DAY OF DESTRUCTION @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Feb. 15 – Irwindale Speedway opened its 16th oval track racing season and third under the auspices of Jim Cohan and 211 Entertainment Sunday afternoon with a new attraction. It was the first “Day of Destruction” event. Last year four “Night of Destruction” events attracted full grandstands of enthusiastic spectators. The daylight version Sunday attracted 3,158 spectators on a hot, 81-degree day for the 1:00 to 3:45 pm event in the middle of a three-day weekend for many people.
Competitive events included a 25-lap first-time flag pole race for four-cylinder compact cars. Drivers had to circle around a flag pole protected by large tires. Then they picked their way between oncoming cars in a Figure-8-like daring manner. The 23-car field started on the third-mile, used the infield after turn two, maneuvered 360-degrees around the flag pole, and through the third-mile turn three before angling to the outside of K-rails placed at the starting line on the half-mile. Skid plate car drivers have not used the half-mile in prior events.
A four-cylinder skid plate cars Figure 8 race of 20-laps with ten cars came next and utilized the infield X-zone. Event three was the usual skid plate cars race on the third-mile track. Cars started from a standing start counted down from five by fans. Cars were six-wide in the first three rows. It was the closest thing to a flat-out race for 20-laps. Cars jogged through the infield on the backstretch and back to the front-straight to the outside of K-rails positioned on the front straight of the half-mile.
A compact car demolition derby had eight competitors in well-used cars. Fans applause determined the winner based on cars still moving at the conclusion and competitiveness of drivers. Hitting cars and surviving hits impressed vocal fans in the grandstand. The final event was a wild trailer race with nine competitors towing trailers with cargo, such as mattresses, boats, and miscellaneous items. The goal was to dislodge cargo and/or trailers while maintaining your own trailer and cargo intact. On-track action entertained spectators to the max.
Interspersed between the destruction and necessary track clean-up work were two exhibition events. Ten quarter-midgets from the Orange Show Quarter Midget Racing Association raced around cones placed on the third-mile front straight. Four rookies raced and then more experienced youth raced their cars on the 1/20th-mile oval. Veteran drifting driver Kyle Mohan, from Long Beach, put on a tire-smoking demonstration of drifting with his Mazda. He used power-slides next to the crash-wall on the half-mile oval. Then he performed tire-smoking donuts next to the K-rails on the front straight.
FLAG POLE RACE: The 25-lap flag pole race had four race leaders and eight lead changes. Robert Rice, the “master of disaster”and godfather of skid plate racing at IS, won the race in his orange Pick Your Part Honda Accord by 2.794 seconds over Tony Cummings. Versatile late model 2014 rookie Ricky Schlick,17, placed third in a 1990s Toyota Camry. He was 8.078 seconds off the lead. Six drivers completed all 25 laps. P. 4-6 drivers were: Steven Belling, Travis Mooney and Todd Paperny. Twelve of 23 starters finished the 14:07.109 race that averaged 53.122 mph. Lap leaders were: Rice-L1, 4-5, 8, 10-11, 13-25; Adam Ditto-L 2-3, 6-7; Neil Himes-L 9, and Joe Furlow-L 12.
SPC FIGURE 8: The SPC Figure 8 race had Andrew Brittain lead lap one from the pole. Then R. Rice, from Hawthorne, came from outside row one to lead laps 2-20. He won by more than half a lap. Brittain and third-place Robbie Salcido (Honda Accord) were the only other finishers on the lead lap. N. Himes and Low Budget TV video-grapher Jeffrey Best placed fourth and fifth and completed 19 laps. The 13:51.135-timed race averaged 32.659 mph.
SPC MAIN: The SPC regular 20-lap feature started 24 four-cylinder compact cars two by two. The 13:39.351 race had three race leaders. Seventh starter Sean Brennan, a six-time SPC feature winner, led the first lap in his 1992 Acura Integra. Third-starter R. Rice paced the next two laps in his 1991 Honda Accord. Eighth starter Michael Di Gregorio maneuvered his 1995 Honda Accord deftly around the third-mile through spinning and crashing cars. He took the lead on lap 4 and could not be caught by anyone. Brennan pressured his friend Di Gregorio closely from laps 7-10 before he got involved in a tangle with another car. The winner had half a lap lead over Brennan, won by 23 seconds, and averaged 43.937mph. Di Gregorio ran the fastest lap of 37.752 (47.680 mph).
P 3-5 drivers T. Cummings, R. Rice and R. Salcido all were down one lap. Di Gregorio scored his fourth SPC career victory. The Temple City resident won three consecutive 2013 SPC mains from July through October. He is now tied at four wins with two drivers for second place in total SPC main event triumphs. The fan-popular event was the 34th event since IS ran two during 2009. Seventeen different drivers have won SPC mains at the IS third-mile.
DEMO DERBY: The compact car demolition derby took place on a watered area in the infield in front of the main grandstand. When the eight competitors were reduced to three moving cars spectators rallied behind the black No. 14 Honda Civic driven by Adam Ditto, of Monrovia. His car was battered in the front, back, and had a caved in right side, plus shattered windshield glass. The seemingly indestructible car kept coming back for more action and disabled the No. 00 car of J. Best. Fans in unison chanted “14-14-14”.
Then the No. 2 car, driven by Shayla Zins, delivered a kill-shot that disabled “the gutty little Civic” to a chorus of boos from the grandstand. Fans were were asked by PA announcer Bruce Flanders to select the winner by their applause. To the surprise of no one, Ditto's No. 14 was a near unanimous winner based upon applause, cheers and stomping of feet. He received $300 as the winner. Competitors in every event received cash awards that covered their pit pass cost.
TRAILER RACE: A 20-lap race left the third-mile littered with debris from scattered cargo, boats and trailers. There was a red flag on lap 8 when the car of S. Zins caught fire at the engine and right side after the mattress it snagged and dragged caught fire. After 18 minutes there were five cars still circulating with or without a trailer. The top three “entertainers” drove to the front straight and awaited fans voting to determine the winner. Tom Ryan, driving a Lincoln Town Car, won over J. Best and Cheryl Hyland. Fans who sat under the suites in the shade, and those who sat in the hot sun (some even used beach-type umbrellas) filed out smiling just before 4:00 pm. The temperature was still 79 degrees.
IS has scheduled a 21 event 2015 season, up from 19 last season and 15 in 2013. The schedule has five “Nights of Destruction” on Saturday nights March 28, June 20, September 5, October 24 and December 5 when evening temperatures should be cooler. Some of the Saturday co-features will have late model stock cars or Irwindale Race Truck races as co-feature attractions. There will be an open practice day for all divisions on Saturday, March 14. The first Saturday night event will be March 28.