IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION + TRUCKS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Mar. 28 – Irwindale Speedway presented its first night racing event of 2015 Saturday in front of 4,490 mayhem enthusiasts. The six event program presented by Pick Your Part featured one oval race on the half-mile for Irwindale Race Trucks Series pickups. That 40-lap race opened the evening at 7:15 before five wild events left the track and infield littered with debris. It was the second of 21 scheduled events this season. The first “Day of Destruction” took place on Sunday afternoon, February 15.
Saturday's event took place 16 years and one night following the track's first race night on March 27, 1999. Guests this week in suite F included child actors. Rodney Allen Rippy, the nationally famous black 3-year old star of Jack in the Box “jumbo jack” TV commercials in the early 1970s, sang the National Anthem. He also gave the starting command for trucks positioned in the infield for the first race. Rippy, 46, is a college graduate from Cal State University Dominguez Hills who campaigned briefly in 2013 for the office of mayor of Compton.
IRT 40: The 17 trucks used an invert of eight. That put fastest qualifier Joey Licata, Jr., 23, outside of row four. Dennis Arena led the first two laps. Lucas McNeil paced laps 3-16 before Licata, 23, put his No. 77 Dodge Dakota out front for the final 24 laps. Lake Balboa resident Licata won the final two IRT main events of 2014 plus a July feature, giving him three victories in ten features last year. He placed third in 2014 IS points to seven-time winner/2014 IRT champion Ryan Partridge. Licata also won three ASA Truck Series IS features within the last four years.
McNeil trailed by 20-yards (0.958 seconds). Ken Michaelian, the 25-year old 2009-10 Irwindale classic stock car division champion, took third place from Jeff Williams on the white flag lap. Rookie Curtis Dahmer started ninth and finished fifth in his first truck race. Twelve of 17 starters finished and 11 completed all 40 laps in a 32-minute race.
Two other truck rookies made their debuts. Riley Herbst, a 5'3” 95-pound sophomore at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, made his first start on the half-mile. He raced a legends car on the IS third-mile last season and at his Las Vegas “Bullring” home track. His truck ride was the ex-No. 48 Toyota Tundra raced by Partridge to seven victories and the 2014 IS championship for owner Steve Latina. The now No. 19 truck is owned by Troy Herbst (Riley's dad) of the “Terrible Herbst” family that owns 380 gas stations in Nevada and Arizona. Riley's grandfather Jerry started the chain. Riley set eighth fastest qualifying time and started from pole position. He ran sixth in the early laps before finishing seventh, 7.400 seconds behind the winner.
The other IRT rookie was Ryan “Rhino” Vargas, 14, from La Mirada. He won 11 of the 12 INEX Bandolero Series 2014 main events on the third-mile IS oval and the series championship. He qualified 11th quickest in the ex-No. 52 Tom Stanton truck that Vargas renumbered with his usual No. 23. It was his first race on the half-mile. He was racing in mid-pack on lap 17 when his engine blew and filled the truck with smoke. He pulled to the infield and bailed out quickly while coughing repeatedly. He was treated at the ambulance for smoke inhalation.
FLAG POLE RACE: A 23-car field of four-cylinder cars used four tires. They lined up across the infield in two rows with 13 cars in the front row and 10 in the back row. The “Oklahoma land rush” shotgun start raced on a six-turn course that included an infield loop around huge tires with a flagpole in the middle. Drivers had to negotiate a figure 8 intersection and then turns five and six at the third-mile turns three and four. Cars then raced to the half-mile front straight where they passed between the outer crash-wall and two concrete K-rails at the inside of the front straight. Steven Belling led four laps before Sean Brennan, 24, took charge in his No. 56 Toyota Camry LE and won the 20-lap event by l7.942 seconds over Tony Cummings. Cheryl Hyland and rookie Todd Paperny, a close friend of former USAC midget racer Shane Scully, completed the top four and were the only other drivers with 20 laps. Sixteen of 23 cars reached the checkered flag.
AUTO SOCCER: Two three-car teams played a ten-minute contest in the infield. Cars maneuvered a large, empty, round metal contained painted to resemble a soccer ball to score goals. Several concrete K-rails at the east and west ends were positioned as the goals. The orange Pick Your Part cars beat the white and black Low Budget TV cars 4-1. Jeffrey Best, Tommy Mason and Matt Feron drove for LBTV. Robert Rice scored two goals. Teammates Jim Cook and Robby Salcido each scored once. Best scored the lone LBTV goal on a breakaway. PYP won both auto soccer matches over LBTV last season.
FIGURE 8 CHAIN RACE: Using two cars chained together, six teams ran a 15-lap race. Robert Rice and Billy Altfater led all the way and lapped the second place car on lap 6. IS Racing Director Mike Atkinson drove the P. 2 car with his IS timer/scorer daughter Sarah in the back car. The only other car running had driver Jeffrey Best in the front car and Sara G in the back car. Collisions at the intersection were avoided barely several times by huge evasive swerves by persons in the back car.
SEIDNER'S COLLISION CENTERS SKID PLATE CARS: A 25-car field of four-cylinders cars (many raced in the earlier flag pole race) used metal skid plates on the two back wheels for the 20-lap race. The start was two-by-two and front-row starter Steven Belling led lap 1. Then second row starter Andrew Brittain led laps 2-15. Sixteenth starter Sean Brennan reached P. 2 by lap 13. Both P 1 and 2 cars tangled and spun at the finish line area between the K-rails and outer crash-wall on laps 15-16.
Brennan took the lead on lap 16 and led the final five laps in his No. 33 1992 Acura Integra. It was his second victory of the night. He won by a whopping 27 seconds and averaged 40.677 mph. The P. 4 driver trailed by 51 seconds. Nineteen of 25 drivers finished the 14-minute race. Brittain cut to the infield side of the K-rails twice and officials penalized him one lap, leading to his P. 7 finish. Tony Cummings, Robert Rice and Austin Lee finished second through fourth respectively and also completed 20 laps. Neil Himes and Robby Salcido finished 19 laps and earned fifth and sixth.
Brennan, who started racing skid plate cars in 2013, won four of the nine SPC races last season. He now has won seven of the 34 SPC events since the fan-popular event started at IS in 2009. No other driver has won more than four SPC races. Brennan drove a 1998 Toyota Camry LE to his first two victories in 2013 before switching last season to his winning Acura Integra. He holds the all-time one-lap track record in that car with a fast lap of 28.684 (41.793 mph) last August 30. Seventeen different drivers have won the 34 SPC main events at IS to date.
TRAILER RACE: Eleven drivers towing trailers with boats, old bicycles, cargo containers and miscellaneous items, raced 20 laps. Tom Ryan's Lincoln Town-Car led the first six laps. Then Robert Rice's Suburban (towing a boat) led the remaining laps while avoiding most contact. Only five drivers finished and as usual grandstand spectators voted for the winner. Adam Ditto, driving the No. 14 utility body truck, was the overwhelming fan favorite for his entertaining demolishing of cast adrift boats and cargo. The Monrovia resident also did a rear tire burnout in the infield after his car stopped running. The checkered flag flew at 10 pm after 18-minutes of action and one brief red flag to remove a car blocking the first turn.
Next Saturday, April 4 will feature NASCAR late model stock cars with twin main events on the half-mile. Trucks from the IRT series, super stocks, mini stocks and more skid plate car racing will add excitement to the third of 21 racing events this season.