Bakersfield, CA – Jim Pettit II picked up his first SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series win of 2011, Saturday night at Stockton 99 Speedway.  Pettit, the winningest driver in SRL history, took over the lead on lap 107 and held off a late race challenge by Keith Spangler to win the “Jackson Rancheria 135”.


“We didn’t have the fastest car tonight, but that’s not always the case to get the win,” stated Pettit from the Stockton 99 winner’s circle.  “It’s an emotional win for us tonight, as it’s the first win since my Mom’s passing, so this will be a win we will cherish forever. We struggled all weekend but we weren’t as fast as we wanted to be. We didn’t have the best racecar, but we won the race, for which I am very thankful. But we won it because of certain situations that occurred on the track.”


“For the first time in my racing career, the officials used pink spray paint to mark the tires during qualifying tech and why they did, I’ll never know.  I said, ‘wow’, is it a sign from my Mom?  Pink was her favorite color, like maybe she was rootin’ for us and we were going to have a great night tonight.” Pettit concluded.


Early in the afternoon, Derek Thorn set the fastest qualifying time for the fourth race in a row.  Thorn then drew a seven for the invert, which moved Brennan Newberry to the pole for the start of the 135-lap event, with M.K. Kanke on his outside.


At the drop of the green, Newberry edged Kanke for the lead entering turn 3, with Joe Farre’, Michael Sandoval and Eric Holmes close behind.  An incident involving Idaho’s John Wood brought out the first caution of the night before the completion of the first lap.


On the restart, Holmes was on the move, moving up to third by lap 10.  The top five of Newberry, Kanke, Holmes, Farre’ and Sandoval remained unchanged until lap 25, when Kanke made an inside move on Newberry into turn 3, and squeezed into the lead as the two leaders exited turn 4.


Five laps later, Holmes moved into second and Thorn made his way into the top five.


The second caution of the race came out on lap 39, when Scott Sanchez cut a tire resulting in a hard hit into the turn 3 wall.   The top ten running order was, Kanke, Holmes, Newberry, Farre’, Thorn, Ross Strmiska, Pettit, point leader Jacob Gomes, Carlos Vieira, and Dave Byrd.


Off the restart, Farre’ got shuffled to the outside and slide back to 8th.  On lap 52, Thorn and Newberry made contact racing side-by-side in turn 4 battling for third, ending with Thorn spinning in turn 1, resulting in both drivers restarting at the rear of the field.


Strmiska was now up to 3rd, Pettit 4th, Farre’ back up to 5th, Keith Spangler was into 8th.


Lap 78, the complexion upfront changed dramatically as the leader Kanke and Tim Smith came together on the front straight resulting in Kanke stopped sideways just past the start/finish line with damage to the right side of the car.  Kanke would restart in 8th position.  On the lap 82 restart, Holmes was on the point, followed by Strmiska, Pettit, Farre’, Byrd, Thorn, Spangler, then Kanke, Sandoval, and Vieira in 10th.  Lap 85, teammates Farre’ and Thorn made contact to bring out the caution, both would restart at the rear of the field. 


On the lap 89 restart, Colby Potts making his SRL debut suffered a blown engine resulting in oil on the track.  Holmes slipped up and Strmiska moved to the lead before the caution was displayed.  The track went red while the Stockton 99 Safety Team worked on the oil clean up.


The lap 91 restart saw Strmiska leading Holmes, Pettit 3rd, Spangler 4th, and Byrd rounding out the top 5.  On lap 104, the race changed in a big way once again as the leaders approached Gomes who was off the pace after suffering heavy front-end damage earlier in the race.  As Strmiska charged through the middle of turns 1 and 2, he slowed to avoid Gomes, which resulted in Holmes getting into the rear of Strmiska, resulting in Strmiska spinning.  Holmes was relegated to restart from the rear of the field due to the automatic penalty to for spinning the leader.


The stage was set for three of the series veterans to battle for the win, Pettit was now leading looking for his first win of the year, Spangler in second who has shown great patience all year was now in position to possibly win his first career SRL event and Kanke was third, hoping to move back into the championship lead as Gomes was down in the running order.


The three veterans raced nose-to-tail, with Spangler better than Pettit, through the middle of turns 1 and 2, but Pettit would get a better drive off the corner.  On lap 121, Thorn joined the race for the lead as he closed in on Kanke’s bumper. 


With less than 10 lap to go, Spangler made an inside move on Pettit in turn 2, but the caution was thrown for the tenth time.  The top 5 for the restart was Pettit, Spangler, Kanke, Thorn and Strmiska.


Back to green, Thorn pressured Kanke, and Spangler continued to close in on Pettit.  As Pettit was coming to the white flag, the final caution flag of the night was thrown, to set up a green-white-checkered finish.


The restart was clean, Spangler did all he could to get to Pettit, but the 2008 SRL champ was able to stay just ahead of the black #37 to claim his first race win of the year.


Pettit’s win helped keep his championship hopes alive, and is just 48 points out of first.  Gomes, who entered Stockton as the championship leader is now 41 points back of Kanke for the series lead.  Thorn is fourth in the standings, Strmiska is fifth and Spangler is up to sixth, with three races to go in the series.


The next race for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is Saturday, September 24th at Madera Speedway.



About the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series:
Celebrating its eleventh season in 2011, the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is a regional stock car series competing on paved ovals in the southwestern portion of the U.S.  “The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series…Where the Champions Race”


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