McGhee Wins SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Virtual Thriller Over Schlick at Irwindale Speedway

McGhee Wins SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Virtual Thriller Over Schlick at Irwindale Speedway

Christian McGhee dominated the first ever iRacing event for the Spears Srl Southwest Tour Series, in front of a virtual packed house at Irwindale Speedway. McGhee set Fast Time over the 44-car field, and led all 125 laps. But he had to hold off a hard charging Ricky Schlick, who nearly pulled off a last lap pass of the 2016 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year. McGhee crossed the line 0.006 seconds ahead of Schlick, the 2017 Rookie-of-the-Year, to score the $250 win in the Approved Memory 125 presented by Retro Custom Metals.

McGhee took the lead from the start, and held off Jace Hansen for the first 88 laps of the event. Schlick ran third through the first portion of the race, as McGhee recalled his efforts on the ½-mile oval, and the credit for his success.

“I checked out, but was saving the whole race. I was up front running the super high line. I learned that last night, in the practice race, when I tried to run Ricky Schlick’s line. I moved up at the end of last nights race and began to reel them back in. It is so close to the wall, that I hit the wall once, and it jacked up the front.”

The story of the first half of the race, however, was Jeremy Doss, who had to come through the 24-car “B”-Main. He started 22nd and by the lap 65 restart, Doss wrestled third from Schlick on the preferred high line, taking up the chase of McGhee and Hansen. A restart on lap 88 changed the complexion of the race, however, when contact between Doss and Hansen allowed Schlick to vault to second, with Doss third and Hansen back to sixth.

The field ran clean and green, with Doss pressuring Schlick, as McGhee struggled to pull away from his pursuers, unlike earlier in the race. The duel between Schlick and Doss, found Kole Raz Racing beginning to close, as the laps ran down. On lap 119, the yellow appeared for a Logan Bearden Racing spin, setting up a three-lap shootout for the win.

Upon simulated Noel Dawson’s green flag, McGhee took the lead, but contact between Doss and Raz in Turn 3, found Doss spinning to the infield, with Raz dropping to fifth. Schlick closed on the tail of McGhee, making his move to the low side in Turns 3 & 4, on the final lap. The pair emerged from turn four, door-to-door, with McGhee just edging out Schlick by 0.006 seconds.

“Nobody wanted to see that last caution less than me”, McGhee recalled. “Ricky Schlick wanted to see it for sure. I was worried because I didn’t want to get doored going into one. My goal was to get a good jump, and I jumped it a little too soon. I turned it down to the bottom, and it got tight and it slide up to the wall, so I had to get out of it. That allowed him (Schlick) to close up to my back bumper. I made a mistake there, but it all worked out, so I can’t really complain. Man, I cashed in $350 bucks, $100 for Fast Time and $250 for the win.”

McGhee was excited to claim the win in the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series first iRace. McGhee had been close multiple times in his “Tour” car, but broke through at his home track in the sim race.

“It was a pretty cool deal to win the inaugural race”, McGhee exclaimed! “I was top of the board in practice, top of the board in qualifying and won the race. It was a clean sweep.”

Ricky Schlick came up second in his effort, with an eventful night for the SRL’s 2017 Rocky Mountain Raceway winner. He was able to take advantage of two late race restarts to finish in the runner-up position, while driving McGhee clean to the finish.

“It was nice to be back on with the SRL guys”, Schlick began. “It was definitely gonna take some rubbing to get past Christian. We were pretty good there until we got back in traffic. Then the restarts came into play, to put me in position to win. I’m happy with my results and hope to see another one of these again. I have to thank Approved Memory and Dave Reed Racing for the awesome car. I’ve Gotta thank sponsors S&J Towing, my girlfriend for the Coors Light delivery under the yellows, Kaiden Anderson, for the awesome paint, Tyler, Cori, and Jimmy for spotting, and the SRL Southwest Tour for giving the opportunity to run this deal for us drivers.”

Finishing an impressive third was a driver from Colorado, who almost didn’t get a chance to qualify before the event. It was a great run for the 2019 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year contender, Jace Hansen.

“To be completely honest, I read the email for discord with the correct link right before qualifying, and I had no clue what all I needed to do to set it up”, Hansen admitted! “I honestly didn’t think I would be in a position for an interview after this deal! Lol But it was a lot of fun being able to mix it up with some of the front runners in this series. I’m pretty sure the two guys that finished in front of me have more laps at Irwindale than I will ever have in my life! I had fun running P2 for a while, and really was trying to save for the end.”

Hansen recalled the restart that set him back, and then paid him back at the end.

“The restarts are so tough in this deal, especially on the outside front row, I got together with Doss there and was able to save it thankfully. Then I just held on for the green white checkered! I’ve gotta thank the SRL and all the sponsors for putting on this deal and Josh for dealing with all the mayhem setting this up from the admin side. I’m really hoping we can get back to real racing here sooner than later!”

Jeremy Doss had an exciting run, marching through the field to challenge the leaders. He recalled his evening and the circumstances that made his evening even more challenging than hoped for.

“The car got really tight in qualifying, which put us behind the 8-Ball”, Doss recalled. “But we were able to charge from 22nd to third, before that last restart. A little bumping and banging led to me getting spun coming to the white. It is part of racing unfortunately, but I had a lot of fun and hope they are able to put on another one of these races! I want to thank Duane Sharp for spotting for me, the entire SRL staff for putting this deal together, Josh Laughton for doing a great job running the show, and all the sponsors who made it happen!”

Judging by the reaction of the drivers, the first iRacing event was quite a success. If we see the season postponed for a longer period of time, don’t be surprised to see another iRacing event for the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. If the second is as good as the first, sim racing may find a home with the SRL.

Unofficial A-Main Results:
1. Christian McGhee, 2. Ricky Schlick, 3. Jace Hansen, 4. Austin Barnes, 5. Kole Raz, 6. Matthew Meech, 7. Jacob Gomes, 8. Garret Archer, 9. Bobby Lyon, 10. Mark Neff, 11. Preston Peltier, 12. Linny White, 13. Brandon Farrington, 14. Trevor Huddleston, 15. Dean Thompson, 16. Dylan Cappello, 17. Kenneth Smith, 18. Logan Bearden, 19. Jeremy Doss, 20. Austin Reed, 21. Sean Woodside, 22. Dominic Ursetta, 23. Lance Elliott, 24. Jonathan Mawhinney.

Unofficial LCQ Results:
1. Kenneth Smith, 2. Jeremy Doss, 3. Lance Elliot, 4. Linny White, 5. Dan O’Donnell, 6. Donnie St. Ours, 7. Rob Kiemele, 8. Josh Combs, 9. Cody Dempster, 10. Matt Wendt, 11. Kyle Neveau, 12. Scott Sanchez, 13. Ron Esau, 14. Dave Byrd, 15. Forrest Kuecker, 16. Jay Beasley, 17. Jack Wood, 18. Blaine Rocha, 19. Bobby Hodges, 20. Troy Ermish, 21. Eric Nascimento Jr., 22. Justin Westmoreland, 23. Craig Raudman, 24. Don Zoll Jr.