IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY RUNS 5 DIVISIONS, 6 MAIN EVENTS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Apr. 4 – Irwindale Speedway ran its second Saturday night of oval track racing season 16 on Easter eve. The program featured five racing divisions and six main events. A ten-minute aerial fireworks show topped the evening for 4,150 spectators present. Trevor Huddleston, 18, and reigning series champion Ryan Partridge, 26, won the Seidner's Collision Centers NASCAR Late Model 30-lap twin features. It was the second IS late model in the career of Huddleston, son of IS three-time late model champion Tim Huddleston. He won his first IS late model feature last September 27. Trevor drove the No. 50 High Point Racing Chevy made famous by his dad.
Partridge, a 2015 rookie in the touring NASCAR K & N West Series, decided to race Wednesday and brought out Steve Latina's No. 48 Toyota Camry. He won eight of 19 IS features last season en route to his second consecutive late model championship at IS. Partridge bumped his Irwindale feature victory total to 48 in five divisions. His total is second best all-time to currently inactive Rip Michels' 67 feature victories in three series.
Other feature winners Saturday on the progressively-banked half-mile were: Connor Cantrell, 23, back in his familiar No. 9 Chevy S-10 truck for Irwindale Race Truck Series action. “Racey” Lacie Price, 21, drove that truck last season in IRT races using her traditional No. 22 and won the rookie of the year title. The Pick Your Part NASCAR Super Stock 35-lap race was a green-to-checkered flag ride for 2005 IS Super Stock Series champion Jimmy Sloan, of Indio.
Two races used the third-mile. Ryan Bragdon, 22, drove his 1979 Ford Mustang II to victory in a 35-lap main. The final race was a 15-lap Figure 8 event for ten skid plate cars on the third-mile and infield intersection. Robert Rice is the father of skid plate car racing at IS in 2009 and builder of the metal skid plates for all competitors. He won his fourth SPC feature. It concluded at 9:33. Fans remained in place and watched the pyrotechnics show that concluded at 9:50 pm.
1ST LATE MODEL 30: A strong field of 20 cars was behind the Seidner's Collision Centers Toyota Scion pace car for event one shortly after 7:00. Fastest qualifier Partridge started from pole position with Huddleston, who equaled his 18.729 quick time, alongside. Partridge led the first two laps, but Jeff Williams' blown engine oiled the track at turn three. Following track clean-up work, Huddleston took the lead with an inside pass at turn four. The teen opened a ten-yard lead over “track master” and racing school chief driving instructor Partridge by lap 27. A solo spinner caused another caution. With a 2 X 2 full-field restart, Huddleston would not be denied. He used the outside groove to withstand inside-running Partridge's pressure. Huddleston beat the 2013-14 IS LM champion by 0.326 in a 14:51.199-timed race. Partridge clocked the fastest lap of 18.965 (94.912 mph).
Covina resident Mike Johnson, 56, used the restart after the final caution on lap 27 to shoot past race-long P. 3 runner Christian McGhee, 16. Johnson trailed the race winner by 1.175, with McGhee 1.388 back. Blaine Perkins, a 15-year old rising star from the ranks of INEX Bandolero. legend cars, trucks and S2 cars, started 13th in one of three Huddleston-owned HPR Chevies. He finished fifth, 1.955 seconds off the lead, in the “blue crew” No. 55.
Completing the growing trend of talented “young gun” drivers in the top ten were: sixth place Ricky Schlick, 17, first-time stock car driver/USAC Midget Series veteran Jarid Blondel, 19, who started tenth. Kyle McGrady, Lacie Price (in her first late model race), and Bill Helgeson, 36, completed the top ten. Sixteen of 20 drivers were racing at the finish and 13 drivers completed all 30 laps. P. 5 Toni McCray, who also is racing in the Spears SRL Series this season, dropped out on lap 14 with a broken distributor.
2ND LATE MODEL 30: Race five of the night was the second Seidner's LM main. The Partridge/Huddleston duo again started from the first row. This time Partridge led all 30 laps and beat Huddleston by 15-yards (0.495 seconds). McGhee ran third all the way and was 0.857 back. Perkins came from tenth to earn fourth. Andrew Porter, 21, sub-drove Joe Nava's No. 88 that Tim Adolphson, from Gig Harbor, WA, raced in the first 30. Porter passed two cars during the closing laps of a 15-minute contest to claim fifth.
Rounding out P. 6-10 were: rookie Blondel in his dad Ron's No. 98 Chevy, McGrady, Johnson, Price, and Val Cummings. Seventeen of 19 starters finished, with 14 on the lead lap. Only Jeff Williams' car did not return for race two. Schlick was in P. 6 on lap 29 when a flat RR tire caused him to slow and he placed 14th. McCray's car lost power on the pace lap and pulled into the infield.
The field of six late model rookies in addition to Blondel, Price, Schlick and Adolphson, included Logan Mainella, a 23-year old UC Merced mechanical engineering student from Palmdale, and Jesse Iwuji, a 27-year old US Navy surface warfare officer. The Dallas, TX native is a U.S Naval Academy football player and graduate stationed in California. He drove Joe Nava's No. 77 in which Travis Irving won a feature last April. Iwuji completed 29 laps and finished 15th in the first 30 and dropped out on lap 13 in the second 30.
TRUCKS 40: A 17-truck field ran a competitive, all-green flag race in a time of 13:28.310 for an average speed of 89.075 mph. The race had three leaders and all three raced in a tight pack from lap 9 to the finish. Pole-man Ken Michaelian led the first 25 laps in his Petty-blue No. 40. Then second starter Joey Licata, Jr., the feature winner a week earlier, made an inside pass entering turn one and paced laps 26-32. Cantrell passed Michaelian on lap 27 in turn two and closed quickly on Licata's No. 77. Cantrell passed Licata on the inside in the fourth turn on lap 33 and led to the checkers. Licata was 0.876 back at the end. P. 3 Michaelian was smoking in the closing laps because his power steering hose came off. He moved to the low groove and slowed to the finish, losing two positions during the final two laps.
Christian McGhee, who raced in three features Saturday and also races in the Spears SRL Series, brought his truck out for some fun. He started and finished third in his IRT No. 71. Luis Martinez, Jr. earned fourth place. Rookie Riley Herbst, a 16-year old high school sophomore in Las Vegas, double-duty driver Jeff Williams, Lucas McNeil, Ken Brown and Dennis Arena completed the top ten. Sixteen drivers finished, with all but one on the lead lap.
SUPER STOCK 35: Nine cars started and all finished. Second starter Jimmy Sloan led every lap in his No. 15 Camaro. Reigning series champion Zack Green, started third, took second on lap 15, lost it on lap 17, and retook P. 2 for good on lap 24. Greg Crutcher placed third in a Camaro after passing fastest qualifier/pole starter Gary Frankovich's Chevy Impala SS on a lap 30 restart. Rookie Matt Sampson spun at turn four for the only caution of the race. Frankovich placed fourth with Brad Keegan's Camaro fifth. Series veteran Curtis White, who recently underwent lung surgery, waved the green flag in the starters' stand.
MINI STOCKS 35: Ten of the 12 mini stocks present raced 35 laps on the third-mile in 14 minutes. The event had one yellow and one red flag for a fiery engine blowup and oil down near turn one. Rod Schmitt's Ford Pinto led the first nine laps. Ryan Bragdon started seventh and was running second by lap 7. He took command on lap 10 with an inside pass entering turn one. He ran away to a 20-yard victory margin (1.885 seconds). The Pintos of Mike Colato, Jr, 31, and Aubree Porter, 20, traded P. 2 twice before Colato claimed runner-up money on the final lap with an inside pass in the third and fourth turns.
Nevada Chovin, 16, drove his Pinto to P. 4 with Robby Harryman's Pinto fifth. Orange Show Speedway regular Tim Cox raced his early 1980s Toyota four-cylinder Mo. 88 truck to sixth in his first mini stock race at IS. Dusty Morgan was seventh and also ran 35 laps in his Pinto. He spun after a lap 26 tangle with Harryman while battling for fourth position.
SPC FIGURE 8: The event had 12 four-cylinder entrants and ten starters. Neil Himes, Robbie Salcido and Robert Rice all led and traded the lead six times before Rice took charge on lap 14 of 15. He won his fourth SPC main in his familiar orange No. 7 Honda Accord. Salcido, Himes and Steven Belling all completed 15 laps in that order. The race took nine minutes. Seven drivers reached the checkered flag.
The third Saturday night race of the 21 event IS season on April 11 will be a special event—the 2015 Spring Classic featuring a touring NASCAR K & N West 150-lap main event. A late entry in one of Bill McAnally's Toyota Camry's is 2013 USAC National Midget Series champion and 2014 Perris Turkey Night GP winner/sprint car driver Christopher Bell, from Norman, OK. Also on the card are a 100-lap Pacific Challenge Series late model stock car race, plus INEX Bandolero and Legend cars qualifying races.
Front gates will open early at 4:00. Racing will begin early at 6:00 pm with a celebrity race benefiting A Walk On Water (AWOW), which provides surf therapy for special needs children and their siblings. Celebrities will race in 12 S2 cars prepared by Huddleston's HPR crew. Actors entered include past IS race winner William Fichtner, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Rob Morrow, and Skeet Ulrich. NHL hockey star Dustin Penner (LA Kings & Ducks), pro surfer Alex Gray, and KTLA Channel 5 meteorologist Mark Kriski are entered as well. All celebrities will participate in an autograph session.