Irwindale, CA., Jul. 4 – Three-time track and California NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Trevor Huddleston set the fastest qualifying time at Irwindale Speedway Wednesday and also won both late model 50-lap races. He drove the No. 50 Racecar Factory-built HPR Chevy owned by his father Tim, the 2018 IS co-promoter. His maternal grandfather, NASCAR driver Oren Prosser, was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame this year.
Huddleston, from Agoura Hills, has raced in only four of the eight IS late model races this season and won three. He also races a Sunrise Ford Fusion for Ford dealer Bob Bruncati on the K & N West traveling circuit. His 36th and 37th Irwindale main event victories moved him past retired 36-time winner Todd Burns (2002-03 late model champion) into sole possession of seventh place on the list of drivers with the most IS main event triumphs.
The “Twin-Firecracker 50” program attracted about 4,000 spectators for the two LKQ-Pick Your Part late model races, a demolition derby for enduro sedans, a PYP aircraft jet engine pickup truck burn-down of an old sedan, and a ten-minute aerial pyrotechnics show presented by Garden State Fireworks, a family-owned New Jersey-based firm founded in 1890 by an Italian immigrant.
FIRST 50: The first 50 had all 15 late models positioned with the fastest qualifiers starting in front. A parade lap had each driver hold an American flag on a pole extended from the drivers’ side window. Huddleston, 22, had teammate Jagger Jones, 15, alongside. They ran one-two for 28 laps. Series point leader Lawless Alan passed Jones on the inside during lap 29 after a lengthy battle for P. 2. Alan trailed Huddleston by 35-yards at lap 30 and was unable to reduce that separation during the final 20 laps. Alan trailed by 1.734 seconds at the conclusion of the all-green light race.
Jones finished third, 3.266 seconds behind the winner. Past champion Nick Joanides was fourth. Kayla Eshleman, a 16-year old high school junior, finished fifth in her initial IS start of the season. She drove the rented No. 26 Tony Martinez car (ex-No. 23 Ryan Vargas ride last year) that his son Luis raced six times through April. She started eighth and passed three veteran drivers before finishing fifth, 5.975-seconds behind Huddleston.
Zachary St. Onge, 16, Ryan Schartau, Blaine Perkins, who finished 11th in the ARCA 200 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway on June 28, Dylan Garner and NASCAR Next 2018 driver Hailie Deegan completed the top ten. She ranked sixth in Irwindale points through June. Thirteen of 15 starters finished.
A pair of 16-year old female drivers started next to each other in row four. Deegan (seventh fastest qualifier) and Eshleman (eighth fastest) ran together for two laps before Deegan’s car began falling back gradually to tenth position with an engine problem. Deegan had started third and finished seventh in 27-car NASCAR K & N West Series race at the Sonoma road circuit June 23. She finished second in a K & N West Roseburg, (Ore.) 150-lap race June 30.
A ten-car inverted starting lineup was posted for the second 50 based on finishing positions in the first 50, giving Deegan pole position. However, her No. 56 HPR Chevy was pushed back to the pits from the staging area after her team could not repair the malady. Hailie and her famous X-Games and off road racing father Brian departed the track at that point.
The first late model 50 took 16:58.574 and averaged 88.359 mph. Hluddleston’s 19.591 (91.879 mph) lap was the quickest of the race. Times during time trials on a hot track were a second off the three-year old one-lap track record of 18.406 (97.794 mph) because of the upper 80s temperature. Temps decreased to only 72 after the fireworks show.
A 20-minute break between the twin-50-lap races enabled track management to present a comical diversion on the track. PA announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best said there was a police chase of a limousine underway and coming through the pit area. Soon a white limo with a black and white patrol car emerged from the staging area beyond the backstretch and entered the IS infield.
The long limo did some unique drifting moves and spins to evade the patrol car. Then as the limo veered to the right of a parked motor-home. The surplus actual police car is owned by IS and used to clear stalled cars during demo events. The car rode up a ramp and through the old motor-home, smashing it into pieces that flew in all directions. The car landed hard on the front wheels and continued chasing the limo.
Soon the limo driver (actually You Tube video star Corey Funk) parked at the half-mile finish line, emerged and spread his arms on the limo hood to “surrender”. The pursuing “cop” (IS veteran destruction events winner Robert Rice) stepped from his car to the limo driver to make the “arrest” as spectators laughed loudly.
Infield announcer Tim Huddleston interviewed both Funk and Rice and then the ride-along patrol car passenger– Cheryl Hyland, a past demo derby winner and long-time Rice friend. She said the landing was hard after smashing the motor-home prop, but added, “I trust Robert.” She said she videotaped the chase and ramp launch and it will be available for viewing soon on Robert Rice Racing. It most likely will be seen also as a new Cory Funk You Tube video.
SECOND 50: With Huddleston starting tenth in the second 50 and IS series point leader Alan alongside, passing was guaranteed. Three and four-wide racing during the early laps had Perkins, from Bakersfield, in front for five laps in his HPR No. 51 Chevy. Alan was second by lap 4; he made an inside pass in turn four on lap 6 to take the point from Perkins.
Huddleston moved from tenth to sixth in two laps. He was third on lap 6 and second on lap 8. At lap 25 crossed flags, Huddleston still trailed leader Alan by 20-yards in an all-green race to that point.
Then the race turned into a chaotic preview of the demo derby to follow. Three yellow flags on lap 28, 29 and 30 involved multi-car incidents. Huddleston led lap 28 after a two-by-two restart alongside Alan.
On a lap 29 restart, Alan got into the back of Huddleston’s car and it spun backwards down the front straight almost to the finish line. No other cars hit the slowly moving No. 50. P. J. Hernandez hit the fourth turn outside wall to avoid hitting another car. He broke his RF suspension and motor mount. Huddleston rejoined the race at the back. Racing director Mike Atkinson sent Alan to the back also for causing the yellow flag.
Perkins led restarted lap 29 over St. Onge. On lap 30 their cars made contact leaving the second turn and spun, involving third place Eshleman’s rented No. 26 as well. The race was red-flagged for 13-minutes for track clean-up after drivers were assisted. St. Onge was shaken-up and taken by ambulance to the pits for medical evaluation. Alan was sidelined by a broken radiator.
Only six cars were able to restart lap 30 with Jones and Schartau on the front row, Garner and Huddleston in row two, with Val Cummings and Perkins in the back row. Schartau, the fourth race leader, led laps 30-32 in the outside groove. Then inside running Huddleston took command and pulled away to a 20-yard advantage by the 8:39 pm lap 45 checkers. Officials cut five laps to allow the demo derby and jet-truck burn-down to be completed before the 9;05 fireworks show. Schartau,15, finished second, 0.876 back. Second year late model driver Jones was third for the second consecutive race. His No. 55 HPR Chevy trailed the winner by 1.323 Perkins, Garner and Cummings followed.
DEMO DERBY: Sarah Hancock, from Rancho Cucamonga, was the last driver still under power in the No. 38 car entered for renowned driver Brian Deegan, who departed earlier. It was her second demo derby victory. Ken Palmer and first-time DD driver Corey Funk placed second and third respectively.
Track lights in the infield were turned off for the next event. A PYP pickup truck named “Inferno” with an aircraft jet engine mounted at the back took only four minutes to destroy an old car in the infield. Jet blasts from the engine reduced the car to smoldering metal amid flying sparks and embers from the back of the melting car.
The eagerly anticipated aerial fireworks show took place from 9:07 to 9:17 pm and entertained spectators with the track lights still turned off in the infield. Many spectators indicated it was their first-time at IS. Fans voiced their approval when PA announcer Mason asked it they had enjoyed the event. As spectators exited the grandstand, one final array of fireworks lighted the sky with a colorful sight and loud booms that set off many car alarms in the parking lot.
Persons watching the IS fireworks show on the roof of the suites also viewed 360 degrees of aerial fireworks in neighboring San Gabriel Valley cities. Among the visitors this week was former IS racer Ryan Vargas, 17, one of nine 2018 NASCAR Next drivers. He currently ranks fifth in K& N East driver points and is only four points out of fourth place. He has six finishes in seven races and three top tens in the No. 2 Ford Fusion. He said Tennessee speedways Bristol and Memphis are his favorite new race tracks. He flew home Saturday for a one week visit with family and friends.
The next IS event on Saturday, July 14 will feature the Spears SWT touring stock car series. Also on that program will be: spec late models, junior late models, SWT trucks, legend cars, and enduro cars.