PARTRIDGE & GREEN FIRST 2014 IRWINDALE CHAMPIONS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 4 – Six divisions with seven main events during week 15 of the 17 week April to November schedule was “Truckin' for Kids Night” Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. The 2,188 spectators present saw the first two 2014 track champions crowned following double-point season finales on the half-mile. Another hot evening at the start of racing was on tap for racers and fans with the temperature still 95 degrees just before the first race.
Zack Green, 24, won his second consecutive super stock series championship. The only driver to do so in that division was his father Jeff in 2000-01. Zack won six of ten 2014 series features using his own No. 21 Ford for the first three triumphs. He borrowed Paul Howard's No. 47 Chevy Camaro for his next four wins. A June 7 crash between Green and Howard heavily damaged his Ford, so Howard offered him use of his Camaro for the remaining races. Green clinched the 2014 championship before the seven-car race began. He thanked Howard for loaning his car to him to race for the championship. Green finished with 514 points to 502 for the runner-up.
Ryan Partridge, 26, drove Steve Latina's No. 48 Loan Mart Toyota Camry from ninth starting slot in a 15-car Lucas Oil NASCAR Late Model double-point 50-lap feature. He took command on lap 4 and led the final 47 laps for his 0.904 second victory. He won his eighth late model main in the 19 race season. His 15th 2014 feature triumph (including seven in trucks) lifted his career victory total at IS to 49, second only to 67 by Rip Michels. Partridge became the NASCAR Whelen All-American Weekly Racing Series 2014 California State Champion. His 2014 late model track championship made it two in a row in that series. He also earned a third IS crown for his 2010 super-truck driving title.
Other main event winners on the banked half-mile were:
> Joey Licata, Jr., 23, in the Irwindale Race Truck Series.
> Neil Conrad, 59, in the Southwest Tour Trucks touring series.
Racing on the third-mile track produced victories for:
> Ricky Schlick,17, in an INEX Legend Cars event.
> Sean Brennan, 24, in a sensational last row to first in a 26-car Seidner's Collision Centers Skid Plate Cars 20-lap race. Drivers competed in a clockwise direction for a change with large tires marking an infield dogleg on the backstretch.
> Robert Rice, the father of skid plate racing at IS, won the track's first Figure 8 skid plate car exhibition 10-lap race.
LATE MODELS: Fifteen late models ran a single 50-lap double-points feature instead of the usual twin-30-laps races. The winner received 100 points with a drop-off of two points per position. Toni McCray, who trailed point leader Partridge by 82 points, was absent. She raced her No. 90 Chevy in twin-35-lap mains at Bakersfield's half-mile Kern County Raceway Park and finished third and fourth in 11-car fields. She dropped from second to fifth in final IS late model points.
Fastest qualifier in 7:15 time trails was Trevor Huddleston, 18. He drew ten as the starting lineup inversion. That put him outside row five and second quickest qualifier Partridge on his inside. Kyle McGrady returned from college studies in England for only his second race this season. His only race night was July 19. As tenth fastest qualifier he started from pole position and led the first three laps in his No. 11 K & N Chevy. McGrady, 22, was third on lap 12 in turn two when fourth place Ryan Cansdale hit the left rear of his car, spinning it towards the infield. Despite a 360-degree loop, McGrady's car was not hit by alert drivers following. A caution flag ensued. McGrady and Cansdale were sent to the back in P. 14-15 respectively. The two drivers staged the most watchable duel of the race as they worked through traffic in tandem. Within six laps they were in P. 8-9.
At lap 25 (halfway) Partridge led Huddleston by 15-yards. Zane Smith, 15, last season's series rookie of the year Andrew Porter, 20, Blaine Perkins, 14, Christian McGhee, 17, Billy Helgeson, McGrady, Cansdale and Ricky Schlick rounded out the top ten with all cars on the lead lap. Key position changes during the second half of the race were Perkins taking P. 4 from Porter on lap 27, and an exciting P. 7-9 battle among Helgeson, McGrady and Cansdale, who took eighth from McGrady on lap 41. McGrady re-passed him a lap later. McGrady passed Helgeson for P. 7 on lap 44. Cansdale dropped Helgeson to ninth on the next lap as Schlick made it a four-car battle.
On lap 47 Helgeson spun out in the second corner in a single-car incident. At the lap 47 restart, McGrady passed both McGhee and September 27 winner Perkins for fifth. Cansdale took seventh from Perkins on lap 49, but the 14-year old from Bakersfield passed Cansdale and McGhee for P. 6 on the final lap. The finishing order read: Partridge by 0.904 over Huddleston. Smith, Porter, McGrady, Perkins, McGhee, Cansdale and Helgeson completed the top ten and all were within 5.032 seconds of the winner. All 15 starters finished and completed 50 circuits. McGhee, Perkins and Schlick are series rookies.
A 15-minute red flag occurred on lap 3 after McGhee's rear axle broke and dropped axle fluid on the track, necessitating clean-up work by track safety workers. McGhee drove to the pits where his Jackson Race Cars team quickly replaced the rear axle and repaired bars and exhaust. He drove back to the tail end of the field before the restart without losing a lap. He raced into the top ten rapidly. The 17 minute race (on the clock) had two cautions flags. It took 44 minutes in actual time and averaged 87.100 mph. Huddleston ran the fastest race lap of 94.275 mph. The top five drivers in final 2014 points are: Partridge-950; Porter-824; rookie McGhee-814; Huddleston-806, and McCray-768.
SUPER STOCKS: Fastest qualifier Gary Frankovich, 57, started and finished first in his No. 66 Chevy Impala SS against a field of Camaros. It was the second career feature victory for the Apple Valley resident and both came this season. He moved from fourth to third in final points. Jimmy Sloan, the 2005 series champion, started next to the winner and trailed him all 30 laps. He was 0.993 back at the conclusion of the double-point season finale. Gary Read, championship runner-up Henry Miles, and champion Zack Green completed the top five. The all-green race took 10:43.708 and averaged 83.889 mph. Frankovich turned the fastest lap of 20.949 (85.923 mph). The top four in SS points started the race within 38 points and were within 24 points afterward. Read dropped from third to fourth in points.
IRT TRUCKS: Three drivers led the 40-lap IRT feature. Luis Martinez, Jr. paced the initial seven laps and finished fifth. Joey Licata, Jr. started fifth and put his Dodge Dakota out front from laps 8-18 and 23-40 for his second IS feature victory of 2014. P. 4 starter Christian McGhee grabbed the lead from Licata on a 2 X 2 restart and led laps 19-22. Another of the five caution flags gave Licata a 2 X 2 restart lineup and he assumed the lead with a perfectly timed restart against McGhee. Crashes resulted from a truck dropping fluid in turn four. Lucas McNeil spun to the wall; Todd Cameron and Kenny Brown became involved and stopped, with Brown's hood and RF wheel bent.
A lap 23 two-truck incident on the backstretch involved Cameron and Dennis Arena. Cameron's No. 99 ground along the wall trailing sparks and stopped near the third turn wall. It was towed to the pits. R. Partridge, who did not qualify because of a fuel valve problem, raced forward rapidly from the back row and was third by lap 19, but he could not catch Licata and McGhee. Seven-time 2014 IRT feature winner Partridge finished third, 0.540 off the lead with runner-up McGhee 0.375 in back of Licata. Jeff Peterson and Martinez completed the top five. Nine of 16 starters finished the 39-minute contest. Licata ran the fastest lap of 19.781 (90.996 mph).
SWT TRUCKS: Twelve of the touring series trucks ran 30-laps and had a nine truck inverted lineup by qualifying times. There were four race leaders. Cecil Phelps led two laps from the pole. Ronnie Davis led laps 3-13 before Ed Cutler paced laps 14-15. Then fast timer Neil Conrad, a retired Arcadia Fire Department Captain, led laps 16-30 and won by 1.740. Point leader Zack Green, the SS two-time champion, drove Jeff Williams' No. 27 Ford from eighth starting to second place with a final lap pass of Cutler near the finish line. Shawn Rizzone followed Cutler with Phelps fifth in a 15-minute event with one caution for a blown engine.
Green set fastest qualifying time and won all four prior SWT Truck main events at IS this season. This season Conrad raced infrequently. On Saturday Conrad ended Green's dominance by setting fast time and winning the fifth and final series 2014 race at IS. Last season at IS Conrad dominated the series. He set fastest qualifying time and won all five series features at Irwindale.
LEGEND CARS: FQ Ricky Schlick started on the pole and led all 35 laps in his No. 24 replica 1930s Ford coupe. It was his second feature win in the IS series this season for the Jeff Gordon fan. Point leader Brent Scheidemantle, 21, started fourth and took third on lap 30. He passed Chad Schug on lap 31 and trailed the winner by 1.646. Schug, Aaron Wells and Gary Scheuerell trailed and all logged 35 laps. Four caution flags, including one on lap30 for a blown Yamaha engine, slowed action. Double-dipping late model driver Schlick ran the fastest race lap of 72.875 mph.
SKID PLATE CARS: Twenty-six four-cylinder sedans, using metal skid plates on the two back wheels instead of tires, raced in a clockwise direction. A backstretch dogleg marked by huge white tires into the infield made this event unique. Fastest qualifier and three-time SPC feature winner Mike DiGregorio led the first 15 of 20 laps by as much as half a lap at lap 9. Sean Brennan, as the last main event winner, started at the back and worked forward hastily to catch his friend DiGregorio. Brennan's black No. 33 1992 Acura Integra was third by lap 4 and second at lap 10, half a straight from the lead.
As the leader continued lapping cars, Brennan closed in and passed the leader's No. 18 Honda Accord on lap 16 in the second corner. Brennan had a 20-yard lead starting the final lap, but heavy traffic, racing two and three-wide, slowed his pace near the backstretch dogleg. Second place DiGregorio got to Brennan's back bumper and was about to make a move for the lead. Then a lapped car hit him from behind and spun the P. 2 car, costing DiGregorio a straightaway. DiGregorio trailed Brennan by 8.266 in a 13-minute event. Brennan had a winning speed was 28.558 mph. DiGregorio ran the fastest lap of 31.699 mph early while leading on a relatively clear track. The race was green all the way despite the usual spins and fender-benders in this fan-pleasing division.
Brennan's fourth skid plate triumph this year in eight events was his sixth, including two last year in a 1998 Toyota Camry. Brennan leads the next most frequent skid plate winner by two triumphs. Saturday's SPC event was the 32nd such event at IS since it debuted in 2009. Sixteen different drivers have won a SPC main event. Twenty-four of 26 starters finished the event. Brennan lapped Jim Smith's third place No. 28 Suburu as they approached the waving checkered flag. Five drivers finished one lap down, nine drivers were down two laps, and four drivers (to P. 20) were down three laps.
SPC EXHIBITION FIGURE 8 RACE: Ten of the 26 skid plate cars added reinforcing bars to the driver's side door to race in a 10-lap exhibition Figure 8 race through the infield. It was a first-time event at IS. Robert Rice started third and became the third leader on lap 3. He won by 50-yards over lap 2 leader Andrew Brittain. Jim Smith, Jet Blue Airline pilot Todd Browne and Robbie Salcido completed the top five. The seven minute race had six cars on the lead lap and all ten starters finished without contact at the intersection X.
NOTES: The six slowest SWT trucks ran a six-lap Super Gen trophy dash to begin racing at 7:05 pm. Al Rizzone started fourth and led every lap over Phelps and Bobby Vandermooren. The event paid $150 cash from Super Gen, a firm in nearby Monrovia.
The next IS oval racing will be Saturday, October 18 with a six division night. It will be double-points season finales for super late models, IRT, mini stocks, INEX Legends and Bandoleros. Also scheduled will be the fourth and final SRL S2 Cars race of the season at Irwindale. It will be the tenth race in the12 race touring series that races at three tracks. KCRP (on November 1) and the “Bullring” at Las Vegas (on November 22) will conclude the 2014 SRL S2 season.