Lyon Hopes Experience Pays Off with Victory at Irwindale

Lyon Hopes Experience Pays Off with Victory at Irwindale

Bob Lyon has now entered his 38thseason behind the wheel of a race car in 2018.  It is his 26thseason of racing in the Southwest Tour, seven of which have been with the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. In his career, Lyon has an incredible 282 starts, in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series, amassing four victories, 42 top-five and 92 top-ten finishes.  He has finished in the top-ten in the championship standing 11 times, with a career best of fifth in 1996. His SRL stat line shows 26 career starts with a top-five and three top-ten finishes, in those seven partial seasons.

Lyon began his racing career at the now defunct Saugus Speedway in 1981, in a Sportsman Division car that he built himself.  He raced there full-time the next three seasons, the last in the Modified Division, which are now called Super Late Models.  That season, he won the most feature events in the division, racing against drivers such as Oren Prosser, Ron Hornaday Jr., Dan Press, Jimmy Insolo and fellow SRL competitor Keith Spangler’s father, Loren.   

In 1985, Lyon decided to travel a bit in his Modified (Super Late Model) car, racing at Saugus, El Cajon Speedway, Mesa Marin Raceway, Craig Road Speedway in Las Vegas, and Orange Show Speedway among many other tracks.  He set track records at El Cajon, Saugus Speedway and years later at Irwindale Speedway in a “Tour” car.  

“I’ve set track records at several tracks, but the only one that still stands is the “Tour” car record at Saugus Speedway”, Lyon told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series.  “I held the track record at El Cajon in a Super Late Model for a little bit, as I beat Mark Meech’s Track Record there, but he came back later and broke it again.  I held the “Tour” car record at Irwindale for a while as well, and I believe that was in 1999.  I was an okay qualifier, I wasn’t the best qualifier, but every once in a while we could pull one off.  So we were able to set the quick time five or six times on the Tour.”      

He was also able to get a plethora of wins in his early career in a Super Late Model.  He scored feature wins at places like Tucson Speedway, Mesa Marin Raceway, Orange Show Speedway, Madera Speedway and of course Saugus.  His love for travelling found him joining the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series, in its second season, in 1987.  He also participated in the NASCAR Southeast and Northwest Tours, and travelled across the country to take part in a half season in the All Pro Super Series in 1988.

“I didn’t really win any local track championships, because we didn’t stay in one place after 1984”, Lyon recalled.  “I wanted to travel around and race at different places.  In 1984, when we won all those races at Saugus, we either won or didn’t finish.”

As Lyon entered the 2018 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series season, he concluded 2017 with a series of races that showed the team’s true potential, going into the new season.  At Tucson Speedway, Lyon finished second to Johnny VanDoorn in the SRL event, and third overall.  He followed that up with a top-ten effort at Kern County Raceway, and then qualified 12th, of the 30 cars that appeared at the season finale, at the Bullring at LVMS.  His night ended early, however, after being involved in an accident while running in the top-ten.

But the 2018 season has been a struggle so far, for the Agua Dulce, CA driver.   He qualified for the Winter Showdown, but only competed 35 laps and finished 31st.  The season opener at Madera Speedway found Lyon caught up in an accident, finishing 26thin the final rundown.  He struggled in the second event at Kern County Raceway, and could only muster a 17thplace finish.  At the Bullring, Lyon began to show some improvement, finishing 12th, but is still looking to recapture the momentum from last season.

“We’ve struggled some this year for whatever reason”, Lyon explained.  “They changed the left side tire, and I think that has had something to do with us not being able to be as fast as we were last year.  We understood that tire, and it will just take some time for me to figure this one out.  It is just my son, a friend of mine and myself, so it will just take me a little time to figure out what it is going to take, to make us go fast, with the (Hoosier) 3035 left side tire.  I think that is the change for us.”

Race number four, on this year’s schedule, will be at the Irwindale Event Center on June 9th, for the “SPEARS Manufacturing 100 presented by Coleman Powersports.  It is a track that Lyon has yet to find the race handle on, but achieved his best Southwest Tour Series finish in last year’s “2017 Patriot Honors 100 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse”, coming home 11th. With another large field expected, it will be a challenge for the veteran racer.

“Irwindale is a nice place to race, but it is not a really easy place to pass”, Lyon offered.  “It is not as difficult as some other places, because some places are really hard to pass at.  Las Vegas is hard to pass at.  Kern is hard to pass at, and some other places have always been difficult to pass at.  At Irwindale, you can pass, as it is wide there, and you can go all kinds of different places, but it still isn’t easy.”

Part of the difficulty in passing, is the tightness of this year’s fields in the SRL.  With less than four-tenths of a second, coving all the competitors who qualified into the feature at Las Vegas, that trend continued. At Irwindale, Lyon feels that will remain to be the case, and with the new tire combination, it will only be more challenging.

“Absolutely, the closer the cars are together in time, the more difficult it will be to pass”, Lyon began. “You may be quicker than a guy, by only half a tenth, and it’s really hard to pass.  The tires now are harder on the left side, so you are not wearing them out as fast.  Guys aren’t necessarily slowing down as much as they would have, with a different tire. The downside of having the harder tires is that you don’t tick the tires off as much.  Your setup can be a little more off, or abusive to the left rear tire, and the car won’t fall off as much.”

Heading to Irwindale, Lyon will have a new bullet in his arsenal.   He will debut a newly purchased car, driven by Derek Thorn, from the Campbell Motorsports Group.  With this new car in hand, his hopes are high for the Alliance Rental Solutions, Shell Roofing Solutions, Intertex Companies, Norris Racing Products, Johnson HTP Pumps, Lee Manufacturing, BWE Construction hot rod.  On June 9th, Lyon would love nothing more than to park his new machine in Victory Lane.  And if he gets a handle on the new tire, there is no reason to believe his first SRL victory isn’t right around the corner.