CANSDALE, 17, WINS IRWINDALE SPEARS SRL 100 – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Jun. 18 – Ryan Cansdale, a 17-year old from Laguna Beach, won his second consecutive Spears Southwest Tour Series feature Saturday at Irwindale Speedway, his home track. The “51 FIFTY Energy Drink” 100-lap race was his third SRL feature triumph, including the 2015 season finale last November at Las Vegas “bullring” during his SRL rookie season. He drove the Racecar Factory-built No. 57 Mac Steel/High Point Racing Chevy, owned by his father, Mark Cansdale. They also won the April 30 IS 100-lap victory.
Tim Huddleston and SRL's Larry Collins rented the speedway and promoted the special event. It was added to the track and SRL schedule in April when Irwindale racing was scheduled to end with the lease expiration in July. Later, the track lessee was given an extension to conduct races through December, 2016. A season-high 5,970 persons, including numerous families with children, attended the special event Saturday despite the 95-degree late afternoon temperature.
The evening was billed as “Summer Motor-sports Mayhem” and included four monster trucks, a Dr. Danger stunt show, and a meltdown by fire truck. The other attraction was a celebrity race for autism with TV actors/actresses and others in nine RCF Spec Late Models for a 20-lap main event on the half-mile. It was the first time the 16-year old SRL organization has sanctioned a race in conjunction with a non-racing attraction. SRL has sanctioned ten IS races, with seven different winners, since the first in April, 2008.
Frankie Muniz, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated star of the award-winning six-year (2000-2006), 51 episodes Fox-TV hit show “Malcolm in the Middle”, plus the movie “Cody Banks-Ace Detective”, was the celebrity racing star. He set the fastest time of 83.068 mph in the final practice session at 4:15. It gave him pole position for the speed-based starting lineup. Muniz, the 2005 Long Beach Grand Prix Pro/Celebrity Race third place finisher overall, was the top celeb in a Toyota Scion. He raced in the LBGP pro/celebrity race four times--2004-06 and 2011 when he started 15th and finished fourth.
Muniz, who drove the pace car for the 2001 NASCAR Daytona 500, was a professional open-wheel racer from 2007-09 for three teams. He raced 12 times in 2007 in SCCA Formula BMW-USA and ran 351 laps. He had a P. 9 best finish and ranked 22nd in final points. In the 2008 Formula Atlantic Series, he drove a carbon fiber, composite body Swift chassis powered by a Mazda-Cosworth DOHC incline 4-cylinder engine that produced 300 HP at 8,000 RPM. He scored 102 points and finished 11th in final standings. The Scottsdale, AZ resident raced in the first nine of 12 races in 2009 and missed the final three races because of a wrist injury. He had a best finish of fourth in Utah and scored 62 points for ninth place in points.
At the time Muniz raced in open-wheel formulas cars (32 events) he considered leaving acting in favor of a racing career. Now 30, the NFL Arizona Cardinals/NBA LA Clippers fan has dated numerous famous actresses, including Hillary Duff. He tweeted back to a non-fan of his acting, and said he can be a retired actor with the $40 million he earned. He started the IS celebrity race first and led every lap of the scheduled 20-lap Justice Brothers Race for Autism. He also owns one of only 200 Porsche Speedsters ever built.
SRL: Round four of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour nine point races had a field of 25, an increase of four cars from the April 30 race at Irwindale. Cansdale, out-dueled two-time SRL champion/2015 Irwindale winner Derek Thorn in that race. This time he started eighth with fastest qualifier Thorn ninth. Ninth quickest qualifier/part-time racer Dan Holtz, a 2001 Irwindale feature winner, put his Ford into the lead at the green flag. Holtz led the first 37 laps with frequent three-wide racing behind him and again from laps 49-55. The runner-up trailed Cansdale by 1.100 (about 30-yards) at the checkered flag.
Christian McGhee, 17, made the largest position gain in the top ten. The Irwindale late model regular, and two-time 2016 feature winner in his dad's late model, drove Bob Newberry's No. 26 NTS Motor-sports Chevy out of Bakersfield. The leading SRL rookie in points charged from 13th in the 25 car field to take third place on lap 92 with an inside pass in turn four. McGhee finished 3.713 seconds behind the winner. Trevor Huddleston, 20-year old Irwindale Speedway NASCAR late model 2015 track champion and a six-time 2016 feature winner, placed fourth. He yielded third on lap 92 to McGhee.
Huddleston, the third fastest qualifier in his Justice Brothers/HPR Chevy, started seventh. The SRL 2016 rookie was third on lap 3, second on lap 13 after passing fellow Irwindale star Ricky Schlick, 19, another of the SRL rookies/Irwindale regulars. Huddleston, driving his dad's RCF-built No. 50, hounded leader Holtz closely from lap 30-37. On lap 38 he executed an inside pass for the lead in the third and fourth turns and quickly opened a lead of ten yards.
The feature had two yellow flags totaling six laps (20-22 and 46-48) to check for debris. On the lap 49 two-by-two restart, leader Huddleston chose the outside. He got a jump on Holtz, but slowed quickly near the starting line and rapidly dropped to fifth before turn one. “I missed a shift going from third to fourth gear. Mistakes happen. The car was really good,” he said at post-race inspection. He regained one position before the end of lap 49 and ran fourth from laps 49-56. He took third on lap 57 from fifth starter Parker Stephens, 19, and ran third to lap 92. He finished fourth. Olympia, WA resident Stephens finished fifth.
SRL point leader Derek Thorn, 30-year old fastest qualifier and 2015 SRL Irwindale feature winner, started ninth and finished sixth in the Campbell Motor-sports Four Star Fruit Chevy. The all-time SRL main event winner with 26, also is the series all-time fastest qualifier with 37. The Bakersfield resident also holds the SRL one-lap track record at seven speedways (from quarter-mile to mile tracks) where SRL has raced. SRL racing started in 2001. Thorn was the 2012 and 2014 SRL Series champion. In 2013 he raced in the NASCAR K & N West Series.
SRL rookie Lance Wilson, from Bakersfield, came from 14th starting to finish seventh. SRL rookie Toni Marie McCray, a frequent NASCAR late model and super late model winner at Irwindale, started from outside row three and finished eighth, 13.279-seconds off the lead. SRL veterans Carlos Vieira and Bobby Hodges completed the top ten. The SRL 100 followed the celebrity race and ran from 7:59 to 8:37 pm. The top five finishers stopped at the finish line for post-race interviews with infield announcer Jason Galvin, former IS infield announcer and a current TV sports anchor in Bakersfield.
Eighteen of 25 starters finished, with 12 drivers on the lead lap. The race had eight SRL rookies and four of them finished in the top ten. SRL newcomer Schlick placed 11th, 19 seconds in back of the winner. The race took 37:41.210 and averaged 79.603 mph. Leader Holtz turned the fastest lap of 17.960 (100.223 mph).
Time trials in 90+-degree heat from 4:30 to 5:03 were run in the speed order of the final practice session. Stephens ran the only 17-second lap at 17.922 on lap one of four and drew pill one, so he had to qualify first. Thorn, who set the IS track record of 17.440 (103.211 mph) on April 30, was second fastest at 18.074 on his 24th of 26 practice laps. He was second to qualify and set quickest time of 17.700; 12 drivers qualified in the 17-second bracket. McGhee, Cansdale and Jacob Gomes ran the third through fifth fastest practice laps.
Holtz ran the most practice laps with 39 to re-acquaint himself with the IS half-mile. He did not compete in the April 30 SRL race. He was a frequent NASCAR Southwest Tour competitor until NASCAR ended that regional touring series. Numerous SRL cars practiced Friday night from 5 to 9 pm. McCray ran the fastest laps in both sessions—18.013 in session one with 23 drivers on track. Her fastest lap of 17.829 (100.959 mph) in her Hamke-built No. 77 came in the final session with 26 cars on track. The No. 14c of Chris Cline did not return Saturday.
CELEBRITIES: The nine-car RCF Spec Late Model (formerly S2 cars) celebrity race started with the fastest cars in practice in front. Celebrities practiced Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday afternoon. Muniz ran the fastest lap on the half-mile at 21.669 (83.068 mph) and started on the pole. Disney animator Jeff “Swampy” Marsh was alongside via his 22.258 (80.870 mph). Kelly Hu, a 48-year old past Miss Hawaii, model/TV actress, was third quickest at 79.103 mph. TV actress Beth Littleford, announcer Gordon “Lug Nuttz” Stewart, actors Adrian Pasdar, 51, and Blake Michael, 19, KTLA Ch. 5 morning news weatherman Mark Kriski (at 70.574 mph), and actress Leah Remini, 46, at 68.600 mph) followed. Actor John Ritter was aboard the pace truck.
The celebrities ran the first race of the night after Haley Huddleston, sister of driver Trevor and daughter of the co-promoter, sang the National Anthem as she did prior to the 2015 celebrity race. Dr. Danger performed a fire engulfed walk and a walk through a blazing wooden wall in the infield. Firemen used fire suppression tanks to quickly extinguished fire on his fire-proof uniform. Four monster trucks then staged demonstration runs over stacked obstacles and performed donuts in the infield.
CELEBS RACE: 'The celebrities race, scheduled for 20 laps or 20-minutes, started single file at 7:19. Muniz (No. 50) led over Marsh (No. 24), Hu (No. 59), Stewart (No. 43), and Pasdar (No. 29). Michael (No. 4), Kriski (No. 51), Littleford (No. 41) and Remini (No. 97) comprised the back of the field. First lapping occurred on lap 6. At lap 10, Muniz led Marsh by 50-yards, with Hu, Pasdar, and Michael the only other lead lap drivers. Muniz lapped P. 5 Michael on lap 12. On lap 15 Michael spun and backed hard into the second turn crash-wall, caving in the back end. He was unhurt, but his Ed Cutler owned car went to the infield.
The lap 15 restart resulted in a tight duel for third between outside runner Hu and inside runner Pasdar, who passed her in turn one. On the same lap, Hu reclaimed P. 3 in the third turn on the outside. With the white flag waving for the final lap, third place was in doubt. Hu, veteran of a past LBGP Toyota celebrity race, took to the outside fast groove and fought to hold third. With Pasdar pressing on the inside, Hu's loose car got sideways leaving turn four. She over-corrected and spun at speed backwards up into the front straight crash-wall. The left rear of the Johnny Butler-owned car was smashed inward. Her car slid to a halt facing turn four and just short of the finish line. Pasdar avoided contact and crossed the finish line third.
Hu was stunned, but soon climbed out uninjured to spectator applause. She waved and walked back to the pits after her competitive run. She was credited with 18 laps and fourth position. Only the top three drivers completed all 19 laps. The starter waved both the yellow and checkered flags to end the race after Hu crashed. The race time was 10:58.521 for an average speed of 51.935 mph including the caution period. While trying to catch Muniz, Marsh ran the fastest lap of the race at 21.248 (84.714 mph), which was faster than winner Muniz ran in practice/qualifying.
Winner Muniz (the middle son in TV's “Malcolm in the Middle”), joined the ranks of past competitive celebrity race actor/race winners at Irwindale such as 2015 winner Mark-Paul Gosselaar (No. 50) and 2011 winner William Fichtner (No. 0). Muniz told spectators via the portable mic, “I want to come here next week and race this No. 50 car. This is totally different from racing Toyotas in the Long Beach celebrity race. These are real race cars.” RCF Spec Late Models will be racing for the fifth time this season at IS next Saturday, June 25, so the opportunity is there for Muniz to race at IS again soon.
MONSTERS: McGruff—the Crime Dog (a Ford pickup body) was driven by Rod Wood. Nasty Boy (a Willy body) had Ronnie Sturges at the wheel. Rat Attack (with a 1963 Corvette body on the huge frame) was driven by petite, blond Kendra Duffer, 23. Unnamed & Untamed – Hot Rod Monster had Sam Sturges as the driver. The four monsters had just come from events in Washington state. After their debris pile jumping, wheel-stands and assorted tricks the field was reduced by a flat LR tire on Rat Attack. Only two of the four trucks finished the evening still running.
STUNTS: Greg Carpenter, aka as Dr. Danger, is the grandfather of eight. He was featured on the TV show “America's Got Talent” and enjoys being a daredevil for pay. He tried his most daring, risky trick following the SRL race. He used a reinforced front, roll cage equipped Ford Crown Victoria at speed to drive up a metal ramp in the infield. His intention was to plow through a pile of five stacked older cars about 20-feet high near turn four of the third-mile. However, he had too much speed and cleared the top of the stacked cars. His car nosed down onto the infield and at about 40 mph slammed into the third-mile concrete crash-wall, stopping abruptly.
Rescuers got to him quickly, fearing for his well-being. He was dazed and after five minutes climbed from the smashed Ford uninjured. He participated in an interview while standing near the front straight. “I've never before missed hitting the stack. It was the worst possible scenario.” Fans toured the pits afterwards and checked the smashed front of his Ford after it was towed to the pits.
More monster truck tricks preceded the 9:30 pm grand finale of the “ Motor-sports Madness” portion of the evening. With the temperature now 82 degrees, it soon got hotter in the infield. A modified FMC-built fire truck named “Raging Inferno” and powered by a jet engine was next. It wheeled into place near an old car positioned atop a pedestal near concrete K-rails used to protect SRL race pits. The fire truck shot a narrow jet of fire from the back and ignited the old car. It burned it to the ground as black smoke rose skyward and fiery metal pieces shot-out from behind the burning car.
When that part of the show concluded, numerous spectators, especially families with young children, went to the pits to talk to celebrities, view monster trucks, SRL cars and especially the huge flame-throwing fire truck. Next Saturday (June 25) will feature late models, Irwindale Race Trucks, legend cars, touring SWT Trucks, bandoleros and RCF Spec Late Models. Muniz could be a possible entrant in his winning HPR No. 50 if he was serious in his victory lane statement.