Irwindale, CA., Sept. 8 – The NASCAR event at Irwindale Speedway Saturday featured five divisions and six main events on the half and third-mile ovals. Almost 4,000 spectators witnessed 190 laps of close competition on First Responders & Military Appreciation Night presented by Whelen Engineering. Twin 40-lap late model main events were the marque attraction.
First-time feature winners in both the second late model main and the Irwindale Race Trucks 30-lap event were thrilled. The race leading truck got hit from behind by the second place truck on the final lap in the fourth turn and spun to the infield. Officials penalized the first finisher for avoidable contact. That handed the victory to second finisher Nico Mongenel, 21, who has been racing his No. 44 truck at IS since 2014.
The HPR Chevy team of IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston won both late model races with 15 cars present. His son Trevor, 22, captured the first 40 after starting fourth in Racecar Factory chassis 18-88. Second-year late model driver Jagger Jones, who turned 16 on July 29, started sixth in the ten-car inverted lineup based on finishing positions in the first 40. He won the second 40 in an exciting, four-car battle for the victory that was in doubt all the way.
Third generation driver Jones is the grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones and son of two-time Indy 500 driver P. J. Jones. He drove the No. 55 RCF-built chassis 11-75, which was the Irwindale and NASCAR California State Championship winning No. 50 raced to championships in 2016-17 by his teammate Huddleston.
JAGGER: In his on-track PA interview, Jones told the crowd, “That was a long-time coming. I’m out of breath. I’ve been trying for so long to get a win here.” He thanked his grandparents, parents, crew and his sponsors. They include Sports VIPs and Method Race Wheels. None of his family members were present this week because of conflicting commitments.
Jones said his spotter (IS 2006 late model champion Travis Thirkettle) kept telling him on the radio to be consistent, don’t make any mistakes, and hold your line. He followed that advice perfectly while holding a steady two lengths advantage over the second place car.
A three-car tight duel for second place for the final 30 laps captivated fans. All three drivers—Lawless Alan, 18, Ryan Schartau, 15, and Huddleston—traded positions during the final 30 laps. Leader Jones ran the high-line as did the second and fourth place cars. Third-running cars used the inside to move forward. Positions two through four changed hands several times at various points.
At the checkered flag, Jones beat series point leader Alan by 0.278. Former point leader Schartau, now trailing in points by 14 (788-774), was 0.541 behind winner Jones. Huddleston finished fourth, 0.749 off the lead. Three time track champion Nick Joanides placed fifth, 2.441 seconds behind Jones. Eight of 12 starters finished the 19-minute event and all completed 40 laps.
POINT LEAD: Alan lost the point lead on August 18 after a tire failure in the second feature. One week ago in the second main a broken hub caused the loss of Schartau’s right front wheel. The resultant loss of points in that race cost second-year late model driver Schartau the point lead.
Although it was his first IS victory, Jones has four late model feature victories in his HPR Chevy this season at Bakersfield’s half-mile Kern County Raceway Park. He said all he needs to do to secure the 2018 KCRP late model track championship is start the next race on September 15 to become the 2018 KCRP champion.
Jones missed the twin -features at Irwindale last week because he traveled to North Carolina to race at Hickory Speedway in the No. 88 Junior Motor-sports late model co-owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. He said he qualified second fastest in a field of 25 and finished fifth in the feature. Jones said he has raced three times this season for the team, including at Myrtle Beach, S. C. He has a win and a third place in his other races for the No. 88 team as he expands his racing horizons.
ALAN: Late model point leader Alan, a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, enrolled last month as a freshman at the University of Alabama. He has flown from Birmingham, AL to LAX to keep his Irwindale championship hopes alive by racing in the September 1 and 8 double-headers. He will do so for the third time for the September 22 season finale. The mechanical engineering major, with automotive engineering emphasis, said he had homework due for a Monday class. He had to complete it Sunday before flying back to Alabama to resume his college education.
Alan (whose first name Lawless is the surname of grandparents) also has raced twice this season in the Trans Am TA2 road racing series. He raced the No. 26 Ford Mustang, one of two Mike Cope Racing entries, at Homestead, FL on April 15 and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on June 16. At Homestead Alan completed 44 of 45 laps and finished 16th in a field of 20. At Indy he ran 41 of 42 laps and finished 11th in a 24 car field. Alan plans to do more road racing in the future and complete at IS at times during 2019.
PIT EMERGENCY: A frightening accident in the pits at Mike Johnson’s trailer interrupted practice at 2:00 pm. An electrical extension cord problem felled both Johnson’s brother Bill and Andy Partridge, who went to his assistance. Both men received electrical shocks and lost consciousness. Driver Ryan Partridge went to aid his younger brother and used life-saving techniques to revive him. Track EMTs provided medical aid as well.
Both men were conscious and talking when transported by ambulance to a hospital in nearby Arcadia. Ryan accompanied his brother and returned later to IS to race. He received a reassuring telephone call from Andy at the finish line after finishing his truck race. LA television stations KCBS (Ch. 2) and KTLA (Ch. 5) sent mobile TV trucks and reporters to IS and reported about the incident.
1ST LM 40: Jones was the fastest qualifier in a 15-car field during time trials at 5:00 with the temp still above 90-degrees. With a straight-up start based upon qualifying times, Jones selected the front row outside position. He led the first eight laps. Newcomer Shannon Millen, a high school vice-principal, spun on lap 9, causing a two-by-two restart. Inside starter Huddleston shot into the lead at the green and led Jones during laps 9-10. A two-car crash on lap 11 at the starting line eliminated P. 6-7 drivers Dylan Garner and Zachary St. Onge for the night with damaged cars.
Schartau (No. 7) took second from Jones on lap 11 and finished 0.813 behind now 11-time 2018 winner Huddleston. His triumph was his 43rd at IS, tying him for sixth place on the list of all-time IS feature winners. Retired six-time INEX Legend Cars champion Tom Landreth also has 43 feature victories, all in his legend car coupe.
Alan (No. 25) started and finished third (-1.942 seconds) in his latest Victory Circle chassis. His team has three cars and rented their third car to Hailie Deegan, 17, who raced it Saturday as No. 38. Alan took P. 3 from Jones on lap 31 near start/finish. Two laps later Nick Joanides used the same move at the same place to take fourth from Jones. Ten of 15 starters finished the 28-minute race slowed by four yellow flags; all drivers completed 40 laps.
SUPER STOCKS 25: Seven super stocks qualified and six raced on the third-mile with a fully inverted starting lineup. Sixth starter Darren Cheek led two laps in his 1976 Camaro. Then fastest qualifier Rich De Long III drove from the back row and took the lead with an inside pass in turn four. Entering turn one on lap 4, sparks trailed from his RF tire and his No. 84 Chevy SS shot up into the crash-wall. He was unhurt, but a wrecker towed the car to the pits.
Cheek resumed the race out front and stayed there to the lap 25 checkers despite a red-hot RF brake rotor. He won his second 2018 main by 0.342 over the 1970 Dodge driven by Jerry Toporek, of Venice. Jason De Long (-12 seconds), Harry Michaelian and Bridgette Shaw also completed 25 laps in that order.
SHARKY’S SPEC LATE MODELS 20: It was a battle of teenager versus septuagenarian as the two fastest qualifiers in a six car field started on the front row. Fast timer/point leader Kenny Smith, who will turn 72 on September 25, led 16 laps. Dean Thompson, 17, led four laps (L 3-4, 7 and 9) as they diced for the lead and traded first place six times. Thompson trailed now four-time 2018 winner and racing grandfather Smith by 0.462.
Rookie Shannon Millen, 49, started and finished third, 3.606 seconds off the lead. It was her second night of stock car racing in a car bought by Tim Cash from Craig Yeaton after her September 1 race. Rich De Long and Robert Arevalo placed fourth and fifth after Arevalo spun in turn two on the final lap and lost a position with the checkered flag waving.
IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS 30: Eight trucks present used a fully-inverted starting lineup based on qualifying times. Dennis Arena paced the initial three laps. Lucas Mc Neil took command on lap 4 and led to the exit of turn four on the final lap. Fastest qualifier Ryan Partridge, a NASCAR K & N West title contender in one of three Sunrise Ford Fusions owned by IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati, took second from Arena on lap 9.
With no caution flags during the ten-minute race, Partridge gradually reeled in leader Mc Neil, his rival for recent victories. He was only one length back on lap 29 of 30. He tried to pass Mc Neil on the inside exiting turn four with the starter waving the checkered flag. The two trucks made contact and Mc Neil spun out to the inside leaving turn four.
Partridge crossed the finish line 6.121 seconds ahead of second finisher/Pomona resident Nico Mongenel. With the race result under review, a decision soon came down from race control. Partridge was placed seventh in the official finish behind Mc Neil who crossed the finish line last. Mongenel was elated to receive his first-ever victory at IS in his fifth season. His mother Marge is an independent food vendor and operates the popular $9.00 baked potatoes food concession at IS.
The official IRT finish was: Mongenel, Arena, Ken Michaelian, Jacob Mc Neil, late model veteran Mike Johnson, and L. McNeil, with Partridge seventh. Andrew Porter, grandson of Spec LM winner Kenny Smith, parked after 14 laps while running sixth.
LEGENDS 35: A season-low field of nine replica 1930s-American coupes and sedans also used a fully-inverted starting lineup on the third-mile. Tyler Hicks started fifth and led the initial 12 laps. Chad Schug led lap 13. He was hit and spun by P. 2 Darren Amidon on lap 14 entering turn one. Both drivers restarted at the back. Fastest qualifier Ricky Schlick, 21, led laps 14-35 and won by 2.183 seconds. Seven-time 2018 winner Amidon took second from Hicks on lap 34 with an inside pass in turn four. Hicks, Schug, and Ricky Leigh completed the top five with all nine cars on track and seven on the lead lap. The 11-minute race has one caution flag.
The next IS event on September 22 will be the point season finale for late models with twin main events on tap. Also on the card will be IRT, spec late models, junior late models, legend cars, plus an enduro race and Figure-8 race for compact sedans.