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TWIN TWINS NIGHT @ IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA., July 29 – It was twins night at the races Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. Five track series raced seven main events, including twin features in both the top tier NASCAR Late Models and Irwindale Race Trucks. There were 62 racing vehicles in action for 185 main event laps. Point leaders in three of four series that award track points won main events and increased point leads. Five main events utilized the banked half-mile, one used the third-mile, and Figure 8 racing used the usual course through the infield. 

1st LATE MODEL 30: Nineteen of 20 qualified NASCAR Whelen All-American Series LKQ/Pick Your Part late models raced. Drivers lined up for the first event in order of single-car qualifying times at 4:15 pm. Fastest qualifier Nick Joanides, 47, started on pole and led all 30 laps in Joe Nava's No. 77 King Taco Chevy. It was his third victory this season and 54th at Irwindale Speedway. He ran the fastest race lap at 91.622 mph and won by 0.501 over Trevor Huddleston, 20. 

Huddleston, the NASCAR Whelen Irwindale, California State, and National Series point leader as of July 30, started third in his HPR No. 50 Chevy. He waged an intense, three-way battle during most of the race. His teammate Dylan Garner, 18, and Lawless Alan, the outside front row starter, all held second spot at times. Huddleston took third from Alan on lap 18, lost it back a lap later, and secured P. 3 two laps later. The three cars remained close to the finish. On lap 28, Huddleston used an outside move in the fourth turn to take second position from Garner, who edged Alan by 0.170. 

Rookie Ryan Schartau, 14, charged from tenth starting spot to fifth, 2.267 seconds off the lead. Andrew Porter, 23, raced for his hospitalized grandmother, who is hospitalized for leukemia at the nearby City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte. He finished sixth in Nava's No. 88 Chevy. Ryan Vargas, 16, rookie Jagger Jones, 14, Billy Helgeson and rookie Matt Johnson, 37, completed the top ten. All 19 starters finished 30 laps in a 17-minute race with one caution flag on lap 14 for a spin. 

2 ND LM 30: With a ten-car inverted starting lineup for the second 30 (event five), M. Johnson led the first nine laps from pole position over Helgeson. Huddleston raced from ninth to fifth by lap 5. On a lap 10 green following a yellow flag for a spin, Huddleston shocked everyone. He shot the gap between Johnson and Vargas entering turn three and passed new leader Alan, 17, before the starting line. Huddleston led laps 10-30 despite a total of four yellows for spins and a red flag on lap 29 after a multi-car crash. It was his ninth victory in 15 features this season at Irwindale and 16th in 26 starts at three speedways, including Kern County and Tucson. 

The race went green, white, checkered and actually went one additional lap (31). Porter cut a tire on lap 4 and went to the infield. Under the lap 10 caution, he drove to the pits for a new tire and rejoined the race prior to the green flag but five laps down. Remarkably, because of the NASCAR “lucky dog” rule, Porter made up four laps thanks to all the cautions and he finished only one lap down in P. 14 instead of last. 

Alan, from Sherman Oaks, came from seventh starting slot and earned his career-best second place finish. He was 0.425 behind the winner. Alan, an INEX Legends Car veteran, had scored three third place finishes in his No. 25 Chevy. Tenth starter Joanides (-0.664) took third position from Garner after a lap 17 caution restart. Eighth starter Garner, the sixth place NASCAR Whelen points driver nationally on July 30, finished fourth in the No. 56 HPR Chevy. 

Helgeson, Vargas, rookie Kayla Eshleman (from 12th), Johnson, George Atkinson, and Jeff Williams completed the top ten. Jagger Jones (with dad P. J present), Tuscon Speedway driver Brandon Schilling, 36, in his Irwindale debut, and rookie P. J. Hernandez, 30, in the No. 51 HPR Chevy, also finished every lap. The race took 44 minutes and 15 of 19 drivers crossed the finish line. Huddleston clocked the fastest lap at 91.366 mph. With six IS point races remaining through September 23, he increased his IS point lead to 56 (724-668) over Garner. 

NASCAR Home Tracks internet page posted Whelen Series National points through July 30. They showed Huddleston had reclaimed first place in Whelen National point standings with 650 points. Second place Lee Pulliam has 646 points accumulated at five southeastern speedways. He has 13 wins in 29 starts. 

Some 500 drivers nationally have earned points during a season that concludes in September. Only the top 18 results are counted. Huddleston, the 2015-16 IS and California State Whelen Champion, has 26 starts in 2017 at three tracks--Irwindale, Kern County and Tucson. His has 16 wins, 23 top fives and 24 top tens. 

Other Irwindale late model drivers high in NASCAR Whelen National points are: P. 6 Garner with 18 starts at Irwindale and Kern. He has no wins yet, but has 16 top fives and 18 top tens and 530 points. Ryan Vargas ranks 14th with 18 starts at Irwindale and Kern. He has one win, ten top fives, and 16 top tens for 456 points. L. Alan is 17th in national points after 18 races at IS and Kern. He has no wins, five top fives and 16 top tens for 434 points. 

SEIDNER'S COLLISION CENTERS IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS 25: The first 25-lap truck feature was the third event at 8 pm. Fastest qualifier Ken Michaelian, 28, returned to racing for the first time in 2017. The 2009-10 IS classic stock track champion started fourth in a 12-truck field. He became the third leader on lap 17 and led the final nine laps. He won a 13-minute race by 0.725 over second starter/laps 5-16 leader Dennis Arena. Point leader Lucas McNeil started and finished third, 0.874 in back of the winner. Michaelian told fans, “This is my first truck win and first win on the half-mile.” 

Sean Brennan, a 14-time skid plate cars feature inner on the third-mile, but a truck and half-mile oval rookie, started ninth. The son of retired Paul Brennan, an IS early years truck racer, took fourth on lap 20 from laps 1-4 leader Zack Green. It was his best result to date in the No. 33 truck he co-owns with fellow driver Mike DiGregorio, his brother-in-law. Nico Mongenel, 20, passed Green at the end and finished fifth with Green sixth. 

Rookie L. J. Billings, 18, was seventh in the older Arena truck. Tucson driver Brandon Schilling raced at IS for the first time. He brought his No. 61 Chevy late model and also his No. 57 Chevy Colorado in which he finished eighth. With twin twins he raced four features in two series. IS 2015 Bandolero champion Mckenzie Eshleman, 18, came from 12th to finish ninth. It was her first race on the half-mile and first truck race in the ex-No. 6 Scott Dodd truck. Ken Brown was tenth after a lap 10 spin. Mark Perry was P. 11 and down a lap. 

2 ND SEIDNER's IRT 25: The seventh and final race of the night was the second 25-lap truck main. L. McNeil, the FQ on lap 2 of two qualifying laps, started sixth with Michaelian alongside in the third of six rows. On the opening lap, pole driver Jacob McNeil spun out high near the crash-wall between the first two corners. Green hit the spun truck head-on and was rammed in the back by Brennan in a chain-reaction crash. Brown also was involved. Only McNeil was able to continue and restarted at the back. A 24-minute red flag ensued to remove wrecked trucks and clear debris. Mongenel, from the new front row, led the first lap. Michaelian led the final 24 laps in his No. 40 Chevy S-10. 

Following a lap 3 caution for a spin, the 12-minute race was green to the checkered flag at 10:20 pm. Michaelian won by 1.157 over point leader L. McNeil with P. 3 Mongenel 1.407 back. Rookie Billings finished fourth despite slowing with a stuttering engine on the final lap. Arena, Tucson visitor Schilling, J. McNeil and M. Eshleman finished fifth through eighth; all completed 25 laps. Perry was ninth, a lap down. Michaelian ran the fastest lap of 89.713 mph. Track officials inspected carburetors of the top five trucks after the race. All trucks passed. 

Michaelian related the almost tragic reason that kept him from racing his ex-Darren Cheek No. 62 2013 IS track championship truck. On Thursday, April 6 (two days prior to the truck season opening race) he was driving his Jeep Grand Cherokee home to Lawndale at 11:35 pm after visiting his girl friend. At 190th & Western Avenues in Torrance he went through an intersection on a green light. He was rammed at 80 mph by a Ford F-150 truck driven by a drunk driver who went through a red light while being chased by police. 

Michaelian's Jeep was caved in to about mid-cabin. He received five broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He was hospitalized nine days at Harbor-UCLA Hospital in Harbor City. He then underwent months of physical therapy before he could try to climb into his race truck without pain. All that effort was made worthwhile when he won his first two truck features and initial half-mile triumphs in front of family and friends who knew about his ordeal. 

SHARKY's SPEC LATE MODELS: The fourth race was a 20-lap main, also on the half-mile. Six of the formerly called S2 cars, built in Irwindale by Jeff Schrader's Racecar Factory, used a four-car inverted lineup. FQ Robby Hornsby, the 2013 Irwindale mini stock champion in his Ford Pinto, won his fourth main in five races at IS this year. He drove Kenny Smith's No. 43 and led all but the first two laps. Ed Cutler led the first lap from the pole; third starter Todd Conrad led lap 2. 

July 15 first-time feature winner Craig Yeaton, Sharky's Dive Center owner and series sponsor, started second and ran fourth to lap 12. He took third on lap 13 and second on lap 17. He trailed Hornsby by 1.257 at the finish. T. Conrad and Cutler crossed the line next and were two seconds off the lead. 

Neil Conrad, older brother of the third place driver, made his series debut. The 2013 SW Tour Truck Series champion with his No. 87 Chevy Silverado and five-time IS winner that year, placed fifth. The retired Arcadia City Fire Department Captain started last and finished ten seconds behind Hornsby. Rookie P. J. Hernandez, 30, started fifth in a second Yeaton car, and completed 19 laps. The all-green race took 6:58.362 and averaged 86.050 mph. Hornsby's 87.506 mph was the fastest lap of the race. He increased his point lead to 18 over Cutler with four races remaining this season. 

SEIDNER's COLLISION CENTERS COMPACT CAR FIGURE 8: In event six, 12 four-cylinder compact or enduro sedans raced 20-laps on the usual Figure 8 course. Pole starter Eddie Howell, from Carson, led two laps. Then second starter Robert Rice led laps 3-12 until minor contact at the X intersection dropped him to third. James Bolinas led laps 13-14 and 17-18 in his Honda Accord.

Resurgent Howell, in just his third race at IS, drove his un-dented No. 81 1993 Honda Accord (with 142,092 miles on the odometer) was in front on laps 15-16 and 19-20. He won by ten yards (1.904 seconds) over Bolinas. P. 3 Rice was 10.997 seconds from the lead. Tony Cummings and Robert Rice, Jr. also completed 20 laps in the 7:05.199-timed race that averaged 63.838 mph. Howell ran the fastest lap at 69.041 mph and won his first race at Irwindale. 

All 12 starters finished despite many near collisions at the X. Robbie Salcido, Todd Paperny, ex-SCRA sprint car owner/driver Rodney Argo, of Gardena, and Troy Anderson finished sixth through ninth and completed 19 laps. AMA 500cc speedway bike D-2 racer Ron Davis, from Norwalk, ran 18 laps for tenth. Female drivers Keira Bolinas and Cheryl Hyland trailed at the finish. 

JAN'S TOWING LEGEND CARS 35: A field of 12 raced 35 laps on the third-mile as event two and used a seven-car inverted lineup. Cale Kanke led two laps before pole-man Tyler Hicks paced the next four laps. FQ and last feature winner Chad Schug led laps 7-14 in a three-car dogfight with Darren Amidon and Ricky Schlick. Amidon took the lead with an inside pass entering the third turn and led the final 21 laps. He won by 1.685 over Schug. 

Amidon, the reigning three-time IS series champion, won for the fourth time in six main events this season. He extended his point lead to 30 (294-264) over Schug with four races remaining on the schedule. Schlick finished third, 2.623 seconds back. P. 4-7—Austin Farr, Kanke, Colton Page and Hicks—also completed 35 circuits. The all-green light race took 9:45.182 and averaged 71.701 mph. Page clocked the quickest lap of 72.791 mph.