Derek Thorn set a new track record in qualifying at Madera Speedway on Saturday night, and then lined up sixth on the grid to win the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series “Children’s Hunger Fund 125”. It was Thorn’s second SRL win of 2011.
When inside front row starter Joe Farre’ spun his tires at the drop of the green, it was Eric Holmes who jumped to the lead. Holmes, who competed at Infineon Raceway earlier in the day, made it to Madera Speedway just in time to qualify the Moeller Bros. Chevrolet in fifth position.
The first caution of the race came at the end of lap 1, when Farre’ slipped up in turn 3, and the field took evasive action to miss the Sigma Engineering #54, resulting in the second fastest qualifier on the day, Jared Vorse spinning and having to restart at the rear.
On lap 12, Thorn displaced Ross Strmiska for second, the top five was now Holmes, Thorn, Strmiska, Farre’, and last week’s winner Jacob Gomes in the Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats, Inc. Chevrolet. The top five remained unchanged with Holmes, Thorn and Strmiska nose to tail. The field slowed once again on lap 27 for caution due to a turn 4 incident.
On the restart, M.K. Kanke moved his RPM Motor Sports #33 into the top five. Farre’ was sixth, followed by Jim Pettit, Dave Byrd, Zane Lovelace and Justin Westmoreland.
The caution flew once again on lap 43 due to debris from a flat tire on the #11 New Image Pool Interiors Chevrolet of Bryan Herzog. The top ten remained unchanged, but Thorn was working on Holmes for the lead.
On the restart, Thorn drove his Superior Crankshaft #26 hard to the inside of Holmes, but Holmes stayed calm on the outside as the two battled side by side for many laps until Thorn finally cleared Holmes for the lead on lap 55, at the same time Strmiska moved past Gomes for third. Two laps later, Kanke also moved ahead of Gomes into fourth.
At the half-way point of the race, the top ten was Thorn, Holmes, Strmiska, Kanke, Gomes, Pettit who had just moved ahead of Farre’, followed by Lovelace and a fierce three wide battle for position among Byrd, Westmoreland and Vorse, who had made his way back up from his lap 1 incident.
The caution flew for the fourth time on lap 90 to check the track for fluid. Thorn was still on the point, Holmes was second, Strmiska, Kanke and Gomes rounded out the top five, followed by Pettit, Lovelace, Westmoreland, David Ross, and Farre’. John Wood went to pit lane to be checked for fluid and Vorse hit pit lane for a right front flat.
At lap 100, it was go time for Strmiska as he wrestled second place from Holmes and set his sights on the leader. Westmoreland was also on the move, taking over sixth place on lap 103.
Strmiska battled Thorn on the inside for the lead. As the two cars were side-by-side for the lead at the stripe on lap 108, Strmiska’s bid for the his first series win would abruptly end as Lovelace’s #46 PDQ Automatic Transmission Parts Chevrolet spun high in turn one, and Scott Sanchez spun low in the middle of turns 1 and 2, resulting in Strmiska hitting Sanchez square in the driver’s side door. Both drivers continued, Strmiska suffered front-end damage, as the hood of the #90 Mid Valley Iron and Metals/Mainline Equipment Chevrolet was folded back lying on the windshield. Strmiska would pit for repairs and return to the track in 9th position.
With 10 laps to go, the top five were Thorn, Holmes, Kanke, Westmoreland who was looking for a way around Kanke, and Gomes who carried a four-point championship lead entering the race.
As the laps wound down, the leaders were hanging on, trying to maintain their respective positions.
At the checkers, the top ten of Thorn, Holmes, Kanke, Westmoreland, Gomes, Pettit, Strmiska, Ross, Byrd and Farre’ were all on the lead lap.
Thorn picked up his fourth SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series career win, Holmes had finished in the top three twice in one day at two different tracks and Kanke moved backed into the championship lead.
Next race for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is July 23rd, as the series make its first ever appearance at Rocky Mountain Raceway just outside of Salt Lake City, UT for the “Century Boatland 115”.