7-28-18 IRWINDALE “N of D” + TRUCKS – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA., Jul. 28 – The sixth “Night of Destruction” of 2018 at Irwindale Speedway attracted a crowd of almost 6,000 fans of on-track smashing and bashing. The three-hour entertaining

seven event program (including a drifting exhibition) had six races. Racing started at 7:00 pm with an unplanned crash that eliminated one-third of the truck field that opened the show with a 30-lap feature on the half-mile oval. No drivers required medical attention.

IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS: Fastest qualifier in a nine-truck field was Lucas McNeil, 24, from Saugus. He evaded the opening lap crash in the third turn that sidelined 75% of the trucks in the first two rows. Jacob McNeil, his younger brother, and outside running L. J. Billings collided entering the turn. Their trucks slid up the track into the crash-wall, trapping outside runner Dennis Arena at the wall as well. All three trucks were towed to the pits with extensive damage.

Fifth starter Ken Michaelian led the re-started race for 12 laps. L. McNeil, who started seventh, took the lead on lap 13 and won the 30-lap race. Ryan Partridge, who challenged for the lead throughout the race, trailed McNeil by 0.265 at the finish. Partridge, the NASCAR K & N West point leader, flew from Iowa Saturday morning after finishing third Friday night at the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The event was a combined K & N West and East 150-lap point race with 25 starters.

Past truck feature winner Michaelian led 12 laps in a tight duel with both McNeil and Partridge. They frequently were three-wide exiting the fourth corner. McNeil and Partridge traded second place three times between laps 5 and 12. Then McNeil shot from third to first leaving turn two. Now two-time IRT 2018 feature winner McNeil and four-time 2018 truck winner Partridge both passed Michaelian on lap 13.

Former leader Michaelian settled into third with his No. 40 as the two leaders left him in their exhaust. Later, Michaelian said he lost power on the straights and believed his engine was running on only seven cylinders.

When interviewed at the finish line, Partridge said, “My truck was too free. But the best truck won tonight.” Winner McNeil stated, “When he (Partridge) went low with five laps to go and couldn’t pass me I knew the race was mine.” Third finisher Michaelian fell half a lap behind the two leaders (-12.405 seconds) at the conclusion.

Past truck champion Jeff Williams, making his first start of 2018, Mark Perry, Jr., and late model veteran Mike Johnson finished 29 laps in that order. The re-started race ran 30 green flag laps in 10:43.426 for an average of 83.924 mph. McNeil’s 87.754 mph was the fastest lap. Partridge is the point leader by two over Lucas McNeil 292-290.

ENDURO 25: Event two was a 32-car, 4-cylinders enduro race on the five-turn “r-oval” track that used the third-mile with a jog into the backstretch infield and a jog wide onto the half-mile front straight at the starting line. During 4:15 pm time trials 25 cars turned up to four laps. Former 410ci sprint car driver Rodney Argo, from Gardena, lowered his own track record of 18.870 to 18.313 (65.462 mph). He drove his newest enduro sedan, a 1999 Honda Prelude.

With an inverted starting lineup, Argo started 15th and made it up to fifth (14-seconds off the lead) in an all-green flag 10:09.714-timed race. Robbie Salcido, from the pole, led two laps. Daniel Hudson, 30, drove his Acura Integra No. 17 into the lead on lap 3 and ran 23 fast laps in traffic to the checkers. It was his fifth victory in eight enduro races this year, his first season at Irwindale. He leads the new in 2018 enduro IS point standings by 40 points (344-304). His brother Mike, from Buena Park, drives the No. 117 Acura Integra and ranks second after finishing seventh Saturday.

Cars raced counter-clockwise this week after racing in a clockwise direction last time. Fans counted down from three for a standing start and no drivers missed a shift. Eddie Howell, the second fastest qualifier, came from 14th starting to finish second, 5.749 seconds back in his No. 81 Honda Accord.

Bory Molina charged from 25th grid position in his 1990s Toyota Celica to earn third, 7.563 seconds behind the winner. James Bolinas, from fifth, placed fourth, nine seconds back. Eleven drivers completed all 25 laps, with 26 of 32 starters racing at the finish. Winner Hudson, from Garden Grove, ran the fastest lap of 79.618 mph.

Co-promoter Tim Huddleston announced to the near capacity grandstand crowd following the enduro race, that Irwindale Speedway will present the first “Enduro Car National” on Saturday night, November 3. The headline event that evening will be the fastest cars ever on the Irwindale half-mile—winged “King of the Wing” touring winged sprint cars in a final weekend point race with a Sunday, November 4 race in Bakersfield concluding the KotW western swing.

Enduros Figure 8: Nineteen 4-cylinder enduro sedans also qualified at 5:30 on the “r-oval” in single-lap qualifying. Argo again was the fastest qualifier in his second car—a 1995 Honda Accord. He started the 25-lap F-8 race in third grid position in a 19-car field. The fan-popular race was the third of five races Saturday. Eddie Howell, from Carson, started second in his 1993 Honda Accord and led laps 1-4 and 6-25 in a duel with Argo, who led lap 5. Howell edged Argo by 0.548 seconds for his fourth triumph in the car and first in 52 weeks.

Pole starter Joe Labrosciano, from Montclair, finished third, 14 seconds off the lead. James Bolinas, Robert Rice and Dewitt Jones finished in P. 4-6 respectively and were the only other drivers on the lead lap. Ten drivers finished another all-green light race. The winner finished in 9:40.654. Argo, the winner of three of the six 2018 enduro F-8 races, clocked the fastest lap of 60.058 mph.

SKID PLATE CARS 25: Next, 20 enduro sedans ran a 25-lap race on the five-turn “r-oval” circuit. It was the 63rd skid plate race at IS since the first in 2009. Mike Di Gregorio, from Menifee, won his 20th SPC feature in the same No. 18 black 1995 Honda Accord he used in his first SPC race in 2013. He has won all five of the SPC races this season. Remarkably, Di Gregorio started 16th and lapped the entire field by lap 20.

The winner lapped the No. 33 Acura Integra driven by his brother-in-law Sean Brennan, a 14-time SPC feature winner, on lap 8. Tenth-starter Brennan was in P. 5 at the time. Brennan actually finished second after passing third finisher Tony Cummings Honda wagon on lap 23. They both logged 24 laps.

P. 4 Wayne Lee finished two laps down. P. 5 James Bolinas and P. 6 Ashley Rice, of Yucca Valley, ran 22 laps with 15 cars still racing at the finish of an 18-minute all-green light contest.

Between racing events, a drifting demonstration by three experienced drifters took place in the infield and on some turns of the “r-oval” circuit. Two males and one female also had match drifting races and then performed synchronized, tire-smoking donuts.

SECOND IS THE WINNER: An added, very innovative event dreamed up by IS management took place prior to the final event. The exhibition 15-lap race involved four enduro cars, numbered 1-2-3-4, slated to be used in a future celebrity race on the third-mile oval. Drivers of orange Toyota Camrys No. 1 and 2 were IRT drivers Lucas McNeil and Ryan Partridge. Drivers of Honda Civics No. 3 and 4 were IS staff member Kevin Stevens and IRT truck racer Jacob McNeil.

The winner of this unique race on the five-turn “r-oval” was the driver who strategized best and crossed the finish line SECOND, not first. The first-time exhibition race, called “Second over the finish line wins”, was accompanied by recorded music–Surfin USA. After starting two by two, all four drivers led at least one lap during the first half of the race. Drivers drove wide deliberately at times in the turns and braked to jockey for the runner-up position. They practiced final lap positioning moves throughout the race.

On the white flag lap, Jacob led over his brother Lucas, Stevens and Partridge. As the four cars came out of turn four with the checkered flag waving, some drivers braked and some accelerated and braked. Partridge got behind Stevens to push him over the line first but rode up the left side of Stevens Honda. Lucas could not help crossing the line first – and losing. Stevens finished SECOND and was the winner, with Jacob and Partridge third and fourth across the finish line. Fans loved it and the event will be repeated in the future according to Huddleston.

TRAILER RACE: The final event at 9:40 pm was a 25+ lap trailer race with 14 entrants lined up two-by-two on the third-mile. Towed trailers included jet skis, boats large and small, a small mobile home,

and miscellaneous cargo. The object was to destroy old mobile homes placed on the front straight and any competitors towed cargo in an entertaining manner. Fans cheered the big hits and drives through sacrificial old trailers and towed boats separated from trailers.

Again recorded music played on the track PA system. It was Roger Miller’s “Trailer for rent or King of the road”. Racing Director Mike Atkinson drove a No. 17 big sedan with a trailered boat. His disabled car in mid-race had an engine fire and caused a five-minute red flag to extinguish the small fire. Only three cars were still moving around the track at the finish.

Five judges from the grandstand were seated in the race control booth and picked the top three entrants after the checkered flag at 10:05 pm. They named the top three as: Robert John Rice, his father Robert Rice, and James Bolinas in third place. The senior Rice, nicknamed “Master of Mayhem” for numerous “N of D” victories, had five big hits during this trailer race, but he was a non-finisher after his final hit. That was his smashing a two-level boat and pushing it to the grass at the half-mile turn one infield despite having a smashed RF fender and no RF tire on his usual No. 7 Chevy El Camino.

The next IS event on Saturday, August 4 will be another NASCAR Whelen All-American stock car racing event using the half and third mile ovals. Late models, IRT trucks, spec late models, super stocks, legend cars, and junior late models will see action starting at 7:00 pm.