2003 SERIES CHAMPION – Ron Strmiska, Jr.admin
The driver who has the distinction of winning the first Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series (formerly SRL Wild West Shootout) race, in the history of the series, is the same driver who scored the 2003 championship. That driver is a second-generation racer, whose son is still active in the Central Valley Late Model wars. That champion is none other than the “Manteca Missile”, Ron Strmiska Jr.
Strmiska, like his father and son, is known for his hard charging driving style, which led him to six SRL victories in only 29 career starts. His 2003 championship accounted for three of those, in his only full-time season. Ron scored six top-five and nine top-10’s in the 10-event season. Two of those wins were at his favorite track, Stockton 99 Speedway.
“Stockton 99 has to be my favorite track, just because I grew up there, and felt most comfortable there”, Strmiska admitted.
Evidence to this statement, is perhaps one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR Southwest Tour Series history. In 2002, Strmiska participated in one of his only three NASCAR Southwest Tour Series career events. In a 37-car field, Strmiska transferred through the “B”-Main to start 22nd in the feature event. He proceeded to drive through the field, taking the lead from Burney Lamar with only three laps remaining. He secured the victory on an evening with perhaps the strongest Southwest Tour Series field in Stockton history, starting from last place.
On the SRL side, Ron’s favorite memory was not necessarily his series championship, but another milestone victory that will never be duplicated, as Strmiska recalled.
“It has been a long time to think back on a favorite memory for that year, but one thing I will never forget is winning the first race, for the start of the SRL series, at Altamont in 2001.”
In 2003 the series continued to visit the three Central Valley tracks that are synonymous with its’ beginnings. The half-mile at Altamont Raceway Park, the high-banked quarter-mile at The New Stockton 99 Speedwayand the multi-groove one-third mile at Madera Speedway were the cornerstone facilities in the early 2000’s. As the series began to expand into Northern and Southern California, and then to other states as far east as Colorado, Strmiska began to reflect upon his championship and what it meant to him with the series growth both geographically and participation-wise.
“It meant a lot at the time (the series championship), but I think it means more now, just because of what the “Tour” has turned into.”
The 2003 season was not only a big season for Strmiska, but for the series itself. The SRL averaged 25.6 cars per event that season. It was an increase from 2002 of 4.6 cars, and still ranks as the fourth best average of all-time. 52 “Tour” cars scored championship points that season, which was also an increase from 41 in 2002. Five drivers scored victories, with Strmiska and Jeff Anthony leading the way, each with three. It was a great season for Ron Jr., one in which he scored his last SRL win.
PC: Stockton99Speedway.com and SPEARS Southwest Tour