Cale Kanke will be headed to Irwindale Speedway

Cale Kanke will be headed to Irwindale Speedway

Cale Kanke will be headed to Irwindale Speedway with a revamped car, a revamped team and a renewed sense of confidence, as the “Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series presented by Lucas Oil” kicks off the 2020 season. The “Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown 200 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame” is the first of 10 events on the season, and will pay the winner $25,000 after 200 laps of competition. It is the richest championship event in series history, as it also counts towards the series championship standings.

The RPM Motorsports team competed in only three SRL events in 2019. Cale participated in both Irwindale Speedway events, while his father Mike “M.K.” Kanke was at the season opener, at the same facility. The team spent the remainder of the season upgrading their equipment, and preparing for a full assault in 2020.

“We have been rebuilding our cars and team, and want to come out regrouped and back to where we used to be, running up front”, the younger Kanke stated.

Those improvements required wholesale changes to the car they refer to as “Trampled Under Foot”. The Dodge Hellcat, with a Hamke Race Cars & Parts Inc Chassis, was the newest Super Late Model in the RPM Motorsports stable, but it needed some upgrades, to keep up with the competition in the SRL. The upgrades were performed by a new, but well-known name in Super Late Model chassis design. That and another big name in the racing shock industry.

“Over the off-season, we have had our Hamke car reclipped, and updated by Rowdy Manufacturing”, Cale told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “Mike Dunkleberger has given us a ton of help, from our last run last year, until now. And he has introduced us to Willie Allen, with WAR Racing Development. Willie has come aboard and helped us out with setup and shocks, and all around on the car. He is a top of the line class act to work with. He has blended well with our team, in a short amount of time. We had a successful test this last week, and our team is excited to get to the first race.”

Allen, a successful racer himself, and a former NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Rookie-of-the-Year, recalled the origins of his first interactions with the RPM Motorsports Team, and car owner Dan Nikolaispecifically.

“Mike Dunkleberger got me hooked up with Dan Nikolai”, Allen explained. “Dan said they needed help in their technology department. Shocks, data acquisition, front end geometry, pull down and other race engineering stuff. That is how it all began.”

The centerpiece of this collective effort was Mike Dunkleberger. His association with Nikolai dated back almost 10 years to Dan’s son Danny’s, Bandolero and Legend car racing programs. Dunkleberger had been a help to the team over the years, and it was through him that the association with Allen and Rowdy Manufacturing developed.

Nikolai began, “I’ve been friends with Mike Dunkleberger since our kids raced their Bandos together, back in 2011 at Irwindale Speedway. Since that time, Mike has stepped in and helped Cale with our SRL car a couple of times recently, and he knew that we were struggling a bit with our set ups. It was after our Hamke car got wrecked last year, that Mike suggested to me that I give Willie Allen a call, in order to get some help with ironing out our handling issues. I decided to take his advice and made the call.”

Nikolai continued, “Willie immediately took over the responsibility of communicating with Cody Glick at Hamke/Rowdy, in order to get our chassis repaired. Once that work was done, the car went to Willie’s shop in Tennessee, where he put the suspension back together before it came back to our place. Willie has since traveled out here a couple of times, to fine tune on everything, and make sure we had the car put all back together the way he wants it to be.”

Nikolai concluded, “Aside from thanking Mike Dunkleberger for introducing me to Willie Allen, I can’t thank Willie enough for all that’s he’s done for us so far. He’s been very straight forward and prompt, with regards to his communication with me, and there is no question that he has both the technical skills, and the right equipment at his shop to work on these cars, and make them competitive. I’m really looking forward to working with him this season, and feel like he’s given our team the added boost that we’ve been looking for.”

But to win, it takes more than just a good car. For Cale, he has another diamond in his pocket, with his father M.K. helping out. M.K. is a two-time participant in the All-Star Showdown. He finished third in 2005 and dropped out early in the 2006 version, with fuel issues. M.K. is glad the Showdown has returned to Irwindale, and he enjoys the increased competition, that both the former and current versions of the All-Star Showdown provide.

“I think you are going to have good competition, and that whole format that they run makes you better, because you raced against all the best Late Model guys from all across the United States”, M.K. recalled. “The guys that are coming out now, are going to be pretty much the same thing. It will be a good experience for Cale, running against some good competition.”

In M.K.’s full-time racing days, he was one of those drivers that brought the increased competition. He was a 22-time winner in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series and an 11-time winner in SPEARS competition. He was the 2009 SRL Champion and a threat to win, every time the “Tour” visited Irwindale Speedway. He still holds the record for most Southwest Tour Series wins, with a combined six in total. That gives Cale a unique insight into what it takes to run well at Irwindale.

“To me it is a racers racetrack”, the elder Kanke surmised. “It takes more driving there, than it does at a lot of other racetracks. The driver makes a big difference there. The way Tim (Huddleston) is running it, with putting all the cars outside, he has really done a great job with that track. I don’t expect anything less than the best when we go there now.”

With the added help from his dad, the new parts on his Super Late Model, and his association with Willie Allen, Cale will be looking to have a solid run in the cars first trip back to the track, since the season opening weekend.

“My expectations going in are to complete all the laps, run in the top-10, and have a solid run”, the junior Kanke commented. “My goal is to be in that tech area (top-five), come the end of the night, ha-ha”

Mike is confident that Cale will have the tools and talent, to run well in next weekend’s event. He also believes that his son knows the track well enough, to not need detailed information from the senior Kanke. They just need to get the car right, after all the changes. It is another hurdle that M.K. is confident the team can overcome, with their new support for the weekend.

“I think Cale has pretty much picked up the characteristics of the track”, M.K. assessed. “We are just trying to get the car to be fast now. I know that he will run well there now, once we get the car to run well there. The challenge is just to get the new products to work. That’s where Willy, Cody (Glick), Rowdy and all those guys are putting the effort into. They know how to make cars go fast, and I think Cale won’t have a problem there. Those guys really know what they are doing, and we will be good. He will be just fine. We aren’t going to go out there and say we are going to win everything, we are just looking forward to having a good solid run, and get our program started.”

Like his father, the two-time SRL Legends Series Champion is happy to open the season at Irwindale. It is a track that he enjoys, and the site of one of his three top-10 finishes, in SPEARS Southwest Tour Series competition.

“Irwindale has always been a fun place to me”, Cale stated. “I ran a ton there in the Legend car, and had my first “Tour” start there. I like the multiple grooves, and it’s a fun fast track. I am excited to get this RPM Motorsports car back to the track. ‘Trampled Under Foot’ is ready to race!”

Cale participated in seven of the nine SRL events in 2018, finishing 16th in the championship standings. He would love to improve upon that mark in 2020, and make each event on the schedule. It is an effort they will put 110% of their efforts into.

“My plan for 2020 is to try to run the season in the SRL”, Kanke volunteered. “I will run some dirt races in between, as time fits, but 110% is going into the “Tour” car.”

With all the resources that the RPM Motorsports Team is putting into their 2020 program, Cale is very appreciative and honored to be the driver of the #33 RPM-PSI Super Late Model. For that he wished to thank those that made it possible.

“I want to thank Dan and Kathy Nikolai, for the privilege to drive the car”, Cale began. “They have put a lot of faith in me, and effort into their team this year, to bring our best foot forward. I want to thank my mom and dad, for the support, and our team for the long hours we spend on the car. I want to thank Willie Allen, for everything he has taught us, and Mike Dunkleberger for everything he has done. He was my Crew Chief, at last year’s Irwindale opener, and is always a great one to work with. I can’t wait for this season to start!”

The resumption of the All-Star Showdown, after a nine-year hiatus, will take place on February 1st. It will pay $25,000 to the winner of the 200-lap Feature Event, thanks to Sunrise Ford’s, Bob Bruncati and Ken Clapp from the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Over $78,000 will be paid out to the 36 starters, plus additional cash bonuses for the drivers eligible for the Spears Manufacturing Frequent Flyer Program. If needed, the Last Chance Qualifying race will pay $1,000 to those on the SPEARS Frequent Flyer Program, who do not make the Feature Event.

The SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Super Late Models will be joined by the Spears Modified Series, as well as the Pro Late Models for a huge weekend at the speedway. The Pro Late Models will race for a $10,000 payday, while the Modifieds will be going after a $5,000 winner’s share, thanks to series sponsor FLUIDYNE High Performance and Irwindale Speedway.

Celebrating its twentieth season in 2020, the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series is a regional stock car series competing on paved ovals in the southwestern portion of the U.S. “The SPEARS Southwest Tour Series…Where the Champions Race”.