayley, a former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor and Summer Showdown winner at Evergreen Speedway (WA), will make his return to racing in a Jefferson-Pitts Racing entry. 2002 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion Eric Norris will return as a teammate to Craig Raudman in a Dave Reed Racing Ford. Austin Herzog, a former Madera Speedway (CA) Jr. Late Model Champion and the latest Late Model winner at Orange Show Speedway will make his second SRL start in a row in his Herzog Motorsports car. Herzog finished sixth in the October Classic at Kern County Raceway (CA), just three weeks ago.
The final event of the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series season will feature a full field of Super Late Models, with 32 currently entered at the 3/8-mile Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The SRL will be joined by the Lucas Oil Modifieds (Spears Manufacturing Modified Series presented by Lucas Oil), USAC HPD Midgets and Jr. Late Models.
Spectator Gates open at 2:00 p.m., with qualifying, “B” features and heat races for the USAC HPD Midgets to follow. Opening Ceremonies are slated for 4 p.m., with Main Events to follow for the Lucas Oil Modifieds (split 40 lap features), Jr. Late Models, USAC HPD Midgets and the Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse San Dimas.
-Story by Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Southwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com