(February 8, 2021 by Kevin Peters) – Preston Peltier added to his impressive credentials Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway, when he took home a victory in a record field of 44 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Super Late Models. Peltier came home victorious in the “Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown 200 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame”, securing a record SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series payout of $30,000, for a curfew shortened 177 lap victory. It was the second time in three events that the series record for attendees was broken. Photo by Sal Sigala, Jr.

Peltier led a vast majority of the race, but it was not an easy victory for the former PASS South and PASS National Super Late Model Series Champion. Peltier took the early lead from Jacob Gomes on lap 3, lost it to Derek Thorn on lap 25, and retook it for good on lap 57 in a five-way battle that included Thorn, Jace Hansen, Buddy Shepherd and Jacob Gomes. Peltier went from fifth to first in the span of seven laps. The move earned him the Fluidyne High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”.

“Our stagger kind of blew up on us, early. The good thing about this place is there is about four different lines you can run, so I went to the bottom with the tighter corner, just to balance out my car and it balanced out nice. We were able to make gains on the bottom and get back to the front and just hold them off from there.”

Casey Roderick made the long trip from Georgia to participate in his first SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series event. In qualifying he set a New Track Record, crossing the line with a 17.035 lap, beating Dylan Lupton’s two-year-old record of 17.055 seconds. In doing so, he scored his first “PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award”. The event featured a straight-up start, which put Roderick on the pole, flanked by second quick Jacob Gomes. SRL Rookie-of-the-Year contender Kole Raz was third quick, followed by Dylan Lupton, Derek Thorn and Peltier. Lupton was later sent to the rear for an unapproved adjustment, to move Peltier into the fourth starting position.

The event got underway with Gomes securing the lead, from the outside lane over Roderick. Peltier, who qualified sixth, took advantage of Lupton’s relegation to the rear for the start, by driving under Gomes on lap 3, bringing Roderick with him. Roderick would pursue Peltier though the early stages of the event as Thorn and Colorado’s Jace Hansen battled their way through the field. Thorn was able to move past Dan Holtz, and close on the lead trio as they battled side by side. Hansen followed Thorn several laps latter as the top-five began to break away. Thorn made his move past Roderick on the outside as Hansen made it three-wide moving to third. Thorn and Hansen then went after Peltier, with Thorn taking the lap-25 lead on the outside, with Hansen on the bottom in a three-wide duel. Roderick would join the battle and push past Hansen and Peltier, with Hansen also getting by Peltier. Peltier would drop back to fifth, as Buddy Shepherd made his presence known as well.

The quartet of Roderick, Hansen, Shepherd and Peltier would reel in Thorn with Roderick on his bumper by lap 43. Peltier began making his way back to the front getting by Shepherd on the bottom on lap 50 and inching his way forward on the bottom. By lap 57, Peltier cleared Thorn with Roderick, Hansen and Shepherd also getting by. Gomes dropped Thorn out of the top-five on lap-65.

The only non-scheduled yellow came out on lap-71 when Haeden Plybon slowed with a flat tire. The restart found Peltier jumping out to the lead with a quintet of driver battling behind him, which now included Cole Raz. Hansen would work his way up to second before the scheduled break on lap-99. The order found Peltier leading Hansen, Roderick, Shepherd, Gomes and Jonathan Mawhinney.

The second half of the event was slightly less chaotic in the top-five, but not behind them. After the break, Peltier was able to establish a very short lead, with Hansen fighting off Shepherd in the outer line. Roderick was able to move back to third after a dozen laps. He chased Hansen until getting by him on the inside, just after Hansen and Peltier made contact battling side-by-side for the lead. Roderick challenged Peltier multiple times over the next 50 laps, but was never able to clear him. On lap 177 race officials were forced to call the race after curfew issues, giving Peltier the win with two-time Southern Super Series Champion Casey Roderick second, 2019 SRL Rookie Jace Hansen third, SRL Rookie-of-the-Race Shepherd fourth and 2015 SRL Champ Gomes fifth. Ironically, it was a bad night for the three other SRL Champions as Thorn and Jeremy Doss retired early, and Cole Moore opted not to qualify with an ill handling race car.

The win for Peltier was special for the now Las Vegas based driver, on several fronts. It was a big confidence booster for the three-time Summer Showdown victor, as well as proof that his association with Sigma Performance Services was bearing fruit and heading in the right direction.

“Every race is special in its own way, but this one really means a lot for a couple of reasons. I have had some doubts in myself, and you know as drivers we go through that cycle of being one of the greatest to being, “can I really do this?”. It takes something like this to really pull yourself up out of the gutter and realize we can still get it done. The other thing that is really important is that we built this chassis, and it is the culmination of all my racing experience in one car. So, it is really special.”

Roderick was happy to come to the West Coast and finish a $12,000 second, but wished he would have had the chance to take the win, after the race was called early.

“It’s a shame we got cut short here at the end of the race”, Roderick voiced. “Preston was really good here, he was really strong”, Roderick told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “I was able to find some grip and make some runs. I actually got to the outside of him one time, but he shut the door on me off of (turn) four and it killed my momentum. It took me about five more laps for me to gain it back. All in all, the car was really good off the truck, and I couldn’t be happier to come out here. It’s not exactly what we wanted, as we came out here to win, but we came home second, and it’s still a good payday. We’ll just have to try harder next time.”

Jace Hansen continued his strong return to the series, in his new Rowdy Manufacturing Super Late Model. Hansen finished second at the October Classic at Kern County Raceway (CA), and then led multiple practice sessions at the Bullring at LVMS (NV), before exiting the “Retro Custom Metals 137” early, due to an accident. The strong run gives Hansen a hunger for his first win in the series as the season gets underway, as he too felt the curfew upset their plans. A stronger qualifying effort may have helped as well.

“I had to come from far back and I used it up a little too much in the first half”, Hansen recalled. “I over assumed how the car was, so we made some changes at the break, that we probably shouldn’t have done. But we are happy, and I can’t complain about third place, especially at a show like this, with the competition being so tough. It’s one of those deals when you start to run up front like this, it’s easy to get upset when you know you could have something a little better than where you finished.

Hansen continued, “I don’t know if we had anything for Preston, but I know me and Casey were really close. They kinda took off in the beginning (of the second segment) and I was just kinda hanging out back there hoping that they would fall off a little bit, and we could start picking them up in the end. The race got shortened, so that threw that out the window.”

With the large car-count a 25-lap Last Chance Qualifying race was held to determine the final four starters in the feature. Former ASA National Series standout Mike Garvey came home with the victory with 2015 Pacific Challenge Series Champion John Moore second. Former Irwindale Speedway Super Late Model winner Andy Allen was third followed by 2021 Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate Kyle Keller, who was the last driver to transfer to the feature event.

The next event for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is at Kern County Raceway on March 20th.

Feature Results:
1. Preston Peltier, 2. Casey Roderick, 3. Jace Hansen, 4. Buddy Shepherd*, 5. Jacob Gomes, 7. Kole Raz*, 8. Cale Kanke, 9. Jonathan Mawhinney*, 10. Chris Davidson, 11. Corey Neveau*, 12. Jeff Bischofberger, 13. Christian McGhee, 14. Jimmy Parker Jr., 15. John Moore, 16. Carlos Vieira, 17. Dean Thompson, 18. Kyle Keller*, 19. Scott Sanchez, 20. Kyle Neveau, 21. Brandon Farrington*, 22. Tracy Bolin, 23. Andy Allen, 24. Haeden Plybon*, 25. Dylan Garner*, 26. Derek Thorn, 27. Dylan Lupton, 28. Blaine Rocha, 29. Mike Garvey, 30. Tyler Fabozzi, 31. Bobby Hodges, 32. Colby Potts, 33. Jeremy Doss, 34. Tayler Riddle, 35. Dan Holtz, 36. Logan Bearden

Last Chance Qualifier Results:
1. Mike Garvey, 2. John Moore, 3. Andy Allen, 4. Kyler Keller*, 5. Keith Spangler, 6. Doni Wanat, 7. Bryce Bezanson*, DNS. Owen Riddle, DNQ. Cole Moore, DNQ. Bob Lyon, DNQ., Cole Williams, DNQ. Jim Vermillion
*Registered Rookie of the Year Candidate

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