CANTRELL TOPS IRWINDALE TRUCKS TWIN 30S – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., May 2 – Connor Cantrell, 24, drove his No. 9 Chevy S-10 truck to fastest qualifying time and won twin 30-lap features Saturday on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile. A four division, five feature evening presented by Ingersoll Rand on Stroke Awareness Night attracted the lowest attended IS audience (three digits) in years. Diverse sports attractions--the televised Kentucky Derby, NBA playoff game seven in which the LA Clippers edged San Antonio, the championship fight in Las Vegas between Mayweather and Paquiao, and the first place LA Dodgers--gave people reasons to go elsewhere. Absentees missed 163 racing laps by drivers chasing checkered flags in five main events plus an eight lap trophy dash for the eight fastest skid plate qualifiers.
Cantrell won his third in four Irwindale Race Truck Series features this season. He started the opening race first in a race with three leaders. He led laps 8 and 10-30. Ken Michaelian, from outside row one, led the initial seven laps before Cantrell passed him on the outside at turn four and led lap 8. Joey Licata, winner of the March 28 season opener, started third and led lap 9. Cantrell paced the final 21 laps and won by 0.317 over Licata. Andrew Porter, Luis Martinez, Jr., and Michaelian followed. Seventeen of 18 started finished and 16 completed all 30 laps. Cantrell turned the fastest race lap at 90.927 mph.
An hour later, trucks returned and lined up with a six truck inverted start by their second of two qualifying laps. Cantrell had the fastest lap on both laps so he started the second 30 outside in the third row. Licata started fifth and led the first 25 laps as Cantrell worked up to P. 2 by lap 17. Truck rookie Riley Herbst, a 16-year old high school student in Las Vegas, started first and was in a three-truck tight pack from laps 16-25. Cantrell made an inside pass in turn two on lap 26 to take command. He beat Licata by 0.506, with third place Herbst 0.948 back. Martinez and Porter finished in P. 4-5. Licata turned the quickest lap of 90.534 mph.
MINI STOCKS: Fastest qualifier Ryan Bragdon, 22, won his second consecutive mini stock 35-lap feature in his 1979 Ford Mustang II body car on a Ford Pinto frame. He led the final 31 laps on the third-mile. Pinto drivers Nevada Chovan, lap 1-4 leader Rod Schmitt, Aubree Porter and Dusty Morgan completed the top five. Nine of ten starters finished and seven raced all 35 laps. Bragdon ran the fastest lap at 70.040 mph.
The Pick Your Part Super Stock Series had eight cars present and used a five-car inverted start on the half-mile. Fast timer Gary Frankovich, 56, came from row three in his Chevy Impala SS. Gary Read led the first 20 laps in his Camaro and then spun out of turn two into the infield on lap 21. He did not return. Zack Green, the 2014 series champion, assumed the lead and retained it to the lap 35 conclusion. Greg Crutcher, April 4 winner Jimmy Sloan, Frankovich and Ken Cannata finished second through fifth. The first four cars were in close proximity on the final lap. P. 2 Frankovich, who ran the fastest race lap of 85.365 mph, brushed the fourth turn crash-wall and quickly lost two positions before he reached the finish line.
The Seidner's Collision Centers Skid Plate Cars qualified 27 four-cylinder cars on the third-mile oval at 4:45 pm. Skid plate master Sean Brennan, a seven-time SPC series feature winner, set fast time of 30.044 (39.901 mph). Metal skid plates on all cars replaced both back tires. The eight quickest SPC qualifiers ran their rare 8-lap trophy dash with a fully inverted lineup. Mike DiGregorio started seventh and led the final six laps. He won by a straightaway (7.248 mph) over Robbie Salcido. Fast timer Brennan, the March 28 SPC feature winner, placed fourth. However, he was unable to start the feature because his No. 33 Acura Integra had a reported broken axle.
The SPC line-up had 29 of 30 cars present for a 25-lap feature that concluded the evening. Racing Director Mike Atkinson decided to race the skid platers clockwise on the third-mile oval instead of the usual counter-clockwise direction. Donny St. Ours and Jim Cook occupied the front row. St Ours, from Upland, ran second all the way in his first SPC attempt. He was the only other driver to complete all 25 laps. DiGregorio's Honda Accord started seventh and led all 25 laps with versatile St. Ours 22.884 seconds back at the checkered flag.
DiGregorio's fifth SPC main event victory put him alone in second place in career feature triumphs to leader Brennan's seven. The all-green flag race took 14-minutes and the winning average speed was 34.181 mph. There were 22 of 29 starters still racing at the finish. Robert Rice, Tony Cummings and Low Budget TV's Tommy Mason completed the top five. All logged 24 laps. DiGregorio ran the fastest lap of 31.726 (37.786 mph).
The scheduled Saturday, April 25 five division racing program at IS was canceled by a late afternoon rain after practice concluded. INEX Bandolero drivers raced a 20-lap main event with six cars April 24 during Friday night open practice for all divisions. Jakob Ulrich, 13, started on the pole and won his first IS feature. He is a relative of actor Skeet Ulrich and former NASCAR Sprint Cup car owner D. K. Ulrich. Fastest qualifier and last feature winner Mckenzie Eshleman started third and finished second. Zack St. Onge, Kayla Eshleman, Allison Gay and Madison Gay all completed 20 laps in that order.
Racing will return to IS May 16 with twin 30-lap late model features plus five other division races.