IRWINDALE “NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS II” -- By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 17 – The second “Night of Champions” at Irwindale Speedway this month added four more champions Saturday to two first-time champions crowned October 3. Fans celebrated two more first-time champions and two repeat champions during the double-points evening. The two repeat champions won their third IS track championships in their respective divisions in front of 2,290 spectators. No point leaders entering the evening lost their point leads despite double points being offered in all Irwindale racing divisions.
New IS champions are Ryan Bragdon, a now 23-year old 2009 mini stock rookie, in the mini stock series, and two-time 2015 feature winner Riley Herbst in the Irwindale Race Truck division. Herbst, a 16-year old resident of Las Vegas, was the highest placed rookie all season in two of the six IS-based racing series—IRT and late models. Bragdon won by 28-points and Herbst by 24-points.
Repeat champions are Chad Schug, 28, in INEX Legend Cars and Zack Green, a 25-year old from Long Beach, in Pick Your Part Super Stocks. Green won seven of ten 2015 SS features in his family-owned Camaro. He said his third SS title in a row will be his last. He wants to move into a faster division and indicated that modifieds or late models will be where he races in the future if at all. Schug won by 14-points and Green by 40-points.
The fifth division racing Saturday was the touring Southwest Tour Truck Series. Point leader Ed Cutler, from Ventura, finished fourth in his own No. 4 truck and maintained his insurmountable 131-point advantage. The race was the fourth at Irwindale this season in addition to eight races at other tracks. The next SWTT event will be next Saturday at IS. “Night of Destruction IV” events will follow and litter the track as usual following the truck race.
SWTT: Fastest qualifier Ronnie Davis, of Whittier, started fourth and led the final 21 laps of the 30-lap race. It was Davis' third consecutive feature triumph in the four events held at IS this season. Early leader Ron Nava, from Encinitas, trailed the winner by 2.250 seconds at the conclusion. Tustin resident Alec Martinez, 17, started second in a seven-truck field and finished third in a Jeff Williams' Ford F-150. Cutler started on the pole and placed fourth. Dan Coburn was the last finisher on the lead lap. Cecil Phelps was back in his No. 66 after Japanese-only speaking Hiroyuki Ueno, from Japan, drove it in the October 3 IS race. Ueno spectated because his interpreter was absent. He wants to race ovals again and perhaps buy Phelps' truck.
IRT 50: The longest Irwindale Race Trucks event of the season had 16 trucks on the grid for 50 laps. Fast timer Connor Cantrell, 25, started third, took second on lap 19 and raced by point leader/pole starter Herbst on lap 31. Cantrell won his seventh IRT feature this year by 0.699 over pressing Herbst. Cantrell missed the the season opener and entered nine of ten races. He moved from fourth to third in final points. Early season point leader Ken Michaelian, the 2009 classic stocks champion at IS, finished a close third , 0.894 in back of Cantrell. Michaelian moved from third to a career-best second in final IRL points.
Truck rookie.2014 Bandolero champion Ryan Vargas, 15, started sixth and finished fourth for the second consecutive race. He trailed the winner by 13 seconds and finished seventh in points. Vargas, from La Mirada, traded positions several times with veteran Ken Brown and took the spot for good several laps from the finish. Brown placed fifth, with Dennis Arena, Jeff Williams, Kenny Smith, rookie Curtis Dahmen and David Scarcella completing the top ten. Thirteen drivers finished and eight drivers completed all 50 laps.
Two early front runners did not finish. Andrew Porter (P.4) pulled to the infield with a deflating RR tire on lap 28. Top five runner Lucas McNeil entered the race second in points to Herbst by 18 points. A broken left front wheel bearing caused him to drop out on lap 29. He dropped to fourth in final points. The all-green race took 16-minutes. Winner Herbst averaged 89.525 mph and did donuts in the infield to celebrate. His team popped bottles of bubbly afterwards.
SS 35: A ten-car field of NASCAR super stocks used a straight-up starting lineup with fastest qualifier Gary Frankovich, from Apple Valley, on the pole and point leader Zack Green alongside. Frankovich, 57, led the first seven laps in his Chevy Impala SS. Green nosed in front to lead lap 8. Frankovich paced the next two laps. Green took charge on lap 11 and took the lap 35 checkers with a 2.873 second lead over Greg Crutcher's Camaro. It was Green's seventh victory in nine races.
Paul Howard's Camaro took third from Frankovich on lap 24. Frankovich and Jimmy Sloan followed. Brad Keegan, Bobby Dezarov, Ken Cannata and Craig Rayburn followed and all completed 35 laps. Cars in P 5-9 raced in a close pack during the final five laps; two drivers gained a position on the final lap racing between turn four and the finish line. The all-green race took 12:31.152. Green averaged 83.871 mph on the half-mile.
Mini stock and legend car drivers ran their final 2015 races on the third-mile oval. Legend cars ran one 35-lap main and the minis raced a 20-lap regular points scoring main to start racing at 7:00 pm. It made-up for a race lost July 18 to a rain-out. A 25-lap double-points main was the fifth of six features Saturday. Robby Hornsby, from Yucaipa, started his Ford Pinto from the front row in both features next to fastest qualifier Ryan Bragdon, from Beaumont, and won both races. It was the first time mini stocks have raced twin mains at IS.
Race One: Bragdon, in his 1979 Ford Mustang II on a Pinto frame, led the first two laps from the pole. On lap 3 Hornsby, 23, went to the inside entering the third turn and took command for good. He beat runner-up Bragdon by 0.275. Bragdon and Hornsby both won three of seven features this season. Garrett Green, the series champion last year, placed third, 2.116 seconds back. Green also won a mini main this season. Robby Harryman, and Aubrey Porter followed as eight of 11 starters finished on the lead lap. Porter finished second in points and Green third. The all-green race took 5:43.720 and averaged 69.754 mph.
Race Two: Ten of 11 minis present started the second feature. Hornsby led all 25 laps for his third 2015 IS triumph. Bragdon and Green pressed Hornsby all the way but finished second and third. Rod Schmitt and A. Porter followed in a 7:11.181 all-green race in which eight drivers completed every lap. The winning speed was 69.507 mph. Bragdon ran the fastest race lap at 70.952 mph as he got side-by-side with Hornsby for the lead on lap 11. Their cars touched in turn two and continued. Champion Bragdon thanked his mom and dad, aunt and pit crew for their support.
LEGENDS 35: A 21-car legends field had a two-car inverted starting lineup. Pole starter/second quickest qualifier Jordan Hyland, from North Hills, led every lap for his first Irwindale career feature. He also had a second and two third place finishes and placed third in final 2015 IS points. Point leader Chad Schug started third and finished second by 0.544 with two-time IS track champion Darren Amidon third. The top three drivers ran virtually nose-to-tail all 35 laps. The race had the only caution flag of the night for a solo spin-out on lap 4. Donny St. Ours came from ninth starting to finish fourth, 2.588 seconds off the lead.
Leading series rookie Parker Steele, a 14-year old from Peoria, AZ, started fourth and finished fifth. His 364 points earned fourth in final point standings. Veterans Gary Scheuerell, Ricky Schlick, Tyler Fabozzi, Tyler Hicks and Mark Iungerich completed the top ten. Eleven drivers completed all 35 laps with 19 drivers racing at the finish. Bandolero veteran/legend car rookie Johnny Dressler, 14, was running eighth on lap 33 when he dropped out with a broken rear end trailing arm. He finished seventh in final points with 286. Austin Farr, a 15-year old Legends rookie from INEX Bandoleros, finished eighth in points with 284.
All four IS champions determined Saturday performed full-power circular donuts in the infield after securing their titles. Schug, who also has raced SRL S2 cars this year, made his donuts memorable after an oil line came off and started a large engine fire. He stopped and the fire crew extinguished the blaze quickly. He was unable to drive back to the pits after interviews of the top three finishers. His friendly rival Amidon used his third place car to push Schug's second place car to the pits. Schug won five of the 2015 legends mains and Amidon won four times. The next race on October 24 will be “Night of Destruction IV” with Southwest Tour Trucks as the first event of the night.