No fans. No promotion. No advance notice.
Without any prior promotion or marketing, 22 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Super Late Models and 15 SPEARS Modified Series teams competed at Kern County Raceway (CA) Saturday in an event broadcast via pay-per-view in front of closed grandstands.
Four-time SRL champion Derek Thorn took the checkered flag in the 130-lap Super Late Model feature, while 2019 Kulwicki Driver Development Program champion Jeremy Doss was victorious in the Modified feature.
For both Thorn and Doss, it was a relief to be back behind the wheel, even though the pair of drivers both hope to be able to race in front of fans soon.
“From our perspective, it’s a lot of our livelihoods,” Thorn said. “It was important to have that sense of normalcy. It was unfortunate the fans couldn’t be there, because they are a big part of our sport.
“It’s unfortunate we had to do it without them, but for us, to put food on the table, go racing, represent our sponsors and do what we enjoy, we did that and hopefully we can continue to do that as long as everyone stays safe and healthy.”
“It felt good to be back behind the wheel of a race car,” Doss stated. “It felt different without any fans there, but it felt good, for sure.
“It was cool to be back at the race track, provided the circumstances. It went pretty smooth. It was cool they were able to live stream it, so people could watch it.”
For Thorn, it was almost a picture-perfect day at his home track in Bakersfield, California, leading every lap of the 130-lap main event.
“The car was pretty good from when we rolled off the trailer. I think we were fastest in both practices and qualifying. With the redraw for the race, we started outside of the second row but led all 130 laps.”
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thorn won the SRL season opener, the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway. He was thrilled to carry the momentum from that win through the hiatus into Saturday’s race.
“It was fun to be back behind the wheel of a race car. That becomes a part of your lifestyle and who you are. To not be in the seat makes you feel like you’re missing something. To finally get behind the wheel, and to have such a good car on top of that and pick up where we left off with the Showdown win was really good.”
Doss had to work a little harder for his win in the Modified, but nonetheless came away with a checkered flag.
“I ended up getting third after qualifying, that’s where the invert put us. Then we ran second for about 10 or 15 laps before a caution came out. On the restart, I was able to take the lead on the outside and it was smooth sailing from there.”
The next race for the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series is scheduled for Saturday, June 6 at Stockton 99 Speedway.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo