IRWINDALE LT MODEL 50 + “NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION” -- By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 20 – Irwindale Speedway fans came out for the usual wild “Night of Destruction” events Saturday in their usual large numbers, 5,270 strong this week. What they also witnessed on the banked half-mile in event two was one of the best NASCAR Late Model 50-lap main events ever contested at the track. The final three laps had three different leaders and a wild finish that amazed onlookers.
Other events starting at 7:00 pm were: Seidner's Collision Centers Enduro Cars with 32 four-cylinder cars racing 30-laps on the six-turn “r-oval” course through the backstretch infield; a Seidner's Enduro 20-lap Figure 8 through the infield; and Seidner's 20-lap skid plate race with 30-cars on the third-mile oval. Flame-belching demonstration runs by an aircraft jet engine-powered pickup truck on the front straight also entertained spectators.
The final two NoD events were a Pick Your Part Demolition Derby with ten “used”enduro cars on a watered section of the infield, and a trailer race of 25+ laps with 17 starters on the littered third-mile oval. Tow vehicles included sedans, a Jeep wagon, SUVs and a Chevy El Camino. Trailers towed boats, a jet-ski, an empty flat trailer, and various size motor homes. The object was to provide entertainment by smashing through fellow competitors trailer contents. Fans determined the top three finishers based on their on-track destructiveness and showmanship.
LM 50: The 20th of 21 scheduled NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series 2016 late model features was 50-laps and arguably the most exciting multi-car conclusion. Sixteen starters used a ten-car inverted starting lineup that put fastest qualifier Christian McGhee tenth. The front row had rookie Alec Martinez, 17, on pole with 24-year old visitor Julia Laudauer, a New York City native now living in Charlotte, N.C, alongside.
Landauer was a 2013 contestant on the CBS-TV show “Survivor” and a 2014 graduate of Stanford University with a BS degree in Science, Technology and Society. She made her Irwindale debut on March 19 in a 24-car field. She started tenth and finished eighth in the touring NASCAR K & N West 150-lap race. She drove the No. 54 Toyota-sponsored Toyota of Nor Cal car owner/promoter Bill McAnally. Landauer currently is tied for seventh in K & N West points (330 points) after seven of 14 scheduled events. She is 14 points out of fourth; point leader Todd Gilliland has 384.
Landauer drove the No. 21 Kevin Bowles Chevy Saturday in an arrangement with Bowles and car owner Tim Huddleston. She drove the same car at Irwindale July 2 during an off-week for K & N West. She set seventh fastest qualifying time July 2 in a 19-car field, started seventh and finished tenth, 12-seconds back and one of 13 lead lap drivers. With K & N West idle August 20, she looked forward to racing at IS again. She won the 2015 NASCAR Limited Late Model track championship at Motor Mile Speedway, a four-tenths mile banked speedway in Radford, VA.
Designated earlier this year as one of 11 NASCAR Now drivers, Landauer led the first 48 laps in her third start at IS. She led by as much as 40-yards at lap 25. During the closing five laps sparks trailed from the right side of her car from a deflating tire. Nick Joanides and Trevor Huddleston were engaged in a side-by-side battle for second place during the final 20 laps. The rivals also are engaged in a close duel for the 2016 IS top series track championship and for the 2016 NASCAR California State championship. They closed in rapidly during the final five laps and it became a three-way fight for victory.
Joanides stated eighth and ran second from lap 10 through 46. Huddleston started 11th and took third place by lap 29. Joanides, topside, and low-groove runner Huddleston were side-by-side during the final ten laps. At lap 45 the dueling duo were only ten-yards in back of Landauer. Huddleston, 20, took second from Joanides, 46, on lap 47 with an inside move in the fourth turn. On lap 49 both drivers passed Landauer on the inside in the second turn. Huddleston led lap 49 by a length. Joanides' car made nose-to-tail contact as they received the white flag. On the final lap, Joanides went to the inside and emerged from turn two with a slight lead. Huddleston tried to recapture the point on the outside, lost traction and backed up to the second turn wall, ceding the victory to Joanides.
Joanides crossed the finish line in Joe Nava's No. 77 King Taco Chevy with a 1.466-second lead over impressive Landauer. It was his 50th IS career main event triumph, third only to 51 by current K & N West and Lucas Oil Modified driver Ryan Partridge and 67 by Rip Michels. Joanides is a two-time IS track champion in super late models (2008-09) and one-time late model champion (2009) plus a Slick Mist IS title-holder within a series driving Loyd McGhee's No. 71 Chevy.
When McGhee's teenage son Christian started racing, Joanides became his racing tutor for several years. He did not drive much himself until last season when he started driving one of Nava's two cars. McGhee finished third, 4.356-seconds in back of his tutor. Rookie Dylan Garner, 17, Billy Helgeson, Jeff Williams, rookies Ryan Vargas, 15, and L/M rookie Lawless Alan, 16, plus re-started Huddleston completed 50 laps in the top nine positions.
Eleven of 16 starters finished the event, which took 21-minutes. IS Racing Director Mike Atkinson called for the top three finishing cars and cars of the top three rookie drivers (Garner, Vargas and Alan) to go through a tech inspection dynamo-meter test for horsepower and acceleration. All six cars passed.
Landauer ran the fastest lap of the race at 18.947 (95.002 mph) as she extended her commanding lead prior to lap 15. She was trying to become the third female winner of a late model feature on the IS half-mile. Lindsey King won one main event years ago in Huddleston's HPR No. 57 before she joined the US Navy. Toni Marie McCray won numerous features in recent seasons driving her own No. 90 Chevy in both late model and super late model divisions.
During track-side post-race interviews, Joanides said, “That is absolutely the most exciting race I've ever been in. I had to beat the 50 car, and run 50-laps to get my 50th win here. I never led only the last lap in any of my victories. Julia did a tremendous job. We ran hard and couldn't catch her she was doing so darned good. I was trying to stay ahead of Trevor for second. She had something go wrong and the next thing we knew there she was. Then we caught and passed her.”
Runner-up Landauer told impressed spectators, “I ran a smooth line up top. I'm a little bitter, victory was so close right to the end. I ran well here last time (July 2) in this car and finished eighth. This is awesome. Thanks to car owner Kevin Bowles and Tim Huddleston. Thanks also to the big crowd and for coming out to the autograph session earlier. You guys have been great to me here at the K & N West race.” Third finisher McGhee stated, “This was a classic race.” He said his team will race in Tucson during September.
Huddleston, the 2015 IS late model champion, carried a 52-point lead into Saturday's race. Following his final lap spin, the ten-time winner now has a 36-point lead over eight-time winner Joanides (954-918). Joanides will need to finish about ten positions ahead of Huddleston to win the 2016 championship. Two-time 2016 winner McGhee is 48 points behind Huddleston with 906 after 20 of 21 events.
The IS season finale is set for Saturday, September 10 with other series close point races making it a night of champions. Winners will receive 100-points instead of the usual 50 points, with the usual two points per finishing position drop-offs. So the championship is on the line. The two leading Irwindale late model rookies,Garner and Vargas, rank fourth and fifth in points overall at 812 and 732 respectively. They are first/second in rookie of the year points.
ENDURO 30: The opening four-cylinder race on the “r-oval” had 34 cars on the grid. Thirty-two started and 20 finished. Three drivers led in a 20-minute event with a break after 15 laps so relief drivers could take the wheel if a team so desired. Few did. James Bolinas, father of a son also in the race, started seventh and passed laps 2-10 leader Travis Mooney. Bolinas, from Torrance, stayed out front to the lap 30 checkers. He won his first feature ever by six seconds. He told fans via the pit mic, “Practice on the 405 freeway every day helps.”
Todd Browne, the 26th starter and a Jet Blue Airlines Captain/A320 pilot out of Long Beach Airport, drove his No. 84 1994 Acura Integra forward rapidly. He was eighth by lap 14, sixth after the lap 16 green flag, fifth at lap 20, and third on lap 21. Browne passed early leader Mooney for second in traffic on lap 26 and held off third place Mooney by 30-yards at the checkers. He said, “That was a great race and a lot of fun.”
Dalton Bolinas, 15-year old son of the winner, finished fourth, 16-seconds in back of his dad. Mike Lindquist placed fifth, 17-seconds back. Michael Brennan, 23, and Ryan Neal also finished all 30 laps, with all other drivers down at least one lap. Tenth finisher Tommy Mason, of Low Budget TV, ran the fastest lap of 56.071 mph.
SKID PLATE 20: The seventh skid plate cars event this season was the 50th such race ever run at IS since skid plate racing started in 2009. Sean Brennan, 26-year old Yorba Linda resident, won for the second time this year and for the tenth time since he started skid plate racing in 2013. He started his No. 39 Acura Integra 17th, took the lead on lap 6 from early leader/sixth starter Robbie Salcido's Honda. Brennan won by 3.136 seconds over his brother-in-law Mike DiGregorio, the 30th starter from Temple City. DiGregorio (Honda Accord) won five series races this season and has 14 SPC victories to lead all drivers. Former leading series winner Brennan's ten SPC wins ranks second in all-time series triumphs.
Twenty of 30 starters finished, with Salcido third, 30-seconds behind Brennan. Airline pilot Browne drove his same No. 84 Acura Integra with metal skid plates installed on the back axle instead of tires. The two-time SPC feature winner in the 2013-14 seasons drove a No. 86 1998 Toyota Celica then and sold it. He did not race last season. He recently bought his current ride, which has 154,000+ miles on its odometer, from a Criag's List ad. Browne showed his driving skill by starting 28th and again weaving his way expertly through slower and spinning cars. He finished fourth, 42 seconds behind the winner. He was the last driver on the lead lap. Kyle Steiner was fifth, two laps down. The all-green flag race took ten minutes and averaged 36.785 mph. Brennan ran the fastest lap of 40.488 mph.
ENDURO FIGURE 8: Twenty-one cars were entered but earlier mishaps/mechanical problems reduced the field to 12. They used the usual F-8 course through the infield and ran 20 laps. Robert Rice, 50, started his No. 7 Honda Accord second and led every lap in a 7:27.783-timed race. It was his third F-8 victory this season in five events. The top three cars were virtually nose-to-tail during closing laps. James Bolinas drove his same No. 37 car from the 7 pm race to an apparent second place, five-yards behind Rice. However, he missed a scoring loop on one lap and placed fourth officially with 19 laps. SPC winner S. Brennan, who finished five-yards in back of Bolinas, inherited second in his No. 33 sedan. Third place Robbie Salcido also completed 20 laps in his No. 16 Honda Accord. Ben Mahan logged 19 laps for P. 5. Ten of 12 starters finished and all avoided contact at the infield intersection.
DEMO DERBY: The penultimate event Saturday was a season-high ten car demolition derby. The 19-minute contest had two red flags to extinguish fires. One fire from spilled fuel caused a driver to bail quickly from his stationary car. The final battle was a three-car bashing contest to the finish. Jeffrey Best, of Low Budget TV, bested runner-up James Bolinas and P. 3 Dan Pachella for his second demo derby triumph of 2016.
TRAILER RACE The always fan-favorite trailer race attracted 17 entrants to smash and bash their way around the third-mile oval in an 18-minute event. Robert Rice drove his battle-tested Chevy El Camino and trailer with a large rowboat. He started second and led every lap (25+???). Rice won the event based on spectators cheers/applause when five cars left on track were judged by fans. Robbie Salcido towed a rowboat and earned the fans vote for second. James Bolinas received the third place trophy. He positioned all three of his earned trophies (P. 1-2-3) on the hood of his purple No. 37 in the pits after the final race.
The next event at the Irwindale Speedway oval track will be in three weeks on Saturday, September 10. The double-points night for track championships will feature NASCAR Late Models, INEX Legend Cars, Irwindale Race Trucks, plus touring Robertson Solar SW Tour Trucks, and touring Racecar Factory Spec Late Models.