Mark Neff Heads West for October Classic Glory at Kern County
IRWINDALE, CA – Mark Neff made two SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series starts in 2019, but with Covid-19 conditions, he has yet to make a 2020 appearance. That will change on October 24th and 25th, as he will make the 1,075-mile trek, from Berthoud, CO to Kern County Raceway, for the 31st running of the October Classic and the “JM Environmental 127 Wild West Shootout Final”. Neff participated in the 30th edition of the event in 2019 and came home with a solid eighth place finish in the 31-car field. This year he hopes to step that finish up in his new VanDoorn Racing Development Super Late Model.
Neff has been a regular competitor at Colorado National Speedway (CNS), but has branched out in recent seasons. He has 25 career feature victories and three in Super Late Models, after recently moving into the division. He was third in the 2018 CNS Super Late Model Standings, finishing a mere four points behind multi-time champion Darren Robertson. Neff was the 2015 Late Model, and 2013 Pro Truck Track Champion. He holds two Rookie-of-the-Year titles, one in the Pro Truck, and the other in the Super Late Model Division.
In 2020 he finished second in the Chilly Willy 150 at Tucson Speedway, following up his seventh the prior season. He is also coming off a fifth-place finish in the “Labor Day 100” at the Lebanon I-44 Speedway (MO) in ARCA CRA Super Series competition.
Neff will now turn his attention to the October Classic at Kern County Raceway. Neff qualified fifth and finished eighth in last year’s edition. Although he was happy with the results in 2019, the Rocky Mountain Motorsports team will be looking for more in 2020.
“We are really excited to go back to Kern again”, Neff stated. “We always seem to have better luck the second time we go to places and we had a pretty good finish the last time we went there. We are not only excited about the track, as it’s a fun place to get around, but we are hoping to finish better than last time, which would be a big feat for us. We would like to put the car in the top-five, but would be tickled to be in the top-three and beat the Rowdy Car (driven by Jace Hansen) we have been talking about”, Neff teased.
The competition with Jace Hansen has gone back to their childhood days, and Neff looks forward to competing against his friend, after having very few opportunities to do so as of late. The October Classic will be a great opportunity to continue that competition.
“Jace and I have been racing together since we were like 12-years-old”, Neff recalled. “He and I go way back. It has never been a rivalry per say, we have been great friends…best friends I would say. It’s always good to race with him. Growing up I didn’t always have the opportunity to race with him. We both kinda went our separate ways, in different divisions. It’s kinda seemed to happen that way, where he ran the full season with the Southwest Tour a year ago and we barely got to run a few races. We are really excited to go out there with those guys (at Kern). Jim Egli (Hansen’s team owner) and his whole group are all close to us. They are just a solid group and we are looking forward to racing with them. It’s always fun!”
The Rocky Mountain Motorsports Team is still relatively new to Super Late Model racing. Their VanDoorn Racing Super Late Model made its debut at this same event in 2019. Since then, they have competed in about a half-dozen events, but only one at CNS. That start was a second-place effort, behind Preston Peltier in August. The team will now visit one of the crown jewel facilities on the West Coast, with a series that will challenge the team from Colorado and make the team better.
“This is our third time coming out to race with the Southwest Tour and every time we come out, we learn something new”, Neff stated. “The competition is phenomenal. Knowing when you go out there, you need to be on your game. It forces your whole team, the driver, crew chief, and everybody to perform at the highest levels. We absolutely love the challenge and drive it takes to finish well. To go out there and get a good finish would be a feather in our cap.”
Neff continued, “We love the competition and the guys that run the Southwest Tour; Larry Collins and everybody else in the organization. We really love working with them. It is always so welcoming to come out, and we really enjoy that.”
To make this trip possible, Neff has a great group of supporters, and it starts with his team owners; Kevin and Melissa Steinke.
“Our biggest thanks go out to Kevin and Melissa Steinke”, Neff expressed. “They own Rocky Mountain Motorsports and the program. They have really invested a lot here recently, to get the new car done. I’ve also got to give a shoutout to Butch and Johnny Vandoorn for the help that they have given us, and the support they provide for us. And of course, I’d really like to thank the whole Rocky Mountain Motorsports Team.”
Mark also wanted to call out an incredibly special cause that he has become involved with over the last several months, as he told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series.
“For this race we have a very special scheme on our hood. It is “Cure Kinley & Kennedy”. It is to raise awareness for a couple of girls who are fighting for their lives right now. We will be glad to have them riding along with us for this one. They have a rare disorder called Gangliosides (GM1), which unfortunately is a rare genetic disorder that is always fatal. It is a story that hits pretty close to home for me. It involves a really good friend and my boss, as his daughters are fighting for their lives right now.”
To help with the development of treatments, and with clinical trials, the family has put together an account to raise funds for a cure. To contribute you can go to the “Cure Kinley & Kennedy GoFundMe page”. More information about the disorder can be found at the Cure GM1 Foundation. There are some promising treatments on the horizon and the family is hopeful that a cure is in the near future.
“JM Environmental 127 Wild West Shootout Final” will be Round #7 of the nine-race SPEARS Southwest Tour Series schedule. The event will pay $5,027 to win. $1,000 will be paid out to the leader on lap 27 from JM Environmental. $500 will be paid at the halfway mark, thanks to Kendall Peters with AKM Maintenance. The Performance Friction Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award will also payout another $500 with help from JM Environmental. The SPEARS Southwest Tour Series will be joined by the SPEARS Modified Series, ARCA Menards Pro Series West, Pro Late Models and Street Stocks, for a huge weekend of racing. The Pro Late Models and Street Stocks will compete on both Saturday and Sunday, with 60 and 40 lap features, respectively.
SPEAR SRL Southwest Tour Release – Story by Kevin Peters
Photo courtesy of SRL Media
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For more information on the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour visit srlsouthwesttour.com