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6/20/18-IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY “N of D” IV – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA., Jun. 16 – Irwindale Speedway presented the fourth 2018 “Night of Destruction” event so popular with fans Saturday in cooperation of LKQ Pick Your Part. It attracted another impressive crowd of almost 6,000 people despite a cool, overcast day with Irwindale temperature during the event ranging from 64 to 68 degrees.

Track management decided “to change things up” for N of D IV and did not schedule a trailer race. What resulted was the most diverse and creative N of D event in track history. Fans voiced their approval for the result at the conclusion of a three hours and 20-minutes event. They indicated by their applause and cheers that they wanted more of the same value for their entertainment dollar.

The 11-event program was the most in track history. It included usual N of D events on the third-mile for four-cylinder enduro cars. Twenty lap main events included a Figure 8 race, an oval main, and a skid plate feature. They followed a 30-lap feature for Irwindale Race Trucks on the half-mile that was the first event at 7:05 pm.

NEW EVENTS:

There were two monster trucks driven by the father and son team--Rick and Eric Swanson--aboard T.N.T and Obsessed. Their initial event was a free-style demonstration of tricks and donuts in the infield. Later they crushed enduro cars by launching up a dirt ramp and landing atop the four cars placed between lift-of and landing ramps. Their final event was the demolition of two small house trailers. Each monster truck took off and landed atop a trailer, crushing it in one attempt.

GREG BIFFLE GO KART CHALLENGE:

Event eight at 9:30 was a three-lap race on an eight-turn infield layout marked by hay bales and red cones. It was inside the third-mile third and fourth turns and had both right and left turns. The course turned left at the Figure 8 intersection and then right at the third-mile second and first turns. The finish line of the clockwise course was in the infield.

Three male fans had a three-lap race to determine the winner, who would then race against retired NASCAR Cup Roush-Fenway Ford driver Greg Biffle. He flew south from his home in Washington to compete. If the participating fan beat Biffle in their match race, the fan would receive a new Ford F-150 truck from Irwindale co-promoter Bob Bruncati's Sunrise Ford dealership. The gray F-150 was parked on the half-mile front straight to offer the fan added motivation.

It was explained to everyone that the tricked out go karts had to be turned left to go right and right to go left. The brake and accelerator pedals were reversed also and made driving the karts difficult to master. Cory Banuelos ran three fast laps without difficulty. He easily beat the other two fans, who kept spinning through hay bales and did not complete two laps.

When the green flag waved, Biffle jumped into the lead and held a 30-yard lead over competent and motivated Banuelos. On lap two Banuelos tried to make up ground on Biffle, but he hit a hay bale at the first left turn. He rolled his kart one and a half times, landing off the course on the side of the cage-equipped kart. He emerged unhurt but disappointed at not winning the F-150. However, track management brightened his outlook by giving him $500 cash as a consolation prize.

Irwindale co-promoter Tim Huddleston, the infield PA announcer, interviewed go-kart race winner Biffle, who said the fan was a tough competitor. He said the tricked out karts were difficult to drive and race. “I only had two practice laps,” he told the crowd. He was impressed with the nearly full grandstand and stayed at the track through the final event before departing in a rental car.

Events 10 and 11 had the infield and track lights turned off for added effect. The PYP Chevy pickup truck“Inferno” used a bed-mounted aircraft J-10 jet engine to melt an old sedan in the infield. Flaming pieces of steel and aluminum from the disintegrating car scattered behind the smoldering hulk. They even ignited a few hay bale course markers for the kart race. An aerial drone captured many of the evening events for later use on TV. The final event at 10:10 pm was a ten-minute aerial fireworks show with colorful displays launched from beyond the backstretch by a profession pyrotechnics crew.

Fans, including numerous families with children, departed smiling. They responded with cheers and applause in answering a PA-posed question in the affirmative. They indicated they had enjoyed the show and wanted to see more of these entertaining events. The uniformed San Dimas High School band performed the National Anthem on the track at the starting line. They later played a song for the crowd from the walkway in front of the main grandstand between events.

FOUR RACES:

Irwindale Race Trucks remained on the half-mile front straight following the 5:45 to 6:30 autograph session for fans. Seven trucks received the green flag at 7:10 and promptly (unintentionally) got the night of destruction started earlier than planned. On the first lap, third-running L. J. Billings spun out of the fourth turn to mid-track.

The passing No. 4, driven by his team owner Dennis Arena, hit Billings' No. 3 and knocked bodywork off both trucks. The right side of Arena's truck climbed the Billings truck and rode several feet on just the two left side tires, almost flipped, but continued non-stop. Billings spun across the finish line in P. 5 and all seven trucks completed lap 1. No injuries resulted. A ten-minute red flag ensued for track clean-up. Billings truck was sidelined, but Arena continued in the race minus both front fenders and hood.

Fastest qualifier/sixth starter Ryan Partridge, who finished second in a NASCAR K & N West Series 175-lap race in Colorado last Saturday driving a Bob Bruncati-Ford, led all but the first lap. He drove his own No. 6 Toyota Tundra truck and won his fourth IRT main in five events this season. Partridge, 30, also won stock car and SWT truck features, giving him six triumphs at IS so far this season. His Irwindale feature victories total is now 57, only ten behind 67 wins by retired Rip Michels. The Rancho Cucamonga resident started 2018 in third place behind 54-time winner Nick Joanides.

Lucas McNeil, the April 7 IS winner, started fifth and led the first lap over Partridge as chaos erupted behind them. On the lap 2 double-file restart Partridge passed McNeil on the outside in the third and fourth corners. McNeil challenged closely all the way, but he trailed by 0.683 at the finish. Arena ran third to lap 15, despite loss of front bodywork. Andrew Porter passed him and finished third. Nico Mongenel passed Arena.s naked-looking truck on lap 26. Arena did beat Jason McNeil across the finish line. Partridge now leads McNeil 244-240 in point standings.

ENDURO FIGURE-8: The 20-lap event for four-cylinder foreign and domestic sedans had 18 starters. The entertaining race had nine lead changes among three drivers—Eddie Howell, Dewitt Jones and fastest qualifier Rodney Argo. Former 410 cu. in. sprint car feature winner Argo made his winning pass of Howell on lap 18 and won by one length (0.275) over Howell. James Bolinas, Robert Rice and Travis Mooney finished in P. 3-5. Eight drivers completed all 20 laps. It was Argo's ninth career victory in his Honda Accord after he started racing enduro cars at IS for fun last season.

The race had one red flag on lap 9 after race leader Jones was hit in the rear quarter panel at the X intersection by the lapped car of Nick Bolinas. Both cars stalled and a brief red flag was displayed to be sure both drivers were uninjured and to remove the Bolinas inoperable car. Jones restarted at the back and raced up to sixth position. Joe Labriosciano and Robert John Rice also completed 20 laps. Fifteen of 18 starters finished despite numerous close calls at the X that had fans gasping and cheering.

ENDURO OVAL 20: A huge 28-car field started. Brad Stellman, from Gardena, started seventh in his 1995 Honda Accord and led every lap. However, 19th starter Daniel Hudson, a three-time winner in his only four starts at IS this year, charged through the large field rapidly. He took second from Dewitt Jones on lap 15 and was a straightaway behind the leader at that point.

Hudson's No. 17 Acura Integra closed to the back bumper by the checkered flag. On the white flag lap, Stellman, 55, went to the outside in turn four. The right side of his No. 62 scrapped the concrete crash-wall to evade a spinning lapped car that was backing up to the wall. His Honda had cement dust on the right side after the incident that reduced his diminishing lead to the bare minimum. He also won the January, 2018 feature. The all-green light race took only 6:42.976.

Hudson 29, trailed by 0.589 this time after winning his first race at IS on April 7 and again April 28 and May 26. He needed only one more lap to make it four wins in five features. Bory Molina, the fastest qualifier of 21 qualifiers at 4:00 pm set a NTR of 17.662 (67;875 mph) in his Toyota Celica that he self-built from parts. He beat the enduro third-mile oval four turn course record of 17.872 (67.077 mph) set this year by newcomer D. Hudson on April 28. Molina started 21st ahead of only the cars that did not run a qualifying lap. He finished third, 0.769 behind the winner.

Robert John Rice (son), Dewitt Jones, brother Michael Hudson, Joe Labrosciano, Travis Mooney, Robert Rice (dad), and Mike McIntyre completed the top ten and were the only other drivers on the lead lap. Molina ran the fastest lap of 18.898 in traffic.

SKID PLATE CARS: Eighteen of the still able enduro cars changed from tires to metal skid plates on the back axle for the final race. At 3:30 only six cars qualified. Twelve more drivers started in back of the qualifiers. Robert Salcido led the first three laps. Mike Di Gregorio took the point on lap 4 and ran away to a 9.923 second victory. He is the all-time Irwindale skid plate “winningest” driver with 19 of the 62 trophies since the division started in 2009. He began skid plate racing in 2013 in the same No. 18 1995 Honda Accord that he still races.

Sean Brennan, brother-in-law of the winner, has 14 skid plate victories since 2013 and ranks second in P. 1 trophies. Brennan and Salcido traded second place seven times from lap 5 to the lap 20 checkers. Salcido took second on lap 19. On the final lap Brennan cut through the third and fourth turn infield and reclaimed second by 1.243 over Salcido. Race Director Mike Atkinson immediately penalized Brennan one position in the official finish “for short-cutting the final two turns”.

Brennan, to avoid a slower car at the finish line, bounced hard off one of the four large tire markers that channeled cars to the half-mile straightaway finish line. Brennan's 1994 Acura Integra spun across the finish line. Others also spun at the congested scene. P. 3 Salcido;'s car spun hard into Brennan's No. 33 and stopped abruptly. No injuries resulted. Crews later said Brennan's car was totaled. He had run the fastest race lap of 31.708 (56.768 mph).

Robert Rice, Travis Mooney, Tommy Mason, James Bolinas, Cole Schmitt, Jeffrey Best and Todd Hartwig completed the top ten with 16 of 18 starters running at the conclusion. Mason and Best are the IS co-PA announcers in the booth. The two long-time competitors in enduro car events donned the driving gear and helmets for the final race of the night and started in the back row. Mason got as high as fifth in his Honda CRZ wagon and ran 18 laps for sixth. Kevin Stevens, in charge of IS marketing and sales, took over in the PA booth and announced the skid plate race.

The next Irwindale oval track event on Wednesday July 4 will feature NASCAR late model twin main events, and a drafting demonstration. The traditional July 4 Independence Day aerial fireworks show will start earlier than usual at 9:00 pm because Thursday is a work day for most people. .