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CANSDALE (SRL) & THIRKETTLE (MODS) WIN @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale CA., Apr. 30 – Irwindale Speedway hosted 210 laps of main event action by three divisions , including annual visits to the track by two touring series, Saturday evening. Passing dark clouds in the late afternoon dropped occasional sprinkles that marked windshields but did not hinder racing. Weather concerns cut attendance to 2,990 despite the promise of a thoroughly entertaining triple-header. Three series—Spears Mfg. SRL Southwest Tour presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse (stock cars), Lucas Oil Modifieds Super Clean Shootout presented by Bilstein Shocks, and INEX Legend Cars—delivered expected excitement during full programs. Spectators witnessed three-hours of competitive racing.

Ryan Cansdale, a 17-year old junior at Laguna Beach High, won the featured Spears SRL Southwest Tour 100-lap race on the banked half-mile. The 2015 SRL SWT rookie scored his second series victory in his 11th start and earned $5,000. He won the final SRL 2015 race at the Las Vegas 3/8-mile “Bullring” in a 125-lap race driving his dad's No. 31. Travis Thirkettle, from Sylmar, captured his first Lucas Oil Modified feature and $1,500 in a 75-lap event on the half-mile. INEX Legend Cars ran the first main in a 35-lap race on the third-mile. Veteran Jordan Hyland won the second main event of his IS career after winning his first main in the final 2015 race.

The two touring series features were taped for telecast by the MAVTV Network on dates to be determined later. Separate one-hour programs for the Spears SRL SWT 100 and Lucas Oil Modifieds 75 will air several times in coming months. Check your local TV listings for air dates. The evening was called “Lee Hatch Night” in honor of the 2003-04 ASA Speed Truck champion. (See Footnote for details.)

The two touring series winners were very familiar to spectators at Irwindale Speedway. Cansdale was the 2009-10 INEX Bandolero IS track champion. He advanced to Legend Cars, S2 spec late models and NASCAR late models as a Tim Huddleston HPR Chevy team protege. At age 13 Ryan won a pair of S2 main events in his dad Mark's No. 37 on the IS half-mile. At age 14 on Sept. 13, 2014 he also won a 30-lap NASCAR late model main driving the HPR No. 51. He drove his dad's No. 57 Racecar Factory-built SRL car Saturday. RCF owner Jeff Schrader said it is the 85th chassis built by his firm, located about a mile from the speedway.

Cansdale's victory at his home track Saturday was round three of the ten race schedule and the second points race. He moved from sixth to fifth in 2016 SRL points. The happy winner started fourth in a 20-car field that had a seven car inverted lineup based on qualifying times. He led the final 98 laps of the 100-lap race and withstood pressure from frequent SRL winner/past champion Derek Thorn. Cansdale scored his 18th feature victory at IS including 14 in Bandolero cars, two in S2 and one in a late model.

Thirkettle, 38, was the 2006 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model track champion at Irwindale. The father of three moved on to the NASCAR super late models and won a Toyota All-Star Showdown feature at IS. A blown engine in 2011 and the closure of IS in 2012 led the second generation driver to curtail his racing. The son of stock car racing champion Jim Thirkettle assisted other teams, as IS champions Rip Michels and Nick Joanides did when Irwindale Speedway reopened for racing in 2013 under new management. All three champions have raced this season and have demonstrated their usual racing proficiency.

Thirkettle bought a new RCF-built Lucas Oil Modified late last season. He used his usual No. 5 and raced it at IS last September. He entered Saturday's race in 16th place (74 points) among 35 drivers with LOM points after two of ten scheduled races. As the tenth fastest qualifier in a 30-car field, Thirkettle started tenth and became the third race leader on lap 15. He led the final 61 laps for his initial LOM feature victory in his brief LOM career. However, it was his 35th IS feature triumph in three divisions (Grand Am Mods, late models and super late models). His win solidified his ranking of sixth on the list of all-time main event winners at IS.

NTRs: The two touring series broke one lap track records during single-car qualifying runs between 4:30 and 5:20 pm. Past IS track champion and current NASCAR K & N West Series driver Ryan Partridge was the 29th of 30 qualifiers in his own RCF-built modified. His first lap--18.470 (97.455 mph)--eclipsed the former series IS record of 18.488 (97.360 mph). Two-time LOM series champion Austin Barnes, of Escondido, set the old track mark on June 27, 2015 in his No. 51A STR chassis with Chevrolet power. Barnes won both 2015 features at IS on June 27 and September 19. The second fastest qualifier Saturday was Scott Winters, from Tracy, at 18.514.

Spears SRL stock cars qualified 21 of 23 cars entered (Trevor Huddleston and Dennis Furden cars did not compete after Friday night practice). Perennial front-runner D. Thorn (No. 43 Campbell Motor-sports Victory Circle chassis) turned the fastest time of 17.440 (103.211 mph). The Bakersfield resident easily eclipsed the old track record of 17.635 (101+ mph) that he established on July 17, 2010. Five of the 21 qualifiers beat the old track standard. They ran a total of nine laps under the former IS track record for the SRL series. One car was unable to start because of a broken rear axle.

SPEARS SRL 100: The Super Clean: Shootout used a seven car inversion based upon time trials. Sixth quickest Parker Stephens started second and led the first two laps. Cansdale shot from fourth to second on lap 1 and was the leader on lap 3. He opened a straightaway lead by lap 90 despite a brief caution flag from lap 34-36 for a stalled car. Thorn started seventh and was second by lap 25. At lap 50 the running order was Cansdale, Thorn, 2015 SRL SWT champion Jacob Gomes, pole starter Carlos Vieira, Blaine Rocha, SRL rookie Christian McGhee, Stephens, Bobby Hodges, Keith Spangler and Toni McCray.

The second and final yellow flag flew on lap 99 after P. 11 Brandon White spun out on the backstretch and restarted. P. 7 Rocha, of Oakdale, slowed with “an electrical problem” and no oil pressure and exited to the infield work area marked by K-rails on each side. The field lined up single-file by SRL rule during the final ten laps instead of double-file. With two green flag laps remaining Thorn was right on leader Cansdale's back bumper instead of a straight-away back as he was running before the lap 99 yellow flag. Cansdale admitted later he was worried.

At the green flag, Cansdale quickly opened a ten-yard winning margin (-0.772) over Thorn, who had to fight off P. 9 starter/third place driver Gomes, 23, from Manteca. Gomes drove his Hamke-built car to third (-1.393). IS regular/2016 SRL SWT leading rookie McGhee, 17, was the hard charger for starting 20th (last) and racing to fourth (-1.426). Stephens (-1.809), Vieira (-2.199) and Hodges (-2.500) completed 100 laps.

P 7-10 finishers with 99 laps were: Spangler, rookie Austin Reed and Idaho driver John Nesmith in his first IS race. P. 11-12 were IS veterans/SRL rookies McCray and Ricky Schlick, 18. Scott Sanchez also logged 99 laps. The 38-minute race averaged 77.979 mph; 16 cars of the actual 20 car field finished. Rip Michels, the IS all-time feature winner (67), started 11th in Brian Richardson's No. 4 but dropped out of P. 6 on lap 51. Cansdale's lap of 17.753 (101.391 mph) was the fastest race lap.

MODS 75: Modifieds used an inversion number of eight drawn by the fastest qualifier. Second starter Dylan Cappello, the LOM feature winner at IS in 2014, led the opening lap. Pole starter Eddie Secord paced laps 2-12. Cappello led laps 13-14. Thirkettle confidently said in a LOM press release days before the race that Irwindale is his home track and he expects to win. Call him Super Bowl Joe Namath in pre-event predicting, but Travis delivered. He shot from tenth starting to fifth place by lap 12. He was second at lap 14 and the leader on lap 15. At lap 50, Thirkettle led by 30-yards (-1.48 seconds) over fastest qualifier Partridge, 27, also driving his own RCF-built chassis that he acquired last year from driver Travis Irving.

Taylor Miinch, Kyle Tellstrom, Cappello and Scott Winters raced in a tight pack for third through sixth. Doug Hamm, Barnes, Larry Gerchman and Matthew Hicks completed the top ten with frequent passing throughout the field. There were four caution flags and a red flag on lap 58 after two cars collided near the starting line. Blaine Perkins car hit the crash-wall and careened to the first turn wall just past the pit entrance. He was unhurt but the car was towed to the pits.

A lap 71 caution for a spin erased Thirkettle's 2.047 seconds lead over Partridge. A single-file restart followed. Thirkettle used the outside groove and Partridge charged from the inside to the left side of Thirkettle's car on lap 72. Thirkettle pulled away to a ten-yard (-0.493 second) victory margin. The winner told the crowd, “Number one baby. I knew I had a good car. I love Irwindale. It's the best track in the country. This is my first win in five or six years and first Lucas win.” He thanked his dad Jim and crew plus sponsors National Papers, RCF, Ron's Rear Ends and Ketl Koi Farm. Runner-up Partridge said, “P 1 and 2 are both RCF cars. I didn't have anything for Travis if he kept it straight and he did. I could only get up to his door.”

Hicks (P. 9 at the lap 71 restart) made a late-race charge and finished third (-1.842). P 4-5 were Cappello and Tellstrom, Winters (who was third on lap 71) slowed with a smoking engine during closing laps and placed sixth in the 58-minute event. Hamm, Miinch, Eric Hamilton, and Aaron McMorran completed the top ten. Many-time LOM Irwindale winner Barnes finished 11th, 4.370 seconds off the lead.

Twenty-five of 30 starters finished with 22 drivers on the lead lap. Early leader Secord, who drove No. 35 to honor his father instead of his usual No. 84, ran the fastest race lap of 18.763 (95.933 mph). LOM drivers came from eight states: Arizona, California, Idaho, No. Carolina, Nevada, N. Mexico, Utah and Washington. The next race will be May 21 in Las Vegas.

The LOM opened racing at 7:10 pm with a fully-inverted six-lap trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers. The Bilstein Shocks dash paid $500 to win. Tellstrom led all six laps from the pole and edged closing sixth starter Partridge by ten yards (-0.444). The winner averaged 95.326 mph. Hicks, Miinch, Winters and non-finishers Barnes placed third through sixth.

LEGENDS 35: A 14-car field of Legends used a six-car inverted starting lineup. Lawless Alan led lap 1 from the pole. Third starter Darren Amidon paced the next three laps. Second FQ/fifth starter Hyland put his No. 76 coupe into the lead and won the close duel among the top four runners. He recorded his second career victory at IS in a 13-minute race with two cautions. FQ/sixth starter Parker Steele, who celebrated his 15th birthday a day earlier, took second from Amidon on lap 18. He beat the past champion to the checkered flag and finished second, 0.413 back.

Past series champion Chad Schug was fourth, 1.561 off the lead. Bandolero grad/Legends rookie Johnny Dressler 13, placed fifth, 4.245 behind the winner. All 14 starters finished and 11 ran all 35 laps. Steele recorded the fastest lap at 73.600 mph. Second year IS Legends driver Steele, from Peoria, Arizona, now leads the point standings by two over Amidon.

Irwindale will host another “Night of Destruction” event with NASCAR late model stock cars running twin-30-lap main events and four-cylinder enduro cars racing on the third-mile Then mayhem begins and the track and infield become littered with debris from the destructive events, such as a demo derby and trailer race, plus a skid plate cars race.

FOOTNOTE: Race honoree Lee Hatch, was the 2002 ASA Speed Truck Series rookie of the year and the series 2003-04 champion. He won numerous main events in his red No. 91 truck at IS. The Rancho Cucamonga resident and heavy equipment operator lost his 13-year old son a decade ago at Puddingstone Lake in a drowning accident. Lee sold his truck, left racing and devoted his time to work and family. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery to remove the malignancy. Chemotherapy followed. Lee's tumor returned and his treatment at City of Hope in Duarte showed it was inoperable and had progressed to the fourth stage. Doctors gave him up to 12 months to live.

IS track management honored Lee in starting line ceremonies at 7 pm. Lee said he is resigned to his medical condition. He cannot work and is without medical insurance. He lost 20 pounds and now weighs 160. Lee, 48, and his family watched races Saturday from a suite as part of the day honoring him. His wife Gina, sons Lee, Jr, 10, Anthony, 8, and daughter Marrisa, 6, his parents Bryan and Carol Hatch, plus sister Lisa and niece Brooke attended and watched racing from a suite following ceremonies honoring the courageous former driver.

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