Jim Pettit II has made a career of racing for championships, and when the checkered flag fell on the season ending “Sigma Engineering Solutions 154” at The Bullring Saturday night, Pettit was presented with his 15th championship trophy of his career. In winning the 2011 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series title, Pettit became the first two-time Drivers Champion of the SRL and now owns a total of four Southwest Tour Championships counting his 2004 and 2005 NASCAR Southwest Tour titles.
Pettit lost his mother, Patricia, in December, and he and his family were not sure that they would even compete this season. But a late decision to go to the season opener in Las Vegas turned into a near win, when the Golden Gate Petroleum/Top of the Hill #03 finished a close second to friend and rival M.K. Kanke.
Two weeks later, a top five at Roseville had Pettit and his team in the championship hunt, followed by a third at the May 14th return to The Bullring.
While contending for the win at the fourth event of the season, at Stockton 99, a late race incident relegated Pettit to an 8th place finish. At that point in the season, 2010 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year, Jacob Gomes and his Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats team were off to a great start with two wins and a second place, which had the 18 year old from Manteca in the point lead, and 2009 SRL champ Kanke in second with three top two finishes in the first four races.
At the half-way point of the season after the June 25th Madera event, Kanke had the point lead by four points over Gomes, Pettit in third, with Ross Strmiska, Eric Holmes and Thorn all in championship contention.
When the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series traveled to Rocky Mountain Raceways in Salt Lake City, UT on July 23rd, Gomes, Kanke and Thorn contended for the win, with Gomes picking up his season leading third win of the year and the point lead, Kanke finished second, Thorn third and Pettit finishing fourth.
The return trip to Stockton 99 on August 20th gave Pettit his first win of 2011, Gomes finished a season low 15th, Kanke bounced back from an incident while leading to finish third and took over the championship lead, Strmiska was fifth, and Keith Spangler moved up in the points battle with a career high second place finish.
After a situation that cost Kanke 180 championship points, Pettit found himself in the point lead at the start of the October 15th Roseville event.
A third place finish at Roseville gave Pettit a 40 point lead over Gomes in the championship heading to Saturday’s season finale in Las Vegas. Pettit would need an eighth place finish to secure the title, even if Gomes won. Thorn was the only other driver who had a mathematical shot at the championship, but would need Pettit to finish no better than 20th and Gomes out of the top six.
At the conclusion of Saturday’s “Sigma Engineering Solutions 154”, Thorn had the winner’s trophy for his third victory of 2011, Michael Sandoval was presented with the Victory Circle Rookie-of-the-Year title cup, and Cale Kanke held the SRL Legends Championship banner for the second year in a row. While Pettit and his team celebrated by spraying champagne on the SRL stage as 2010 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Champion, Jonathon Gomez presented the team with the 2011 Championship Trophy.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to do this year, and the team said that they would support my family’s decision this season and if we decided not to race, they as a team would wait until we were ready,” Pettit stated after the race. “We didn’t know if we were going to the season opener in Las Vegas until we got some help, so we decided to go. Once we got through the first race, we as a team set the goal to win the championship for my Mom.”
“One race never wins or loses a championship, it’s every position at every race. Our motto is ‘never give up’ – especially never give up on one another as a team. Everyone put in the extra effort this year – and that extra effort allowed us to run every lap of the season with no mechanical failures. We didn’t always have the best car, but everyone on the team worked hard to keep us in contention.”
“Championships are hard to come by. This by far is the most special as it allowed us to do it in the honor of my Mom.” Pettit emotionally concluded.
The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series will celebrate the season at the 2011 Championship Awards Banquet, Saturday afternoon, January 21st at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA.