Southwest Tour showdown leads big night at the LoanMart Madera Speedway By Ronald Montez The Madera Tribune

Madera, Ca — How close was the Spears Southwest Tour’s main finish between Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn and Prunedale’s Jim Pettit II?

Try less than one tick on the official scoring time — 0.255 was the difference to be exact.

It was by that slim of a margin that Thorn — last season’s defending series champion — beat out Pettit II, a clear worthy competitor.

That heart-stopping finish was what the energetic racing crowd witnessed at the LoanMart Madera Speedway on Saturday night (March 21) in the WestAir 125 presented by DC’s RV Center.

Thorn’s last-second victory capped a big evening of racing on “The Fastest 1/3 Mile in the West” that included the Twisted Tea Open Modifieds Series, the Legends of the Pacific, SRL S2 stock cars, Mini Stock Toyotas and the Toyota Sedans division.

“This race was all about putting on a great show for great fans and I think we did,” Thorn said while being interviewed in the winner’s lane by track announcer Andy Foster. “Jim raced me very well.”

Like Thorn, other winners in the event included Kris Price (Twisted Tea Modifieds), Brandon Weaver (Legends), Trevor Huddleston (SRL S2), Tim Curtis (Toyota Sedans) and Darrell Herzog (MST’s).


Although it wasn’t the ideal start for the SWT after Blaine Rocha’s No. 21 car was turned around by Laguna Beach’s Ryan Cansdale (No. 31) to begin the race with a caution, the toe-to-toe battle between Thorn and Pettit II certainly left the crowd in excitement.

Once the drivers took off to start the race, Goleta’s Greg Voigt (No. 29) was in the lead with Manteca’s Jacob Gomes and Thorn — the division’s fastest qualifier (14.449) — right behind.

Right after Turn 4, Thorn pulled ahead of Voigt on Lap 9 to take the lead position.

While Thorn continued to be out in the front, he had company after Lap 26 as second fast-time qualifier Pettit II (14.466) built up some momentum and began to close in on his respected opponent.

For the next 15 laps, Pettit II stayed up with Thorn while both of them increased their distance from the remaining drivers — lapping cars and getting at least seven seconds ahead of the third place driver Voigt.

However, a spinout forced a restart and wiped away the lead on Lap 45.

Once the green flag was waved, both drivers immediately broke away from the pack and continued to stay close to each other with Thorn taking the high side on each turn while Pettit was low.

Even after another yellow flag was waved with 35 laps remaining, the result was the same after the restart — Thorn in first and Pettit II right behind.

With 10 laps to go, Pettit II was so close that his front end would nudge Thorn a bit heading into the front straightaway.

Despite the brief contact, Thorn continued to keep steady as the race began to wind down.

Approaching Turn 3 on the final lap, Pettit II appeared ready to pass Thorn — riding along the side of the No. 43 car — but didn’t have enough to get by him on the bottom heading toward the finish line.

Staying slightly ahead, Thorn once again prevailed and won another great Madera Speedway battle between the two Southwest Tour drivers.

Tracy Bolin, of Valley Springs, took third while Voigt finished fourth and Livingston’s Carlos Vieira placed fifth.


Due to time constraints and a number of stoppages including two red flags, the Legends of the Pacific main — originally scheduled for 35 laps — was reduced to 14.

While it was tough for the 20 drivers to get into any rhythm with the amount of cautions in the race including one on Lap 8 that saw six cars get lodged together against the fence after Turn 4, it was 14-year-old Brandon Weaver, a Bakersfield native and an eight-lap heat race winner earlier in the day, who didn’t let the restarts deter him from getting out in front with his No. 15b car.

After getting the Legends sorted out, the No. 6 car of Pete Pierce ascended to the front but was immediately caught up to by Weaver and Robby Czub.

Two laps later, Weaver occupied the front with Czub in second and Cameron Austin in third.

When the track officials noticed leaked fluids on the asphalt surface, the race came to a complete stop before another caution prompted the main to be called prematurely which left Weaver as the winner and Czub, in second in front of third place Austin.

Geoff Shaw and Clayton Travels each won eight-lap heat races earlier in the day.

SRL S-2 Stock cars
In the 35-lap main, there was no shortage of competitive driving between Trevor Huddleston, Johnny Butler, Todd Conrad, Craig Yeaton, Brian Good, Nastasia Dodd and Cory Elliot.

While Huddleston did have the best qualifying time of 16.244, he had to work early to earn the overall SRL S-2 victory.

Nine laps into the race, Huddleston ended up passing leader Dodd along with Butler and Elliot to get into the front.

Huddleston sustained his lead the rest of the main while Butler took second and Conrad placed third.