By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Nov. 3 – Bobby Santos III, from Franklin, Mass., set fastest qualifying time, won his heat race and the 40-lap King of the Wing 410 cu. in. winged sprint car feature Saturday on the Irwindale Speedway half-mile. He collected $3,000 from the $22,000 purse for the KOTW touring series. About 3,500 spectators watched the annual appearance of the fastest cars that race on the Irwindale oval.
It was the fourth KOTW appearance at Irwindale since the series IS debut in 2014 when Jo Jo Helberg set the existing one-lap track record of 13.791 (130.520 mph). Versatile Santos, who now races out of Indianapolis, wins in various series. This season he won the USAC Silver Crown Series Phoenix, AZ 100, a NASCAR Modified race at the Loudon, N.H. mile, and in a winged 410 sprint car.
Santos, 33, set the fastest qualifying time this year in a 20-car field during 5:00 pm single-car qualifying with the temperature still in the upper 80s. As the eighth qualifier he ran 14.347 (125.462 mph) on his second of two laps. Santos drove the No. 22A Richard Fieler-owned 2016 Beast/410 Chevy. He finished second (-1.067 seconds) aboard the same car in the November 18, 2017 KOTW Irwindale 40-lap feature.
The final event on the eight-event program was the first annual $15,000Enduro National for four-cylinder, FWD sedans paying $2,500 to the winner. Second and third finishers received $800 and $600. All starters received at least $200. Up to 50 cars could start and receive a minimum of $200. The 27 entrants were the usual track regulars in the series, which received IS track points this season for the first time.
A new seven-turn “roval” course had five left and two right turns marked by orange cones. The layout used portions of the third and half-mile ovals. At turns three and four of the half-mile drivers raced on the apron between infield grass and the inside edge of the half-mile track. A sharp left turn onto the third-mile oval was next with a run in the opposite direction from normal to a right-hander at turn three of the third-mile. A straight run on the Figure 8 course took cars across the X-intersection to a left-hand turn into turn one of the third-mile.
Daniel Hudson, the enduro point leader from Garden Grove and a new IS driver, drove his usual No. 17 Acura Integra to his eighth victory in 13 enduro races this season. As fastest qualifier during 4:30 qualifying, Hudson started inside row eight in a two-by-two standing start. He took the lead from laps 1-5 leader and past IS late model and truck champion Ryan Partridge Honda Accord. Hudson pulled away quickly.
Hudson, a 30-year old racer with experience at Orange Show Speedway (San Bernardino) and Havasu 95 Speedway (Arizona), ran consistent 35 to 37-second laps and lapped second place on lap 47. He maintained his rapid pace to lap 90 when he slowed his lap times to 40 seconds and allowed the battling second and third place drivers to un-lap themselves on lap 95. They finished 31 and 32 seconds behind winner Hudson with 21 of 27 starters still circulating. The all-green light event took one hour and four minutes. The winner averaged 35.115 mph on the demanding course that measured about three-quarters of a mile per lap.
TWO CHAMPIONS CROWNED
Two track series used the third-mile oval, ran 25-lap, double-points season finales, and crowned 2018 champions. Point leader Darren Amidon, 33, started fifth in a seven-car INEX Legend Cars field. He led laps 4-25 and won by 0.328 over fastest qualifier Ricky Schlick. Three-time track champion Chad Schug was third, 2.075 seconds back. The all-green race took 6:54.921 with the winner average speed 72.231 mph. Amidon won his eighth race in the 11 race series and his 37th feature at IS. He earned his fifth INEX L/C championship at Irwindale.
Super stocks also used the third-mile as usual and started eight cars. Point leader Rich De Long III, from Castaic, started from the back row in his No. 84 Chevy SS and led laps 3-25. He won his third feature in six 2018 races by 7.183 seconds over his dad Rich De Long. Jerry Toporek, of Venice, placed third. During time trials, De Long III broke his own one-lap track record of 16.461 with a lap of 16.431 (72.960 mph).
The winner opened a straightaway lead by laps 5 and 10, but caution flags after spins by his brother Jason De Long wiped out both advantages. Officials sent younger brother Jason to the pits after he repeatedly bumped the car that caused his second spin under caution after both drivers were sent to the back. De Long III, 30, was crowned super stock champion during a post-race interview at the finish line. The NASCAR K & N West Series driver of another No. 84 Chevy also won the Irwindale super stock championship in 2010.
Spec modifieds, which use spec tires and shocks at the series KCRP home track in Bakersfield, appeared for the second time at IS after bringing ten cars south last December 2. Six cars made the trek south Saturday and raced a 25-lap main on the half-mile. Fastest qualifier James Coffey, in a Racecar Factory-built prototype modified, led laps 11-25. Second starter Eric Brust paced the first ten laps. Pole starter Ed Coffey took second on lap 20 and trailed his brother by 0.835 at the finish.
Brust was third, 2.495 in back of the winner. Anthony Barket was fourth (-15 seconds). The Bakersfield rookie father and son Melo team of Brady, 55, and Brock, 16, completed 24 laps for P. 5-6. The all-green race took 8:30.499 and the winner averaged 88.149 mph. J. Coffey’s fast time of 20.102 did not beat his own 19.963 (90.167 mph) IS record on 12/2/17. However, his 19.977 fastest race lap came close to his FQ time last year.
WRA VINTAGE RACE CARS: Western Racing Assn (established in 1982 by the late Walt James) brought three antique open wheel race cars for static display near the grandstand, plus ten midgets and sprint cars from the 1930s through 1950s to “race” in a heat race and 12-lap “exhibition race” on the half-mile. Drivers ages (per WRA) ranged from 48 to a pair of 80-year old drivers).
Ten cars (seven midgets in front in four rows and three sprint cars at the back) were primarily cage-less and used narrow tires. Jeff Henyon, 56, (midget No. 55 Chevy II) finished first in the 8-lap heat. Bob Mastroleo, 73, (midget No. 14) crossed the finish line after 12 laps slightly ahead of Tommy Belfiore, 69, (midget No. 16), and Bill Sweeney, 57, (replica No. 2 Konstant Hot Chevy V-8). The three drivers took turns leading laps in the front pack.
KOTW HEATS: Two KOTW sprinters blew engines before the completion of time trials. The remaining 18 cars raced in three, fully-inverted by qualifying times, six-car heat races following the WRA heat race that opened the program. Eric Humphries, from fifth, led the final three laps of H-1 and averaged 116.970 mph. Davey Hamilton. Jr., 21, started fifth and led the final four laps of H-2 and averaged 116.288 mph. Canadian Ron Larson, in his Diablo/Spike chassis, started sixth in H-3 and electrified fans by charging from sixth to first by turn three on the initial lap. He ran his fastest lap of 120.257 on lap 4 and averaged 117.691 mph.
Last November Hamilton, Jr. crashed in the first turn during the KOTW Irwindale feature in the No. 8H Rex Hutchison Beast. He was hospitalized with a broken back, broken ribs, and a concussion; he recuperated for months and returned to racing in April at the Long Beach GP in a Stadium Super Truck. He raced for the first time in the Indy Lights 100-mile race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway a day before the 500. He hopped into a helicopter and flew to Anderson, Indiana. He set fast time there and started on the pole in the annual sprint car “Little 500”, which starts 33-cars three-abreast at the paved quarter mile and races 500 laps.
KOTW 40: With the fastest eight qualifiers inverted by speed, educator Audra Sasselli, from Selma, started from pole position in her 2008 Beast/Chevy. Fellow Fresno-area driver Austin Carter, in another Bob East-built Beast, started alongside in row one. Sasselli led the first six laps over Canadian Jason Conn and eighth starter Santos.
Fifth starter Eric Humphries, the 2017 KOTW Irwindale feature winner, took the lead on lap 7 and dueled closely with Santos and Ron Larson from laps 11-18 as the lapped cars. Then Larson’s top wing folded upward in turn three. He slowed quickly, causing a yellow flag, as he exited the track. Santos tried to pass Humphries for ten laps as they dueled closely. Brief yellow flags on laps 12 and 18 for slowed cars slowed the average speed of the 17-minute race to 70.228 mph.
Humphires opened a 30-yard lead by lap 30. Tire wear slowed his rapid pace. Santos closed in quickly and swept past the leader on lap 36. Santos won by 2.221 seconds over Humphries, reversing their 2017 IS finish. Aaron Willson, from Canada, finished third, 6.219 seconds off the lead. Robert Beck, from Kirkland, Wash., was fourth, 15-seconds back and the last lead lap driver. Ten of 18 starters finished. P. 10 Alan Beck, from Nevada, ran 35 laps in a 1993 J & J chassis.
Fifth through ninth finishers completed 39 laps and were: J. Conn, Sasselli, Utah’s Kyle Bergener, A. Carter, and Jimmy Waters from Salt Lake City. Sasselli, whose 7-year old daughter was in the pits with her family, duplicated her sixth place finish last year when she was shown in P. 8, a lap down. After protesting that she was never lapped, a recheck moved her to P. 6 with 40 laps. The former USAC Western 360 Series driver has been racing in the regional Gunslinger Winged Sprint Series at the quarter-mile Stockton 99 Speedway this season and made her first 2018 KOTW start at Irwindale.
Non-finishers: Justin Kawahata, from Clovis, was ninth when he dropped out on lap 33 with a stripped rear end coupling. Mel Andrus, from Utah, exited to the infield on lap 5 with a clogged fuel filter. Second fastest qualifier D. Hamilton, Jr. started seventh in a new Rex Hutchison Beast/Chevy, but he exited to the infield on lap 3 with a broken oil sump. KOTW drivers came to IS from seven states—California, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Utah and Washington. Three drivers towed south on I-5 from British Columbia, Canada.
LATE KOTW NEWS: KOTW drivers raced at Bakersfield’s KCRP half-mile Sunday with 3:00 qualifying, two heat races and a 40-lap feature that started at 6:05. Santos took the lead in mid-race and won $3,000. Fastest qualifier Eric Humphries was the runner-up, 8.93 seconds back. Third place Ron Larson was 11.89 seconds behind Santos, the 2018 KOTW Far West Champion. Humphries, from Chowchilla, ran the full six race national series for the first time and became the 2018 KOTW National Champion.
ENDURO 100: With two ex-black & white police cars present to push stalled cars off the track, yellow flags were not expected. None were necessary. The 64-minute race ran under the green flag all the way. Early contenders included ex-410 dirt track sprint car driver Rodney Argo, who started 12th and ran second from laps 10-38 when he dropped out.
Michael Hudson, older brother of the winner, started 14th as second fastest qualifier in an Acura Integra. He was in second position on lap 40 when he exited the track “because the engine shut off” with an electrical problem. It prevented a one-two finish by the Orange County brothers and Irwindale 2018 rookie drivers.
At lap 40 second through tenth drivers were: Bobby Ozman, from Phillips Ranch, in his third race ever, Robert Rice, Joseph Bereiter, and Rick Conti, from Alhambra, in only his second race ever in a 1999 Acura Integra that he bought for $2,000 from a Craig’s List ad. Others in order were: James Bolinas, skid plate usual winner Mike Di Gregorio, from Menifee, in a Honda Accord, Brad Strellman, Robbie Salcido and R. Partridge.
NASCAR late model four-time (2015-2018) IS track champion Trevor Huddleston, 22, was in 14th position and the last driver on the lead lap at that point. He drove a Honda Accord team car to Partridge, his 2018 NASCAR K & N West Sunrise Ford teammate as well in his enduro debut.
At lap 50 crossed flags leader D. Hudson ran a 35.286-second lap per the electronic transponder timing/scoring. His NTR fast time at 4:30 pm was 35.186 (38.572 mph). As the race wore on many spectators with children departed. Top ten positions on the scoring pylon remained relatively unchanged in the latter stages of the event.
Two drivers with the least amount of racing experience became the story by running second and third from lap 47 to the finish. Both contenders drove Acura Integras, the new series power car succeeding Honda Accord. On lap 95, runner-up Ozman (No. 18) and P. 3 Conti (No. 88) un-lapped themselves as leader Hudson slowed his pace with 40-second laps to avoid a problem. Conti closed from 35-yards in back of Ozman at lap 90 and was only ten yards back and closing on the final lap. He fell 1.031 short of second place. Ozman finished 31.839 second behind the winner and Conti trailed Hudson by 32.870. Ozman received $800 and Conti $600.
When interviewed at the finish line by co-promoter Tim Huddleston, Hudson was asked, “Can you believe you ran 100 laps?’ He answered, “Yeah, I can. Let’s do 100 more.” He then used the PA mic and said, “Thanks to the fans who stuck around this long race to the end.” The race started at 9:34 and concluded at 10:38 pm. No cars ran out of gas.
Finishers P. 4-6 – Eddie Howell, Robert Rice and James Bolinas completed 99 laps and received $500, $450 and $400. P. 7-10 – Robert John Rice, R. Partridge, B. Stellman and R. Salcido ran 98 laps and received $350 to $300. Troy Anderson and Trevor Huddleston ran 97 laps and placed 11th and 12th for $250 each. All drivers received at least $200.
The next IS oval track race will be Saturday, Dec. 1 with “Night of Destruction VII” and a Southwest Tour Truck double-points season finale.