IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY CROWNS TWO TEENAGE CHAMPIONS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 3 – Irwindale Speedway crowned its first two 2015 track champions Saturday during a six division, seven main event program in front of 2,520 spectators. “Night of Champions # 1” had two teenagers win their first Irwindale track championship after racing for years in multi-division races at various tracks. Their championship winning features were run as the first and seventh main events during the busy three and a half hours of racing.
Mckenzie Eshleman, 16-year old granddaughter of former Fontana mayor Dave Eshleman, dominated the Briggs & Stratton-powered Universal Studios Hollywood Bandolero Series. The Lake Arrowhead resident won ten of 14 features this season after winning her first main during the non-point April 11 season opener. She won the crown by 28 points and made history by becoming the first female track champion in the 16th IS season. She also set ten fastest qualifying times in her florescent green Go-Daddy tribute No. 10 car.
Trevor Huddleston, a 19-year old third generation driver from Agoura Hills, entered the season finale with a 90-point lead with double-points (100) awarded to the winner of the 50-lap feature. All he had to do was start the 19-car Seidner's Collision Centers NASCAR Late Model race to become champion. Huddleston set the fastest qualifying time during single-car time trials about 5:00 pm. His 18.406 (97.794 mph) was a new track record. The former record--18.455 (97.587 mph)--was set on June 25, 2011 by Nevada resident Brandon Davis, the 2011 IS late model champion. Davis drove the No. 15 HPR Chevy owned by Huddleston's father.
Huddleston was running third on lap 41 when he “lost power because of a suspected electrical problem” that caused him to pull his dad's No. 50 HPR Chevy into the infield. He finished 17th and won his initial Irwindale premier series championship by 34 points over third place finisher Mike Johnson, from Covina. Huddleston also won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Weekly Racing Series 2015 California State Championship.
Five-time 2015 feature winner Huddleston's father Tim, 45, won the same Irwindale late model championship three times (2005, 07-08) in his Racecar Factory-built “blue crew” No. 50. Tim won 44 Irwindale main events, the third-most in track history. His maternal grandfather Oren Prosser also was a racing champion and was present to watch his grandson carry on the family championship tradition.
Also honored Saturday was late model rookie Lacie Price, a 21-year old UC Riverside senior biology major, who raced the No. 22 Kevin Bowles Chevy backed by her grandfather's Gene Price Motor-sports. She raced a legends car in 2013 and won 2014 rookie of the year after finishing fifth in the Irwindale Race Trucks division. She started eighth and finished seventh in the final late model 50-lap main. She was named NASCAR Whelen All-American Series 2015 California Rookie of the Year. Her father Mike was Irwindale's 1999 super stock champion during the track's inaugural season.
Price scored the second highest 2015 point total of a talented late model rookie class. Her 636 points gave her seventh place overall. The leading Irwindale rookie in points was Riley Herbst, 16, from Las Vegas. He missed the April 4 doubleheader but scored a pair of second place finishes on July 4 and September 9. He finished fifth overall in IS points with 694 (58 in front of “Racey Lacie”). NASCAR rookie/USAC midget racing veteran Jarid Blondel, 19, finished ninth with 580 points.
Thirty-nine drivers scored points in the 19 race series. Eleven race dates were run with eight twin-mains. There were two rain-outs on April 25 and July 18. Two top ten drivers and multiple 2015 feature winners did not race Saturday. Seven-time winner Toni McCray and four-time winner Christian McGhee were absentees. McCray dropped from fourth to sixth in final points with 660. McGhee, the 2014 IS late model rookie of the year, slipped from seventh to tenth in points with 578.
LATE MODEL 50: The final 2015 late model feature started at 9:55 pm and concluded after 28 minutes and three yellow flags. Rookie Herbst, the fourth fastest qualifier, started second and led the first two laps. Then Nick Joanides, the 45-year old three-time IS champion, came from fourth starting slot to take command for good in Joe Nava's King Taco No. 88 Chevy. He held a 1.677 second victory margin. It was Joanides' 42nd feature triumph at IS, fifth best in track history. He has been a racing mentor to Christian McGhee since last racing regularly during 2011. He also won the first of two 30-lap features at IS on September 19 driving Nava's No. 88.
Herbst was in P. 2 on lap 10 when he slowed his No. 19 and pulled into the infield with no brakes. Later, his team discovered “a broken RF hub and brake rotor.” Herbst lost three laps in the infield and then returned to the race at the back to collect as many points as possible. He passed three slower or retired cars and finished 15th, gaining three positions over where he would have finished if he had not returned to the track.
Another driver who suffered misfortune was Blaine Perkins, a 15-year old Bakersfield resident who ranked third in points. He was in fourth place on lap 14 when he bumped the turn one crash-wall and stopped at turn two. A tow truck towed his HPR No. 55 to the pits and he returned after losing one lap. He finished 14th and retained third position in final points with 774.
Second place finisher Jeff Peterson, from Riverside, made his first late model start this year in Clay Wooster's Hamke Race Cars of North Carolina back-up No. 90 used this season by Toni McCray. She raced it in the Friday, September 4 IS feature but preferred to race the RCF-built No. 90 primary team car. Peterson is the 24-year old son of Ron Peterson, IS super truck champion two-time champion (2004 & 06). Family friend Ron raced Wooster's No. 38 stock car in 2010 at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, hence the change from 90 to 38 Saturday.
Peterson raced infrequently this season in Jeff Williams' No. 26 Ford F-150 truck. He won the SW Tour Trucks 35-lap feature on August 1 at IS. He called Wooster about a late model ride and Wooster changed his number to Peterson's No. 38 for Jeff's first late model run. He set seventh fastest qualifying time and raced into third by lap 14. Peterson passed Johnson for second on lap 20 and battled within a length of leader Joanides to lap 30. Thereafter, Joanides opened a 30-yard victory margin. Title hopeful Mike Johnson, 57, ran second from lap 11 until lap 20. He remained in P. 3 to the finish and cut champion Huddleston's point lead from 90 to 34 (876-842) . It was long-time veteran Johnson's best point finish at Irwindale.
Rounding out the top five finishers were two young drivers who scored their best finishes of 2015. Kyle McGrady, a 23-year old from Hesperia, raced his No. 11 K & N Filters Chevy from ninth to fourth place, 2.782 seconds off the lead. Rookie J. Blondel started tenth and raced to his career-best fifth place, 7.349 seconds in back of the winner. Pole starter Ricky Schlick, 18, was in third spot on lap 2 when he scraped along the wall leaving turn two. His car trailed sparks to turn three and lost ten positions before resuming speed. He finished sixth. Price, Dennis Furden, Logan Mainella and Dustin Vandermooren finished seventh through tenth.
SUPER STOCKS: The Pick Your Part Super Stock twin 20-lap mains had eight cars in both races. Fastest qualifier Zack Green (in a Camaro) started on pole in the first 20 and inside row two for the second 20. He led all the way in the first race and defeated No. 74 sub-driver Keith Spankler (a touring SRL SW Series stock car veteran) by 1.805. Gary Frankovich, 57, started second and finished third in race one aboard his re-bodied No. 66 Chevy Impala SS. Craig Rayburn, Bobby Dezarov, Greg Crutcher, Mike Nicks and rookie Matthew Sampson followed in an all-green, 9:08.552-timed race. Green won the second 20 in 12 minutes by 0.483 over eighth starter Rayburn. P. 3 Frankovich led the first 12 laps before Green passed him on the inside exiting the fourth turn. Spangler, Crutcher, Dezarov, Nicks and Sampson followed. The super stock mains were the second and sixth races run.
SPEARS S2: An IS season-high ten touring S2 cars raced a 30-lap main, also on the half-mile oval. It was the fifth feature run. The fourth IS S2 main of 2015 had the same winner as the last two. Rookie and second fastest qualifier Dylan Garner, a 16-year old from Yorba Linda, started second and led all the way in his family-owned No. 97. His series leading third S2 victory (all at IS) came in the eighth S2 race at three speedways.
Fastest qualifier Todd Conrad, from Sierra Madre, finished 1.166 behind the winner. Point leader John Butler, from Arcadia, placed third, 1.570 back. Craig Yeaton and Kenny Smith, a 67-year old “racing grandpa” and pole starter, completed the top five. Second through fourth place drivers are all IS late model veterans who returned to racing in S2 cars. Dave Lowenstein, legend car champion Chad Schug, Bill Waters, Chris Morrison and Karen Lowenstein (Dave's wife) followed in the 13-minute race that had one caution flag for a solo spin.
From March to October the Spears S2 Series has raced once in Madera and three times (including twin-25s on May 9) at KCRP in Bakersfield in addition to four events in Irwindale. Six drivers have won the nine features this season. S2 will conclude the seventh S2 season with two race dates. They are: October 17 at Bakersfield's KCRP and November 21 at the Las Vegas three-eighths mile oval. SRL counts only the best finishes in ten of the 11 features to determine the final point rankings. Garner, who ranked fourth in points before October 3, missed the March S2 season opener because his team started racing in April.
SW TOUR TRUCKS: The touring Southwest Tour Truck Series had eight trucks present. Ken Michaelian, who races his own No. 40 truck with the IRT Series, sub-drove Jeff Williams' No. 26 Ford F-150, to fastest qualifying time of 89.445 mph. He started fifth and finished second, 0.909 in back of winner Ronnie Davis, Jr., from Whittier. Davis started his No. 78 fourth and led all 30 laps on the banked half-mile. Dan Coburn, Bobby Vandermooren, Alec Martinez, Roger Harder, point leader Ed Cutler (in a sub-ride) and Hiroyuki Ueno, from Japan, followed in a race with one caution for Ueno's solo spin on lap 9.
LEGENDS 35: The INEX Legend Cars eighth race of 2015 on the banked third-mile produced the fourth victory for two-time Legends champion Darren Amidon, 30. He started fifth in a 22-car field and was the third race leader. Jordan Hyland led the first ten laps. Two-time Irwindale Legends champion Chad Schug led laps 22-33 after passing Hyland on the inside entering turn three in a nose-to-tail top three battle. Following a caution flag, Amidon took the lead on lap 34 and led the final two laps over runner-up Schug and won by 0.072. Hyland ((-0.236) Gary Scheuerell and Mark Borchetta followed. Seventeen drivers (13 on the lead lap) finished the 36-minute race slowed by four cautions.
BANDOLEROS: INEX Bandolero Series teams raced Friday and Saturday nights on the third-mile. Mckenzie Eshleman set fast time in a six-car field and won Friday's 20-lap main by 1.747 over her first cousin Kayla Eshleman, 13. Zack St. Onge, Austin Edwards, Kabe McClenny and Jakob Ulrich finished on the lead lap within 8.6 seconds.
The Saturday Bandolero field increased to ten cars with the addition of four youngsters who race at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield. Kayla Eshleman recorded her first-ever fastest qualifying time of 66.152 mph. She started on the pole and led the initial ten laps before spinning at turn two after contact. St. Onge led laps 11-12. On lap 13 fifth starter Kabe McClenny, the KCRP 2015 Bandolero champion, made an inside pass for the lead in turn four. He led the final eight laps and won his first Irwindale feature on his third night of racing at IS.
Runner-up St. Onge trailed by 0.287. Bakersfield's Seth Wise, 10, Edwards, M. Eshleman, Jesse Bowen, KCRP racer Kercie Jung and Bakersfield's Zachary Ginn, 9, completed all 20 laps. Kayla completed 18 laps. The 12-minute race had three cautions, including one after a lap 16 two-car crash involving P. 4-5 cars of M. Eshleman and Ulrich, who did not restart.