PARTRIDGE TAKES TWO/TIES FOR SECOND PLACE ALL-TIME @ IRWINDALE - BY TIM KENNEDY
Irwindale, CA., Jun. 7 – Ryan Partridge, 26, raced in three of six features on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile Saturday and won two—the first of twin 30-lap Lucas Oil Late Model mains and a 40-lap Irwindale Race Trucks race. The double-dipping chief driving instructor at LA Racing Experience now has 44 career feature victories in several divisions. He is tied with three-time late model track champion Tim Huddleston, who has not raced in a year, for second all-time. He has now won all six truck features this season and he increased his commanding 34-point lead in his No. 48 Steve Latina Toyota. His fourth late model triumph in six races this year increased his point lead in that division as well. He drove the No. 48 Latina-owned Loan Mart Toyota Camry. The sixth and final race of the night, presented by Mobil 1, was a thrilling second Lucas Oil Late Model main. Pole starter Toni Marie McCray led all 30 laps and had to repulse a passing attempt by Stewart-Haas Racing development driver Cole Custer. The 16-year old high school student, who also races in the NASCAR K & N East and Camping World Truck Series, was second on a lap 29 restart following a solo spin by a back-marker. McCray held on in the side-by-side, door-banging restart entering the first turn. She edged in front leaving turn two and won by 0.403 over Custer. It was the third late model feature victory at Irwindale for the daughter of former racing driver and promoter Rick McCray. She won back-to-back late model mains in May and June 2013. The other half-mile winner in a 25-lap Super Stock race was Gary Frankovich, of Apple Valley. He led every lap in his No. 66 Chevy Impala SS body car on a Camaro chassis that he bought from Darren Cheek. The 57-year old driver was thrilled by his initial feature victory after 41 years racing. He started racing sand drags and ovals in 1974 at Coos Bay, Oregon. He has competed at Irwindale in his Super Stock since 2006. He has many fastest qualifying times, including Saturday, and numerous podium finishes of second or third. Serious crashes at IS have forced him to rebuild his car four or five times over the years. “This trophy was a long time in coming. It will have a special place in my home,” the excited driver told the media during his first trip to the press box. Racing on the third-mile had two divisions. The competitive INEX Legend Cars ran 35-laps; Brent Scheidemantle, 21, led every lap. However, past track champions made him work for the victory. The newly sponsored 550 pound, 13 horsepower Universal Studios Hollywood Bandolero cars for youth ages 8-14+, had 11 drivers in action both Friday and Saturday nights. Ryan Vargas, 13, set fast time and won both nights. The 2013 Bando IS title runner-up to Ricky Lewis led all 20 laps each night in his 570cc Briggs & Stratton-powered No. 23. He is now four for four at IS this season in FQ times and feature triumphs.
FIRST LM MAIN: The first 30-lap main had fastest qualifier Mike Johnson on the pole and point leader Partridge alongside for race two on the card. Partridge shot into the lead immediately and led every lap. He won by 35-yards (1.463 seconds) over fourth starter Travis Irving in Joe Nava’s No. 77. Johnson dropped from second to fourth on lap 22 when Irving and Trevor Huddleston passed him on the inside. Johnson regained P. 3 from Huddleston on lap 23 and trailed runner-up Irving by 0.257 at the checkers. Rapidly improving late model driver Huddleston, 18, placed fourth, 1.924 off the lead. Toni McCray started sixth as sixth quickest qualifier in a 17-car field. She placed fifth, 2.959 seconds behind the winner.
Custer, the son of Stewart-Haas Executive VP Joe Custer, came from ninth to earn sixth in one of three “blue crew” Racecar Factory-built High Point Racing Chevy’s. Christian McGhee, 15, Andrew Porter, 20, K & N West touring series driver/12th starter Dylan Lupton, 20, and Ryan Cansdale, 15, completed the top ten. Sixteen of 17 starters finished, with 12 drivers on the lead lap. The all-green light race took 9:46.112 and averaged 92.133 mph.
SECOND LM MAIN: The lineup for the second 17-car late model feature, run as the final race, was set by the second of two qualifying laps during 6:30-6:45 pm qualifying. FQ Partridge earned the outside row three starting spot and sixth quickest McCray had pole position with M. Johnson alongside. McCray, in her NAPA Auto Parts black and pink-trimmed Chevy, led every lap but she had to work for her first 2014 victory. She had a ten-yard (2.634 seconds) lead over Johnson at a lap 18 caution for a slowing car. Partridge ran fourth for the initial 18 laps after being unable to pass Huddleston for third.
On the two-by-two restart, McCray chose the inside row and retained her lead over Johnson. Partridge raced past Huddleston at the green flag. The next caution flag flew on lap 20 when Johnson spun into the backstretch after contact from Partridge. He later said he almost cleared his passing attempt successfully, but his unintentional contact sent Johnson spinning. Officials sent both drivers to the back of the now 14-car field. McCray again took the inside of row one with teenager Huddleston alongside for the lap 20 green. She took command, but K & N winning touring series drivers Custer and Lupton dropped Huddleston to fourth on lap 20. McCray's No. 90 is prepped by multi-time track champion and crew chief Rip Michels, a 67-time feature winner at IS and respected driver coach. She opened a 30-yard lead over Custer with only two laps remaining when a caution flag wiped out her comfortable lead. Under caution, Lupton's smoking third place car was stopped by officials to check the cause. They found oil leaking from a hole in the oil pan and disqualified the car just as the 12th starter was about to pounce on Custer for second.
For the critical lap 29 restart McCray and Michels consulted by radio. She selected the outside lane because Custer seemed to be faster there. Their side-by-side, door-rubbing charge into turn one was even initially, but McCray edged into the lead exiting turn two. She maintained a narrow advantage and won by 0.403 over runner-up Custer, who ranked second despite his busy racing schedule on the eastern seaboard. The battle for third was a cliffhanger between a pair of impressive teenagers. They supplied a photo-finish. Outside-running Christian McGhee, 15, barely edged Huddleston by 0.003 for the final podium position. Partridge charged forward for fifth position. Irving, Porter, Jeff Williams, M. Johnson, and 17-year old late model rookie Ricky Schlick (a Bandolero/Legends winner) completed the top ten.
TRUCKS: Fast timer Partridge started second and led all but lap 1, which pole starter/two-division driver McGhee led. Partridge won by 0.895 over Bandolero and Legends graduate McGhee. Joey Licata, Jr, 22, ran third all 40 laps and finished 2.320 seconds back. Lucas McNeal, the grandson of the late NASCAR West Series stock car driver Jim Robinson, collected fourth. Ken Michaelian, rookie Lacie Price, 20, Jeff Williams, Philip Lauck, Dennis Arena, and 67-year old racing grandfather Kenny Smith rounded out the top ten. Sixth running Todd Cameron tied with Darren Cheek for the IRT championship last season but lost the title by tie-breaking system. His No. 99 truck and another made contact leaving turn four towards the waving checkered flag. Cameron's truck veered right into the outer wall, ripped off the front bumper, and spun to the third-mile track before crossing the finish line. He dropped to 13th in the official finish.
SUPER STOCKS: Quickest qualifier Gary Frankovich, 57, had pole position for an eight-car 25-lap Super Stock main. Winless in eight years at IS, he led the first 14 laps by 35 yards over Paul Howard, also seeking his initial victory. On lap 15 three-time 2014 winner Zack Green took second from Howard leaving turn four. The front of Howard's car contacted Green's car near the starting line and turned it tail first into the outside wall. It backed at speed across the pit entrance that had been reconfigured for safety reasons. Green's car slammed into the first turn attenuator tail first and stopped. The original impact also damaged the front of Howard's car too severely to continue. Under a red flag track staff repaired the attenuator. On the lap 15 restart, Frankovich took the inside with Henry Miles' Camaro alongside. He maintained a slim lead and beat Miles by 0.435 while also keeping his eyes on the rear view mirror. Past winners Gary Read, Greg Crutcher and Curtis White followed. Ken Cannata placed sixth and also completed all 25 circuits.
LEGENDS: Third fastest qualifier Brent Scheidemantle led all 35 laps on the third-mile. Runner-up Chad Schug trailed by 0.546. In a 17-car field, Aaron Wells charged from outside row four on the grid to take third from past track champion Darren Amidon on lap 34. Cale Kanke, son of touring NASCAR and SRL stock car driver M. K. Kanke, started sixth and took P. 4 on the last lap. Amidon settled for fifth. Jordan Hyland, Mark Borchetta, 50, Mark Iungerich, 68, Gary Scheuerell and Tyler Hicks followed. The 24-minute event had an unusually high number of caution flags—six.
BANDOLEROS: The Universal Studios Hollywood Bandoleros had 11-car counts both Friday and Saturday. Ryan Vargas, 13, started third Saturday in the opening race and led all 20 laps on the third-mile. Allison Gay, 13-year old daughter of driver Danny Gay, started fourth and ran second from lap 2 to the finish. She trailed by 1.961 in her best result to date. Mckenzie Eshleman, 15, finished third, 2.301 seconds from the lead. Rookie Johnny Dressler, 12, was fourth and Ryan Dunkleberger, 13, fifth. The top nine completed 20 laps in the all-green 6:10.576 race that averaged 64.699 mph.
During Friday 5:00-9:00 pm open practice for all divisions, Bandoleros qualified and raced a 20-lap main at 8:10 pm. Vargas, from La Mirada, started and finished first. Mckenzie Eshleman raced to her career best finish of second by slipping under Dressler entering turn three on lap 18 to take second place. She trailed the winner by 2.054. Dressler, Jakob Ulrich, 13, and Dunkleberger finished third through fifth. The all-green light race took 6:10.114 (64.780 mph).