IRWINDALE LATE MODELS & NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., May 7 – Irwindale Speedway kicked off another “Night of Destruction” presented by Pick Your Part and Seidner's Collision Centers with a NASCAR Whelen Racing Series late model 50-lap feature Saturday. That gave 16 late models present a chance to race on the uncluttered half-mile in front of 4,412 spectators waiting to see the following destructive events.
Trevor Huddleston, 19-year old second generation driver/2015 Irwindale late model track champion and 2016 point leader, continued his series mastery. He set the fastest qualifying time of 18.523 (97.176 mph) started seventh and won his third consecutive feature at IS in his dad Tim's No. 50 HPR Chevy. Three drivers have won IS late model main events this season.
Track management announced in mid-week by press release and via PA system to fans present Saturday that the 2016 IS racing season has been extended from June to the end of 2016. Additional racing dates from July forward will allow officials to schedule more late model dates. Eighteen events are necessary for maximum NASCAR state and national point accumulation. Drivers welcomed the additional racing to enable them to race closer to home. It helps their travel budgets and team sponsors as well.
LATE MODELS: The late model field ran 50-laps in 20-minutes with one yellow flag for a solo spin in turn one. Fourteen of 16 starters finished the 25- mile race with ten drivers on the lead lap. High school student Dylan Garner, from Yorba Linda, started the No. 56 HPR Chevy on the pole and led the first ten laps. The top four cars—56, 77, 50 and 71—ran four-wide at times. Huddleston led lap 11 and Nick Joanides paced lap 12. Huddleston was out front from laps 13-18. Joanides was back on top of the scoring pylon from laps 19-25 after he passed Huddleston on the inside in turn four on the first lap following the caution.
Huddleston, on the inside, dueled outside-running Joanides lap after lap until he made his winning pass on lap 26. He then opened a 35-yard winning margin (1.574 seconds) by the lap 50 checkers. Joanides, Christian McGhee, Kyle McGrady, Mike Johnson, Garner, Jeff Peterson, rookie Ryan Vargas, 15, Billy Helgeson and Rodney Peacher completed the top ten; all ran 50 laps. The next four finishers logged 49 laps. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 94.528 mph.
Event two was a 20-lap Enduro Figure 8 for four-cylinder compact sedans. Seventeen drivers started and 15 reached the finish line in a seven minute, all-green flag race. Three drivers—Dalton Bolinas, Neil Himes and Robert Rice—led the event. Rice, from the back, led the final seven laps and won by 2.698 seconds over Sean Brennan. P.3-5 were: James Bolinas, Robbie Salcido and D. Bolinas.
Next up was a 31-car Seidner's Enduro 20-lap race for compact cars on the third-mile oval with large tires marking an outward jog onto the half-mile front straight to form a “roval” course. The race took 13-minutes. A stalled car at the green resulted in a red flag after a car slammed at speed into the back of the stalled car. Row two starter Kevin Zanit, from Los Angeles, used his light green car to lead the first 29 laps. He held a straightaway lead at lap 15 when a red flag flew to removed a stalled car.
Zanit's lead was five yards on lap 16. Robert Rice was still five yards back in P. 2 at lap 25. Rice started the final lap at Zanit's back bumper as they approached a group of lapped cars. At turn two Rice used them as a pick and and took the lead for good. He won by 0.508 and deprived Zanit of his initial IS feature victory. Only P. 1-2 completed all 30 laps. Tony Cummings, Daniel Thompson and Robert Organ followed with 21 cars racing at the finish. Zanit ran the fastest lap of 20.300 (88.670 mph).
SKID PLATERS: Seidner's skid plate cars had a field of 23 compact cars with metal plates replacing back tires. They ran 20 quick laps on the “roval” course without a caution flag in 11:22.899 with 15 cars still racing at the conclusion. Tenth starter Mike DiGregorio put his Honda into the lead on lap 6 after a three-car duel with lap 1-5 leader R. Rice and R. Salcido. DiGregorio shot from third to first and had almost a full lap lead at lap 15. He lapped P. 2-3 cars on the final lap. Salcido nipped Rice for second by 0.046 at the finish line. Austin Lee and Tony Cummings completed 19 laps for fourth and fifth. A Pick Your Part aircraft jet-engine powered pickup truck then ran flame-throwing demo laps from turn four to the first turn from a standing start.
A compact car demolition derby on a watered section of the infield took place between huge tires. Ten participants competed. The No. 41 sedan of newcomer Joe Licitra, from neighboring Baldwin Park, won his first event at IS. Past winner Jeffrey Best, of Low Budget TV, Jimmy Nordin, R. Rice and Tommy Mason, of Low Budget TV, followed. The bashing took 13 minutes to determine a winner.
The final event was the always popular N of D grand finale—the trailer race. Seventeen vehicles (sedans and pickup trucks) towed trailers containing boats (large and small), campers (small and 26-footers), and even a trailer containing a decorated parade-like float with a pinata and cardboard figures as a Cinco de Mayo tribute. Crew of the No. 3x Chevy sedan entry driven by Mike Goodin completed their decorating in the front parking lot at 6:00 pm. About 35 supporters of the “pinata entry” chartered a blue bus in Long Beach and attended to watch their entry compete. It was eliminated quickly.
Trailer race drivers used a two by two starting grid and a standing start. The third-mile was watered entirely around the track for the first time to add to the level of difficulty. The event took 21 minutes and included a red flag on lap 3 for a tow truck to remove a stalled car at the starting line. It was impaled against a large trailer cast adrift by a well-place hit. Robert Rice's orange No. 7 Chevy El Camino, towing a boat, led every lap.
Rice, 50, scored valuable entertainment points with fans. He smashed through the adrift 26-foot house trailer at the starting line. He also ran through the adrift boat off J. Best's trailer. Fan applause for five cars active at the checkered flag resulted in an overwhelming victory by acclimation for Rice. Salcido, with one major hit, and Todd Paperny, from LA, followed. It was Rice's third triumph of the night
Footnote: Official results for the second late model 30-lap feature on April 16 were changed during mid-week following the race. A rocker arm from the winning Joe Nava-owned No. 77 Chevy driven by Nick Joanides was found to be “a non-conforming engine part”. So the car was dropped to last place in the official finish. Runner-up Trevor Huddleston became the official winner. Joanides's career feature victory total at IS returned from 45 to 44. He remains tied with Tim Huddleston (father of the winner) for third on the list of most prolific winners in IS history.
The one-lap IS track record for Lucas Oil Modifieds set at 18.470 (97.455 mph) by Ryan Partridge on April 30 beat the old mark of 18.488 (97.360 mph) set by two-time LOM champion Austin Barnes on September 19, 2015. Barnes' time beat his earlier mark of 18.640 (96.567 mph) on June 27, 2015. Barnes won both LOM 2015 features at Irwindale.
Next Saturday (May 14) will have NASCAR late model twin 30-lap features, Irwindale Race Trucks, spec late models, legend cars, mini stocks, and bandoleros.