NASCAR K & N WEST 150 + MORE @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Apr. 11 – The scheduled 13-race NASCAR K & N Pro Series West made its only 2015 stop at Irwindale Speedway Saturday for a King Taco Catering/NAPA Auto Parts 150-lap race on the progressively-banked half-mile. Chris Eggleston, a 26-year old Thornton, Colorado-based fire sprinkler systems designer for high rise buildings, won the 27-car feature in front of 3,130 spectators. Five events during three hours totaled 320 laps. It was Eggleston's seventh K & N West start and second victory. He won his first K & N race in a 150-lap race at his home track—Colorado National Speedway near Denver—last June 26 in the same car. It marked his first race at IS, which he praised for competitive racing action.
Eggleston drove the No. 99 NAPA Filters/H2O Fire Protection Toyota Camry for car owner/race organizer Bill McAnally. He set second fastest qualifying time on his second timed lap during 5:00-5:30 pm single-car time trials and trailed the quickest qualifier by 0.005. It was the second consecutive K & N victory at Irwindale for McAnally's No. 99 NAPA Toyota. Florida resident Patrick Staropoli, 24, won the K & N West 150 on March 22, 2014, also on his first visit to IS. It was McAnally's tenth Irwindale victory with six drivers in 23 series races at IS since the track opened in 1999. The race took 1:04.33 and had ten lead changes among four drivers. The winner led a race-high 102 laps. (Race details below.)
Another late model stock car series, the new Pacific Challenge Series (PCS), made its first start of a 12-race season in a 100-lap non-points event. It preceded the featured K & N West 150. Series director Jeff Munro, from Sacramento, ran the two-year old Airport Auto Brokers late model series at short tracks in northern and central California. He made cars from Spears SRL, super late model and late models eligible for PCS via a weight rule--(2,925 pounds for SRL and SLM cars and 2,800 for late models). All cars must use ten-inch, hard compound tires made by American Racer (formerly McCreary of Indiana, PA).
Preliminary national qualifying races for INEX Bandolero and legend car drivers on the third-mile did not award Irwindale track points. Fastest qualifier Mckenzie Eshleman, 15, started third and led the final 13 laps of a 15-lap “bando” main. It was her first feature victory in the Briggs & Stratton-powered small cars that top 65 mph. One-time 2014 feature winner Allison Gay, 14, placed second (-3.080 seconds). Laps 1-2 leader Jakob Ulrich, 14, finished third, 3.255 back. He was the only male in a five driver field. Kayla Eshleman, 12, and Madison Gay, 11, finished 14 laps in the all-green flag, 4:34.879-race.
Twelve legend car drivers used a full-field inverted start by qualifying times. Four drivers led the 35-laps before fast timer Darren Amidon came from outside row six to lead the final two laps. He and runner-up Chad Schug traded the lead five times before Amidon returned a bump and run pass at turn two to take command for good on lap 34. Schug trailed by 0.467 seconds at the finish. Mark Borchetta was third, 0.846 off the lead, with Gary Scheuerell fourth. Bandolero graduate Austin Farr, 15, was sixth fastest qualifier and placed fifth in his debut legend car race. Ten drivers finished the 19-minute race that had three cautions for spins. All feature winners received NAPA tool boxes from NAPA and McAnally.
Celebrity Race: Seven celebrities raced in borrowed SRL S2 stock cars as arranged by Tim Huddleston of High Point Racing. The charity event benefited “A Walk on Water”, which provides surf therapy to children with special needs and their siblings. Celebrities raced identically-prepared purpose-built stock cars 20-laps on the half-mile prior to the PCS 100. Actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue and Saved by the Bell) set quick time of 21.269 (84.630 mph) in the HPR No. 50 Chevy. He started from pole position and led laps 1 and 7. Actor Rusty Coones (Sons of Anarchy) led laps 2-6 and 8-11, but he got high on a lap 12 restart and dropped to P. 4. He spun on lap 13 and finished sixth.
Actor Skeet Ulrich, a nephew of NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd, qualified at 21.607, started second and led laps 19-20 over Gosselaar. However, actor A. J. Buckley spun on lap 19 and could not restart. That brought out a delayed caution flag, so the official finish reverted to the running order after the last green flag lap (18). The race director declared Gosselaar the winner of the 12-minute race.
While being interviewed on the PA mic at the finish line, Ulrich said, “I can't believe they could take that away from us. It was so much fun out there.“ Finishing third through seventh were: “pro surfer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, pro surfer Alex Gray, KTLA-Channel 5 morning weatherman Mark Kriski, Coones and Buckley. Actor Dietrich Bader was present in driving uniform, but he spectated after he wiped out the front end of Todd Conrad's No. 41 S2 car during practice.
K & N WEST 150: With a straight-up start by qualifying times, it was a California freeway-style crush out of the fourth turn on lap 1. Eggleston led the first lap over fastest qualifier Dalton Sargeant, a 17-year old Boca Raton FL high school student. He drove the No. 55 GALT Ford, an ex-No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports Ford. It was the Phoenix-mile ride of now retired Greg Pursley, the 2011 and 2014 K & N West champion. Price team crew chiefs Jeff Jefferson and Jerry Pitts, out of Washington, bought all of the Price Ford Fusions. Jefferson-Pitts hired three 17-year old drivers to race them. Noah Gragson, from Las Vegas, drove the Alert ID No. 7, and Gracin Raz, from Lake Oswego, Ore., drove the Trinity Energy No. 27.
Eggleston led lap 3, Sargeant laps 4-6, and David Mayhew laps 7-9. Eggleston paced the next two laps as Sargeant faded to fourth to conserve tires. There was no mid-race break. Irwindale's 2013-14 late model champion Ryan Partridge came from inside row two to P. 2 on lap 10. Partridge, 26, made an inside pass with his No. 9 Bob Bruncati Sunrise Ford entering turn three on lap 12. He led pressing Eggleston through lap 32. During lap 33 Eggleston made an inside pass exiting turn four and remained the leader over Partridge to lap 123. On a 2X2 restart, Eggleston chose the outside and Partridge came from the inside lane to take the lead in the second turn. Partridge, from Rancho Cucamonga, led through lap 143. A spin on lap 140 caused caution laps to the lap 144 green flag.
A 2X2 restart with six laps to go had Eggleston inside and Partridge outside. Eggleston got the jump and took the lead entering turn one. Sargeant captured P. 2 on lap 146. Nicole Behar, a 17-year old Spokane resident and nursing student at Eastern Washington University, moved from fifth to third past Raz and Partridge. On the final lap, Behar passed March 28 Kern County Raceway Park K & N 150 winner Sargeant on the inside leaving turn four and trailed winner Eggleston by ten yards (0.920). “I was going for the win,” she told the media. P. 3 Sargeant was 1.253 off the lead. Raz (-1.565), and Partridge (-1.739) completed the top five. Sargeant ran the fastest race lap of 18.946 (95.007 mph).
David Mayhew, Noah Gragson, Brett Thompson, USAC open-wheel veteran/stock car rookie Alex Schutte, and super stock driver Johnny White rounded out the top ten. Seven of the top ten finishers were K & N Series rookies; 13 of 27 starters were K & N newcomers. Only three drivers (one rookie) failed to reach the checkered flag in the scheduled non-stop 150. There was a red flag on lap 34 after Rich DeLong III dropped oil in turn four and P. 15 Hannah Newhouse, 17, spun into the outer wall with the left side of her Chevy. Track emergency workers used care to remove the Idaho resident under the 12-minute red flag. She was not injured. The race also had four caution periods totaling 24 laps.
Sixteen drivers completed all 150 laps. P 11-16 drivers were: Thomas Martin, North Carolina resident Brandon McReynolds, K & N 2015 rookie Christian McGhee, 16, Tuscon Speedway super late model champion Ron Norman, USAC 2013 National Midget Series champion Christopher Bell, and Carlos Vieira. Bell, a 20-year old Norman, Okla. driver on his first visit to Irwindale, turned 22nd fastest qualifying time of 18.921 in the No. 54 Bill McAnally Toyota. However, he had to start last because his team changed a power steering hose after qualifying. The 27-car field had ten Chevrolets, ten Toyotas and seven Fords. A Toyota won. Fords occupied P. 2-5 and 7th, while Chevrolets finished in P. 6 plus 8-10.
Winner Eggleston told the media, “I was nervous when the 17 and 16 cars fell back early to save tires. I was worried my pace was too fast. On the first restart I had enough tires to cover the 9 and 55 cars. I tried to learn the track from track champion Partridge early. I think he left a little early and I didn't want to get penalized by officials by restarting too early. He raced me clean so I didn't want to rough him up. My car was not a fast car on short runs, but it was a good long run car. I spun the tires a little on restarts, but I had the tires cleaned up for the last restart.” He added that Partridge's No 9 Ford carburetor stumbled a bit on late restarts. A Partridge crewman said his car also had a brake problem during closing laps.
Runner-up Behar, who has Sun Drop sponsorship, said her goal is to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Her second place finish was the best ever in the series for a female driver. The previous best was sixth place runs by Sharon Bishop (1979), Indy 500 veteran Sarah Fisher (2005), and Hannah Newhouse (2012). P. 3 Sargeant said he is racing the full K & N East Series and will race two more stand-alone K & N West races—the June 27 Sonoma wine country road race and the November 12 season finale at the Phoenix, AZ mile. Both West and East teams will compete at Iowa Speedway for K & N Series points on May 16 and at the end of July. NBC Sports Network taped the April 11 Irwindale 150 for a one-hour telecast within a week at a time to be determined.
PCS 100: The inaugural PCS race attracted 15 teams, with some drivers saying racing at Irwindale was on their bucket list. SRL stock car champion Derek Thorn, from Bakersfield, set quick time during 3:45 pm single car qualifying. His 17.851 first lap averaged 100.835 mph. It became the new PCS track record at IS, the largest track on the PCS schedule. Thorn, 28, won the 100-lap race and $3,400 aboard the Augie Gill (Alabama)-built No. 43 Ford Fusion owned by Byron and Carol Campbell, of Bakersfield. He started eighth after drawing the eight ball during the 4:30 pit meeting. He led the final 71 laps and won by 0.340.
The inaugural PCS ten point race season will compete at short tracks in Roseville, Ukiah, Stockton 99 and Madera from April 18 to October 3 with main event distances pegged at 75 or l00 laps. The first PCS season will conclude October 17 with another non-point 100-lap race in conjunction with a Bill McAnally-promoted K & N West race at All-American Speedway in Roseville. More teams are expected to race with PCS at their shorter home tracks.
IRWINDALE PCS: Utah's Jeff Hillock led the first two laps from the pole. Darrell Midgley, 54, from B.C, Canada, led laps 3-7 after starting third in Dwight Kennedy's No. 81 Dodge from Alberta, Canada. K & N West 2014 runner-up Dylan Lupton, from Wilton, started fifth in his family-owned Lupton Excavating No. 10 and led laps 8-29. He waged a fan-pleasing three-way battle with second fastest qualifier R. J. Johnson, Jr., from Rancho Cucamonga, and Thorn. They raced nose-to-tail lap after lap.
Thorn shot into the lead and Johnson took P. 2 on lap 29. On lap 30 the three leaders came out of the fourth turn three-wide (a not unusual scene at the six, nine and 12-degree banked IS turns). Thorn shot into the lead and Johnson, 25, took second as the surprised Lupton quickly fell from first to third. The three drivers continued in a tight pack and began lapping cars on lap 33. By lap 50 it was a two-car race between Thorn and Johnson after Lupton, 21, fell back a straight-away while lapping slower cars.
At lap 50 the running order was Thorn, Johnson, Lupton, David Ross, Ryan Cansdale (in a Port City chassis bought by his dad Mark from a SRL team and sponsored by Mark's Mac Steel firm). P. 6-9 were: Hillock, Midgley, Joel Courage, and 15-year old Bryce Napier, who is one of seven young Alan Kulwicki national scholarship candidates. They all were on the lead lap with 10 of 15 starters still racing. Six drivers of the 15 drivers were racing at IS for the first time.
Only the top three drivers were on the lead lap when P. 3 Lupton stalled in the third turn and caused the only yellow flag. With a 2X2 restart, Thorn took the outside, leaving Johnson the inside lane. Thorn edged newlywed “RJ” by half a length on lap 93 and gradually won by five yards in a 37-minute race. Bobby Hodges, of Carson City, NV, finished last after stopping on lap 4 near turn one with the back of his car aflame. He restarted and logged 18 laps. Impressive rookie Napier, from Scotts Valley, was running in P. 8 on lap 79 when he pulled into the infield and retired with a melted rear end gear seal that leaked rear end gear oil.
Talented Thorn, originally from Lakeport, told the media it was the first time he has raced on the hard American Racer tires. “These tires are definitely a different animal. The track got a little greasy. Hats off to R.J (Johnson) for racing me clean all night.” Thorn received a large NAPA tool box in addition to extra cash for fast time. His car owners from Bakersfield were present and “watched from a suite.” Johnson recorded the fastest race lap of 18.203 (98.885 mph).
Thorn, Johnson and Midgley – 100 laps,
Hillock and Ross – 99 laps,
Hollis Shane Thackeray, 14, Dylan Hutchinson, and late model rookie Lacie Price, 21, - 98 laps,
Cansdale – 96 laps,
Josh Soto – 95 laps,
Lupton – 89 laps,
Napier – 78 laps,
Joel Courage – 50 laps,
Jeremy Hopkins – 18 laps,
Bobby Hodges – 18 laps.