2008 SERIES CHAMPION – JIM PETTIT IIadmin
Celebrating the 20th season of the Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series, we continue to honor our past champions. Our next honoree is from the 2008 season, but in 2011 he became the first repeat champion in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. He then scored a third championship in 2013. That driver is a member of two Hall of Fames, being elected to the Antioch Speedway Hall of Fame in 2019, and being a member of the Class of 2020 for the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. That well-known champion is Prunedale, CA driver Jim Pettit II.
Like our 2007 champion Dave Byrd, Pettit was highly successful on both dirt and pavement. On the Bay Area clay, Pettit possessed three championships at both Ocean Speedway/ Watsonville Fair Grounds, and Antioch Speedway. He was the 1984 NASCAR Pacific Coast Regional Champion, running on the dirt that season. Moving to the asphalt, Pettit scored multiple track championships at Madera Speedway and Altamont Motorsports Park, both in 1996 and 2000. In 2000 he was the Tri-Holiday Champion at The New Stockton 99 Speedway, sweeping the three race series and leading all 300 laps. He had a great 2000 season by also winning the Shell Tri-Track Challenge Series, winning six of ten events, and the last five in-a-row.
The two-time National Motorsports Press Association Driver-of-the-Year moved on to the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series in 2001, finishing eighth in the championship standings that first season. After two third place finishes, he scored consecutive championships in 2004 and 2005. He finished off his NASCAR Southwest Tour Series career as the recipient of the George Stiles Award, honoring the Most Popular Driver.
Heading into the 2008 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series, the car count began to rebound, and the number of teams coming from the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series began to grow, under the watch of Steve Fensler. The series averaged 20.4 car per event, up from 19.0 in 2007. 43 teams participated, which was an increase from 41. Eight events were once again scheduled, with four at Altamont Motorsports Park. Single events were planned for All American Speedway (AAS), Colorado National Speedway (CNS), The LVMS Bullring and Dirt Track and Irwindale Speedway. The latter two were first-time visits for the series.
Pettit had a stellar season, to bring home the 2008 SRL Championship. He won four of the seven races, after the CNS race was rained out. He finished 57 points ahead of Craig Raudman, with Smittys Voigt, Keith Spangler and Troy Ermish rounding out the top-five. His worst finish was a third at the AAS season opener, while averaging a 1.6 finish for the season. Three years later he scored his second championship with one win, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 10 events. He finished ahead of Jacob Gomes, Derek Thorn, Ross Strmiska and M.K. Kanke. Of his three SRL Championships, this was the most special.
“All championships are special, and they are never an easy feat, but the most memorable one in the SRL would be in 2011”, the three-time NASCAR Rookie-of-the-Year replied. “Winning the championship, after losing my mom in December of 2010 was our goal. It was to try and win it in her memory.”
In 2013, Pettit once again found himself on the championship stage, at the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. The series had continued to grow, averaging 23.7 cars per event. 61 different drivers competed that season. Pettit scored three wins, with eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes in the 10-race schedule. Pettit took home over $25,000 in race winnings, compared to only $11,900 for his first SRL Title. The series visited seven tracks that season with two events at Madera Speedway (CA), Stockton 99 Speedway (CA) and the Bullring at LVMS (NV). Single events where held at Redwood Acres Raceway (CA), RMR SLC – Rocky Mountain Raceways (UT), Kern County Raceway Park (CA) and Pikes Peak International Raceway (CO). Pettit would defeat Rookie-of-the-Year Jeremy Doss, Jacob Gomes, Jason Gilbert and Derek Thorn.
With all of Pettit’s accolades, the 2009 “Bob Elliff Inspirational Award” winner’s fondest memories were not a result of his on-track success. They were inspired by the comradery in the series, and the growth in the years he participated.
“My fondest memories would be the family atmosphere”, Pettit recalled. “We all truly got along, on and off the track. My other fondest memory is how the series grew, from when I first got in it, with the hopes of me doing whatever I could, to help it be as good as the old NASCAR Southwest Tour. And I feel it has.”
The SPEARS Southwest Tour’s Larry Collins echoed Pettit’s statement, finding it a benefit to have the West Coast standout participating in the series.
“As with many of the great drivers and teams that have competed in the SRL over the years, Jim and his team set the bar high”, Collins expressed. “Drivers and teams who wanted to race against the best, would choose the SRL because they knew if they could win, they were beating some of the best in the business. As a champion, Pettit was a great ambassador for the series, and led by example of how a champion can be tough on the track, but off the track, the drivers and teams could have a good time together, help with advice, and create an enjoyable environment on race weekends.”
Pettit made his last start in SRL competition in 2015. He holds the record for most Southwest Tour Series championships, with a combined five between the two series. He has 22 years of experience in the “Tours”, with over 170 starts and 24 victories. He has a unique perspective comparing the two series, and how they contrast with each other.
“In reference to the old NASCAR Southwest Tour, compared to the current SPEARS Southwest Tour Series they are very compatible, Pettit began. “The SRL Southwest Tour has finally gotten back to where the NASCAR Southwest Tour was, with drivers from Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho competing in our series. Also, in terms of the purses today, they are way greater than what they were on a consistent basis with the NASCAR Southwest Tour. We only had a few races, throughout the season, that paid the amount of money that it is paid to win on average now. They are definitely going in the right direction.”
With the purses at this year’s events and the competition in the series, Pettit would love to get back behind the wheel of a Super Late Model, and compete in the SRL. That is, if the right opportunity came along.
“If the opportunity to get back in an SRL Southwest Tour car was presented, and it was a great fit, I absolutely would”, Pettit stated. “I ended my career in the SRL with a win, so I quit running the SRL because of reasons, other than not wanting to race. As for racing against the drivers and teams in the SRL, most of them were great, and it was exciting to race against them. I would love the opportunity. Only time will tell if something comes up.”
After all those years running the Southwest Tour, the 2006 NASCAR Southwest Tour Series Most Popular Driver has gained a throng of friends and fans. His infectious personality has endeared him to those who have met him, and he is thankful for all the relationships he has developed during his years of racing.
“To all the fans of the NASCAR and SRL Southwest Tours, I’d like to thank all of them for all of your support for all the years. I have gotten so many great friends over the years from racing. I’ve met new friends from fans, drivers, team members and officials. These things I would never change or do over. It was such a pleasure and enjoyable time of my life.”
The next event, on the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series schedule, is a trip to Roseville, CA. Last year’s event at All American Speedway was a thriller, with the 2020 edition promising to be just as exciting. The “JM Environmental 127 presented by 51 FIFTY LTM.” will take place on May 16th, and will pay a minimum of $7,000-to-win. A $5,000 bonus will be available to any driver who qualifies in the top eight, and elects to start in the back. If that driver wins, they will head home with a $12,000 victory. In addition, John Moore will give each driver who makes the feature race, a “black bad a** cowboy hat, made by Lonestar. It’s a hat that makes you look handsome and sexy at the same time”, Moore laughed.
PC: A multitude of great SRL photographers from Jim’s Facebook page including David Misco and Roger Seymour.