IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – 6 DIVISIONS, 7 MAINS RACY – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Jun 21 – Week eight of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing at Irwindale Speedway Saturday was presented by Whelen Engineering and benefited the American Cancer Society. Six racing divisions ran seven main events on the half and third-mile ovals in front of 3,190 spectators with 83 race cars/trucks in the pits. Competitive action on track was the norm with frequent position changes and lead changes. What amazed onlookers was the fact that six of the seven mains (205 feature laps) were contested under the green flag all the way.
All green mains on the third-mile were the Seidner's Collision Center mini stocks and Seidner's other series with fan-popular skid plate cars. The super stocks, Southwest Tour Trucks and both Lucas Oil Late Model twin-30 lap mains were caution-free. Only the Pick-Your-Part Super Late Model 40-lap main had a caution flag. The first of two yellows flew for a solo spin-out; the second occurred 12 laps later to allow safety crews to check the track for oil after an engine blew and emitted a huge plume of white smoke.
Winners in the featured Lucas Oil late model twins were fastest qualifier Mike Johnson, 56, in the first 30 (event two of seven) and third generation racer Ryan Partridge, 26, in the second 30 (event six). Toni Marie McCray, a stock car veteran in her mid-30s, scored her first career Pick-Your-Part Super Late Model triumph in the fastest regularly scheduled cars on the IS schedule. She was engaged in a tight, three-way dogfight with fastest qualifier Linny White and Jason Patison, the last SLM winner on May 31. McCray and Patison traded the lead four times before she edged White by 0.292 and Patison by 0.552 at the checkers.
Zack Green double-dipped by winning a 25-lap super stock race(event three) and then going directly to his touring SWT truck 35-lap feature and winning event four also on the half-mile. Mike Colato, Jr. opened racing at 7:20 pm by leading all the way from the pole in the mini stock main. The seventh and final race was the skid plate cars with a season-high field of 31. That hectic race concluded at 10:08 after Andrew Brittain, of Tujunga, charged from the back of the field to lead laps 3-20. It was his second SPC feature victory and they came in the third and fourth runs of 2014 for the “skid platers”.
LM 1ST MAIN: With 17 late models in the pits, rookie Dustin Vandermooren scratched after hot laps with a blown piston. The first 30 had a straight-up grid with FQ M. Johnson on pole and Partridge alongside. Johnson, from Covina, ran the outside all 30 laps with Partridge pressing him inside and even inching ahead briefly. Determined Johnson would not be denied and won his first feature since last August 17 in his own No. 17 RaceCar Factory-built Chevy. Partridge trailed by half a length (0.043 officially). Christian McGhee, a 15-year late model rookie and veteran of Bandolero, Legend Car and S2 cars, started and finished third in another outstanding drive. Fourth and fifth went to Toni McCray and 16-year old Cole Custer, from Ladera Ranch.
Custer flew about 430 miles south with Jeff Schrader, of RCF, in a rented private, propeller airplane after racing in NASCAR's K & N West road race at Sonoma Raceway. It started at 12:30 pm and ran 66 laps. Custer started fifth in a Bill McAnally NAPA Filters Toyota and finished 12th, on the lead lap. His IS late model car owner, Tim Huddleston, picked up the Custer party at nearby El Monte Airport and arrived in the IS pits just before 6:30 pm. Late models qualified all 16 cars from 7:06-7:18. Custer was fourth fastest on his first lap and fastest on his second lap and both laps were used to determine starting grids in the twin-30s.
Travis Irving started ninth and finished sixth in Joe Nava's No. 77. Andrew Porter, 20, Trevor Huddleston, 18, Ryan Cansdale, 15, and veteran Chris Johnson completed the top ten. Young drivers with years of racing in smaller classes at IS and other tracks continue to impress this season in the IS top class for Whelen All-American Series national and state points. Fourteen drivers finished and 13 completed all 30 laps. Johnson's winning speed was 91.895 mph. Partridge ran the fastest race lap at 94.558 mph.
LM 2ND MAIN: The starting grid for race two was set by the second qualifying lap. FQ Custer had to start outside in row three after a young fan drew the starting inversion number in front of grandstand spectators after time trials. That put sixth quickest McGhee on the pole with Porter alongside. Row two had Partridge and McCray, with M. Johnson and Custer in row three. However, McGhee had changed a tire after the first main so he was moved back to row six. By NASCAR rules, the inside row moved up a row, giving series point leader Partridge the advantage of starting first. He used the break to launch into the lead at the start and maintained a 15-20 yard lead until the checkered flag.
On the initial start Irving spun in turn two, but all drivers alertly avoided his car. He restarted last and finished seventh. M. Johnson took P. 2 on lap 2. McCray passed him on lap 15 on the inside as they exited the fourth turn. She and Partridge traded fastest laps on computer scoring about the two-thirds mark. Partridge earned fastest lap honors with a 93.633 mph lap. She finished second, 0.696 back. M. Johnson, Custer, Porter and McGhee followed in that order. Huddleston, Cansdale and C. Johnson finished eighth through tenth respectively.
It was the fifth late model feature victory in eight races this season for Partridge. It also was his 45th career feature victory at IS and gave him sole possession of second place on the list of all-time feature winners at IS. It broke his tie with three-time LM champion Tim Huddleston. Huddleston now fields High-Point Racing Chevrolets for teenagers, Custer, Cansdale and his son Trevor. Rip Michels leads with 67 IS triumphs.
SLM 40: With a five-car inverted starting grid, Linny White, from Highland, started fifth. Toni McCray, also from Highland, started second and led the first two laps over pole starter Juan Esteban Garcia, a 17-year old who resides in Bogota Columbia. Patison took P. 2 on lap 2 and passed McCray for the lead a lap later on the inside near the starting line. McCray recaptured P. 1 on lap 5 as the first four drivers ran in a tight pack after White passed Garcia for third. Patison retook the lead from McCray low in turn four on lap 11 and held it through lap 26 despite a double file restart on lap 16 after fourth-running Garcia spun low in turn four. After Jeff Williams blew his engine on lap 27 safety crews checked the track for oil under caution.
At the 2 X 2 restart Patison took the outside with McCray to his left. At the green flag Patison's MAV-TV, E3 Spark Plugs Chevy did not accelerate quickly and dropped to P. 3 behind McCray and White. “My shifter came off, so I got killed on the restart,” he told the crowd. “Toni ran a good line,” he added. McCray held off quickest qualifier White by 0.292 with Patison (in fourth gear) third, 0.552 off the thrilled McCray. She climbed from her Jimco Construction Chevy, stood on the door and threw her arms skyward before hugging track safety workers at start/finish. “I'm excited. I can't talk right now. Jason had a problem on the last restart,” “the winner told spectators.
Garcia came back to finish fourth, 3.255 seconds from McCray's No. 90. Barry Karr drove the ex-Rip Michels-owned SLM to fifth, 5.408 back. Rookie Josh Soto and Rod Johnson, Jr. (in Sonoma K & N West driver Dylon Lupton's car) finished in P 6-7 and also ran 40 laps. Point leader and season opening winner Jack Madrid, 19, dropped out on lap 2. White logged the fastest lap at 98.636 mph chasing McCray. She won two late model mains last year and a late model feature two weeks ago, giving her four IS feature triumphs to date in the top two IS divisions.
SWT TRUCKS: Zack Green, the series point leader and winner of three of four 2014 IS mains, started fourth in the black No. 27 Ford F-150 truck he rents from Jeff Williams. He chased early leader Ronnie Davis' No.78 for 12 laps and executed an inside pass through the first two corners. He was “gone” and won by 50-yards (2.065 seconds) over Davis. Ed Cutler, James West, Julian Singelakis, tenth starter Dan Coburn and Al Rizzone also completed all 35 laps. The race took 12:19.371 and averaged 85.208 mph.
SS 25: Green, 24, warmed-up for his truck victory by starting fifth and leading the final 21 laps in the No. 47 Camaro loaned to him by owner/driver Paul Howard. At the last super stock race Howard unintentionally got into the back of Green's Ford Mustang II on the front straight and turned it into the front straight crash-wall backwards. The Ford was severely damaged. That night Howard offered Green the use of his Camaro all season as the point leader tries to duplicate back-to-back super stock championships at IS the way his dad Jeff did in 2001-02. Green drove the win-less Camaro to a main event victory for the first time. FQ and last feature winner Gary Frankovich, 57, took second in his Chevy SS on lap 15 and trailed by 1.331 seconds. Camaro drivers Gary Read, Greg Crutcher, Henry Miles and pole starter Craig Rayburn followed. The 9:01.876 race averaged 83.045 mph.
MINIs: Former classic stock and S2 Cars owner/driver Mike Colato, Jr. 31, recently bought the No. 10 Ford Pinto from two-time series champion Daryl Scoggins. The LAPD sergeant sold all of his race cars, bandolero, mini and S2. Colato, from Chatsworth, painted his Pinto neon orange and renumbered it 49. He led all 25 laps from pole for his first mini stock main event victory. He took the7:18.148 race with a 1.377 winning edge over point leader and fellow Pinto driver Dusty Morgan. Garrett Green, Zack's 20 year old brother, finished third. Following drivers were: Robby Harryman, Nevada Chovan, 15, Rod Schmitt (Datusn 510) and Aubree Porter, 19-year old sister of late model driver Andrew Porter and grand-daughter of Quickpick Motorsports owner/driver Kenny Smith. All seven drivers finished 25 laps.
SKID PLATE 20: The 31 foreign and domestic cars lined-up on the third-mile fully inverted from slowest to fastest. They were told they would run in a clockwise direction this week instead of the counter-clockwise direction used by other divisions. Cheryl Hyland (from P. 4) led the first lap. Wayne Lee (from P. 22) led lap 2. Then fourth quickest qualifier Andrew Brittain dodged spinning and crashing cars to weave his way into the lead and paced the final 18 laps in his 1994 Toyota Celica. He adorned his car with working red lights on the grill that resemble a face and added red lights to his rear rim above the skid plates used instead of back tires. He spun after contact once but continued to his second consecutive $300 victory in the 28th ever SPC race at IS.
The 24-year old 6'4”, 330-pound Brittain is an ex-football tackle at Verdugo High School who wears a shaggy, red ZZ Top-like beard. He also won the last SPC main for his first victory on May 17. This week he beat back row fastest qualifiers Sean Brennan and Mike Digregorio by 3.948 and 8.287 seconds respectively. They have both won three SPC features and were the only other drivers on the lead lap.
Brennan passed Digregorio on lap 8 and reached P. 2 on lap 9 with pal Digregorio on his back bumper. Digregorio dropped Brennan to third on lap 15 as leader Brittain spun across the finish line and lost half of his straight-away lead. Digregorio was second on the final lap but looped twice. Brennan passed him for runner-up honors and finished 30-yards in back of the winner. Wayne Lee and Austin Lee finished fourth and fifth with 19 laps. Robert Rice, Ken Palmer and Robbie Salcido also logged 19 laps. Steven Belling and Todd Browne ran 18 laps to complete the top ten with 23 of 31 drivers still racing at the end. The race took 11:58.991 and averaged 33.347 mph.
Two drivers qualified faster than the old one-lap SPC track record. Brennan's 1992 Acura Integra had 215,000+ miles on the odometer but it scorched the third-mile in 4:45 pm qualifying with a lap of 29.109 (41.183 mph). The old track record of 30.070 was set by Brennan, from Yorba Linda, on May 3, 2014 in his same No. 33. Digregario, from nearby Temple City, was the only other driver to post a sub-30-second lap with his 29.768 (40.271 mph) in his No. 18 Honda Accord. The SPC fastest time at the end of 2013 was a 30.133 (39.784 mph) set by Alec Martinez on October 5, 2013.
Skid plate drivers are a congenial group who pit together and wanted to keep point standings. The track does not keep SPC points. Drivers went back to the start of 2014 and compiled points for the first three races. Fast time (pole) receives 2-points. Feature points are awarded as follows: 50, 40, 35, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, for the top ten, with one point drop-offs to 6-points for P. 24 and 5 points for all other starters. Brittain was the SPC point leader with 106 points. Digregorio was second at 91 and Belling third at 86. Jet Blue Airline pilot Browne held fourth with 85; skid plate racing originator Rice was fifth with 84 prior to the June 21 event.