Bakersfield, CA – Seth Wise entered the season finale for the Spears Pro Late Model Series presented by Sigma Performance Services as the championship leader, toting only a single win, but nine top-five finishes in 10 events. When Wise left Irwindale Speedway (CA), he left no doubt that he deserved the series championship, after a victory in “LiUNA Feel the Power 60 presented by Lucas Oil”, over NASCAR Truck Series competitor, and 2021 Irwindale Speedway Track champion Dean Thompson. Wise needed a finish of 13th or better, but he hit a walk-off homer to seal the deal and score the series championship.
Bradley Erickson drew first blood, scoring Fast Time for the second consecutive time on the Irwindale Speedway ½-mile. Erickson led Tanner Reif, Dylan Zampa, who was second in championship points, Trevor Huddleston, Jaden Walbridge, Tyler Reif, Dean Thompson, and Kenna Mitchell. Those top-eight redrew for position with Dean Thompson drawing the number one position over Kenna Mitchell. Trevor Huddleston started third with Tyler Reif, Dylan Zampa, Tanner Reif, Erickson, and Walbridge the front starting eight. Wise qualified 15th, after mechanical issues plagued the team all day, and started last, in the 19-car field, due to additional repairs needed after qualifying.
Thompson got a good start from the pole, with teammate Huddleston advancing to second by Turn 3, by Mitchell. Huddleston then drove to the inside lawn to cross the start-finish line in a virtual tie with his teammate after lap one. Huddleston would take the top spot as Dylan Zampa challenged Thompson for second, clearing him on lap three, as the caution came out for a spinning Holly Clark. The ensuing restart found Huddleston to the lead, but Zampa battled back, using the extreme low line, to squeeze up in front of Huddleston exiting Turn 4. As the duo made their way down the front straight, contact between Huddleston and Zampa sent the Kulwicki Driver Development Program championship leader spinning into Turn 1, where Christian Bazen could not avoid him. The ensuing contact eliminated Bazen, and effectively, Zampa’s chance at the championship.
The field took the green on lap five, with Huddleston at the rear and Thompson leading. The one-third mark found Jake Bollman running second with Wise and Huddleston making their way through the field. Lap 21 found Wise around Erickson for third and five laps later under Bollman for second, as the caution flew on lap 27 for a Zampa spin in Turn 2. At that point, Thompson led Wise, Bollman, Huddleston, and Kenna Mitchell.
The restart found Thompson out front with Huddleston jumping to second in the preferred outside groove. Huddleston began to pressure Thompson for the lead on the extreme low line, leading lap 31 as the duo fought side by side. That battle would go away however, as Huddleston lost power on lap 33, coasting to the pits. By lap 40, Thompson’s six-car lead began to shrink, as Wise closed on Thompson. Wise began challenging on the inside line, lap after lap, as the duo raced past the lap 50 mark. The duo continued to battle as Wise began to gain ground in his lower groove assault.
With just a couple of laps left, Wise was finally able to clear Thompson for the lead and hold off the 2020 Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie-of-the-Year to the finish. Thompson held on for second, with Kenna Mitchell an impressive third. Bradley Erickson brought it home fourth with Donny St, Ours coming from deep in the field to round out the top-five. Jake Bollman led the second-five, with Jaden Walbridge, Holly Clark, Travis McCullough, and Hans Beeler the top-10. Wise was also awarded the 2022 Sigma Performance Services “Young Gun Award” for drivers 20 or under in age, capping off an exciting weekend for the Bakersfield driver, who pilots a car over a decade old.
The next event for the Spears Pro Late Models will be at the All-Star Showdown on January 21st at Irwindale Speedway. 37 Pro Late Models appeared for last year’s edition.
Results: 1. Seth Wise*, 2. Dean Thompson, 3. Kenna Mitchell, 4. Bradley Erickson, 5. Donnie St. Ours, 6. Jake Bollman, 7. Jaden Walbridge, 8. Holly Clark, 9. Travis McCullough, 10. Hans Beeler, 11. Amileo Thomson, 12. Mike Beeler, 13. Nick Joanides, 14. Mike Regelman, 15. Trevor Huddleston, 16. Dylan Zampa*, 17. Tanner Reif*, 18. Tyler Reif, 19. Christian Bazen*
*Sigma Performance Services Young Gun