2002 SERIES CHAMPION – JEFF ANTHONYadmin
As we continue to celebrate the Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series 20th season, and the champions that help mold the series into what it is today, we now arrive at our second champion. In 2002 the late Jeff Anthony took home the championship by winning three events, all at his home track, Altamont Motorsports Park. He totaled those three wins, seven top-fives and 10 top-10’s in those 11 events.
By 2002, the series had expanded from racing at the original two venues, Altamont Motorsports Park and Madera Speedway, to a third facility, The New Stockton 99 Speedway. Anthony was a master at Altamont, but was learning the shorter tracks like Madera and Stockton. In 2001, Jeff got his first series victory at Madera Speedway, in round number five. He set Fast Time and a new Track Record in the series very first race, when the SRL visited his home track in Tracy, CA. But he uncharacteristically struggled to finish events at Altamont, that first season.
But in 2002, it all came together for the Livermore, CA driver. The winner of three consecutive NASCAR Whelen All American Series Track Championships at Altamont Motorsports Park, put his name in the record books as the SRL’s second champion. He would go on to finish third in 2003 and fourth in 2004. He missed two events in 2005, but finished 10th, the only driver in the top-10 to not compete in all 12 events. It was that ill-fated off-season, that Anthony lost his life in an ATV accident in Glamis, CA.
He is still missed to this day, as the ‘King of Altamont Raceway Park” was the Ironman of the series at that time. He competed in 53 events, while scoring a then series record nine victories. In his career he also recorded 25 top-five’s and 39 top-10’s. His five Fast Times still rank him fifth in series history, tied with Jacob Gomes, Jim Pettit II and Rick Ruzbarsky.
Anthony was a very popular driver in the series, and in Central California racing. His exploits and career were remembered by the former owner and director of the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series.
“I remember that Jeff Anthony competed in the very first, then “Wild West Late Model Shootout” at Altamont Raceway on March 17, 2001”, Fensler recalled. “Jeff set Fast Time at an 18.110, a record that would stand until the 2005 season.”
Fensler continued, “Jeff was a unique competitor. His equipment, car, crew, and attitude were always ready to compete at the highest level. Jeff had a great crew, his Pop being the leader, which was easy to understand once you met Jeff. When he wasn’t in the seat, he was always a pleasure to be around with his humor. He knew that racing was for fun, but up front was where he always wanted to be competing, and usually did. On the few occasions when the night did not go the way he wanted, you still got the same Jeff and crew, smiling and having a good time.”
Fensler was thankful for having a talented competitor like Anthony in the series, as his participation led to some of the growth of the series, as Fensler stated.
“Jeff competed each year from 2001, until the end of the 2005 season. In 2002 he earned the Points Championship. Jeff attracted a number of new competitors to the series, which was due to his attitude and desire to be the best he could be. Everyone enjoyed being around Jeff and the crew, and either wanted to compete against him, or just be a part.”
“It was a sad November night when Jeff was taken away from us, but he will never be forgotten”, Fensler concluded.
It has been drivers like Jeff Anthony that has led to the growth and success of the series. It is for drivers like Jeff, that the SRL has been blessed, and we are extremely grateful to have been a part of his racing career.
Next up is a champion whose family name has been synonymous with racing, and winning in the Central Valley for six decades. It is a name that has seen success for three generations, with no end in sight.
PC: David Misco A special thanks goes out to Steve Fensler, for his input and recovery of these photos of Jeff, from his days in the SRL.