IRWINDALE NIGHT of DESTRUCTION ATTRACTS 5,000+ -- By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Mar. 12 – Irwindale Speedway's Night of Destruction six event program Saturday was presented by Pick Your Part (self-service auto parts) and Seidner's Collision Centers (14 body shops in So Cal). It attracted 5,850 fans of smash and bash automotive events. Robertson Solar South-West Tour Trucks raced a 30-lap main on the half-mile oval. Ryan Partridge made his first SWTT start to log race laps in preparation for his NASCAR K & N West 150-lap race at IS next Saturday. All he did this week was set fastest qualifying time of 89.348 mph in a ten-truck field, start fourth and lead all but the first two laps of the feature.
It was Partridge's 50th feature victory at Irwindale, second only to 67 by now retired Rip Michels. The 27-year old driver and past IS late model and Irwindale Race Trucks champion won his 50 main events in six divisions—legend cars, super trucks, super late models, late models IRT and now SWTT. The Rancho Cucamonga resident is among the leading K & N West drivers this season driving one of Bob Bruncati's three Sunrise Fords.
Partridge, who has worked for years as the chief driving instructor at the IS LA Racing Experience Driving School, is starting his second full season in the touring NASCAR K & N West Series. It will start a 12-race season at 12 speedways next Saturday, March 19 at IS. Last year, as a K & N rookie, Partridge won a 150-lap feature in Colorado and finished third in series final driver point standings.
Partridge drove the No. 78 Chevy Silverado raced to four victories in six main events last season by Ronnie Davis. Ron Nava, the first two laps leader in a Ford F-150, challenged Partridge all the way and trailed by a steady ten yards. He trailed by 0.617 at the finish. Nava, from Encinitas, won his first Irwindale feature in a 40-lap SRL S2 Cars feature last June.
Zack St. Onge, an INEX Bandolero and Legend Cars graduate, raced a SWTT on selected less than half-mile speedways last season. After turning 14 on December 28 he became eligible to race on half-miles and made his debut on the IS half-mile. He impressed by setting second fastest qualifying time, (0.116 off Partridge's quick time). The teen started and finished third, only 0.918 in back of the winner, in the feature aboard the No. 26 Dodge Ram. Dan Coburn was 12 seconds off the lead and the last driver to complete all 30 laps. Roger Harder and George Perret, the only other finishers, logged 29 laps in the 10:23.072 (86.667 mph) event.
ENDURO: A 15-lap enduro race with 29 four-cylinder engine cars had seven female drivers, including timer/scorer Sarah Atkinson, and five rookies. Cars raced counter-clockwise on the third-mile oval with a jog into the backstretch making it a five-turn course. Willie Whatley started 15th and became the third and final leader during closing laps. Pole starter Tony Cummings led the first four laps in the polka dot “Wonder Bread or clown car” No. 02 Honda Prelude. Third starter Dan Souto, from San Diego, led laps 5 to the end in his No. 4, nicknamed “Starsky & Hutch” for the Ford Torino TV show cop car.
However, silent assassin Whatley was carving his way through the field rapidly without a working electronic transponder. His No. 44 was not shown on the scoring pylon displaying the top ten. He dispatched drivers in the top three positions with outside passes in traffic and pulled away to the victory. He pulled to the finish line for his interview. At first officials called Souto the winner. Racing Director Mike Atkinson later ruled Whatley a first-time winner after consulting scorers' hand-scoring sheets. Souto, the January winner, placed second, Robert Rice third, Cummings fourth and James Bolinas fifth. The all-green flag race took 5:44.900; 21 cars finished with 12 drivers completing all 15 laps.
Enduro Cars Figure 8: A 20-lap Figure 8 race for 16 of the still able enduro cars went to Robert Rice in his No. 7 Pick Your Part Honda Accord. He started from pole position and led all but one lap. Souto led lap 11, but Rice took command for good a lap later. Later, Souto's car was slammed into a K-rail leaving the second turn by Whatley. Both were sidelined. Steven Belling came from the back row to finish second, 16-seconds behind Rice. Neil Himes placed third. Jeremy Queener, the last driver on the lead lap, was fourth. Dalton Bolinas, the first of six drivers a lap down, earned fifth. The all-green flag race took 7:47.371 and averaged 58.078 mph.
Skid Plate Main: Event four was a 20-lap race using the five-turn enduro course through the infield. Robert Rice, the originator or god-father of IS skid plate racing in2009, led the first 19 laps after starting fourth in his same Honda Accord. He held a straightaway lead after ten laps. Mike DiGregorio, the 14th starter in his No. 18 Honda Accord, took third on lap 9, second on lap 12 and closed quickly on leader Rice by lap 16. A spinning car on the front straight caused Di Gregorio to stop briefly on lap 17 and he lost half a straight to Rice. He charged back and was only ten yards from Rice starting the final lap. DiGregorio caught the leader at turn two in traffic and through the backstretch jog. At turn four near the third-mile turn three Rice went low near the large white infield marker and bobbled briefly. Di Gregorio shot past Rice on the outside and won by 1.255.
It was DiGregorio's all-time leading 11th skid plate feature triumph in 45 races held to date. That total is two more than second place Sean Brennan, who has nine SPC victories. Brennan, the winner's brother-in-law, was absent this week. DiGregorio has won the last five SPC features in a row dating to September 5 and seven of the last eight dating to May 2. Brennan won the August 15 main to break DiGregorio's winning streak.
Austin Lee drove his “shark nosed” No. 47 to third place, 21-seconds off the lead. Robbie Salcido and Wayne Lee (38 seconds back) were the only other drivers to complete all 20 laps. The all-green flag race took 13-minutes and averaged 29.676 mph. All 19 starters used metal skid plates instead of tires on the back wheels. DiGregorio ran the fastest lap at 34.722 mph.
DEMO DERBY: Six enduro cars took part in event five—a demolition derby on a watered section of the third-mile infield near the front straight. After 11 minutes of bashing, and a brief red flag for a small engine fire, the checkered flag flew. Jeffrey Best, of Low Budget TV, won the $350 top prize. Jonathan DeStefano took second and LBTV video-grapher Tommy Mason earned third.
Trailer Race: The sixth and final event of the night was a fan-favorite trailer race with no specific lap distance. The purpose was to put on a show for fans who then determined the winner based upon showmanship/entertainment efforts. A field of 18 took part. Tow vehicles included sedans, a Chevy El Camino, a Ford LTD Crown Victoria, econo and standard pickup trucks, vans and a Chevy Suburban. All towed trailers with assorted cargo, such as jet-skis, old sofa and recliner chairs, and even several small house-trailers.
The object was the circle the third-mile and log laps with your trailer intact as you built fan favor by knocking off other trailers and cargo spectacularly. The highlight was Robert Rice driving his El Camino through an adrift house trailer on the front straight. After 17 minutes of littering the entire third-mile oval and infield only five vehicles were still circulating. Officials checkered flagged the event. They named the top contenders for victory; all three parked near the front straight crash-wall. Fans voted by cheers and applause for Tommy Mason over Robert Rice with Robbie Salcido third. Smiling spectators departed for home or the pits at 9:20 pm.
The next IS event on March 19 will be the touring NASCAR K & N West 150-lap stock car season opener. Also on the card are the IS Whelen Weekly Racing Series late models, plus the now independent touring Racecar Factory Late Models, (the former SRL S2 Cars Series).