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Irwindale, CA., Sept. 21 – Five divisions and 96 racing vehicles competed Saturday at Irwindale Speedway in the first of three consecutive Saturdays of oval track racing. With Mooneyes and Dirty Rotten Rides the presenting sponsors, a full moon seemed to bring out zaniness and wild action interspersed with exciting, close racing. More than 1,000 spectators watched on a cool, fall-like evening.
Feature winners on the half-mile were: Ryan Partridge in a 40-lap NASCAR Lucas Oil Late Model feature, rookie Christian McGhee in a 40-lap Progressive Painting Race Trucks thriller in which he held off pressing Partridge by half a length, and Neil Conrad in a 35-lap Pick Your Part Southwest Tour Truck race. Point leader/fastest qualifier Robby Hornsby won a 35-lap mini stock main on the third-mile oval. The fifth feature was a wild Pick Your Part Skid Plate Cars 20-lap race with a record 40 cars on the infield course marked by huge white tires on the third-mile to make it a slalom-like race.
LATE MODEL 40: Point leader R. Partridge started fourth in a 16-car field aboard the No. 48 Steve Latina-owned Loan Mart Toyota Camry. He became the third race leader on lap 13 with his inside pass in the first turn of Toni McCray, the laps 2-12 leader. He had opened a 30-yard lead when a yellow flag flew after P. 5 Chris Johnson spun near the fourth turn crash-wall. With fluid the likely culprit, lapped Rodney Preacher spun leaving the fourth turn and collected the right front fender and suspension of passing ninth place Billy Helgeson. On a double-file restart, P. 4 Trevor Huddleston,17, dived under third place Mike Johnson's car entering turn three. He pushed up into Johnson's No. 17, which spun at speed tail first into the crash-wall. The impact caved in the back of Johnson's 2011 RCF-built car that had less than ten races on it.
The crash also collected Huddleston's teammate, seventh place Ryan Cansdale, 14. Neither driver was injured, but both cars were towed to the pits. Huddleston's No. 50 HPR Chevy continued under caution, but the RF tie rod was broken and the tire slanted inward with a toe-in failure that also caused his exit. Partridge won by 15-yards (0.758) over two-time 2013 series winner McCray. Partridge now leads McCray by 34 points (340-306) with two point races remaining. McCray ran the fastest race lap at 94.078 mph while leading.
Partridge has won four of seven late model mains this season, plus a PPRT truck feature. The versatile driver now ranks seventh on the last of all-time feature winners with 33 main event triumphs in four racing divisions—legends, trucks, late models and super late models. Andrew Porter, 19, passed Luis Martinez, Jr. for third place on the lap 31 green flag lap and held him off by 0.168. Jeff Williams finished fifth and was the last driver on the lead lap. Only eight of 16 starters were racing at the finish of a 33-minute event, the third of five main events.
PPRT 40: The seventh of eight scheduled PPRT events this season produced the fifth different winner and the youngest yet in the competitive truck series. Christian McGhee, 15, set second fastest qualifying time in a 13-truck field. He started fifth in a fully inverted six truck, six lap trophy dash and won it (and $250) with a last lap pass of fastest qualifier, lap 5 leader Connor Cantrell. The dash finish became the starting lineup order for the feature, which was the fourth of five mains. Bandolero and Legend Car graduate McGhee grabbed the lead immediately and opened a 30-yard advantage by lap 20. Eyes of knowledgeable fans were on Partridge as he charged from last starting spot steadily up to second position by lap 24 with swift and contact-free passes.
Partridge had not posted a qualifying time because he was busy with rides in three of five divisions. He took second position from Cantrell on the inside at turn four and trailed McGhee by 25-yards at lap 25, 15-yards at lap 30 and five yards at lap 35. He challenged for the lead during the final five laps. At the white flag, Partridge was 0.213 back. He made his final bid for victory on the inside from turn four to the finish line and trailed McGhee by half a length (0.068 officially) at the finish. Cantrell earned third, 5.246 seconds off the lead. Todd Cameron, Lucas McNeil, Kenny Brown, Ken Michaelian, Andrew Porter and Tom Stanton followed and all completed 40 laps. Dennis Arena was down a lap sub-driving Kenny Smith's No. 43 after his own No. 34 incurred a broken drive-shaft and rear end housing during a three truck trophy dash crash on the final lap.
Point leader Darren Cheek was in fifth place on lap 25 when he exited with a flat right front tire after contact with P. 4 Cameron during tight racing with five trucks battling for P. 4. Cheek angrily approached Cameron in the pits afterward and heated words were exchanged. Cameron entered the race in a three-way tie (with Michaelian and Arena) for second, 18 points in back of point leader Cheek. Now Cameron is second to Cheek (286-284). Michaelian and Brown ate tied for third in points at 278 and Arena is fifth with 272 and only one race remaining. All five drivers are attempting to win their first truck championship. Winner McGhee now ranks sixth with 268 points. He took third place with a last lap pass at the checkers in his last truck feature.
PYP SW TOUR: The first main event of the night was the SWT trucks 35-lap event. It took 39 minutes to run the 19-minute contest because of a 26-minute red flag for a serious crash. On lap 5 two trucks tangled and Shawn Rizzone's No. 99 flipped onto its roof and slid into the crash-waal near the third turn entrance. It then slid down the track to the infield edge and stopped, still overturned. A small engine fire erupted . Firemen quickly quelled the blaze. Rizzone escaped without injury, but his truck was damaged heavily. Ed Cutler led the first three laps, yielded the point to Zack Green on the lap 4 restart. Outside runner Green led through lap 27 and again on lap 29. Point leader Neil Conrad led lap 28 by a nose on the inside. Green used the same inside route to lead lap 29. Conrad paced laps 30-35 and won by 15-yards (0.975) over Green. Third place Cutler was 11.859 seconds behind the winner. Rookie Mike Gilboy, 50, started on pole and placed fourth, 16-seconds back, and was the last driver on the lead lap. James West, Alan Rizzone and Dan Coburn all were down a lap in P. 5-7. Eight of 12 starters finished. Conrad ran the fastest race lap at 88.661 mph and has won all three SWT truck races at Irwindale this season.
MINI STOCKS: Fourteen mini stocks needed 25-minutes to run 35 laps because of three cautions. Pole starter Aubree Porter led the first six circuits in her rebuilt Pinto. Dusty Morgan paced laps 7-9 before FQ, eighth starter Robby Hornsby took command via an inside turn two pass. He led laps 10-35 in his No. 61 Ford Pinto. Rookie Robby Harryman (Pinto) was 1.209 back. Third place Bud Smith's Pinto was 4.535 off the lead. Rod Schmitt, in a Datusn 510, edged Tommy Genda for fourth. Ten drivers finished with seven on the lead serial. Hornsby logged the quickest lap of 70.543 mph. It was his second feature victory in six races this season. With the final point race set for October 5, Hornsby has a 24 point lead (292-268) over Ryan Bragdon, who dropped out on lap 23. Fifty points are awarded to winners with a two-point drop-off per position, so the title is up for grabs.
SKID PLATERS: The always entertaining skid plate cars produced the largest field (40 cars) in four years of SPC racing at Irwindale. The highest prior skid plate car count was 39 on October 30, 2010. With all cars lined up randomly two abreast, they circulated the third-mile counter-clockwise using metal, sparks producing skid-plates welded onto both rear wheels. The race had five leaders and 28 cars still racing at the end of the all-green,13:05.615 race. Steve Dien led the first lap. Robert Rice's electronic transponder had his No. 7 atop the scoring pylon on lap 2. Sean Brennan, who won the first two SPC mains this year in his 1998 Toyota Camry with 315,000+ miles on the odometer., led laps 3-10. A direct hit caused a flat RF tire and other damage that ended his race on lap 11 and caused his P. 35 finish. Legends veteran Gary Scheuerell led lap 11. On lap 12 August 31 SPC first-time winner Michael DiGregorio put his 1995 Honda Accord into the lead for good. He won by a straight-away (6.513 seconds) over Andy Partridge's Honda Accord. Rice placed third (-20 seconds) in his Honda Accord. Mini stock veteran Fred Adams drove his Mazda 626 to fourth (23 seconds in back of the winner) and was the final driver to log 20 laps.
Past winner Jim Smith, Scheuerell, Todd Browne, Steve Belling, Randy Kruse and Austin Lee completed the top ten. Ryan Partridge was a late entry and came from row 20 to finish 13th in his third feature of the night. Spins, fender-benders and wall-slappers were commonplace each lap. Race Director Mike Atkinson drove the ex-police car push car to clear disabled cars off the track. Jason Torchinsky, a blog writer for the website, started second in his first race and drove to 20th place (down five laps) with 28 cars racing at the finish. John Partridge, brother of Andy and Ryan, ran the fastest race lap at 15.137 seconds. The winning speed averaged 30.519 mph.
LOAN MART DASHES: Two Loan Mart sponsored six-lap trophy dashes were run prior to the five main events. Ten skid plate cars ran six laps in the first-ever SPC trophy dash. The winning time was 3:12.214 despite spins. Ninth starter Scheuerell led laps 2-6 and beat DiGregorio. Rice, A. Partridge and Kruse followed. Eight drivers completed all six laps. McGhee won the PPRT six-lap dash from the back row to earn the main event pole position. Cantrell and Cheek followed. Only three of six starters finished after a last lap crash in turn one sidelined trucks of Cameron, Michaelian and Arena, the three drivers who were tied for second place in series point standings.