IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 18 – Irwindale Speedway staged a six-division “Night of Champions” presented by 805 Brewing Saturday on week 16 of 17 scheduled oval track nights. The 3,280 spectators present witnessed three first-time winners and double-points in five track series. Two point leaders saw their title-hopes dashed and championships go to competitors. Four drivers won their first championships at IS and three drivers scored their first IS feature victories. The PA system played “We Are the Champions” by Queen to salute all 2014 track champions. It was the final NASCAR 2014 points night in the second year under the auspices of 211 Entertainment President/CEO Jim Cohan.
The cool, low 70s temperature and tire rubber on the track after a major drifting competition last weekend combined as drivers set four new one-lap track records during late afternoon time trials. Drivers set one record on the half-mile and three new marks on the third-mile. Linny White set the super late model record of 17.496 (102.881 mph) to erase Rod Johnson, Jr.'s mark of 17.558 on 4/23/11. Ricky Schlick lowered his own legend cars mark to 16.274 (73.664 mph) from his 16.311 last November 2. Aubree Porter set the new mini stock record of 16.733 (71.643 mph), lowering the standard from 16.796 by Ryan Bragdon on 9/24/11. The INEX Bandolero record (with a restrictor-plate) was 17.894 by Christian McGhee on 9/2/11. Ryan Vargas set the new record of 17.822 (67.265 mph) Friday in the first of two weekend races.
Track champions for 2014 by division are:
> Pick Your Part Super Late Models – Linny White, 36, of Colton.
> Irwindale Race Trucks – Ryan Partridge, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga.
> Seidner's Collision Centers Mini Stocks – Garrett Green, 21, from Long Beach.
> INEX Legend Cars – Brent Scheidemantle, 21, of Alta Loma.
> Universal Studios Hollywood Bandoleros – Ryan Vargas, 14, from La Mirada.
Main event winners on the half-mile were:
> SLM 50 – Linny White (his first ever victory on the IS half-mile).
> IRT 50 – Joey Licata, Jr., 23, from Lake Balboa.
> Spears Mfg. SRL S2 touring series 35 – Bandolero and legends graduate Blaine Perkins, 14, from Bakersfield.
Feature winners on the third-mile were:
> Mini stocks 35 – Aubree Porter, 19, of La Verne (her first ever feature triumph).
> Legends 35 – Ricky Schlick, 17, from Claremont.
> Bandolero 20s: (Friday)-Allison Gay, 13, from Lakeside (her first ever feature win); (Saturday)-Ryan Vargas, who is moving up to the super stock division with a Camaro next season.
The final event occurred at 10 pm. A Lucas Oil/MAVTV jet dragster named “Terminal Velocity” burned down an old car in the infield. Flame bursts from the back of a J-60 jet engine (used in private jet aircraft and Sikorsky helicopters) ignited and completely engulfed the car, destroying it quickly. The next IS event—the third fan-popular “Night of Destruction” of 2014--will be Saturday, November 1.
SLM 50: The sixth and final main event Saturday was the seventh NASCAR Super Late Model event with 11 starters. The race paid double points with 100 to win. Jason Patison, who had won four of six 2014 mains and three in a row, was tied at 274 points with June 21 winner Toni McCray. P. 3 L. White had 272 and Jack Madrid, 19, was fourth with 254. Fastest qualifier White started from pole position with point leader Patison alongside and McCray right behind him. Patison led the first 45 laps over White by about 15-yards with P. 3 Madrid a straightaway back.
Patison appeared victory-bound and about to win his first IS championship. Then Jeff Eshleman spun in turn two on lap 46, causing a yellow flag. A 2 X2 restart ensued. Patison chose the inside with White alongside. White took the lead on lap 46 with an outside pass leaving turn four. Patison reclaimed the lead on lap 47 on the inside at the starting line and also led lap 48 by inches. With the race victory and season championship on the line, White duplicated his lap 46 pass and retook the point on lap 49 at the line. Patison surged back on the backstretch and led narrowly into turn three on the final lap. White powered into the lead exiting turn four on the outside and had the lead by less than a foot. The dueling duo made brief side-to-side contact crossing the finish line with White the winner by 0.035.
After contact, Patison's car spun down the front straight and stopped on the first turn infield grass. The car missed the third-mile turn one wall protective tires by about two feet. He drove back to the finish line for driver interviews. “I was not happy to see that caution, but that is part of racing,” Patison said. In a show of good sportsmanship, he congratulated the winner of the race and season championship. Both drivers are sponsored by Lucas Oil. White said his No. 99 Earl Robbins-owned Chevy is a new 2014 Hamke chassis from North Carolina in only its second race. His new crew chief, Rod Johnson, Jr., worked his first race with the winning team after recently leaving Christian McGhee's No. 71 team. Madrid finished third and Las Vegan Chris Clyne fourth. Toni McCray, driving her No. 77 Hamke SRL car, placed fifth (-2.834 seconds). Final points showed White with 372, followed by Patison at 370, McCray 358, and Madrid 346.
IRT 50: Fifteen trucks started the double-points 50-lap race. Ken Michaelian started second and led 23 laps in a close, four-way battle with point leader R. Partridge Licata and second in points C. McGhee, who trailed Partridge by 40 points. Fast timer Licata started sixth. The first four drivers ran nose-to-tail and then two by two lap after lap. On lap 24 Partridge cut to the inside at turn three and took command. Licata and McGhee passed Michaelian on lap 26 as the battle became a three truck contest. On lap 35 Licata passed Partridge on the outside in turn four and led a lap before a spin caused a caution.
A 2 X 2 restart of lap 37 had Partridge inside and Licata outside. Partridge shot into the lead and pulled in front of Licata at turn two. Licata made a cross over move and regained the lead by turn three. Licata had a 35-yard lead on lap 48 when P. 6 Lacey Price, 20, contacted fifth place Lucas McNeil, spinning her No. 22 truck to the turn three inside wall tire barrier. The legend car graduate and leading rookie truck racer (P. 3 in points) restarted at the back and finished 12th. P. 4 Michaelian hit the third turn wall on lap 48 and P. 7 Todd Cameron became involved and stopped at the scene. He drove to the pits, removed front fenders and hood and returned to the back for the restart. He finished 11th.
Another 2 X 2 restart put McGhee to Licata's left, but Licata held him off during the final three laps. He won his second consecutive main and third in the last four aboard the No. 77 Dodge. McGhee trailed by 0.295 and P. 3 Partridge by 0.586. McNeil placed fourth and moved up to third in final points. Connor Cantrell made his first start in the No. 35 and finished fifth as 13 of 15 trucks finished with 12 on the lead lap. Early leader Michaelian ran the fastest race lap at 91.706 mph. The 31-minute race had three yellows and one red flag for track cleanup. Partridge won seven of the ten IRT features and took his second IS championship of 2014 by 36 points over McGhee (516-480). Licata finished third with 438 and McNeil fourth at 436. Price dropped two positions to fifth with 420. The only other driver to win two IS track championships in the same season was Nick Joanides, who won the SLM and late model titles in 2009. It was the fourth IS track championship for Partridge, the 2010 super truck and 2013 late model champion.
SPEARS SRL S2: The 11-car S2 field was the third feature. FQ/series rookie Blaine Perkins started second in the HPR No. 50 and led all 35 laps. He beat John Butler by 1.218 and third place/series point leader Brandon “Shorty” Weaver, 15, by 1.406. Perkins won three of the four S2 mains at IS this season and one main at Madera Speedway, giving him four wins in ten 2014 races. Newcomer Dylan Garner, a 15-year old from Yorba Linda with no prior racing experience, was second quickest qualifier and started on the pole. On lap 1 he spun out of the lead into the infield. He continued non-stop after losing half a lap. He worked forward quickly and took P. 4, 12-seconds off the lead. Garner set the fastest race lap of 89.030 mph.
Former late model driver Todd Conrad returned, after years of retirement from racing, to the S2 division in a car he bought from Kenny Smith. He started 11th and placed fifth,13 seconds from the lead. Ten of 11 cars finished the all-green light event in 12:07.630. The final two SRL S2 races will be held at Bakersfield's KCRP half-mile on November 1 and at the Las Vegas three-eighths mile “Bullring” on November 22.
LEGENDS 35: FQ Ricky Schlick, 17, started from pole position and led all 35 laps on the third-mile. It was his second victory in a row and third in ten IS events this season. Runner-up Chad Schug trailed by 0.529 with Aaron Wells third (-0.984). Mark Borchetta and Gary Scheuerell finished fourth and fifth. Nine of 12 starters finished. Schlick ran the quickest lap of 74.128 mph.
Point leader Brent Scheidemantle, who recently earned his bachelor degree in chemical engineering at UC Riverside, won his first IS championship after chasing IS points for the first time in 2014. The past INEX California state champion entered the final race with a 72-point lead over Wells. He was in P. 5 on lap 31 when several lapped cars in front of his No. 98 crashed and involved his car. He lost a bumper and drove to the pits and did not return. “I could have returned if needed,” he stated. Scheidemantle secured the IS crown by 42 points (506-462) over Wells.
MINIS 35: Race eight of ten this season had a season-high ten mini stocks, primarily Ford Pintos. Aubree Porter, 19, set her third consecutive fast time in her No. 43 Pinto. She started and finished first after leading every lap by as much as 30-yards. “It's my first ever main event win so I cried,” she told spectators. Six drivers, including four first time winners, won the ten mini-stock mains this year. A lap 33 caution for a solo spinner “caused me to worry” she admitted. The winner is the granddaughter of multi-division drivers Kenny Smith and sister of Andrew Porter, 20. They watched her victory from their team Quickpick Motorsports trucks at the backstretch staging area. She ran the fastest race lap of 71.332 mph.
Second quickest qualifier Nevada Chovan,16-year old winner of the last main event, started and finished second, 0.890 back. One-time feature winner Garrett Green started and finished third in his 1976 Ford Mustang with some 1980 bodywork. He entered the race third in points, six digits behind point leader Dusty Morgan and four in back of P. 2 Robby Harryman. Morgan finished fifth in the race, behind P. 4 Mike Colato, Jr. and lost his championship bid. Green won with 402 points to 400 for Morgan. Harryman took third with 390 and Chovan fourth with 388.
Green proudly told the media, “This is the first time two brothers won Irwindale track championships in the same season.” (His older brother Zack won the super stock title for the second consecutive season two weeks ago.) Their father Jeff won the IS super stock championship in 2000-01, so they are the first family with three members who won IS track championships. The Greens have a total of five championships—four super stocks and one mini stock. They all used No. 21 on their cars.
BANDOLEROS: (Friday)-The 500 pound, 570cc Briggs & Stratton, 13 horsepower engine cars driven by youth ages 8-15, raced Friday and Saturday. Fast qualifier and 2014 Bando champion Ryan Vargas, 14, led lap 1, but second fastest qualifier Allison Gay, 13, passed him on lap 2 and led the final 19 circuits. “It's my first victory, so I cried. I tried to do a burnout, but didn't know how,” the daughter of stock car driver Danny Gay admitted. P. 2 Vargas volunteered to coach her. Jakob Ulrich, rookie Johnny Dressler and Kayla Eshleman followed in the all-green 5:59.401 race.
(Saturday)-Twelve cars raced Saturday in the first main event at 7 pm. FQ Gay started first and led 13 laps over pressing Vargas, the second fastest qualifier. His No. 23 slipped by her No 89 on the inside in turn three as they lapped two slower cars. The all-green race took 6:02.576. It was Vargas' 11th main event win in12 IS races. Runner-up Gay trailed him by 0.254. Mckenzie Eshleman, 15, placed third in her Danica Patrick green No. 10, which was 4.993 seconds off the lead. Ulrich and Dressler followed. Eleven of 12 drivers finished with eight drivers on the lead lap.
Gay's 66.804 mph lap was the quickest on Friday. Her 67.333 mph lap was fastest in Saturday's race. Vargas entered the doubleheader leading in points with a perfect 500 points for his ten wins. Eshleman had 462 and P. 3 Gay 446. The final tally had first-time champion Vargas at 648 points, with second place Eshleman at 594 and third place Gay third with 592. The two young ladies also met with the media and spoke about their 2015 racing plans. Eshleman wanted to race stock cars and Gay said she will return to bandoleros and race for the championship.