It was a Spears Southwest Tour Series battle to remember at The Bullring this past Saturday night as Rookie of the Year Garret Archer put together everything he’s learned this season to finish second to Jeremy Doss in the final race of the season behind the wheel of the #21 NTS Motorsports Impala SS.
Practice day was clear and cool in Las Vegas as the NTS crew worked to get the #21 car set up for the race. Repairs to a faulty throttle linkage and the discovery of a suspension component that was causing the front end to bind up limited the time and usefulness of Friday’s practice and put the pressure on the crew to make the most of the final practice session Saturday. Coming through in the clinch, the experienced NTS crew resolved all of the problems and got the car dialed in just as practice closed. Their efforts were rewarded with a solid 7th position qualifying performance by Garret. The top times were turned in by Derek Thorn, fast qualifier once again, followed by Brandon White and Jeremy Doss, and a nine car invert gave Archer the outside spot on the second row with Toni McCray in the pole position.
As the Las Vegas sun went down and the evening cooled, things got hot on the race track when the green flag dropped on what quickly proved to be a bare-knuckled brawl for the last points opportunity of the season; one that would see numerous cautions, two red flags, and less than half of the field of 24 cars finish the race. From the start, Archer pressed the slower lead cars, running them down one at a time to take the lead on lap 6. Holding the lead for two laps, Archer was passed for the lead by #90 Ross Strmiska as the #90 continued his charge from the sixth starting position. Jacob Gomes, a close competitor all year and 5th in points overall just ahead of Archer, had problems with his #16 car early and dropped out of the running, falling back until he came off the track at lap 9.
Five laps later Thorn and Doss overtook Archer for the #2 and #3 positions, and were shortly joined by #19 Brandon White in fourth, pushing Archer back to 5th. The physical battle for dominance between the Tour’s three leading drivers took its toll, however, as contact between Doss, Thorn, and White left Thorn’s car terminally wrecked, White out with no power steering, and Doss at the back of the pack with minor damage. With Thorn and White out of the picture and Doss with a chase ahead of him to get back in the running, the race was now between Strmiska in the lead and Archer in second.
For the next 45 laps the two vied for the lead through multiple cautions and restarts until on lap 70, Archer made his move inside Strmiska going into Turn One. As Strmiska rolled the dice and tried to close the door on his rival, the odds turned against him and the resulting contact spun the #90 taking Strmiska out of the race. Ruling that the contact was intentional, race officials sent Archer to the back of the field and the restart saw him starting in 8th place with an additional 7 lapped cars in front of him on the obstacle course of The Bullring.
With his eyes firmly on the goal, Archer set to work and began picking off the cars ahead of him. Within 20 laps he was near the front, finally overtaking #98 Blaine Rocha for second place. Ahead of him now was only #75 Jeremy Doss, who had earlier made his own way through traffic from the back of the pack to take the lead. The chase between Doss and Archer continued for the next 20 laps, but ultimately Archer was unable to catch Doss and had to make do with second place. Though he had the win in his sights, Archer was well satisfied with his year-ending performance, his best finish so far in the Southwest Tour Series, and the rock solid car delivered to him by the outstanding NTS Motorsports crew.
The second place finish puts Garret a solid fourth overall in the series for 2014 behind NTS teammate Greg Voigt in third, Jeremy Doss in second, and champion Derek Thorn. He also claims the 2014 Spears Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year title in recognition of his accomplishments this year.
Not content to rest on past accomplishments, Garret Archer has always kept his sights on the goal of becoming a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. His skill and growth behind the wheel this season and the strong relationship he has built with his NTS crew show that he is a driver with a solid foundation and a demonstrated ability to continue to develop himself. With the 2015 season already marked in his calendar, and a goal to become next year’s series champion, Garret Archer’s rookie year in the Spears Southwest Tour Series has proven that he is definitely one young driver to watch.