Opener: The series’ opening event will take place at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 9.
Entries: 23 cars are pre-entered in the “Blackjack 121” including six Rookie-of-the-Year contenders. Four states are represented as well as four local area based teams and drivers. Three former Rookie-of-the-Year competitors are entered; Jacob Gomes, Jeremy Doss and Parker Stephens
Bullring Winners: Derek Thorn is the all-time SPEARS Southwest Tour Series winningest driver at The Bullring, Other drivers competing this weekend, who have also won big at Vegas, include; Jacob Gomes, Jeremy Doss and Ryan Cansdale.
Another Rookie-of-the-Year: Las Vegas’ Noah Gragson will make his second career SPEARS Southwest Tour Series start this weekend. The 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship runner-up and Rookie-of-the-Year will be driving his familiar day-glow yellow No. 8, prepared by Dustin Ash Racing. His first start resulted in an eighth-place finish in 2014.
Top Showdown Drivers: Parker Stephens, Jeremy Doss and Noah Gragson were the top placing drivers from the February 28 Winter Showdown, who are entered for this weekend’s event. Stephens finished second to Winter Showdown winner, Bubba Pollard. Doss was third and Gragson finished fifth in the 250-lap event at Kern County Raceway Park.
Returning & First Time Drivers: Drivers who have sat out for various amounts of time are now returning to the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series in 2016. These drivers include; Mike Mendenhall, Toni McCray, Andre Prescott, Eric Richardson, Donnie St. Ours, plus some newcomers to the series Chris Clyne and Trevor Huddleston.
NTS Motorsports: In 2015, all three NTS Motorsports drivers finished in the top six in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series championship standings. For 2016, Blaine Rocha and Parker Stephens return to the team full-time, along with Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Christian McGhee. Greg Voigt will be in a fourth entry at select events as he and his wife welcomed a new baby into their family.
Race for Autism: Carlos Vieira (60 career series starts) and Derek Thorn (56 career series starts) will both be driving for two-time series championship team, Campbell Motorsports in 2016. The two-driver team is based out of the Campbell Motorsports shop in Bakersfield, California and will represent Race for Autism through the Carlos Vieira Foundation and the 51 Fifty Energy Drink brand.
Schedule: The 2016 schedule will consist of nine point events as well as the Non-Point Winter Showdown held in February.
Tracks: Six tracks will make up the schedule for the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series. They consist of; The Bullring at LVMS (2 events), Irwindale Speedway (2 events), Kern County Raceway (2 events), Madera Speedway, Redwood Acres Raceway and first time series host Tucson Speedway.
Rookies: Rookies eligible to compete for the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie-of-the-Year Title; Christian McGhee, Trevor Huddleston, Andre Prescott, Matthew Meech, Austin Reed, Brian Richardson, Buddy Shepherd and Toni McCray.
Guarantied Winner’s Share: $5,000 will be the minimum winner’s payout for each event on the schedule for 2016, up from $3,000 last season.
Season Finale: The season finale at The Bullring at LVMS will pay $10,000 minimum to the winner, complements of Retro Custom Metals.
Frequent Flyer: Spears Manufacturing will supplement the purse, to guarantee $1,000 to start, for any team participating in three consecutive events. The second consecutive event guarantees a minimum of $600 to start. Last season it took four starts to reach the minimum $1,000 payout.
Speed 51.com MPD: New in 2016, Speed 51.com powered by JEGS will conduct a fan vote later in the summer to determine the most popular driver for Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series 2016 season.
Rule Changes: In 2016, new rules have been instituted by the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. The Vegas opener will be the first opportunity to see how the different combinations match up on-track. All cars now have a 66-inch wheel track, the traditional perimeter cars are 58% left side weight, at 2870lbs. Straight frame will cars will be at 57% left side weight, at 2,900lbs. Engines competing now are the traditional 9.5 to 1 ‘Tour’ engines vs. the S.E.A.L. engines of Hamner, McGunegill and Progressive.
Next Event: Saturday, April 30 at Irwindale Speedway
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Roger Seymour