Saturday night’s Spears SRL Southwest Tour and Pro Late Model twin bill at the Stockton 99 Speedway produced a pair of dominating performances from defending series champions Derek Thorn and Jeremy Doss.
Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd and Manteca’s Jacob Gomes led the 16-car field to start the Spears Southwest Tour 125, but an early race yellow-caution on lap 10 allowed Thorn, of Bakersfield, to storm to the front on the restart. Although five more cautions spread throughout the remainder of the race kept things relatively close, Thorn was never seriously challenged after taking the lead as he sailed to his second win of the season.
“My crew did a good job making this thing fast tonight. We were great on the restarts and that helped us.” said Thorn, a five-time series champion who was making his 100th career SRL start on Saturday. “I love this place. I think this my seventh win here so it was really a good night.”
While Thorn was in cruise control out front, behind him Shepherd, Gomes and Oakdale’s Blaine Rocha battled it out right to the end. Rocha was able to snag second place on lap 25 while Gomes and Shepherd traded third and fourth a couple of times before Shepherd finally secured the final spot on the podium for good with only12 laps to go.
“We were able to keep our nose clean and worked our way to the front, but I kind of used up my stuff to do it.,” explained Rocha “It was a nice race for us and we gave it all we had. It gives us something to build on when we come back here this summer.”
It was a similar story in the 75-lap Spears SRL Pro Late Model feature where Doss, age 24 of Upper Lake, took over the race lead from 15-year-old Tanner Reif, of Henderson Nevada, following a controversial lap 25 caution restart.
Although the leader is in charge of setting the pace on a restart, Doss left Reif in the dust before the starting line when the green flag came back out. Surprisingly, the flagman let the start stand instead of throwing the yellow and reforming the field for a second try.
“Our car was perfect tonight. Doss jumped us on that restart and they chose not to do it over for some reason,” said a frustrated Reif. “If they had made the right call, I think I had a good chance to win.”
Reif stayed on Doss’ tail for the rest of the race, but was never able to make a serious attempt to get by him and was forced to settle for a frustrating second place finish. Escalon’s Sam Solari, Tanner’s 13-year-old brother Tyler and Napa’s Dylan Zampa rounded out the top five.
“We worked really hard to get this car ready and it paid off,” said Doss, who was also victorious in the 99 Speedway season opening “Asparagus 125” for the Spears SRL Late Model Series on March 13. “We were able to get to the front and just kinda cruise. Everything just worked out tonight.”
With 23 cars in the field, the opening stages of the 40-lap Legends of the Pacific race looked and sounded like a swarm of angry hornets as everyone jockeyed for position. Doing double duty, Doss emerged with the early lead and then hung on for dear life ahead of several other drivers in hot pursuit.
Doss was still clinging to his narrow lead over Manteca’s Ethan Nascimento late in the race when he suffered a mechanical failure and slowed dramatically on the back straight. Nascimento was able to hit his brakes and avoid plowing into Doss, but Tracy’s Brendan Ruzbansky, who was sitting in third place, seized on the opportunity by diving under both to take over the lead and roll on to the victory.
“It was unfortunate for Doss, but I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Ruzbansky with a smile.
Joe Flowers, of Manteca, suffered a similar fate as Doss in the B-4 main. Flowers, who has dominated the division the last two years by posting 11 wins in the last 12 B-4 events, blew his engine in the early going of the 25-lap feature as he attempted to chase down Stockton’s Andrew Rumsey for the lead.
Rumsey would later get stuck behind some slower traffic which allowed Barrett Sugden and Dave Keller, both of Stockton, to get past him and claim the top two spots.
Next up at the 99 Speedway is the 2021 Asparagus Festival on May 13-16, featuring crafts, exhibits, live music and plenty of local asparagus served up in every conceivable way possible. Racing will return on May 29 with the Gun Slinger Winged Sprint Cars, NCMA Sprints Cars, BCRA Midgets, Vintage BCRA Midgets. Radical Focus Midgets and Pro-4 Modifieds.