IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – 5 DIVISIONS, 7 MAINS SATURDAY – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 29 – It was “Back to School Night” Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. School employees were admitted free with ID to watch a five division, seven main event racing card. NASCAR “Acceleration Nation Activity Kits” were presented to the first 250 kids in grades 5-7 through the front gate. Almost 2,000 spectators, including AMA motorcycle star Sammy Tanner, 76, and midget/sprint car driver Courtney Crone, 14, and her dad Jack, attended. Racing had 190 laps for racers on a hot day that was still 93 degrees during the 5:45-6:30 pm on track autograph session.
An additional attraction for fans were two finalists from the last (12th) season of the TV show American Idol. They signed autographs and posed for photos with fans under a canopy at the starting line infield. Jax, the blonde who finished fourth, sang God Bless America. Rayvon Owen, fifth place in final voting, sang the National Anthem. Both guests went to a suite to watch racing. Later both singers climbed into the starters' stand and waved the green flag to start the truck feature.
Seidner's Collision Centers Late Models Twin 30s: Eighteen NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late models raced for track, California state and NASCAR short-track national points. Point leader Trevor Huddleston, 19, and point runner-up Toni Marie McCray won the first and second features. It was his fourth and her seventh 2015 victory. Huddleston led McCray by 42 points entering the twin 30s and left with a 46-point advantage over his more experienced late model friendly rival. They share mutual respect on and off the track for their obvious racing talent.
FIRST 30: In the first racing of the night at 7:05, fastest qualifier Huddleston started his dad Tim's No. 50 HPR Chevy from pole position. He led all but the first lap. Outside front row starter Christian McGhee led lap 1; as runner-up he trailed winner Huddleston by half a straight (4.158 seconds) at the finish. Veteran Mike Johnson started and finished third (-4.746 seconds). All three podium finishers drove Chevies.
McCray started eighth and finished fourth, saving her car for the second 30. Blaine Perkins, 15, placed fifth in the all-green flag race that took 9:44.935. Rookies Riley Herbst, 16, and Lacie Price, 21, followed in sixth and seventh. Kyle McGrady, Ricky Schlick and Billy Helgeson completed the top ten. Fifteen of 18 starters finished, with 13 on the lead lap and none more than ten seconds behind the winner. Huddleston logged the fastest race lap of 18.908 (95.198 mph) and his winning average speed was 92.318 mph.
SECOND 30: The seventh and final main event was the second late model feature. It also ran caution-free from 9:42--9:51 pm despite three-wide racing and position exchanges among the leaders during the first third of the race. Schlick, from pole position, led the first three laps over Herbst, McGhee and third starter McCray. Qualifying lap two determined the second feature grid positions. Huddleston (fastest timer on both laps in 4 pm qualifying) started eighth this time.
McCray took P. 3 on lap 3 in three-wide racing out of turn four. On lap 4, she raced from third to first on the inside of Schlick and Herbst. Huddleston was charging forward and was fifth when McCray took the lead. He was fourth on lap 6, third on lap 7 and second on lap 10, some 25-yards behind McCray. The balance of the race was Huddleston closing ground gradually on McCray. He trailed by 20-yards at lap 20, 15-yards at lap 25, 10-yards at lap 28 and five yards at the lap 30 checkers. He was 0.455 behind when the race concluded. The winning time was 9:49.678 (average speed of 91.575 mph). Huddleston again ran the fastest lap at 19.314 (93.197 mph).
Finishing third through tenth were: McGhee (-2.128), Herbst, Schlick, Perkins, Johnson, Price, McGrady, and first time Irwindale racer Lance Wilson, 32, from Bakersfield. He drove the two-year old Len & Judy Taylor No. 15 RCF-built Chevy. It is his Kern County Raceway Park-half-mile winning ride in which he ranks second in KCRP points with several feature victories. Sixteen cars finished with 15 on the lead lap and all less than 11-seconds behind the winner.
Pick Your Part Southwest Tour Trucks 30: With 11 of the touring series trucks present, ten started the feature. An opening lap crash on lap 1 entering the third turn involved three trucks from the outside row. Impact from behind caused the row one and two trucks of Alex Martinez and Neil Conrad to crash into the wall. Drivers were uninjured, but both trucks were towed to the pits. Fifth starter Ronnie Davis, from Whittier, led all 30 laps. He beat August 1 Irwindale winner Jeffrey Peterson, son of past truck champion Ron Peterson, by 25-yards. Two lapped trucks separated the top two trucks. Point leader Ed Cutler expanded his point lead by seven points after seven events. P. 4-5 Dan Coburn and Bobby Vandermooren completed 29 laps. Eight of ten starters finished. Davis ran the fastest lap at 88.158 mph.
SPEARS S2 SERIES: The third series that used the half-mile began at Irwindale and consisted of purpose-built cars from Jeff Schrader's Racecar Factory in Irwindale. With an almost complete turnover of drivers during the last two seasons, eight cars raced Saturday. Three past Irwindale late model drivers are now S2 owners/drivers. Point leader Johnny Butler, from Arcadia, set fastest qualifying time, started fifth and finished second, 5.341 seconds behind now two-time S2 winner Dylan Garner. The 16-year old rookie to racing from Yorba Linda, drove his Garner family-owned No. 97. He did not race in the March 21 season-opener, but won the last Irwindale S2 feature on June 27. He ranks fourth in the touring S2 series points.
Pole starter Craig Yeaton led the first six laps. Fourth starter Garner took the lead with an inside pass on the backstretch and led the final 24 circuits. Dave Lowenstein, the July 25 KCRP first-time feature winner, finished third (-6.109 seconds). Yeaton, Bill Waters, Todd Conrad and Karen Lowenstein, from Bullhead City, AZ and wife of the third place finisher, also ran all 30 laps. Eighth place went to new S2 owner/driver Joe Meehan, 59, from San Juan Capistrano. The fastest race lap of 86.978 mph went to third finisher Lowenstein. The race took 13-minutes with one yellow flag for a solo spin.
THIRD-MILE ACTION: Third-mile oval racing had a pair of INEX Legend Cars 25-lap mains and a 20-lap INEX Universal Studios Hollywood Bandolero Series race for teens in Briggs & Stratton--powered cars. Fastest qualifier Darren Amidon, 30, won both Legends scheduled 25-lap features in his No. 33 replica 1934 Ford sedan. He started fifth in race one and became the third and final race leader on lap 16. He passed laps 2-15 leader Chad Schug, also 30, on the inside entering the third turn. Both drivers have won two IS Legend Cars track championships.
Bandolero graduate/Legends rookie Johnny Dressler, 13, started on pole and led the first lap in the 2014 Irwindale No. 98 championship car used by 2014 track champion Brent Scheidemantle. Runner-up Schug was 0.145 back at the checkers. Jordan Hyland, Mark Borchetta and Tyler Hicks completed the top five in a 19-car field; 17 drivers ran all 25 laps.
Point leader Schug was +16 points entering the doubleheader after winning all four prior features this year. However, he lost two laps in the pits in the second main and finished 14th. He now trails new point leader Amidon by 12 points (284-272) after six races. Amidon started race two inside row three and led every lap. The race had six caution flags and ended with yellow and checkered flags after 21 laps because the race exceeded the 20-minute time limit. Borchetta, Parker Steele, 14, Bandolero graduate Austin Farr, 15, and Ricky Leigh completed the top five with 12 of 19 starters on the lead lap. Amidon again ran the fastest lap at 72+ mph.
Keeping in the twin features mode, Bandolero teams ran a pair of 20-lap mains. On Friday during open practice, four teams present raced a rapid, all-green 20-laps. Point leader/pole starter Mckenzie Eshleman, 16, started and finished first in her florescent green No. 10 (for Danica Patrick). She led all the way. Her first cousin, Kayla Eshleman, 13, started third and raced past Zack St. Onge, 13, on the inside on the front straight during lap 3 and finished second, 0.350 back. St. Onge placed third, 0.705 off the lead. P. 4 Austin Edwards, 10, was 0.870 behind the winner. The 6:11.958-timed race averaged 64.459 mph. Kayla ran the quickest race lap of 18.307 (65.483 mph) in her No. 90 (in honor of her favorite driver Toni McCray).
Saturday Bandolero racing had five teams. Fastest qualifier Mckenzie Eshleman started and finished first for her seventh 2015 victory. But it wasn't easy. On the first lap the cars of the Eshleman cousins came together in turn four. Kayla's car and Jesse Bowen's were sidelined in the infield. St. Onge, 13, started fifth and led the first 19 laps seeking his first main event victory. Only three cars raced from laps 2-20, but all three cars were virtually nose-to-tail all the way in a fan-pleasing event. On the final lap, Mckenzie got inside St. Onge's car at the starting line and beat him into the first turn. She remained in front to the checkered flag despite St. Onge's outside move from turn four to the finish line. He trailed her by 0.041. Edwards was 0.120 behind the winner. Edwards ran the fastest race lap of 65.326 mph.
NEXT WEEKEND: Because of 2015 Saturday night rain-outs during the epic four-year California drought, IS officials added a special late model 50-lap feature make-up race. It will be run at 7:00 pm Friday, September 4 during the regular all-divisions open practice. Fans will be able to watch from the pit grandstand in the first turn for $5.00 admission. Parking will be free. Saturday, September 5 will have the regularly scheduled demo derby, trailer race, enduro and late model twin-30-lap mains for a unique night of entertainment.