CANTRELL – TRUCK CHAMP & IRWINDALE “NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION” - By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 29 – Connor Cantrell, 25, captured the Seidner's Collision Centers Race Trucks 2016 championship Saturday in a tense duel on Irwindale Speedway's half-mile. It is his second Irwindale truck championship and first since 2011. He drove his No. 9 APECS Chevy S-10 to fastest qualifying time in a 12-truck field and started from pole position. The Valencia resident led all 50-laps in a double-points race in front of 6,484 spectators attracted by the sixth “Night of Destruction” of the season. Trucks raced as the second event.
Winners of the other five feature events in order were:
> Seidner's Flag Pole 20-lap race for foreign or domestic four-cylinder cars – Sean Brennan, 26, drove his; Acura Integra on the third-mile, between K-rail marked turns into the infield and around a flag pole marked intersection back to the third mile front straight.
> Seidner's Figure 8 enduro cars 20-lap race on the third-mile and through infield intersection – Mike DiGregorio, 25, won in his Honda.
> Seidner's Skid Plate Cars 20-lap race on the third-mile oval – Jet Blue Airlines A320 pilot Todd Browne, with a female ride-along passenger aboard, lapped the field in winning his third career SPC feature. It was the 51st SPC race since the event debuted at IS in 2009.
> Pick Your Part Powder Puff Demo Derby on a watered section of the infield lined by large white truck tires. Seven females destroyed older four-cylinder enduro sedans in the first powder puff demo derby of 2016. First-time entrant Glenna Panarisi won.
> Trailer Race with 15 vehicles towing trailers with boats, jet skis and other cargo or house trailers on the watered third-mile for 30+ laps. The first place trophy went to Robert Rice based on fan applause and cheering for the driver who provided the most excitement from green to checkered flags.
TRUCKS 50: The 12 race trucks started the “N of D” theme unintentionally. There were four yellow flags and one red flag after a four truck crash in turn four damaged body panels. Later a truck spun in turn two, got clipped by a passing truck, and lost its hood and front fenders. The race took 37 minutes to complete.
Cantrell entered the season finale trailing Lucas McNeil, 23, by four points (472-468). He had to defeat McNeil by one position to win the championship via the tie-breaker rule. Cantrell did his part and scored 100 points to finish with 568. McNeil, the third fastest qualifier, ran third or fourth all 50 laps and finished third, 2.730 seconds in back of Cantrell. He earned 92 points and finished with 564 points.
If McNeil had outraced runner-up Ken Michaelian, who trailed Cantrell by 0.274, he would have tied Cantrell at 568. However, in that scenario Cantrell would still be the champion based on the tie-breaker rule of most feature wins or second places if necessary to break a tie. The title-contenders each won five of the 11 main events in 2016. Cantrell had five seconds to three for McNeil. Andrew Porter won the second feature of 2016. Seventeen drivers earned series points this season. Jeff Williams, Trick Mintey III (in his first 2016 start), Zack Green, Dennis Arena, Nico Mongenel and Ken Brown all completed 50 laps. Philip Lauck was tenth, down a lap.
The final six laps had four yellow flags and a red after a four-truck crash in the fourth turn. It involved Jacob McNeil, Mintey, Arena and rookie Mark Perry, Jr. The McNeil and Perry trucks were sidelined. Mintey and Arena continued. Green, the 2013-14 IS super stock champion, stopped his truck next to the top three afterwards to accept the rookie award. The 26-year old said he is engaged and announced he is retiring from racing. He finished fifth in points with 446. Fellow rookie Jacob McNeil, 19, placed sixth in points with 410.
Winner Cantrell told the crowd, “I'm practically exhausted. Ken Michaelian you drove a great race. If I had made one mistake you would have won.” He thanked his family, crew and sponsors. Michaelian, who was trying to win his first truck feature, said, “I can't complain at all. Connor drove a great race. Whoever won it would have to earn it. This isn't even my truck. I rented it in mid-season (from Sean Vincent) to finish the season after a crash with my truck.” Third place McNeil stated, “Sorry I couldn't win it. I did the best I could. Thanks to everyone. My mom is battling cancer and she is here tonight.”
TRACK STATUS: The start of racing was delayed 20 minutes to 7:20 to allow the large crowd to buy tickets and get to their grandstand seats. Jim Cohan, 211 Entertainment CEO/President, said the track lease is being extended into 2017 and everyone is pleased. Oval and drag racing and the on-premises driving school will continue to operate in 2017. His two daughters attended and sang the National Anthem at the starting line during pre-race ceremonies attended by Boy Scouts.
FLAG POLE 20: There were 32 entrants for the 20-lap contest. It used the third-mile and K-rail lined detours into the infield and around a flag pole marked X-intersection. The “R-oval” consisted of six turns and went back to the third-mile straightaway to complete a lap. Several cars scratched and 27 lined up in rows of two for a standing start. A total of 21 cars were running at the finish of the nine minute race. The winner's average speed was 42.506 mph.
Robert Rice, 50, started fifth in a borrowed No. K-14 Honda and led laps 1-5. Sean Brennan started 20th in a black No. 33 Acura and took command for good on lap 6. He won by 18.998 seconds over Rice. Bory Molina returned from a 15-year racing hiatus and placed third. Travis Mooney, Steven Belling and Neil Himes finished fourth through sixth. Robert Anderson made his first start at IS and started 12th in his No. 127 1989 Ford Probe. The son of an ex-Ascot Figure driver passed Rice for second position on lap 6 and afterwards said he thought he finished second. He was ninth in transponder electronic scoring. Anderson, a Ventura Raceway dwarf car veteran, ran the fastest race lap of 25.175 (47.619 mph).
FIGURE 8: Sixteen of 18 entrants made the rolling start of a 20-lap event on the third mile and through the infield intersection. Tony Cummings led the first six laps from pole position. On lap 7 his yellow No. 02 polka dot marked car and Mike Lindquist's car collided at the intersection and stopped . Neither driver was injured, but Cummings car was towed to the pits. Mike DiGregorio drove his black No. 33 from sixth on the grid to lead laps 7-20. He beat Hawthorne resident Robert Rice's No. 7 Honda Accord by 9.244 seconds.
James Bolinas, Robbie Salcido, Ryan Neal and Nipomo's Jeremy Queener, in a Toyota Corolla hatchback rally wagon, finish in P. 3-6 and all logged 20 laps. Ten drivers reached the checkered flag in a race with no yellow flags. One brief red flag resulted from the intersection collision. A demo run by Pick Your Part “The Inferno”, a high horsepower, J-33 jet engine powered 1,400 pound pickup truck, followed on the half-mile front straight.
SPC 20: There were 32 entrants for the skid plate car race on the third-mile oval and 29 cars started from a rolling start. From the pole, Cheryl Hyland led the first two laps. Todd Browne drove his No. 84 1994 Acura Integra (with 156,000+ miles on the odometer) to the lead on lap 3. He remained the leader to the lap 20 checkers. He lapped second place on the final lap. Afterwards, he and his female passenger climbed out each side of the car for post-race comments.
Second place Ken Palmer's No. 55 was involved in a four-car crash in the first turn on the final lap and dropped to fourth. Steven Belling and Travis Mooney placed second and third officially. Robbie Salcido's Honda was fifth. All-time Irwindale SPC feature winner Di Gregorio (14 wins) dropped out early. Ten-time SPC feature winner Sean Brennan finished ninth, down three laps after problems.
Now three-time skid plate feature winner Browne, from Glendora, won the final 2013 SPC main in October 2013. He also won the initial SPC race in April 2014 driving the same No. 86 1998 Toyota Celica. He said he took 2015 off from racing, but missed it and returned in mid-2016 with a new car and number. He found the new car advertised on Craig's List. After dominating the skid plate field Saturday for his first 2016 victory, look for Browne to continue with the same fast car and lucky number.
POWDER PUFF DD: Event five was the powder puff demo derby. Seven female drivers used Toyota and Honda enduro cars to bash and batter each other from 9:50 to the 10:03 pm checkers. First-time entrant Glenna Panarisi, the aunt of truck racers Lucas and Jacob McNeil, won in her black No. 978 (for the 97 and 78 trucks raced by her nephews). “I did it for my sister (mother of the McNeil brothers) who is fighting cancer,” the winner told spectators.
Irwindale timer/scorer Jannie Atkinson placed second in a 15-year old Toyota Camry LE. She made one front end collision that deployed both air bags in her car. She continued until radiator overheating stopped her Toyota. Ashley Bassett, Shayla Zins, Cheryl Hyland, April Shaw and IS clerk Quebet King followed in the order of their exit. Jannie subbed this week as timer/scorer for her older sister Sarah, who married Mike Hancock, a LA County firefighter/paramedic who also works at IS in the same capacity. Sarah and Mike got married Saturday, October 22 in Yucaipa and are on their honeymoon in the Fiji Islands.
TRAILER RACE: Fifteen entrants, towing trailers with boats, jet skis and assorted cargo or small house trailers, ran 30+ un-scored laps while battering each other on the third-mile oval. They entertained the vocal crowd by separating cargo and trailers from other entrants and smashing through loose boats and house trailers. Several drivers made a practice of vaulting over piles of debris to earn spectators' approval for their showmanship. After 18-minutes of non-stop action, the checkered flag flew at 10:30 pm.
Announcer Bruce Flanders polled the still packed grandstand and offered the numbers of five possible winners. He read No. 1, 7, 16, 37 and 176. Robert Rice, the “master of mayhem” at Irwindale, won his second consecutive trailer race. He drove his usual orange PYP No. 7 Chevy El Camino with an orange boat on the trailer. It was his third victory in the crowd-pleasing event in six trailer races this year. The final scheduled 2016 event at Irwindale Speedway is another “Night of Destruction” on Saturday, December 3.