HUDDLESTON & JOANIDES WIN IRWINDALE TWIN-30s – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Apr. 16 – Trevor Huddleston, 19, and Nick Joanides, 45, won NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model twin-30-lap Pick-Your-Part features Saturday on the progressively banked half-mile Irwindale Speedway. The four divisions, five main events program presented by Team 211 Entertainment attracted 1,990 spectators. The annual Indy Car Long Beach Grand Prix, being held on a balmy weekend only 25 miles south via the 605 Freeway, kept some fans away from short-track action.
Irwindale track announcer Bruce Flanders, who has been the LBGP public address announcer since 1978, remained in Long Beach. He and businessman/car owner Roger Penske were inducted into the LBGP Walk of Fame Friday. Low Budget TV videographers/announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best subbed for Flanders in the Irwindale announcer's booth for the second time since IS opened in 1999. They called the races for fans present and for their LBTV taped video highlights on the Internet.
1ST LM 30: The first late model 30-lap main had fastest qualifier and 2015 IS/California State Champion Huddleston on the pole in a straight-up lineup based on time trials. Eighteen of 19 cars present took the green flag at 7:27 pm and ran all 30 laps in 12:44.046 with one brief caution flag after a single car spin on lap 3. Huddleston drove his dad Tim's No. 50 HPR Chevy and led every lap. He pulled away to a 30-yard, 1,612 second victory.
Christian McGhee, 17, started fourth and finished second in his dad's Chevy. Three-time track champion Nick Joanides placed third. Rookie Ryan Vargas, 15, followed in P. 4 for his best showing to date. He was the 2014 IS INEX Bandolero champion and a 2015 Irwindale Race Truck Series rookie on the half-mile. The La Mirada teen drove his No. 23 Chevy that was Dave Eshleman's No. 88 super late model. Mike Johnson placed fifth. Rookie Dylan Garner, 17, Billy Helgeson, Kyle McGrady, Alec Martinez and Curtis Burns followed. Thirteen drivers finished. Huddleston's 95.012 mph was the fastest lap of the race.
2ND LM 30: The final main event started at 9:30 and finished at 9:46 pm. One caution flag slowed action after a lap 10 two-cars double-spin on the front straight. Pole starter Johnson led lap 1. Third starter Joanides, from Woodland Hills, led laps 2-30. He drove Joe Nava's King Taco No. 77 Chevy from third starting position. His half-length (0.096 second) victory over fourth starter Huddleston was his third victory this season after five events in the top Irwindale division for NASCAR Whelen Series national points.
Joanides' triumph broke his tie with three-time (2005, 07-08) IS late model champion Tim Huddleston. Ironically, they were born within six days of each other in June 1970. They started racing the same year (1992) at the now closed Saugus Speedway in sportsman stock cars. Joanides now is in sole possession of third place on the list of all-time IS feature winners with 45 and Huddleston is fourth at 44. Multi-time track champions Rip Michels (five) and Ryan Partridge (four) lead all drivers with 67 and 51 victories respectively.
Personable Joanides accumulated his victories in late model, super late models and one in a skid plate cars race on May 29, 2010 in a 22-car field. He said he is scheduled to race all season as a teammate with Alec Martinez, 17-year old son of the Pick-Your-Part business owner/IS racing series long-time sponsor. Martinez, a truck racer last season, drives Nava's No. 88.
“Professor” Joanides has schooled the latest crop of talented teenage drivers from INEX Bandoleros and Legend Cars, race trucks, late models and super late models for years. In fact, he spent nearly all of 2013-15 passing on his racing knowledge to McGhee and others. Joanides, a real estate appraiser during the week, won his three IS track championships in 2008-09 driving Loyd McGhee's No. 71 Chevy. He was the IS 2008-09 SLM champ and the 2009 late model champion.
Joanides had to hold back inside-running Huddleston's repeated bumps to get past him during the closing laps. In fact, Joanides said he got a bit sideways crossing the finish line after the final bump from Huddleston, who will be moving up to the touring K & N West Pro Series in 2017 for Sunrise Ford owner Bob Bruncati. After five of 18 scheduled 2016 IS events the point standings show Joanides leading Huddleston 242-240.
The second late model 30 proved rookie Vargas' fourth place was not a fluke. He upped it by one and finished third after starting outside in row one. He trailed the winner by 1.114. McGhee and S-2 cars one season veteran/late model rookie Garner, from Yorba Linda, followed in the No. 56 HPR Chevy. Johnson, McGrady, Burns, Rodney Peacher and Glenn Schwenger completed the top ten. Eleven of 18 starters finished. Huddleston again ran the fastest race lap at 94.607 mph. The finishing order remained unofficial after post-race inspection of the top five cars raised a question. Race Director Mike Atkinson sent a part out of addition inspection.
Sean Woodisde, IS 2001 SLM track champion, was in fifth position on lap 22 of the first feature when he pulled his No. 45 Chevy into the infield with a broken valve spring or rocker arm. He was unable to start the second main. However, Ricky Schlick, 18, started his dad's No. 62 older late model that did not run the first main. He was in staging beyond the backstretch in his legends car and on the front row in the second feature.
LEGEND CARS: The only main event on the third-mile was a 17-car INEX Legend Cars race. Schlick
started second and led all 35 laps in his 5/8th scale, tube-frame, 120 horsepower replica 1934 Ford powered by a motorcycle engine. Second through fifth positions were exchanged frequently throughout the race. Following a lap 31 caution flag for a solo spinner, P. 2 Parker Steele, the 14-year old winner of the last IS feature, held second spot. Two-time IS series champion Darren Amidon, 31, dropped him to third on lap 32 but trailed winner Schlick's No. 24 coupe by 0.358.
Arizonan Steele placed third, with fastest qualifier Jordan Hyland fourth in his No. 76 coupe. Rookie Johnny Dressler, a 13-year old Bandolero graduate, took fifth place on the final lap from three-time series champion Chad Schug, the 2015 IS champion. Gary Scheuerell, Luis Tyrrell, Tyler Hicks and Colton Page, 16, completed the top ten. All 17 starters finished with 14 on the lead lap. Hyland ran the fastest race lap at 73.049 mph.
Seidner's Collision Centers IRT 40: Eleven Irwindale Race Trucks ran 40 laps in 23 minutes with two yellow flags for spins. The trucks raced at IS from 2002 through 2011 and were called Super Trucks. When IS oval track racing returned in 2013 after a year of no oval racing at the track two truck classes merged into the Irwindale Race Trucks division. Three drivers have won IRT championships.
Scott Dodd led the first lap from pole position. Then season-opener winner Lucas McNeil, 23, took command and won his second career main event trophy in his No. 78 after starting fifth. He edged 2011 IS truck champion Connor Cantrell, 25, by 0.552. Fast timer Lawless Alan, 16, finished third (-0.946). Dodd and Ken Brown completed the top five. Dennis Arena, Jeff Williams, rookie Jacob McNeil, younger brother of the winner, and Nico Mongenel, 18, also completed 40 laps The winner logged the fastest lap at 90.575 mph.
RCF SPEC LATE MODELS: These cars started life in 2009 as Racecar Factory S2 cars and 16 cars
were built by Jeff Schrader's RCF, located a mile from the speedway. They raced during 2014-15 as Spears Southwest Tour SRL S2 division cars. Re-badged as RCF Spec Late Models this season, there were seven cars present for the second race of 2016 at IS. Three cars were sold recently by the Lowenstein family and should be racing again soon. Former late model owner/driver Johnny Butler, 57, led the first 26 laps after starting second. The top three positions were a close duel all the way.
Robby Hornsby, the 2013 IS mini stock champion in his No. 61 Ford Pinto, became a key player. He started fourth in his first ever race on the half-mile and in his first ride in this class. He used the inside groove to advance quickly and join the top three aboard the red No. 43 Kenny Smith car. Kenny, 69, vacated the ride because of his recent heart aorta surgery. He watched from the pits as Hornsby went to the inside during lap 21 and passed Dylan Garner's No,. 97 for P. 2. The three-time series main event winner at IS last year reclaimed second a lap later. Hornsby retook second on lap 23 with a strong inside move. Positions one and three used the outside groove and he went where they weren't.
With victory within his grasp in his first RCF ride and first race on the half, Hornsby went for it all and lost on lap 27. Hornsby's car pushed up the track in the fourth turn and hit leader Butler. Both cars slammed into the crash-wall and limped towards the front straight. Garner reached the yellow flag at start/finish first and was in front for a single-file restart. The two former lead cars were sidelined with right front damage. On the restart, former late model driver Todd Conrad, 55, cut to the inside entering turn one and stayed in front of Garner in all four turns to lead lap 27. He opened a ten-yard advantage by lap 30.
Inside runner Garner cut Conrad's lead to one length by lap 33 and to less than a length at the lap 35 checkers. Garner, who clocked the fastest lap of 88.591 mph as he reeled in the leader, settled for second (-0.088). It was Conrad's second ever oval main event win in three decades of racing. He said he won three Figure 8 races at Saugus Speedway in the old days. Conrad's first oval main win came on March 19 when he won the series opener at IS in his own No. 41. The younger brother of SWT Truck champion Neil Conrad also lives in Sierra Madre. Craig Yeaton and Ed Cutler also completed 35 laps and were the only other finishers.
TROPHY DASH: The seventh through 12th fastest qualifiers in Legend Cars opened racing at 7:10 pm with a six-car fully inverted six-lap trophy dash. Tyler Hicks started third and led the first five laps but dropped to third place on the final lap. Luis Tyrrell, from Brisbane (near San Francisco Airport) took the lead in the second corner and won by 0.227 over Scheuerell, Hicks and Page. Hallie Deegan, the 14-year old daughter of off-road and rally car racer Brian Deegan, and Austin Farr followed. Deegan was making her IS Legend Car debut in her No. 38 coupe after being absent from IS since 2011 when she raced Bandolero No. 38 (her dad's number).