David Mayhew and Ryan Cansdale each won 75 lap features for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series at Kern County Raceway Park (CA) last Saturday night, but it was Derek Thorn who came home with the overall victory. In a race that had a unique twin 75 lap feature format for the series, Mayhew was able to power to the victory in the first segment of the event holding off Thorn, the 2012 and 2014 champion. In segment two, Cansdale fended off numerous challenges from Christian McGhee to score the victory. Thorn was able to tabulate the best average finish, however, and was awarded the race win and the $5,000 in the Bulwark FR – Westex by Millikan 150 presented by 51 Fifty Energy Drink.
The day began with Thorn setting fast time for the 36th time in his career with a 17.481 at the high speed, half mile tri-oval. Twenty-two cars made an appearance with 21 taking time, as all cars where within one second of Thorn’s mark in the highly competitive field. The unique format saw each driver in the top seven redraw for position with Blaine Rocha drawing the pole followed by Mayhew, McGhee, Parker Stephens, Carlos Vieira, Thorn, Cansdale and 2015 champion Jacob Gomes who just missed the draw.
Mayhew got the early jump from the preferred outside groove and led the entire 75 lap distance in segment one. Thorn was able to make his way to second by lap 28, but was never able to make the pass for the lead despite several restarts in the inside groove.
“We got a good invert there and got on the front row. I knew we had a good driving car from practice today and the (Winter) Showdown, so once we got out front we just kind of protected the lead,” Mayhew told Speed 51.com powered by JEGS. “I knew Derek would be coming and a couple of those other guys. Once he got there I felt we had a good car, but you never know what you’ve got until you get side by side. He kind of showed his hand on a couple of those restarts, but we were able to hold him off. I think he was taking it easy at the end of the segment thinking all he had to do was finish second and he would still have a shot at the win in the second segment.”
The teams were given 15 minutes to work on the cars and make adjustments, but where not allowed to change tires or parts on the cars without penalty.
Mayhew would pull a six for the invert for segment two, putting Rocha on the pole with Cansdale along-side in that desired outside groove. McGhee, Stephens, Thorn and Mayhew would follow with the remainder of the top-10 made up of Carlos Vieira, Dan Holtz, Buddy Shepherd and Craig Raudman. Once again the outside groove would pay off with Cansdale jumping to the lead over Rocha with McGhee in close persuit. McGhee would grab second on lap 6 and Mayhew and Thorn advanced to third and fourth by lap eight where they would engage in a race long side by side, back and forth battle for what would turn out to be the overall victory.
Cansdale would lead the event wire-to -wire despite several restarts that saw McGhee challenge him over multiple laps, but the Thorn and Mayhew battle and the furious battling for fifth kept the crowd on their feet. Mayhew would eventually fall short in the battle as Thorn was better in the long run taking the spot for the final time on lap 70, the same lap that first-time rookie candidate Buddy Shepherd would secure fifth.
After the event Cansdale was really happy with the changes made to the car.
“During the first race we didn’t do that good, as we finished fifth,” said Cansdale. “We had a little incident with Carlos (Vieira) that knocked the toe out so Jeff Schrader and the guys fixed it and made some small adjustments. After that the car was great and really hooked-up. We got inverted to start second so we just pulled ahead and were able to stay there. Christian and I were pretty equal, but I had the superior line on the outside so I wasn’t too worried about holding him down. Jeff and Tim (Huddleston), from High Point Racing, did a great job of rebuilding this car and it’s faster than it’s ever been. I can’t thank them enough.”
Bringing home the overall win for the weekend was the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series all-time series win leader, Derek Thorn with 26. Thorn’s first thoughts, however, focused on Kern County Raceway co-owner Charlie Beard who lost his battle with an illness shortly before race time.
“I think first and foremost I want to express my condolences to the Beard family,” said Thorn in victory lane. “I want to dedicate this win to him and his family as he was a big, big part of putting this facility together. I have a heavy heart and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
As for the racing, Thorn had to work really hard to get the win.
“The battle with Mayhew, it doesn’t get much closer than that. He was really good on restarts, then after five laps I could get to his bumper and by 10 laps I could get under him. It seemed like every time I would get by him and the caution would come out and I would have to do it again. There was a fine line for me as I was peddling it a little bit and I could tell he was on edge as well. I don’t think I had anything for the 57 (Ryan Cansdale), but I think the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series is the toughest… in the five or six years I’ve been running it, this is the toughest competition I’ve ever raced against and it’s neat to see the strength of the series. To run against these guys is no small task.”
David Mayhew finished second overall and was a little disappointed but had a good time nonetheless.
“It was an awesome race. The two guys out front kind of took us by surprise, but the car was really good on the short run, the thing just got super free on exit and I couldn’t get the power down. It was just awesome racing with Derek. We ran 30 or 40 of those laps side by side and never touched each other once. Racing someone you can trust makes it fun without leaning on each other and giving each other room. At the end he had a little bit better car and was able to get by us, but overall it was a fun race and the format was cool.”
Finishing second in the final segment and fourth overall was SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie-of-the-Year leader Christian McGhee.
“We had a good battle with Ryan, but I just didn’t have enough getting into the corner. We were fast and I think we were just as good as he was, but we just couldn’t get in as good as he could. We will work on that and when we come back, I promise we will be better getting into and through the center. All and all it was a great night. We came, we didn’t conquer fully, but we are building momentum, especially going back to Irwindale.”
The next event for the SPEARS SRL Southwest tour Series will be at The Irwindale Event Center on June 18 and will feature the SPEARS Southwest Tour, Monster Trucks, Race for Autism Celebrity Race and much more.
Results (Finish Segment 1, Finish Segment 2): 1. Derek Thorn (2, 3), 2. David Mayhew (1, 4) 3. Ryan Cansdale (5, 1), 4. Christian McGhee (4, 2), 5. Blaine Rocha (6, 6), 6. Parker Stephens (3, 9), 7. Buddy Shepherd (9, 5), 8. Carlos Vieira (7, 7), 9. Jacob Gomes (13, 8), 10. Craig Raudman (10, 11), 11. Donny St, Ours (11, 12), 12. Bobby Hodges (15, 10), 13. Dan Holtz (8, 17), 14. John Nesmith (16, 13), 15. Brandon White (14, 16), 16. Keith Spangler (12, 18), 17. Jim Wulfenstien (17, 14), 18. Andre Prescott (19, 15), 19. Lance Wilson (18, 19). 20. Dennis Furden (20, 20), 21. Johnny White (21, 21).
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com