FIVE DIVISIONS – SIX MAINS @ IRWINDALE & RAIN – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 2 – California is in the midst of a drought of at least three years. What happened Saturday on an overcast, gray day was a rare mid-summer occurrence in Southern California—RAIN. Light drizzle started during the fifth of six features about 8:50 pm during the second Lucas Oil Late Model 30-lap main at Irwindale Speedway. A two-car crash on lap 18 in turn four caused IS Race Director Mike Atkinson to red flag the race. He sent all 14 cars to the staging area beyond the backstretch as the drizzle became heavier.
The only race yet to be run was a 28-car Seidner's Collision Centers Skid Plate main on the third-mile. Those cars spin frequently and continue without yellow flags on the slower speed inner oval, So those cars were able to race the 20-lap feature in a rapid, all-green flag race from 9:00-9:11 pm. Atkinson then radioed late model drivers parked at staging to drive back onto the half-mile for a slow lap to receive the yellow and checkered flags simultaneously. Drivers declined because it was still drizzling and too wet on the half-mile for their slick tires.
So the announcement that racing was concluded was made at 9:23 pm to the 2,850 hearty spectators who braved the threatening weather on San Gabriel Valley Night presented by Beacon Media. By 9:35 pm light rainfall ended and fans leisurely visited competitors in the pits. Persons who attended week 11 on a humid, 80+ degree evening witnessed an entertaining, racy night. They undoubtedly returned home happy they had come to the speedway and witnessed the racing action in person.
Winners of the twin late model features were Ryan Partridge, 26, in the first 30 and late model leading rookie Christian McGhee, who turned 16 on July 30. Partridge ended Toni McCray's series winning streak at four and now leads her by12 points. He scored his sixth late model victory this season to match his six Irwindale Race Trucks wins. His 12 feature victories in 2014 gave him 46 and counting as he chases all-time Irwindale Speedway leading feature winner Rip Michels' 67 triumphs. McGhee, a bandolero, legend cars and S2 winner, won his first late model main in the rain-shortened 17 lap event. He ranks third in 2014 series points.
HALF-MILE MAINS: Other main events on the half-mile were the Pick Your Part Super Late Model division in a ten-car, 40-lap feature, and a 35-lap Spears S2 main with nine starters. Fastest qualifier Jason Patison, of Corona, started from the pole and led all 40 laps for his third SLM victory in five IS races this season. Two mechanical problems befell his No. 80 MAV-TV, E3 Spark Plugs Chevy during his other two starts, so he currently trails point leader Toni McCray by six points (230-224). Linny White is tied for second place with two races remaining on September 13 and October 18.
The touring S2 cars main went to series rookie 14-year old Blaine Perkins. The Bakersfield resident started fourth and led laps 4-35 on the half-mile for his initial Irwindale feature victory in any division. He won his first S2 main event at Madera Speedway on June 28 in the same No. 50 HPR Chevy owned by Tim Huddleston. The car has won five of eight S2 mains this season with three different drivers—Trevor Huddleston, Bill Sedgwick and Perkins. The competitive S2 series scheduled 12 races during 2014 in two states at four tracks, including three in Irwindale. Six different drivers, from ages 13-67, have won the eight S2 features completed this season.
THIRD-MILE MAINS: The third-mile had ten Seidner's Collision Centers mini stocks in action for 25 laps. The two race leaders drove Ford Pintos and waged a contentious, front-to-back bumper banging contest during the race. Robby Hornsby bumped and passed Jim Mardis, the first seven laps leader, on lap 8 and won his second main in a row. He stopped at the finish line for an interview and trophy presentation. Runner-up Mardis, a Lucas Oil Modified driver, stopped next to the winning Pinto and a physical confrontation ensued. A track official stepped between the two angry drivers and kept them at arms length to prevent punches. He succeeded. Drivers, including third place Dusty Morgan, were directed to drive to tech inspection; interviews were canceled and trophies were presented later. Morgan is now tied for the point lead with two races remaining. Reportedly, a few “dust-ups” with crewmen occurred in the pits. All involved persons were directed to meet IS Race Director Atkinson in his pit office after the final race. They did so and the result was fines and probation for the rest of the season for Hornsby and Mardis. Aubree Porter, 19, drove her pink Pinto to her first fastest qualifying time.
The 28-car skid plate race was a near rout for legend cars veteran Gary Scheuerell that turned into a cliff-hanger. The Murrieta resident's No. 13 Ford Tempo started fifth and built a three-quarter lap lead over past three-time skid plate winner Sean Brennan by lap 19 of 20. Only five cars were on the lead lap. On the final lap, leader Scheuerell spun to the infield in the fourth turn and lost most of his lead. He recovered and barely beat fast-closing Brennan by ten yards (1.171 seconds). Scheuerell, 56, became the 16th different SPC winner in 29 races since the series started at IS in 2009. The first nine finishers completed all 20 laps. Third through fifth finishers Mike DiGregorio, Robert Rice and Jet Blue Airline pilot Todd Browne were all prior SPC repeat feature winners. Twenty-five of 28 cars were still running at the end of the 11:31.226-timed, all green race. The winner averaged 34.686 mph. Brennan ran the fastest lap of 39.188 mph.
SLM: Fast timer Patison ran the only 17 second lap during 4:15 pm qualifying. His 17.771 was 101.289 mph. Although he started second in a two-car inverted lineup, third starter Linny White led the first three laps over pole starter Jack Madrid, 19. Patison used an extreme low line to pass Madrid on lap 3 and then took command from White during lap 4. He gradually extended his advantage to 2.6 seconds by lap 16, 3.801 seconds at lap 27, and 4.018 (three-quarters of a straight) at the end of the all-green light race. His winning time--12:37.219--average speed was 95.085 mph. The second through sixth place drivers ran two-by-two lap after lap from laps 15 through 25 with frequent position changes. Toni McCray took P. 2 from White on lap 22 and newcomer Charles Price dropped White to fourth on lap 25. Madrid (inside) and White (outside) ran side-by-side nearly all 40 laps and White barely held off Madrid's final charge by half a length at the checkers.
LM TWINS: The first 30 was a flag-to-flag run from the pole for Partridge after an opening lap crash at turn two caused a restart. Trevor Huddleston ran a close second all 30 laps and trailed by 0.353 at the end. Sixth starter McGhee took P. 3 on lap 7 and Ryan Cansdale, 15, followed him past veteran Sean Woodside, who finished sixth. McCray started and finished fifth with nine of 13 finishers on the lead lap. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 94.737 mph.
In the second main, McGhee started and finished first in his No. 71 Chevy for his initial late model feature victory. It came after an intense lead-swapping duel with his friend and fellow teen Cansdale, the outside front row starter in the HPR No. 51 Chevy. They traded the lead four times during the race curtailed by rain after 17 laps. They appeared capable of victory even if the final 13 laps had been completed. McGhee led the first eight laps. Cansdale used an inside pass at the starting line to pace lap 9. McGhee raced back to the lead on the outside on lap 10 and remained in front through lap 14. Cansdale duplicated his lap 9 move on lap 15 and led by inches at the line. McGhee led laps 16-17 and was out front on lap 18 when the red flag flew.
Fourth starter Huddleston, 18, joined his fellow teens on lap 14 by taking P. 3 from 20-year old Andrew Porter. On lap l8 Huddleston shot low in turn three and took P. 2 from Cansdale. He tried to go from third to first by going low in turn four under leader McGhee. As he exited the fourth corner with light drizzle falling his HPR No. 50 lost traction and spun sideways. P. 4 Porter tee-boned the left side of Huddleston's car and stopped. Other drivers avoided contact. Porter drove to the pits and Huddleston drove to the back of the field for a possible restart. Huddleston said his windshield had raindrops on it for about five laps. He tried for the lead before the race would be rained out. Other drivers said it wasn't raining or it was not too bad when the crash occurred. During the red flag delay, drizzle became heavier. Atkinson radioed drivers to park at staging beyond the backstretch for possible resumption of the main after the skid plate race. It never happened because the half-mile remained too wet.
S2: Fast timer Perkins, 14, kept the talented youth brigade in the limelight by leading the final 32 laps of the S2 feature, the fourth main event of the night. Perkins ran the fastest race lap of 86.480 mph. Todd Conrad, of Sierra Madre, sub-drove the No. 99 for absent owner/driver Chris Morrison, of Bakersfield. His friend Johnny Butler (S2 No. 59) arranged the ride for him. Conrad, a 54-year old former owner/driver of the No. 42 Von's Markets Chevy late model through 2006, has worked as crew chief on his brother Neil's Southwest Tour Truck Series No. 87 in recent years. In his first-ever S2 race Conrad started second and led the first three laps. Perkins passed him on the inside n turn four on lap 4 and won by 2.547 seconds over the impressive Conrad.
The S2 main was red-flagged on lap 11 when third-running Brandon Weaver, 14, spun out in the second turn and was tee-boned by P. 6 Bill Waters. EMTs checked Waters after his sudden stop and he remained at the track. His car was towed to the pits. Weaver restarted at the back for causing the stoppage and raced back to fifth place. Ex-late model owner/driver Butler (No. 59) chased his friend Conrad's No. 99 ride and finished third, 0.292 back. Racing grandpa Kenny Smith, 67, placed fourth. Nastasia Dodd, 16, finished sixth as did S2 rookie Dylan Baker, another teen.
The six fastest S2 qualifiers ran a six-lap $150 to win Super Gen, of Monrovia, trophy dash with the fastest qualifiers starting at the front. Grandpa Smith, in his No. 43 Quickpick Motorsports Chevy, led all the way after starting second. Fast timer Weaver trailed him by 0.101 at the conclusion of the two minute race. His winning speed was 87.212 mph. Perkins, Conrad, Waters and Butler trailed.