CELEBRITY RACE NIGHT @ IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Sept. 27 – Ten actors and a Canadian billionaire businessman raced S2 Cars in a pair of ten-lap heat races and 20-lap feature on the half-mile Irwindale Speedway Saturday on Celebrity Race Night presented by Justice Brothers and DJ Safety. The race benefited the Wounded Warriors Project®. Celebrities raced tube-framed, fiberglass-bodied NASCAR stock cars powered by 400-horsepower V-8 engines. MMA fighter/former UFC champion Tito Ortiz was the celebrity race grand marshal and honorary starter. The bonus race and six track series combined for 235 main event laps, plus 20 more laps in celebrity heat races and a six-lap trophy dash for the truck series. An autograph session on the front straightaway from 5:30-6:30 pm helped attract 3,180 spectators for the track's 14th race night this season. The unique extra length show lasted four-hours.
Actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, a detective on the TV show “NYPD Blue” and current star of TNT's “Franklin & Bash”, led all 20 laps in the No. 99 S2 car. He held off a closing rush by actor Erik Valdez, of “General Hospital” and “Graceland”, and actor Corbin Bleu, the runner-up on TV's Dancing With the Stars” last year. Actor Brett Davern, winner of the last Long Beach Grand Prix Pro-Celebrity race, led all ten laps in the first 10-lap heat race with five drivers. Gosselaar led the first two and last two laps of the second celebrity heat race. Valdez led laps 3-7 but trailed by 0.127 at the finish.
Winners of seven main events in regular NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series action (on the half-mile) were:
> Lucas Oil Late Models - Two teenagers won their first career late model features in High Point Racing Justice Brothers Chevy Impala SS team cars owned by three-time IS late model champion Tim Huddleston. Trevor Huddleston, 18-year old son of the owner, won the first 30 in the No. 50 in the second feature conducted on the busy schedule. In the eighth main event Blaine Perkins, from Bakersfield, became the youngest late model rookie feature winner in track history at 14 years and seven months. He broke the youngest winner record set by his HPR teammate Ryan Cansdale, 15, two weeks earlier.
> Irwindale Race Trucks – Point leader Ryan Partridge, 26, won his seventh feature in the series in eight events. It also moved his career main event victory total to 48, second best in track history.
> Super Stocks – Point leader Zack Green started second and led all 30-laps in Paul Howard's No. 47 Camaro. It was his sixth triumph in nine series features this season.
Winners on the third-mile oval were:
> INEX Legend Cars – Bakersfield resident Brandon “Shorty” Weaver, a 14-year old Liberty High freshman, started third and led laps 22-35 for his second legend car victory this season. He also won 11 legends mains this year at Kern County Raceway Park in his family-owned No. 15 replica 1930s Ford coupe.
> Seidner's Collision Centers Mini Stocks – Second year IS driver Nevada Chovan, 16, won his initial main event in a 30-lap run. He led the final 26 laps in his No. 87 1972 Ford Pinto. His best prior result was fifth place.
> INEX Bandolero Cars – Ryan Vargas, who turned 14 four days earlier, continued his dominance in the Universal Studios Hollywood Bandolero Series. He won his ninth and tenth mains of the season on Friday (during open practice night from 5:00-9:00 pm) and Saturday. He set fastest qualifying times and won 20-lap mains both nights. Youngsters from age 8 through 15 race the 550 pound, cars powered by13 horsepower, 570cc Briggs & Stratton Vanguard motors.
In earlier action, Partridge started fourth and led the final three laps of a six-lap trophy dash for the seventh through 12th quickest IRT trucks in late afternoon time trials. A special ride-along dash between a pair of two-seater late models, driven by Partridge and Tim Huddleston, had wounded warriors in each car. Both drivers led laps, but Huddleston's HPR No. 50 edged Partridge's Loan Mart No. 48 by inches.
Another special event followed the Bandolero main and two S2 Cars celebrity heats. Sprint car veteran Eric Humphries, from Chowchilla, drove a winged 2009 Beast chassis powered by a 360 cu. in. Chevy at speed for ten consecutive laps on the half-mile. He did so at the request of Indy 500 veteran Davey Hamilton, the promoter of winged 410 cu. in. sprint cars on paved tracks. His three-race California restricted 410s/360s winged sprint car series will debut from November 21-23 at Madera, Irwindale and Bakersfield on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon at Bakersfield's KCRP.
Humphries amazed the crowd with his increasingly faster laps of 15.42, 15.32, 15.26 and a pair of 15.18 laps. He said his tires and set-up were not as good as they will be in November. He added that up to 25 winged sprint cars from central and northern California and more from Oregon and Washington will be joined by winged 410s from the Auto Value Super Sprint Car Series from the Midwest. The fastest cars on Irwindale's half-mile have been super-modifieds. Troy Regier set the one-lap track record of 15.154 (118.782 mph) on April 1, 2000. The one-lap track record for USAC non-wing 360 ci sprint cars is 16.139 (111.531 mph) by Tanner Swanson on November 25, 2010.
1ST LATE MODEL 30: Trevor Huddleston and fastest qualifier Zane Smith, a 15-year old off-road and legend car veteran, started in row one in a 14-car field. Smith, from Huntington Beach, was making only his second late model start aboard Joe Nava's No. 77. He led the first 17 laps, opened a 35-yard advantage over Huddleston and appeared headed for his first victory. Then the last place car caused a caution flag and a 2 X 2 restart of lap 18. Huddleston shot into the lead entering turn one and led to the checkered flag for his first late model feature victory at IS in his No. 50 Chevy Impala SS.
Disappointed Smith trailed by 0.234. Andrew Porter, 20, took third, with championship contenders Toni McCray and Ryan Partridge completing the top five. All 13 finishers ran 30 laps. Smith ran the fastest race lap of 95.410 mph on lap 2. Huddleston, a four-time main event runner-up this season, told the crowd, “I'm shocked. Winning in front of this big crowd. I don't know what to say.” He thanked his parents and sponsors. P. 2 Smith stated, “Until the yellow flag I thought I had it.”
2ND LATE MODEL 30: Perkins drove the HPR No. 55 Chevy that he took over on July 5 after prior driver Cole Custer became one of 12 NASCAR Next--2014 drivers on a fast-track to stardom. HPR developmental driver Custer at age 16 became the youngest driver in history to win a NASCAR National Touring Series feature when he won the Camping World Truck Series Loudon, N.H. 175 on September 20. The starting lineup for race two put fast timer Smith outside row four. This race became a showcase for emerging, talented teenage star drivers of the future AND present. Leading late model rookie Christian McGhee, 16, and Blaine Perkins, 14, occupied the front row with series track championship contenders McCray and Partridge in row two. Bandolero, legends and S2 cars graduate Perkins raced into the lead and paced the opening laps over McCray, Partridge and McGhee. Partridge and McCray traded P. 2 on laps 5, 10 and 12. Smith took fourth on lap 6 and the top four ran in a tight pack. By lap 12 Perkins had opened a 30-yard lead over McCray. Smith took P. 3 from Partridge on lap 11. A spin by Curtis Burns in turn three caused a yellow and wiped out a teenage leader's potential green to checkered victory.
A 2 X 2 restart had McCray and Perkins in row one. McCray and Partridge dropped Perkins to third on lap 12. The two veterans vied for P.1 lap-after-lap with McCray outside and Partridge inside. Perkins, determined to regain the lead, closed in and made it a three-way duel. Partridge led lap 22 with an inside move leaving turn four. McCray regained the point a lap later with her outside pass from turn four to the starting line. On lap 25 Perkins took second from Partridge with an outside pass from the fourth corner to start/finish. The teen then shocked the appreciative crowd by taking the lead from McCray on lap 27 as the top four cars raced in close formation. They ran the final four laps in the same order—Perkins, McCray (-0.516), Partridge (-0.582), and Smith (-1.115). Porter finished fifth. Veteran Sean Woodside came from ninth to sixth. Teens McGhee, 16, Ryan Cansdale, 15, and Ricky Schlick, 17, Jeff Williams and Trevor Huddleston, 18, followed. All completed 30 laps. Perkins set the fastest race lap of 93.599 mph on lap 3. Partridge holds an 82 point lead over McCray with one double-points race (100 point to winner) remaining on October 4.
TRUCKS 40: The 18-truck field had FQ McGhee on pole and “Racey” Lacey Price, a 20-year old legends graduate/truck rookie alongside. A three-truck crash on the initial lap in turn two caused a complete restart. McGhee led the initial 17 laps with third starter Joey Licata, Jr, 23, a close second. On lap 18 McGhee lost power and puled into the infield. Licata, the July 5 truck feature winner, led laps 18-38. Then he encountered slower trucks racing for position and a truck down seven laps after the first lap crash. Partridge ran a pressing P. 2 from lap 18 and his No. 48 Toyota Tundra was at Licata's Dodge Dakota tailgate as they approached three trucks. He seized his opportunity in turn four and went to the inside and took command of the final two laps. Licata trailed by 0.119.
The all-green light race took 13 minutes and averaged 87.370 mph. Impressive Price finished 6.804 seconds back for her second podium result in a row. Ken Michaelian and Lucas McNeil followed. Twelve drivers finished with eight on the lead lap. McGhee's 91.879 mph lap was the fastest race lap. Partridge now has won 14 features this season (seven of nine truck mains and seven late model victories in 16 races).His 48 Irwindale triumphs rank second only to 67 by Rip Michels. Partridge has a 40-point lead over McGhee with two races on the schedule—October 4 and 18.
SUPER STOCKS: Point leader Zack Green, 24, started second and led all 30 laps for his sixth SS victory in nine features this year. He won three in his No. 21 Ford and three in the borrowed No. 47 No. 47 Camaro. Henry Miles, winner of the last two mains, came from fifth on lap 1 to place second, 0.773 back. Fast timer Gary Frankovich, Gary Read and Greg Crutcher finished third through fifth. P. 6 Jimmy Sloan also ran 30 laps in the all-green, 10:52.114 (82.808 mph) event. Green's 84.317 mph lap was the fastest of the race. Green has a 16-point lead over Miles with only the double-points final series race on October 4 remaining.
CELEBS S2 RACE: M-P Gosselaar started second and led all 20 laps. The 19-minute race had two cautions. A blown transmission in the No. 15 of Nathan Kress oiled turn one and caused a lengthy track clean-up. P. 6 Matt D'Andria spun on the backstretch. Outside runner Gosselaar had to contend with inside runner Erik Valdez during the final five laps. P. 3 Corbin Bleu joined the party during the final two laps and ran the fastest lap of the race on lap 19 at 20.728 (86.839 mph). Bleu charged into turn three on the final lap and nudged the back of leader Gosselaar's car. He retained the lead and edged runner-up Valdez by 0.223. Bleu finished third, 0.873 off the lead.
Brett Davern was 2.344 back and actor Lorenzo Lamos was 5.759 behind the winner. Actress Tricia Helfer, D'Andria, Canadian billionaire/Blackberry phone co-creator Doug Fregin (a LBGP Celebrity Race racer), and KTLA Channel 5 TV meterologist Mark Kriski (-19 seconds) all completed 20 laps. Only Kress failed to finish. Happy race backer Tim Huddleston whose three-car team won both late model mains and had his S2 car win the celebrity race, offered the ride to winner Gosselaar for the next S2 point race on October 18 at IS. Gosselaar, whose wife and children were in an IS suite, declined because he has an acting gig in Alabama on that date. Valdez happily accepted the offer. His participation October 18 against S2 regulars should bring out his fans. The only other S2 celebrity race at IS occurred in 2011. Actor William Fichner won that race over actor Frankie Muniz and Gosselaar in another three-car close finish.
The S2 one-lap track record set on April 9, 2011 by Andrew Anderson is 19.932 (90.307 mph). The fastest lap run by a celebrity Saturday was 21.337 during group practice/qualifying laps. Brett Davern ran that lap in Kenny Smith's No. 43. Bleu's 20.728 (86.839 mph) lap during the race was the fastest celebrity lap this year.
LEGENDS 35: The 18 legends drivers raced their 35 lap event as the final event on the busy schedule and started at 10:55 pm. FQ Ricky Schlick led the initial 21 laps as positions behind him changed each lap. Point leader Brent Scheidemantle started seventh and reached P. 2 on lap 13. Brandon Weaver shot from third to first on a lap 22 restart after the third of four cautions. The top four—Weaver, Schlick, Scheidemantle and Donny St. Ours—ran nose-to-tail each lap with Weaver outside and Schlick inside. A two-car spin on lap 31 negated Schlick's pass for the lead. Weaver then led laps 31-35 and won by 0.348 over Scheidemantle, who took P. 2 from Schlick on lap 32. St. Ours, first-time IS driver/Las Vegas resident Riley Herbst, 15, and Schlick, who lost two positions on lap 34, completed the top five. The first 13 finishers completed 35 laps. Schlick's 73.632 mph lap on lap 4 was the quickest lap of the race. Scheidemantle has a 66-point lead over Aaron Wells with one double-points race remaining on October 4.
MINIS: Eight mini stocks raced 30 laps. Rod Schmitt's Ford Pinto led laps 1-4 from pole. He and point leader Garrett Green spun out on lap 5, giving the lead to fifth starter Nevada Chovan, 16. He kept his 1972 Pinto in front to the finish for his first ever main even triumph. He said his top result had been fifth place. Runner-up Robby Harryman's Pinto was half a straight behind the winner. Point leader/third place Dusty Morgan's Pinto was another half straight back. The only other finisher, Steve Patterson, was a lap down. The cars of Green and Ron Schmitt caused two of the three yellow flags and they played bumper tag in the infield where they both parked alongside each other. Track security kept peace in the pits after the race. Chovan's 70.792 mph was the quickest race lap. Morgan now leads the points 316 to 314 over Harryman, with former leader Green now third at 310. Only the October 18 double-points race remains on the schedule for mini drivers.
BANDOLEROS: Friday: A ten-car inversion for the 8:10 pm race during all-divisions open practice put fastest qualifier Ryan Vargas outside row five. Ethan DeGuevara, 10, from Las Vegas, led the first two laps. Rookie Johnny Dressler, 12, paced lap 3 as FQ Vargas ran second. Vargas led laps 4-20 and edged P. 2 Allison Gay by 0.536, with P. 3 Mckrenzie Eshleman 2.061 off the lead. Dressler and Zack St. Onge rounded out the top five. All nine finishers ran 20 laps. Gay's 66.434 mph was the fastest lap of the event.
Saturday: Eleven “bandos” ran the first main at 7:15 pm. Fast timer Vargas, who turned 14 on September 23, led every lap from the pole. He beat Dressler by 2.183 seconds. Eshleman edged Gay by 0.292; rookie DeGuevara was fifth. All 11 starters finished the six minute event that averaged 65.298 mph. Vargas ran the quickest lap at 66.663 mph. He has won all ten features this season and has set fastest qualifying time nine times. Vargas has a perfect 500 points and a 38-point lead over Eshleman with the only races remaining on Friday-Saturday October 17-18. His two bandolero cars are now for sale and he already has a SS Camaro to race next season.