As part of the SRL Spears Southwest Tour rulebook, the fastest in final practice draws a pill to determine an inversion to set the order in which cars qualify. NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series star Kyle Busch was quickest and drew a one, which meant no inversion.
Busch was the first to make his two-lap timed run. He registered a best time of 17.358 seconds, but it was a duo of drivers with hundreds of laps around the Kern County Raceway Park (CA) that unseated him in qualifying for the fourth annual Winter Showdown rolled on.
Buddy Shepherd, who went undefeated in the local Late Model class at the facility in 2016, captured the pole by blistering the ½-mile in 17.310 seconds, which is a tenth off the track record.
“It definitely means a lot for our race team,” the 18-year-old driver told Speed51.com. “We’re on limited funding for what we can do and what we can’t do to where some of these guys can go racing every weekend.”
Shepherd, with support from Nick Sivesind and the Wilson Motorsports team, as well as another highly-regarded member of the short track community, may have turned a fast lap, but he remains focused on Saturday afternoon’s 300-lap feature with this being an impound race.
“We really focused a lot this afternoon on our long run car,” Shepherd continued. “Butch VanDoorn, the crew chief and car builder behind this operation, has really been working with me. We are really excited now that we’re on the pole and ready to kick that 300-lap race off.”
Entering this year’s running, multi-time SRL champion Derek Thorn had won three consecutive pole positions. This time he came up only a tick short with a brand new Fury Race Car.
“We were pleasantly surprised that we went as fast as we did,” Thorn noted. “We really didn’t our strong suit was qualifying on stickers. It was kind of a bittersweet thing. We were happy to be that high up and being ahead of a field this good, but at the same time only seven thousandths off. I know I had seven thousandths somewhere I could have found.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series regular and teammate this weekend to Shepherd, Daniel Hemric, qualified third, followed by Busch and Colorado racer Dominic Ursetta.
One of the great parts about the west coast major events is that it presents a variety of young guns gaining experience and racers who have spent decades finding success. Near the end of the top 30 locked in during qualifying was another home state competitor who has countless Super Late Model starts across the country. Agua Dulce, California’s Bobby Lyon was one of the final drivers to qualify, but his lap was good enough for 28th fastest, which allowed him to make his first Winter Showdown start.
“I think we have to work on the front geometry a bit, but we picked up some time and we’re in the show,” said Lyon, who mentioned that the last time he ran a 300-lap race was at the former Mesa Marin Raceway. “There are a lot of heavy hitters here with lots of money, lots of talent, and lots of support, so we’re happy to be in the show on time. I think the car was a lot better than it had been, for sure, all weekend.”
Race fans can watch Saturday’s Winter Showdown via a live broadcast on the Speed51 Network. With support from PFC Brakes, monthly and yearly subscribers to the Speed51 Network will be able to watch for FREE. Click here to sign up for your membership today.
On-demand Trackside Now coverage and qualifying results from Friday at Kern County Raceway can be viewed by clicking here.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com