LUCAS OIL MODIFIEDS STAR @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
IRWINDALE, CA., Jun. 27 – Austin Barnes, from Escondido, dominated the Lucas Oil Modified event at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway Saturday in the Bilstein Super Fast 75-lap feature presented by Five Star Race-car Bodies. He earned $1,500 in his No. 51A STR chassis with Chevy power. The event was the featured attraction in a five division, six main event program that attracted 4,488 spectators on a mid-70s evening. MAVTV on-air celebrity Dave DeSpain, who gave the starting command earlier at the Indy Car 500 in Fontana, visited Irwindale for the first time and watched racing from a suite.
Barnes, the 2012 series champion, scored his 13th LOM feature victory, second only to 19 by 2011 champion Chris Gerchman. The LOM feature was taped by Lucas Oil Productions for later airing on the MAVTV Network. Scheduled air date is Thursday, August 20 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm PT (5:00-6:00 pm ET). A re-broadcast date is August 21. With the recent closing of Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, LOM leaders and Irwindale Speedway management conferred and announced that round eight of the ten race LOM season has been transferred to Irwindale Speedway on September 19. IS staff readjusted division dates to accommodate the move.
The Irwindale Race Trucks Series opened and closed evening racing with a pair of 30-lap mains on the half-mile. Conner Cantrell, from Valencia, set fast time and led all 30 laps in both races. The touring SRL S2 cars ran a 30-lap main and 16-year old Dylan Garner, from Yorba Linda, won his first feature despite a late race caution flag. The third-mile was the setting at 5:00 pm for a 20-lap INEX Bandolero main won by third generation driver Mckenzie Eshleman. A 35-lap Legend Cars main went to past track champion Chad Schug. He used a final lap, last turn pass to recapture the lead he lost on lap 32.
LUCAS OIL MODS: Barnes set a new track record in 4:00 pm qualifying with his 18.640 (96.567 mph) best lap on the first of two laps. The old record set last August by Dylan Cappello was 18.891 (95.283 mph). Barnes, 20, started the feature fourth with a four car inversion. All 29 cars present started. Six cars collided in the second turn on the initial lap. LOM Irwindale 2013 winner Jason Patison, Shelby Stroebel and Jimmy Sloan were sidelined. A red flag was necessary to clear the track. Eleven minutes later racing resumed with a complete restart. Point leader/pole starter Scott Winters, a two-time 2015 LOM winner from Tracy, led lap 1. El Cajon's Taylor Miinch, a 20-year old NASCAR super late model veteran, and Barnes followed closely in second and third.
Barnes took P.2 from Miinch on lap 9 with an inside pass in the fourth turn. Two laps later Barnes used the same route at the same site to take the lead he never relinquished. The race had four cautions and a red flag on lap 24 after P. 10 Larry Gershman, from Lake Havasu City, AZ, blew the right front Hoosier tire entering the first turn. Trailing sparks, he slowed but bounced off the wall, stopping without injury. The red flag stopped all cars for eight minutes for car removal and track clean-up.
At lap 50 Barnes led Miinch by 30-yards. Dylan Cappello, the 2014 LOM Irwindale 75 winner and 2014 series champion, took third at lap 45. The 19-year old from Peoria, AZ held it easily. The top 11 drivers were on the lead lap when the final yellow flag flew on lap 73 for a Dave Arce spin in turn four. The final three laps had a see-saw battle for P. 4 between teammates Jason Irwin, 18, from Albuquerque, and 20-year old NASCAR SLM veteran Jack Madrid, from San Clemente. They traded positions twice before Irwin edged Madrid by 0.048. They drove Phil's Phabrication Chevies out of Las Vegas.
Veteran Eddie Secord drove his No. 84 STR Chevy from 12th starting to sixth place, only 2.405 seconds off the lead.Winters finished seventh in his No. 24A STR chassis. Doug Hamm, from Las Vegas, drove the third Phil's Phabrication-owned car to eighth. Blaine Perkins, a 15-year old LOM series rookie from Bakersfield, drove the new No. 55 Racecar Factory-chassis from 18th to ninth position. Jimmy Mardis, the 2010-11 LOM champion from Yucaipa, placed tenth. He trailed the winner by 3.851 seconds.
Matthew Hicks, the sixth quickest qualifier, won the six-lap trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers. He earned $500. Irwin trailed by by 0.219. P 3-6 were: Miinch, Barnes, Winters and Madrid. Hicks was scheduled to start the feature sixth. LOM officials moved him to last (29th) because his car was unable to start under its own power from the pre-grid. He passed the most cars en-route to his 11th place finish and was the last driver to complete all 75 laps. Six drivers ran 74 laps and four drivers logged 73 laps.
A total of 22 cars were racing at the conclusion. The LOM feature took 44 minutes. Barnes ran the fastest race lap at 18.944 (95.017 mph) Point leader Winters saw his point lead of 12-points slip to only a two-point advantage. Unofficially, Miinch and Barnes are now tied for second position.
TRUCKS TWIN 30s: Cantrell, 24, was not present for the season opener on March 28. Therefore, he entered the twin-30s sixth in points. Winning the twin-30s gave him 100-points and moved him from sixth to fourth in point standings, only 24 digits in back of point leader Ken Michaelian. Truck rookie Riley Herbst, 16, won the June 6 feature in the 2014 IRT Series championship truck now owned by his father Troy. The impressive Las Vegas teen placed second in the first 30. He trailed Cantrell by 1.026. Luis Martinez, Jr, Michaelian and Lucas McNeil completed the top five. Twelve of 14 starters raced all 30 laps. Jeff Williams was in P. 8 on lap 4 when he slowed and moved to the low side of the track to the checkered flag. He lost a lap but placed 13th. He repaired a broken rocker arm stud between races.
With fast time on both qualifying laps, Cantrell again started on pole and led all 30 laps in race two. Runner-up McNeil trailed by 1.167 in the 10:14.392 all green flag race that concluded at 10:04 pm. Michalian finished third, 5.786 seconds behind the winner. Herbst and the repaired truck of Williams completed the top five. L. Martinez, Jr. was fifth with a lap remaining when a tie rod nut backed off and he slowed to the checkered flag. He lost a lap and placed 12th with all 13 starters racing at the finish. Cantrell's 20.075 (89.664 mph) was the fastest race lap.
SRL S2 CARS: All eight of the RCF-built cars started on the half-mile with a five-car inverted lineup. Fastest qualifier Dylan Garner, 16, stated fifth and drove his 2014-built No. 97 mount, owned by his parents Brad and Shelley, into second position on lap 5. A lap later the Yorba Linda resident made an inside pass at turn two and opened a 4.26 second lead by lap 22. On lap 27 he had a straightaway lead and appeared ready to better his prior best finish of P.2 a the last Irwindale race on June 6. Then the last place car spun in turn four and stalled, causing a yellow flag and eliminating his huge lead.
With a single file lap 27 restart, P. 2 Todd Conrad, a late model veteran, got into the back of leader Garner, who turned sideways and almost spun. Craig Yeaton led lap 27. Conrad's No. 41 hood was bent up and he continued in P. 2 as did now P. 3 Garner. Officials threw a caution flag to check for debris, reverting the running order to Garner, Conrad and Yeaton. Garner then led the final four laps of the 30-lap event. He pulled away to a 20-yard victory margin (1.112 seconds) over Conrad in a 15-minute contest.
On the final lap the P. 3-4 cars of Yeaton and Bill Waters got together leaving turn two, spinning Yeaton's car to the backstretch infield. Both drivers continued but lost two positions. The finish order behind Conrad had Dave Lowenstein, now relocated from Carlsbad to Bullhead City, AZ, in his career-best third place. .Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, a Disney animator from Venice, placed a career-best fourth in a car he rented from Yeaton. Yeaton and Waters finished fifth and sixth. SRL S2 point leader Johnny Butler, a late model veteran, was in P. 4 on lap 28 when he dropped out with a flat RF tire.
Current SRL S2 point standings, after six races, show Butler on top with 992 points to 928 for Conrad. Garner was absent at the season opener in Madera on March 21; he moved from fifth to fourth in S2 points with 840. Third place Yeaton has 895. The touring SRL S2 cars in 2015 booked an 11-race schedule at four speedways--five at KCRP in Bakersfield, four at Irwindale, and solo races in Madera and Las Vegas. Remaining Irwindale S2 race dates are August 29 and October 3.
LEGENDS 35 : With 23Legend Cars present, the field had a four-car inverted starting grid. Fastest qualifier Ricky Schlick, 18, started outside row two. Two past Irwindale legends champions led early. Darren Amidon (L 1-13) and Chad Schug (L 14-31) were joined by Schlick and Donny St. Ours in a four-pack out front. Schlick's No. 24 coupe nosed into the lead on lap 32 with an inside pass leaving turn two and entering the third turn. The first four cars were nose-to-tail on lap 33 with Amidon third and St. Ours fourth.
On the final lap Schug went to the inside at turn three and emerged from turn four with the lead. He beat Schlick by 0.037, with Amidon -0.457 and St. Ours -0.818. Cale Kanke, son of SRL stock car champ M. K. Kanke, took fifth at the end. Twenty drivers finished and 13 completed all 35 laps. Schlick's 16.408 (73.063 mph) on the third-mile was the fastest race lap. Point leader/three time 2015 winner Schug now has 150 points. Amidon moved up a spot to second with 136 points. P. 3 Jordan Hyland has 130 points after finishing sixth Saturday.
BANDOLEROS: Saturday: Eight INEX Bandolero drivers qualified and raced a 20-lap main on the third-mile at 5:00 before the 4:45-6:30 pm fan autograph session on the front straight. They raced early so they could travel to Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino and also race there Saturday. Fast timer Mckenzie Eshleman started on pole and won by 1.277 over Zack St. Onge. It was her second victory in two days. Her cousin Kayla Eshleman finished third and Allison Gay fourth. N. Las Vegas driver Ethan DeGuevara placed fifth in the 8:53.859 race. The winner's fastest lap was 18.167 (65.988 mph).
Friday: During the 5:00-10:00 pm open practice session for all divisions, including 28 Lucas Oil Modifieds, eight “Bando” drivers qualified and raced a 20-lap main shortly after 7:45 pm. Mckenzie Eshleman, 16, won the first “Bando” feature of her career in a battle with one-time 2014 feature winner Allison Gay, 14. Gay set fast time, started on the pole, led the first seven laps, but settled for second. M. Eshleman made her winning pass entering turn three on lap 8 and beat gay by 20-yards, 1.247 seconds in an all-green flag 6:09.730 (64.847 mph) event. St. Onge, Austin Edwards and DeGuevara completed the top five and ran all 20 laps.
The Friday race had five female and three male starters. At one point in mid-race three females occupied the top three positions and were on the verge of making Irwindale history by placing three females on the podium. However, P. 4 Kayla Eshleman spun out low in turn two and lost a lap before continuing without causing a yellow flag. The race had Olivia Manke, 12, from Ramona, make her racing debut in a car rented from Jeff Eshleman. The 5'8” pre-teen is in the 7th grade. She is the daughter of 2013 retired NASCAR SLM owner/driver John Manke and used her dad's No. 5 on her car. She was lapped on laps 8 and 18 but did not spin.
Next Saturday, July 4th will be the popular annual fireworks show following the races. A pair of NASCAR late model races, super stocks and mini stocks will precede the pyrotechnics.
END OF JUNE 27 RACE STORY HERE. #######################