JOANIDES WINS IRWINDALE LATE MODEL TWIN-30s – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Jun. 11 – Team 211 Entertainment presented five divisions and six main events Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. A warmly-dressed, hearty group of 1,299 spectators attended under a gray sky and chilly 60+ degree temperature. Mid-afternoon rain dampened the asphalt track and delayed late model qualifying to 5:30 pm. Wetness canceled the on-track drivers autograph session for fans. Three-time track champion Nick Joanides prevailed and won both Pick Your Part Late Model features in Joe Nava's King Taco Chevy. He now has won four of the 12 series main events this season.
LT MDL 1ST 30: Fastest qualifier/point leader Trevor Huddleston, now 20. started from pole with his recent rival Nick Joanides alongside. Joanides stayed on the outside all 30 laps; Huddleston raced many laps door-to-door with his on-track nemesis. Two cautions for solo spins kept it close and allowed third starter Christian McGhee, 17, to join the leaders. He even ran second from laps 7-16. Huddleston retook second on a lap 16 restart and a lap 25 bid for the point fell a foot short. He regrouped and made a final lap bid for victory but it fell about two feet short, 0.051 officially.
It was the 45th career feature triumph at Irwindale for Joanides, who is now in sole possession of third place on the list of drivers with most main event victories at IS. It broke his tied with Tim Huddleston. Ironically, the two drivers were born in June 1970, six days apart. Tim, father of Trevor, was born on June 11 and Nick June 17.
McGhee finished third, 30-yards in back of the dueling leaders. Late model rookie Ryan Vargas, the 2014 Bandolero track champion and 2015 Irwindale Race Trucks rookie (P. 7 in final points), started fourth. He was fourth quickest qualifier in a 14-car field. The impressive 15-year old racer from La Mirada ran fourth all 30 laps and trailed P. 3 by 1.765. Fellow late model rookie Dylan Garner, 17, started seventh and finished fifth in the HPR No. 56 Chevy team car to Huddleston's HPR No. 50.
IRT truck veteran Lawless Alan, 16, started eighth and placed sixth in his late model debut. His tutor was all-time IS feature wins leader Rip Michels (67 total). Val Cummings, rookie Alec Martinez, 17, and veteran Rodney Peacher, 67, were the only other finishers and all completed 30 laps. A lap 16 crash in turn three took out fifth place Mike Johnson and sixth running Josh Soto. The latter's car got into the back of Johnson's No. 17 Chevy. Huddleston ran the fastest race lap at 94.257 mph.
LT MDL 2ND 30: As exciting as the first race was, the second 30 topped it for unexpected thrills. The starting grid inversion was eight, putting fast timer Huddleston outside in row four, with second fastest Joanides alongside. The elimination of two cars moved both drivers forward one row. Cummings and Garner occupied the front row. Joanides again led the opening lap. It took five laps for Huddleston to reach P. 3 and make it a top three battle among the same three drivers.
At lap 21, Huddleston took second from McGhee and by lap 25 he engaged Joanides for the lead. On lap 27 the lead duo approached P. 8 Cummings, who remained in the outside groove through turns three and four. The slower car momentarily blocked Joanides' path before he cut to the inside to pass. Huddleston cut to the far inside and the three cars exited turn four three-wide with Joanides car in the middle. Cars banged together several times. Huddleston crossed start/finish as the lap 27 leader by a length. His cut right rear tire blew on the front straight and he spun in turn one, stopping parallel, feet away from the crash-wall, causing a caution flag. He drove to the pits and his crew replaced the flat tire. He rejoined the race at the back of the now nine car field.
On the lap 27 restart Vargas passed Garner for third place in the second turn as Huddleston climbed to sixth. On the final lap Joanides led McGhee by one length. Approaching the finish line, McGhee's No. 71 Chevy touched the back of Joanides' car and McGhee spun sideways across the finish line to the infield. Vargas' No. 23 Dave Eshleman Chevy passed McGhee's sliding car at the finish line and trailed winner Joanides by 0.289. McGhee dropped to third, 0.021 in back of Vargas.
The impressive teen missed Irwindale's late model doubleheader on May 28 to race at Madera Speedway, where he placed sixth despite a toe-out problem. He now ranks sixth in IS points. Huddleston climbed back to fourth place. Garner, rookie Alan, and Peacher completed all 30 laps in fifth through seventh spots. Martinez and Cummings logged 29 laps. Huddleston's 93.487 mph quickest lap took fastest lap honor. Huddleston has 578 points to 568 for McGhee, and 528 for Joanides.
Racecar Factory Spec Late Models: A season-high car count of 11 former S-2 cars raced 30 laps. Robby Hornsby, a 24-year old series rookie, drove Kenny Smith's No. 43 to fastest qualifying time. He started sixth and became the third leader on lap 7 and was never caught. The 2013 IS mini stock champion (No. 61 Ford Pinto) won by 2.787 seconds over last winner Johnny Butler. Todd Conrad, Dylan Garner, Ed Cutler, Craig Yeaton, Bill Waters and Joe Meehan finished in P. 3-8 and ran all 30 laps.
Newcomers Carson Woods, the 2002 IS super truck champion, his car owner Toby Stanford, and rookie Robert Arevalo all completed 29 laps in the three cars formerly owned by Lowenstein Racing. Woods led lap 1 from the pole. Butler led laps 2-6. The all-green light race took 10:22.758 and averaged 86.711 mph. Hornsby ran the fastest lap of 88.430 mph.
Seidner's Collision Centers Race Trucks: A nine truck field was present for a 40-lap main. Connor Cantrell, 25-year old 2011 series champion, set fastest time during qualifying. He started sixth and finished 0.186 in back of point leader Lucas McNeil, 23, from Saugus. Dennis Arena started third and led the first 12 laps. McNeil's No. 78 passed Arena's No. 34 on the inside in the fourth turn. Three laps later Cantrell took second position, leaving Arena in the final podium position. He finished five seconds back.
Ken Michaelian, Jeff Williams, and truck rookie Zack Green followed in P. 4-6; all completed 40 laps. The all-green light race took 13:33.424 and averaged 88.515 mph. McNeil ran the quickest lap at 90.630 mph and now has won four of the six series features this season. He had no main event wins prior to winning the season opener on January 23. McNeil now leads Cantrell by 24 points.
INEX LEGENDS: A season-high count of 21 used the third-mile oval and ran the usual 35-lap feature distance. It became a battle of two series past champions and a 15-year old rising star from Peoria, AZ. Two-time IS champion (2007 and 2013) Darren Amidon, 31, led the first 12 laps in a duel with fourth starter Parker Steele. Front row starters Amidon and three-time series champion Chud Schug (2010-11 and 15) raced in close formation. Steele took P. 2 for Schug on lap 8. He used an inside pass in turn two to take the lead from Amidon. The teen opened a 20-yard lead by lap 30 and won by 1.766 over Amidon, who is the point leader by two over Steele.
Four drivers eclipsed the old one-lap track record during time trials at 3:45 under overcast conditions. Schug set a new track record of 16.220 (73.909 mph). The other three drivers—Amidon, Johnny Dressler and Steele—also beat the old track record of 16.274 (73.664 mph) set by Ricky Schlick on October 18, 2014.
Ricky Schlick came from seventh starting to earn third on lap 14. He stayed there to the checkers. Albuquerque, N.Mexico resident Cameron Morga, who turned 16 on June 3, made his first trip to Irwindale and set sixth fastest qualifying time. He started his No. 54 coupe from Las Vegas sixth and ran fourth all the way. He finished only 4.230 seconds off the lead. Schug, 29, placed fifth as 13 drivers ran all 35 laps and 20 of 21 starters reached the finish line.
BANDOLEROS: The smallest cars at IS, INEX Bandoleros, raced 20-lap main events on the third mile Friday and Saturday nights. The Friday field of four consisted of all female drivers for the first time. Fast timer Allison Gay, 15, started fourth and won the feature over Kayla Eshleman, 12, sister Madison Gay, 12, and Olivia Manke, 13. The winner's 66.574 mph lap was the fastest.
Saturday's Bando main started early at 6:35 pm because an autograph session was canceled. M. Gay led lap 1 and K. Eshleman led lap 2. A. Gay was out front for the final 18 laps. However, the winner was disqualified and not awarded points. Blond K. Eshleman, granddaughter of former Fontana mayor Dave Eshleman, won her first career feature aboard her black No. 90 by 7.554 seconds. She is the new point leader by ten. M. Gay, Manke and Zachary Ginn, 10, followed. The all-green race took 6:09.904 and averaged 64.817 mph.
Next Saturday (June 18) at IS will be a special added event. Titled “Summer Motor-sports Mayhem”, the event highlights include: Spears SRL touring stock cars in a 100-lap race; movie and TV celebrities in RCF Spec Late Models in a benefit race on the half-mile for autism; monster trucks starring Bounty Hunter; Doctor Danger from TV's America's Got Talent”, and a raging inferno jet fire truck meltdown.