JOANIDES & HUDDLESTON (LATE MODEL 30S) & BARNES (MODIFIEDS 75) WIN @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Sept. 19 – Irwindale Speedway presented five divisions and six main events on the half and third mile ovals Saturday on “First Res ponders Appreciation Night” with 3,101 spectators present. Racing laps totaled 236 laps including an added, fully-inverted starting lineup trophy dash for the six fastest modified drivers. An Irwindale PD patrol car served as the pace car for all races.
The hot, mid-90s afternoon turned into a warm night as track management honored police, firefighters, EMTs, helicopter and SWAT team members. Vehicles from 16 nearby police departments participated in the program, included police recruiters at tables under the main grandstand. A parade of 30 police vehicles with red lights and sirens activated took place on the half-mile prior to the first main event. Numerous police chiefs from the area attended and watched racing from a suite.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell served as grand marshal at the starting line and gave the command, “Racers start your engines” for the first race. Also honored was San Bernardino Police rookie officer Marcus Pesquera, the recipient of a Governor's Public Safety Office Medal of Valor Award. His heroic actions this year in a shootout with three felons saved the life of his wounded partner. He was flown into the infield on a police helicopter during the extended opening ceremonies.
Twin 30-lap Seidner's Collision Centers NASCAR late model main events for the 18-car field resulted in victories for Nick Joanides, a 45-year old three-time Irwindale track champion, and late model 2015 point leader Trevor Huddleston, 19, who won his fifth late model main this season. Joanides won his 41st Irwindale feature (fifth most in track history). It was his first triumph on the half mile since 2010 when he won three late model main in the No. 77 Chevy from April to June. He also won a super late model 100-lap main in Loyd McGhee's No. 71 in the March 27 season opener.
Joanides won the Irwindale super late model championship in 2008-09 and also captured Irwindale's 2009 late model driving championship driving for Loyd McGhee. He has served as mentor and spotter for McGhee's son Christian in recent years. Joanides returned to the cockpit in August driving one of Joe Nava's two late models and demonstrated the same racing skill he demonstrated as a champion. His protege McGhee won the last three Irwindale late model features driving his father's No. 71 Chevy.
Joanides noted the valve springs that resulted in disqualification of his third place finish two weeks ago were sent by a Chevy dealer sending the wrong stock to the Nava team engine builder. They received the correct springs prior to the September 19 race. Joanides also stated that he was not involved in the September 5 third turn crash. Riley Herbst confirmed that his No. 19 and Toni McCray's No. 90 made contact prior to her hitting the crash-wall.
1ST LM 30: Joanides started sixth in Nava's No. 88 King Taco Chevy and traded second with his protege McGhee, 17, during the first five laps. Second starter Huddleston led the first 14 laps with fastest qualifier/pole starter McGhee ten yards back. Rookie Dan Phillippi, 29, spun his 16th place car on lap 15 in mid-turn four with the two leaders approaching from the third turn. Leader Huddleston veered right and passed between the wall and the stopped No. 99 Nava Chevy. McGhee turned left and tried to go low but hit the stopped No. 99 at speed, breaking his radiator and smashing the front end. Both drivers escaped injury, but both cars were towed to the pits and missed the second feature.
On the lap 15 two-by-two restart, Joanides passed Huddleston on the inside between turns two and three. He opened a 15-yard advantage by lap 21 and won by 0.470 over eighth starter/rookie Riley Herbst, 16. Blaine Perkins, 15, started and finished third. Mike Johnson, 57, tied for P. 2 in points (92 in back of the leader) with absent Toni McCray, started and finished fourth. David Ross and Ricky Schlick, 18, finished fifth and sixth. Huddleston, slowed by two deflating tires (LR and RF) during the final ten laps, held on for seventh. Rookie Lacie Price, Dustin Vandermooren and rookie Jarid Blondel, 19, completed the top ten. All 14 finishers completed 30 laps.
2nd LM 30: The final event of the night was a 16-car late model main. The all-green light, 13-minute race had the same two leaders as the opening feature. With a four-car inverted start, Joanides started from pole position and led the first 23 laps. Huddleston started tenth instead of second. He had to move back in the lineup because he changed his two flat tires between races. Huddleston reached P. 2 on lap 18 and pursued leader Joanides to lap 24 when he executed an inside pass leaving turn four and took command. He led the final seven laps and won by 25-yards (1.390 seconds) over Joanides. Johnson (P. 2 in points) placed third in his own No. 17 Chevy and cut two points from Huddleston's point lead. Johnson is now 90 points back (840-750).
Perkins, in P. 4, dropped out on lap 23. “Racey” Lacie Price, 21, started fifth and finished her late model career best-fourth in a four car duel during the final 15 laps. It topped her prior best of P. .7 (twice). Herbst, from Las Vegas, took fifth. Schlick passed D. Ross for P. 6 on the outside leaving turn four as they raced towards the waving checkered flag. Dennis Furden, Blondel and Vandermooren completed the top ten as 12 of 16 starters ran all 30 laps.
MODIFIEDS 75: The “Fast Orange” Lucas Oil Modifieds presented by Loan Mart touring series made its second stop at Irwindale this season. The date replaced one at the now closed speedway in Blythe and was the eighth LOM point race scheduled this season. A strong field of 33 practiced and 31 raced. Austin Barnes, 21, dominated in his STR chassis Chevy-powered No. 51A. He set fastest qualifying time in 5:00 qualifying and broke his old track record of 18.640 (96.567 mph) from June 27, 2015. His new track record is 18.488 (97.360 mph). Scott Winters (18.496) and Kyle Tellstrom (18.591) also beat the old one-lap mark. Barnes proved his dominance by leading the final 54 laps of the 75-lap feature, run just before the second late model main.
With an inversion of seven cars for the feature, Barnes actually started fifth after the car scheduled to start third crashed during the trophy dash and inside row cars moved up a row. Barnes, from Escondido, chased pole starter Dylan Cappello, 19, from Peoria, AZ, for 21 laps. Barnes used an inside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line to take the lead from the LOM 2014 Irwindale winner. The race was all green flag for the first 61 laps as Barnes opened a straightaway lead over Cappello and lapped up to 11th position. Solo spins caused yellow flags twice (laps 62 and 72) so that reduced Barnes' winning margin over runner-up Cappello to 30-yards (1.068 seconds).
The first two drivers were trailed in order at the finish by the following lead lap drivers: Jason Irwin, returning past Irwindale champion Travis Thirkettle (in his own new RCF chassis), Kyle Tellstrom, P. 31 starter Jack Madrid (in the No. 3x backup team car), Taylor Miinch, Scott Winters, Larry Gerchman, Matthew Hicks and Eric Rhead. LOM drivers present came from six states: Calif.-22, Ariz.-four, N. Mex.-three, Nev.-two, and one each from Idaho and Utah.
MAVTV Network taped the race for later airing within two months. The race took 32 minutes and 26 of 31 starters finished. The top 11 cars completed all 75 laps. Nine drivers ran 74 laps and three completed 73 circuits. Cappello ran the fastest race lap at 18.972 (94.877 mph). Barnes now has set fastest qualifying time and won Irwindale features in four of the last five LOM events in 2011 and 2015. Cappello set fast time and won the 75-lap Irwindale feature on August 16, 2014.
Barnes entered the September 19 Irwindale event as the LOM series point leader by 14 points (464-450) over Cappello. He also was on top of the money earned list over Cappello ($10,725 to $10,350). LOM had completed seven point events at tracks in Lake Havasu City, Tucson, Las Vegas, Madera, Irwindale, Salt Lake City and San Bernardino. Three races remain in October and November. Barnes now has won three of the eight point races. Cappello won the non-point season opener in March in Bakersfield. Cappello and Scott Winters each have won two point mains, and Matthew Hicks won once.
LOM Trophy Dash: Event two, following the first late model 30, was the LOM six-lap trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers with a fully inverted starting lineup. Linny White (No. 99) led the first five laps despite “slide-job” passing attempts on laps 4 and 5 by Madrid. On the final lap, the two leaders collided and Madrid's No. 4x slammed off the outer wall and trailed sparks across the finish line. Winters won over Irwin, Barnes and Tellstrom. White and Madrid limped across the finish line in P. 5-6. Madrid's 3x car was scratched from the main. He drove Doug Hamm's 4x car in the feature and Hamm switched to Pat Petrie's No. 1 for the feature. They all started from the back of the field. Mike Flanders, son of Irwindale's chief announcer Bruce Flanders, announced LOM races as the traveling LOM announcer.
TRUCKS: Seventeen of 18 Irwindale Race Trucks present raced 40 laps on the half-mile in an all-green 13-minute event. Fastest qualifier Connor Cantrell, 25, started fourth and chased second starter Ken Michaelian for 13 laps. Cantrell, the 2011 Irwindale truck champion, made an inside pass leaving turn four and maintained a steady ten-yard lead to the finish. He ran the fastest lap at 90.244 mph and won by 1.831 over 16-year old rookie/series point leader Riley Herbst, from Las Vegas.
It was Cantrell's sixth victory in nine IRT mains this season. He was not present for the March 28 season opener and ranks fourth in points. Michaelian, 15-year old rookie Ryan Vargas, the 2014 Irwindale Bandolero champion, Lawless Alan, pole starter Lucas McNeil, 22, Ken Brown, Jeff Williams, Kevin Bates and Dennis Arena completed the top ten. All 17 starters finished with 14 on the lead lap. Herbst increased his series point lead to 18 (400-382) over McNeil. Michaelian has 380 and Cantrell 362.
LEGENDS: Nineteen INEX Legend Car drivers raced 35 laps on the third-mile and three drivers led. Tyler Hicks paced the first two laps before a pair of two-time IS Legends track champions traded the lead. Darren Amidon, 30, led laps 3-27 and Chad Schug, 28, led laps 28-35. Three cautions for spins slowed the 21-minute event. P. 2 Jordan Hyland tried to pass leader Schug on the white flag lap on the outside entering turn one. P. 3 Amidon jumped to the inside to get by Hyland. Their bumpers hooked together and both cars spun out to the first turn infield and did not finish.
Johnny Dressler, a 14-year old Legends rookie and Bandolero graduate, started seventh in his No. 11 coupe The teen from Rancho Cucamonga finished a personal-best second, 2.209 seconds behind the winner. He drove the ex-No. 98 Brent Scheidemantle 2014 championship car his family purchased to continue his racing advancement. Veterans Gary Scheurell, Mark Iungerich, 14-year old fastest qualifier/rookie Parker Steele, from Peoria, AZ, and rookie/Bandolero graduate Austin Farr completed the top six. Schug's 73.044 mph lap was the quickest of the race. Ten drivers completed all 35 laps.
BANDOLEROS: The Friday-Saturday double-header on the third-mile for Universal Studios Hollywood INEX Bandolero Series teams resulted in feature victories eight and nine this season for point leader Mckenzie Eshleman, 16, from Lake Arrowhead. The granddaughter of car owner/former Fontana mayor Dave Eshleman won her seventh feature in a row. She now has won nine of 12 features in 2015. Her 550-pound “Danica green” No. 10 is powered by a 13-horsepower, 570cc Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engine.
Friday: During open practice for all divisions, the five Bandolero teams present raced their feature at 7:30 pm. Mckenzie led every lap from pole position and ran the fastest race lap of 65.376 mph. Zack St. Onge, Jakob Ulrich, Austin Edwards and Kayla Eshleman followed in the eight-minute, 20-lap event. Kayla, first cousin of the winner, was third on lap 3 when she lost her brakes and spun to the infield. She lost two laps and ran three-quarters of a lap behind fourth place to the finish.
Saturday: At 5:45, prior to the fans coming onto the front straight to check the police fire and emergency vehicles, five Bando teams raced another 20-lap main. Mckenzie led the first eight laps after starting on pole again as fastest qualifier. Cousin Kayla started fifth, took second on lap 5 and grabbed the lead on lap 9 with a determined inside pass entering the third turn. Platinum blonde Kayla, 13, extended her lead to 20-yards after 15 laps as she chased her first main event victory. A solo spin on lap 16 brought the field back to her bumper, but she continued leading through lap 18 by a length over her cousin. Powering out of turn four with the white flag waving, Kayla spun out to the infield and continued in P. 5. Mckenzie led laps 19-20 and beat Ulrich, Jesse Bowen, Kayla and St. Onge. Mckenzie's 65.262 mph lap was fastest of the race.
The next race dates at the Irwindale oval track will be Saturday nights, October 3 and 17 with double points on tap for track series.