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Super late models race three-wide at Irwindale Speedway. (Steve Himelstein photo)

KENNEDY: Irwindale Tripleheader

LOS ANGELES — The regional touring SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series brought three divisions to Irwindale Speedway on Sept. 17 for the third of four stops at the track this year. 

Three main events, totaling 220 laps, were run on the progressively-banked half-mile. Pits contained 28 super late models, 19 pro late models and 18 modifieds. 

More than 5,000 spectators watched three exciting features with three and four-wide racing.

SPEARS Racing.TV streamed the race live. 

As usual, SRL races attract many competitors from out of the area. This event had drivers from eight states — Arizona (two), Colorado (two), Idaho (one), Nevada (eight), Oregon (one) Utah (one) and Washington (one). California drivers from northern, central and southern regions of the state comprised the balance of the field. 

Super late model and late model chassis builders included: VanDoorn, Fury, Rowdy, Hamke, Port City, Senneker and Victory Circle. Bodies in the field were Chevrolet SS and Camaro, Ford Fusion and Mustang, Toyota Camry  and a Dodge. Modified chassis builders included RCF, STR, Pathfinder, Lefthander, plus home-built creations. 

Pro late models ran 60 laps and the winner received $2,500. Modifieds then raced 60 laps and the winner received $2,000. Super late models raced 100 laps with $30,425 on the line and the winner received $6,500. 

Shepherd Scores In Super Late Models

Buddy Shepherd, 22, started fifth in his family-owned No. 22s VanDoorn-built Chevy and led all but the first two laps. The Bakersfield driver did not compete at one of six events this year and is not chasing points. He won his first race at Irwindale and second career victory in the series. 

Dan Holtz started seventh in his own Fury and was sixth at lap 20. He raced into second on lap 28 as positions changed frequently during three and four-wide racing. 

The rapid field did not have a car lapped until lap 37. Fastest qualifier/point leader Jacob Gomes, 29, started on pole after the eight fastest qualifiers drew pills to set starting positions. He passed Holtz for second on lap 47, but Holtz retook second on lap 63. 

Shepherd won the 41-minute race over Holtz by 1.515 seconds, with Gomes 1.779 back. Hard charger Austin Herzog, 19, came from 14th to fourth and trailed the winner by 4.5 seconds. Jace Hansen, from Colorado, started third, led the first two laps and placed fifth. Shepherd, the fourth winner in six 2022 races, ran the fastest lap of 100.379 mph.

During post-race tech inspection Holtz’s car was disqualified for having too much left-side weight. He placed last (26th) and received no money or points. 

Joanides Tops Pro Late Models

Fast-qualifier Bradley Erickson, 16, from Phoenix, drew fourth position but dropped out before the start. The exciting race had three leaders and seven lead changes. Dylan Zampa, 18, led laps 1, 4-49, 55 and 59. Dean Thompson, Irwindale 2020-21 NASCAR late model track champion, flew in from Charlotte, N.C., after racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and led laps 2-3, 50-54 and 56-58. 

On the final lap, Thompson, 22, hit the back of Zampa’s leading car, which spun low. Thompson continued and, in a three-car pack at turn four, was passed on the outside by Nick Joanides, 52. The elated winner called the race the most memorable of the 58 features the three-time Irwindale champion has won at the track.

After tech inspection, officials dropped runner-up Thompson to 14th, one position behind Zampa, who also finished all 60 laps.

Joanides drove a two-race old Tony Jackson-built car. He thanked car owner Joe Nava and team sponsor Jan Quakenbush (Jan’s Towing). 

Thirkettle Triumphs In Modifieds

Travis Thirkettle, 44, started second and led the final 57 laps of the 60-lap modified main in his own 2015-built RCF chassis. It was his fourth victory in a row and fifth in seven events this season. He has won all three races at Irwindale. 

Thirkettle, Irwindale’s 2006 NASCAR late model champion, scored his 39th Irwindale triumph. 

Fast-qualifier Andrew Anderson, 30, led the first two laps in his 2021-built RCF mount. William Guevara led lap three. Anderson pressed Thirkettle all the way and drew even with the leader at one point, but he trailed by .222 seconds at the finish. 

Jaron Giannini, 17, from Las Vegas, placed third, 1.332 off the lead. Guevara and 17th starter/hard charger Jimmy Sloan completed the top five. 

Colorado resident Holly Clark, 16, drove 20 hours with her family to race at Irwindale. She started 11th and finished sixth. Fifteen of 18 starters finished with nine on the lead lap. 

The fourth and final SRL tripleheader at Irwindale is scheduled for Nov. 12.

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