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IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY - “N of D” & LATE MODELS – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA., Jul. 1 – Irwindale Speedway presented a pre-July 4 Independence Day 15-minute fireworks show Saturday night. Twin 30-lap main events for NASCAR Whelen All_American Series LKQ Pick Your Part late model stock cars and the third of six 2017 “Night of Destruction” events preceded the aerial fireworks. All grandstand tickets were sold by Wednesday, June 28. More than 6,500+ spectators were present well before the 7:00 pm starting time and National Anthem. 

All spectators remained in the packed grandstand through the conclusion of the professional aerial pyrotechnics show. Technicians ignited fireworks from the staging area beyond the backstretch. Portable electronic signs placed on both ends of Live Oak Ave. near the speedway flashed “Speedway Sold Out”. That considerate step eliminated congestion entering the speedway parking lot for customers and traffic blockage for all traffic. 

Late model races were the first and third events on the eight event program. One of the late model races was a make-up date for twin-30s rained-out on May 6. The other co-feature will be part of a twin-30s event on Saturday, September 2. The largest Irwindale Speedway late model car count (24) competed since 26 late models raced at IS on June 18, 2011. Twenty-two cars qualified and two back-up late models were pressed into service for the second main event to replace cars sidelined by a multi-car crash in the first feature.

The outcome of the two late model races this week was the same as it was two weeks ago. On June 17 fastest qualifier Toni Marie McCray won both 30-lap mains. However, her car was dropped to last place (18th) in both races because it did not pass routine post-race tech inspection. Her No. 90 Clay Wooster 14-year old Racecar Factory-built car used “a non-conforming part” (shocks). 

This week McCray again set the fastest qualifying time and finished first in both 30-lap features. She started first in the first 30 and led every lap. The runner-up was 0.500 back. A 20-lap compact car enduro 20-lap race for four-cylinder cars followed. A half-hour break separated the two late model features. The first ten starters in the second 30 were inverted based upon finishing positions in the first 30. 

McCray started from outside row five. She raced forward quickly and was fourth by lap 4. In exciting three and four-wide racing, McCray passed three cars in the second turn on lap 5 and led the final 26 laps. Her winning margin was 1.533 (30 yards) in the all-green flag, 10:04.350 race that had an average speed of 89.352 mph.

Routine post-race tech inspection about 11 pm this week had tech inspectors checking the engines of the top three finishers. Second and third in both mains were Trevor Huddleston and his teammate Dylan Garner in HPR Chevrolets also built by NASCAR K & N West crew chief Jeff Schrader's Racecar Factory in Irwindale. Both cars passed inspection. 

McCray's No. 90 Wooster Chevy did not pass. A 9.6 maximum engine compression ratio is the standard. The No. 90 engine surpassed 10. That resulted in the car being disqualified from both races instead of being dropped to last position as it was on June 17. The four consecutive main event penalties (for shocks and engine compression ratio) have resulted in car owner Wooster and driver McCray dropping from championship contender status to tenth place in track point standings. McCray and the No. 90 are now 186 points (528-342) behind leader Huddleston and the No. 50. Eleven of 22 scheduled races remain including the double-points September 23 season finale. 

1ST LM 30: All 22 drivers took parade laps holding American flags on poles outside their cars to celebrate July 4 as usual. The half-way mark had McCray leading third starter Huddleston, the 2015-16 series champion, second starter Garner, Lawless Alan, Ryan Vargas, Andrew Porter, Cole Cabrera, Nick Joanides, rookie Matt Johnson, Jeff Peterson and 15-year old rookie/2015 Bandolero champion Kayla Eshleman. Porter exited to the infield on lap 16 after losing two bolts from his transmission mount.

Two cars spun in turn two on lap 25, bringing all cars back together for a two-by-two restart. A four-car crash on lap 27 in the third turn involved cars of M. Johnson and Kevin Furden at the crash-wall, Alec Martinez, plus truck racer Lucas McNeil in his new late model No. 78. All four cars were sidelined and had to be taken to the pits by tow trucks or a roll-back truck. They did not return for the second 30. Drivers escaped injury. 

Johnson started race two in the No. 97 Garner late model the Garner family had bought as a back-up car for son Dylan Garner to race at Madera. It was the No. 98 late model raced in 2015 by rookie Jarid Blondel. Veteran Craig Rayburn did not qualify or race in the first 30, but he started race two in the HPR No. 5 late model with two seats for ride-alongs. The goal in adding back-up cars was to surpass 18 cars necessary for full NASCAR Whelen National points scoring for the event. 

The official finish after the No. 90 was DQ later showed the top ten drivers as: Huddleston, Garner, L. Alan, Vargas, Cabrera, Joanides, Peterson, 14-year old rookie Jagger Jones, whose father P. J. and grandfather Parnelli were present, George Atkinson and rookie K. Eshleman. Four other drivers finished. The race took 32 minutes from start to finish, including a lengthy delay to remove crashed cars and clean spilled oil.

2ND LM 30: With the addition of two back-up cars from the pits, a field of 20 ran off 30 laps rapidly. Passing and three-wide racing were plentiful during the first ten laps. Atkinson led the first four laps from the pole. McCray led laps 5-30. Huddleston took second place from Garner on lap 15 and beat him to the 8:35 pm checkered flag by 4,816 seconds. Ironically, Huddleston's father and team owner Tim, a three-time IS late model champion, is the roof-top spotter for Garner while a crew member is on the radio with his son Trevor. 

Joanides, Vargas, rookie J. Jones, L. Alan, Atkinson, Porter (from the back row in his repaired Joe Nava No. 88), Cabrera, and rookie Eshleman completed the top ten. Fourteen of 17 cars racing at the finish completed all 30 laps. With four impressive rookies in the series, Jones now ranks seventh with 390 points and fellow 14-year old Ryan Schartau is eighth with 360 points. Huddleston has won seven of 11 features this season. 

Seidner's Collision Centers ENDURO 20: Event two for four-cylinder sedans had 36 of 39 entrants on the third-mile “R-oval” track. The five-turn course had jogs into the backstretch infield and outwards to the half-mile at the start/finish line. The first nine of 19 rows started straight-up by practice times at the 2:30 pm session. That put quickest driver Robert Rice on pole and Kevin Zanit's “green machine” alongside in row one. Rice led 14 laps. Third starter Bory Molina led laps 15-17; Rice led the final three laps. He won by 2.678 seconds over Molina. 

Zanit placed third, 4.880 seconds off the lead. James Bolinas, Jeremy Queener, Todd Paperny, Donny St. Ours, Eddie Howell, May 20 winner Brad Stellman, Rod Schmitt and Mike Lindquist completed 20 laps in that order. Thirty-one cars finished. The 8:02.136-timed event had one red flag to remove a stalled car. 

Seidner's Collision Centers SKID PLATE CARS 20: The 55th SPC race at IS since the popular entry-level racing debuted in 2009 had 30 entrants. A field of 24 raced in event four Saturday. They ran 20-laps in 12:02.374 for an average speed of 49.836 mph. Winner Sean Brennan, 27, started 20th and won by 2.658 seconds. It was his fourth consecutive SPC victory and his record-tying 14th triumph in the series. He drove a No. 33 Honda Civic for the first time after earlier winng in Toyota Camry, Acura Integra and Honda Accord models. 

Tony Cummings led laps 1 and 3 and Steven Belling was point-man on lap 2. Brennan became the fourth race leader on lap 11 after his brother-in-law, Mike Di Gregorio, the lap 4-10 leader, dropped out in the same 1995 Honda Accord he has raced at IS since 2013. Di Gregorio is tied with Brennan at 14 victories and their 28 total victories within the family is 51% of all skid plate victories run at IS. Nineteen of 24 starters finished with six on the lead lap. P. 2-10 were: Robbie Salcido, Robert Rice, Beling, Cummings, and Wayne Lee. Lappers were: Donny St. Ours, Ken Palmer, Mike Lindquist, and Troy Anderson. 

 

Seidner's Collision Centers FIGURE 8: The 20-lap race through the infield intersection had 21 starters with 14 racing a the finish. Pole-man Steven Belling led the first four laps. Then third starter Jeremy Queener, from Mira Loma, drove his light blue No. 92 1988 Toyota Carolla past him and led the final 16 laps. He won by 4.257 seconds. 

James Bolinas. Todd Paperny, Eddie Howell, Robbie Salcido and Tony Cummings followed. Robert Rice drove his orange No. 7 Honda Accord from 16th starting position to P. 2 by lap 7. He nosed into the lead briefly and then was hit hard in the LR fender at the X crossing. He continued slower and lost positions before dropping out on lap 12. 

LKQ Pick Your Part DEMO DERBY: Four-cylinder “compact car cowboys”competed on a watered section of the start/finish infield in front of the grandstand. There were nine entrants and six participated in the DD after earlier events sidelined some cars. Seidner's Collision Centers posted $1,000 for the winner and a large trophy. It took eight minutes of crashing and bashing to determine the winner—Adam Ditto, a frequent competitor in “N of D” events. Jonathon Destefano and Tommy Mason finished second and third. 

PYP JET BURN-DOWN: The next event (seven) was a Pick Your Part aircraft J-10 jet engine powered PYP-sponsored pickup truck named “Inferno” on center stage. It burned down an old car in the infield near the flagpole. It only took two minutes to melt the car via bursts of flame from the back of the pickup truck. Track firemen quelled the flames and black smoke quickly at 9:54 pm. 

TRAILER RACE: The 25+ lap event eight on-track finale had 16 entrants. They made the zany race on the third-mile oval as spectator-pleasing as usual. The “N of D” most popular event had tow vehicles such as: Chevy El Caminos, large sedans, Suburbans,and station wagons. Trailered cargo included the usual boats, jet skis, house trailers, a small car, a wooden dog house, and a mini-covered wagon. Racing from a standing start and littering the track lasted from 10:03 to 10:18 pm. Robbie Salcido's orange No. 16 PYP sedan, with trailed boat still intact on the trailer, was the winner. 

Then the 10:25 to 10:40 pm fireworks show captured the attention of everyone at IS plus motorists passing on the 605 Freeway. The fireworks show wrapped up a pre-July 4 wild, crazy-fun, colorful and patriotic night. 

SAD NEWS: Long-time auto racing photographer Earl Stubbs, 67, passed away July 4 from a heart attack in the emergency room of a hospital in Las Vegas, where he resided since 2005. The former Azusa resident took photos at stock car races for many decades. He shot at Gardena's Ascot Park, Speedway 605, El Centro, Corona, Perris Orange Show Speedway, and Irwindale Speedway. He is survived by son Robert, daughter Aprell, and three grandchildren—granddaughters Magenta Rose,18, and Kaley, 12, and grandson D.J, 12. All are Las Vegas residents. Funeral arrangements are pending.