FIRST-TIME WINNERS @ IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., May 4 – Night three of 2013 racing at Irwindale Speedway Saturday produced close competition, frequent lead changes and two noteworthy first-time Irwindale feature winners. Toni McCray became the second female to win a main event on the progressively-banked half-mile in the track's 14th racing season. She started fifth and won the track's premier division Lucas Oil Late Model 50-lap feature. Gary Read, 56, gave AARP age 50+ seniors satisfaction by leading all 35-laps of the super stock main in his 1975 Camaro. His initial victory in his sixth racing season topped his best prior finish of third place.
About 2,000 spectators on Loan Mart Night watched retired Arcadia Fire Dept. Captain Neil Conrad drive his No. 87 Chevy Silverado to his fourth main event triumph in the Pick Your Part Southwest Tour Truck Series. It was his first trip to the top podium step since twin wins in 2010. The only third-mile event this week was the pesky mini stocks. Eighteen drivers completed 35 laps in 23 minutes with one yellow and one red flag. Ryan Bragdon, 20, repeated his opening night victory. Pick Your Part Outlaw Figure 8s followed the oval track races. Rod Proctor used his specially-built Figure 8 creation and led all but the first lap in a five-car, 12-lap contest.
The sixth and final event was a fan-pleasing trailer race on the third-mile course that used a backstretch dogleg loop towards the infield to form a six-turn circuit. Six drivers started and towed a house trailer, various size boats and even a chair mounted on a trailer. Drivers had to have something on the trailer at the conclusion, so they blatantly tried to separate competitors trailers and contents as they raced around the track. That captured fans attention as they watched “road rage” in action. With only three cars operational after ten laps, all came to the finish line to await fans vocal approval. Versatile Robert Rice won.
LATE MODELS: A 14-car field used a nine-car inverted starting lineup based upon qualifying times. Fastest qualifier Mike Johnson's 2011 Racecar Factory-built No. 17 Villa Roma Chevy started inside row five. Jeff Williams, the 2011 SW Tour Truck champion/late model veteran, started third and led the first four laps. Toni McCray, daughter of past NASCAR Winston West and Camping World Truck driver Rick McCray, started fifth in the black and pink No. 90 Chevy. She used inside passes to reach second place by lap 2. The 30+ year old stock car veteran went low through the first two corners on lap 5 to take the lead from Williams. She held the top spot all the way despite three caution flags that resulted in double file restarts. Johnson, 55, ran second from lap 7 on and McCray used the inside lane for each restart to keep inside-runner Johnson at bay. She launched perfectly each time and opened four to six lengths leads within a lap.
By the halfway mark, McCray had a 35-yard lead and was turning the quickest laps. Her best was 19.003 (94.722 mph). At lap 45 she held a 50-yard advantage (3+ seconds) over now battling past late model winners Johnson and Ryan Partridge, the April 6 winner. On lap 47 they approached two dueling lapped drivers on the backstretch. The 53 car moved to the inside, blockingJohnson briefly. Partridge sped past into P. 2 on the outside. McCray won by 3.079 seconds over eighth starter Partridge. Johnson was third, 4.312 off the lead. Billy Helgeson started second and placed fourth (7.404 back). Chris Johnson was fifth,12.855 off the winner's pace. J. Williams and Linney White also completed all 50 laps with 11 of 14 drivers racing at the finish of the 32 minute event.
Winner McCray told the crowd, “I can't thank my guys enough. Hard work pays off. I'm so grateful for this opportunity. Mike Johnson is one of the best and so is Ryan Partridge. To run with them is fun and to beat them is huge. They both have a lot of laps and wins here.” She also praised her crew chief/spotter team of Rod Johnson, Sr. and Jr, both past Irwindale driving champions. During trophy presentations to the top three drivers, infield announcer Gordon “Lug Nutzz” Stewart told the crowd via his portable microphone,”This is a lady racer who actually wins.”
McCray came to the press box for media interviews. She said her mother and father Rick, the Orange Show Stadium racing promoter in San Bernardino from 2009-2011, were present for her memorable first Irwindale victory. She said her family owns her No. 90 super late model. Her winning late model is owned by Clay Wooster, owner of Tri-City Towing in San Bernardino. It is Racecar Factory chassis 31 built for Wooster in 2006 and raced by Dan DiGiammarino. “My goal this year is to win the late model championship at Irwindale,” she replied to a question. She said she has only one full season racing at Irwindale. She also raced at and helped run her family-operated OSS quarter-mile. Last month at the Irwindale Speedway reopening, McCray raced to second place in her No. 90 SLM and third place in Wooster's No. 90 late model. She said Irwindale's Friday open practice sessions have been beneficial. McCray also raced in a special stock car international race on a 1.5-mile track in South Africa in 2010 and finished the feature second to a European driver.
The first and only other female to win on Irwindale's half-mile was Lindsey King, 19. On August 2, 2008 she drove the No. 59 Justice Brothers Chevy owned by Auto Club Late Model triple champion Tim Huddleston. She started second in a 20-car field and used one of the five “blue crew” RCF-built team cars to lead all 40 laps. It was her lone feature victory. She left racing a year or so later and reportedly attended college.
SUPER STOCKS: Eleven of 12 super stocks present started a 35-lap main. FQ Gary Frankovich's Impala SS started inside row two. Third quickest Read was on pole in his No. 02 Camaro that he has raced since 2007. He grabbed the opening lap lead from second starting Zack Green, the April 6 feature winner. Read held a ten-yard lead by lap 15. At that point he radioed his spotter, “How many more laps?” By lap 20 his lead had shrunk to a car length. Then he found his second wind and reopened his advantage to ten yards that he maintained to the finish. Green trailed by 0.803 and recorded his second runner-up finish of the night. Camaro drivers Craig Rayburn, Richie Altman and Greg Crutcher completed the top five with nine of ten finishers completing every lap. The all-green light race took 12:44.783 and the winner averaged 82.376 mph. Rayburn ran the fastest race lap (84.535 mph).
TRUCKS: The Pick Your Part SW Tour Truck Series fielded 13 trucks. Quickest qualifier Neil Conrad started sixth. The race had four leaders. Ed Cutler shot low from third slot to lead lap 1. Cecil Phelps, from outside row one, led laps 2-3. Zack Green paced laps 4-10. Conrad took second on lap 5 and diced evenly with Green to lap 11 when he raced to the front with an outside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line. He opened a straightaway lead by lap 30 and won by 5.135 seconds over Green. P. 3 Ronnie Davis, Jr. was 4.647 seconds in back of Green. Cutler and Mike Gilboy placed 4-5. Seven of 12 finishers completed all 35 laps. The all-green flag race took 12:12.187 for an average speed of 86.044 mph. Conrad ran the fastest race lap at 20.511 (87.758 mph). It was his fourth victory. He won initially in 2003; in 2010 added two more feature victories on May 18 and June 5.
MINI STOCKS: Eighteen mini stocks (primarily Ford Pintos and Mustang IIs and Toyota Celica) used a ten car inversion for the starting grid. There were five leaders and six lead changes--Dusty Morgan (L 1-2), Dennis Croasmun (L 3), FQ Robbie Hornsby (L 4-14 and 20-27), Steve Rogers (L 15-19) and winner R. Bragdon (L 28-35). Bragdon won his second mini main this season in his No. 86 1979 Ford Mustang II on a Pinto frame. He beat Hornsby by 1.437 seconds. Pinto drivers Rogers, Croasmun and Aubree Porter completed the top five. Twelve of 18 starters finished and with nine on the lead lap. Mini stock one-lap track record holder Bragdon won his first M/S feature on 10/16/10. A year later he added two more on May 21 and August 6 before Irwindale racing went dark in 2012. After winning April 6 and this week he now has P. 1 hardware for five victories.
EVENTS 5 & 6: Round three this season had only five F-8 cars. FQ Kendall Scheidecker pitted on the initial lap. Past F-8 track champion Billy Ziemann led the first lap, but he spun out in turn four on lap 2 and exited the track. Past champion Rod Proctor led laps 2-12 despite a smoking engine. He ran the fastest lap of 18.658 (72.741 mph) and won by a straightaway (13.115 seconds) over Bryan Glidewell. Ron Davis was third, two laps down. The final event—a six-car/trailer field—concluded at 9:48 pm after nine minutes of trailer smashing and bashing while vehicles completed laps on the six corner infield course. After all trailer contents, and even trailers, had been separated from the tow vehicles, three still running cars stopped in front of the grandstand. R. Rice, Ken Meztts and Louise Pachella finished 1-2-3 based on fan applause that determined the winner. Tim Lewis, plus Low Budget TV videographers Jeffrey Best and Tommy Mason were non-finishers.
The next Irwindale Speedway racing night will be Saturday, May 25.