IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY 2016 SEASON FINALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Dec. 3 – Irwindale Speedway concluded its 17th oval track racing season Saturday with another zany five event “Night of Destruction” plus the season finale on the half-mile for the touring Robertson Solar SW Tour Truck Series. So Cal weather cooperated. It was in the 60s when racing started at 7:00 pm and still in the low 50s when the final event concluded at 10:50 pm.
A near capacity crowd of 6,150 attended the 17th IS oval race this season at the Team 211 Entertainment, LLC facility. Spectators included a group of youth football players from Carson who had their tournament football game trip canceled. Track President/CEO Jim Cohan heard about their situation and invited them and parents to attend the season ending event at his speedway. They were honored as grand marshals and watched events all night from a track suite.
TRUCKS 40: Touring Robertson Solar Southwest Tour trucks made the series fifth appearance of 2016 at Irwindale. It was the 12th race for the series at five speedways in California, Nevada and Arizona. Zack St. Onge, a 14-year old rising star ran his first full-season in the truck series this season after turning 14 on December 28, 2015. The Upland resident entered the double-points final race at Irwindale with a 122-point lead, needing only to qualify to win the 2016 SWTT championship. He drove the No. 26 Dodge Ram with a crate 350 c.i Chevy. It is one of the trucks series leader Jeff Williams owns and rents each season.
St. Onge, who attends Alta Loma High School, added freshman football to his racing. He set second fastest qualifying time to Ronnie Davis, Jr., of Whittier. in a 14-truck field. St. Onge became the youngest champion in a touring racing series. He started outside row three in a seven-truck inverted grid and wasted no time charging forward. St. Onge was in P. 3 after one lap and was the race leader by lap 4. He extended his lead to a full-straightaway by the lap 40 checkered flag. He officially won by 5.538 seconds, ran the fastest race lap at 88.714 mph, and won the SWTT championship by more than 100 points despite missing the March 26 race at Willow Springs.
The truck feature took 30-minutes because of several spins. Ron Nava (No. 24 Chevy Silverado), Ed Cutler (Silverado), Alec Martinez (Ford F-150), and Michael Kelperis ((F-150) completed 40 laps in that order. Cecil Phelps, Dan Coburn, Roger Harder, series sponsor Derek Robertson, and Hiroyuki Ueno, from Osaka, Japan, completed 39 laps and comprised the top ten with 11 trucks running at the finish.
Five different SWTT main event winners at Irwindale in 2016 in order were: Ryan Partridge and Ronnie Davis, Jr (both used the No. 78 Davis Silverado), Nava (in Williams' No. 27 Ford F-150), Dustin Vandermooren (No. 71 Vandermooren Silverado), and St. Onge in his initial Irwindale half-mile feature victory. He has raced quarter-midgets, INEX Bandoleros, mini-stocks, late models and trucks at tracks under a half-mile and won in trucks in Las Vegas. He also finished second twice this season in the Irwindale Race Truck Series.
With his dad and step-mother present, St. Onge said he plans to step-up to a touring late model stock car series in 2017 or to the touring Lucas Oil Modified Series. The young champion set two fastest qualifying times in five Irwindale events this season. The SWTT Series also raced twice at Willow Springs Speedway in Rosamond, the Las Vegas third-eighth mile “Bullring”, and Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
SEIDNER'S COLLISION CENTERS ENDURO 20: A season-high 45 foreign and domestic four-cylinder sedans entered the first race of the night and a season-high 43 cars used a rolling start behind the Seidner's Toyota Scion pace car. The five-turn “R-oval” course used the third-mile oval and a K-rail-lined detour into the backstretch infield. Pole starter Kevin Zanit led the first three laps before yielding the point to second-starter/first-time Irwindale racer Colin Lowell, from La Verne. Lowell's No. 26 Honda led three laps.
Zanit reclaimed the lead and paced the event to lap 16 when Lowell again took command. Zanit's P. 2 light green No. 22 got crowded by heavy traffic and hit a fourth turn K-rail head-on. He drove his disabled car to the pits and was scored 30th. Impressive Lowell led lap 16-20 and won by a straightaway (5.763 seconds) over Robert Rice. Lowell became the sixth winner in six enduro races during 2016.
The all-green light 8:33.570-timed race averaged 70.098 mph; 12 cars finished on the lead lap. P. 3-10 were: James Bolinas, Jeremy Queener, Robert Anderson, Travis Mooney, Bory Molina, Robert Rice, Jr., Jet Blue Airline captain Todd Browne, and Tony Cummings. Twenty-nine of 43 starters finished. R. Anderson ran the fastest lap of 23.622 (76.200 mph) in his newest entry-a 1990 Honda CRX. It used No. 28 in honor of the number his father raced in Ascot Park Figure 8 events.
SEIDNER's SKID PLATE CARS 20: The ninth SPC race of 2016 for four-cylinder enduro cars was the 52nd since the event started in 2009. There were a season-high 43 entrants and 39 started after several became disable in the first race of the night. Front row starter Robbie Salcido led two laps and Steven Belling paced lap 3. Then 15th starter Sean Brennan charged his black No. 33 Honda past Belling in traffic and led laps 4-20. It was his third victory in nine SPC mains this season and his 11th career SPC victory.
Brennan's total is second only to 14 SPC victories his brother-in-law Mike Di Gregorio, who started his black No. 18 Honda Accord 16th and finished second; he was the only other lead lap driver. Sixteen lapped cars and 26.644 seconds separated the top two finishers. The all-green light race took 13:52.892 and averaged 43.223 mph. Third through seventh finishers Salcido, Belling, Wayne Lee, Robert Rice, Sr. and Tony Cummings completed 19 laps. P. 8-9 Austin Lee and Jarod Johnson ran 18 laps with 29 of 39 starters still racing at the conclusion.
ENDURO FIGURE 8: Sixteen drivers raced their still usable enduro cars on the usual Figure 8 course through the infield. SPC winner Brennan, from Yorba Linda, shed his metal skid plate from his back wheels and mounted tires. He won his second main event of the evening convincingly. He started 14th, led laps 11-20 and won by 4.562 seconds. It was his second F-8 victory in the seven F-8 races run this season. Four different drivers won the seven races.
Seventh starter and lap 5-10 leader Jeremy Queener drove his usual Toyota Corolla “rally wagon” to second place. The former CLS winged sprint driver moved from Nipomo to Mira Loma. R. Rice, Sr., J. Bolinas, lap 1-4 leader Neil Himes, S. Belling, and R. Rice, Jr. also completed all 20 laps. Thirteen drivers finished the all-green flag event. The winning time was 7:29.691 for an average speed of 60.361 mph.
The evening also had two entertaining events between “N of D” features. A demonstration of hazardous pickup truck driving took place in the infield. Drivers then executed tire-smoking “donuts”. A Pick Your Part sponsored 1,400-pound pickup truck, named “The Inferno”, used a J-33 jet engine mounted on the back to burn down an old sedan in the infield. Metal sparks from the melted car shot back almost to the third-mile crash-wall between turns three and four.
The final two “N of D” events were a season-low car count of five enduro cars in a demolition derby on a watered section of the infield and third-mile front straight. The Low Budget TV video team finished 1-2-3. Shayla Zins won, with boyfriend Tommy Mason second and video-grapher Jeffrey Best third. Andrew Porter, a truck and late model veteran, finished fourth in the No. 88 Toyota Camry that had both airbags deploy last month during a female drivers only DD. J. Bolinas dropped out early in the 15-minute contest. Four drivers won the five enduro car demo derbies this season.
TRAILER RACE: A season-high 22 entrants participated in a 31-minute race on the five-turn “R-oval” course. Sedans, pickup trucks and Chevy El Caminos towed boats, small and large house trailers, ski-doos, and various cargo on trailers. Drivers tried to destroy trailers and cargo of competitors and preserve their own trailers while exhibiting showmanship to sway opinions of vocal spectators. J. Best drove his grandmother's fresh off the street black 1997 Cadillac Coupe deVille trade-in car with her permission. He started at the back to video carnage from a driver's vantage point for LBTV. His Caddy escaped without major damage, but it received a small dent near the driver's side door handle.
Several drivers led the race. One car landed with the front half of the car inside the split open back of a house trailer and stalled. There were two red flags to quell small engine fires in cars stopped amid scattered debris littering the course. Only three cars reached the checkered flag. Spectators voted Robbie Salcido the winner for the second time in seven trailer races this season. Robert Rice Sr and Jr. placed second and third in that order in fan voting.
The IS 2016 championship awards banquet will be held during January. With another full-season of racing scheduled through 2017, the IS opening night event will be in March as usual.