Irwindale, CA., Jul. 1 – The annual Irwindale Speedway Independence Day celebration and the track’s famous aerial fireworks show on Saturday was the fifth sellout in a row for the event. Management brought in a temporary metal grandstand for additional seating near turn four. With all 6,500 grandstand tickets sold prior to the event, ticketing staff sold $40 pit passes so attendance topped 7,000 enthusiastic spectators. The ARCA Menards West traveling series ran its second Irwindale 2023 race and sixth event of a 12 race season in five western states. Irwindale temperature was in the low 80s at race time, so spectators enjoyed competition in shirtsleeves following multiple days of a SoCal’s heatwave. The NAPA Auto Parts Blue Def 150 lap feature on the progressively-banked half-mile was presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. The event was screened live nationally by Flo Racing and highlights will be shown within two weeks on cable channel CNBC as a one hour telecast on Sunday morning, July 9 from 11:00 am to 12 noon Pacific time. Pick Your Part Night of Destruction events followed the ARCA 150 and were screened live by Low Budget TV with IS booth announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best providing commentary.
Fifteen ARCA starters used a straight-up start with the fastest qualifiers in front. ARCA rookie Sean Hingorani, 16, from Newport Beach, won pole position in the Venturini Racing No. 15 Mobil Toyota Camry. Bradley Erickson, 17, from Phoenix, was alongside Hingorani in Mike Naake’s No. 88 Ford. Row two had Landen Lewis, 17, from North Carolina, and Trevor Huddleston, 27, the three-time NASCAR pro late model IS and California State champion in 2015-17. Hingorani, who won Irwindale’s ARCA 150 on April 1 in only his third ARCA start, led the first lap over Lewis, Huddleston, and Erickson. Lewis led laps 2-52 as the teenage duo waged a captivating battle. Lewis ran the outside and Hingorani chose the inside groove. They were nose-to-tail and side-by-side every lap and raced without contact. They opened a 50-yard lead over third place Huddleston by lap 15. As the two leaders battled Huddleston gradually cut into their lead and trailed by 30-yards at lap 50. Nevadan Tanner Reif, 17, and central Californian Eric Nascimento, 22, occupied fourth and fifth at the one-third mark. On lap 44 fifth-running Erickson retired to the infield pits with an overheating engine.
On lap 53 Hingorani edged past Lewis on the inside and led two laps. Lewis, a protege of retired NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr., regained the lead on lap 55 with an outside pass exiting turn four. The two leaders continued to entertain fans with neither driver able to shake his rival. On lap 71 Hingorani retook the lead and Huddleston dropped Lewis to third. Hingorani opened a 40-yard advantage by lap 80 as Huddleston and Lewis battled for second spot. On lap 87 leader Hingorani’s right front hit the third turn crash-wall and left two tire marks on the wall. He pitted and his crew replaced the flat RF tire. He lost several laps and returned to the track but soon dropped out with RF damage. Racing resumed on lap 95 and Lewis passed leader Huddleston. ARCA officials penalized him for jumping the green flag and issued Lewis a drive through penalty. Lewis pulled his No. 17 MMI Chevy off the backstretch and drove slowly on the third-mile pit road from turn three and four and back onto the half-mile front straight. He dropped to P. 9 with 11 cars still racing. Huddleston was in front from lap 98 to the lap 150 checkers aboard the Racecar Factory-built High Point Racing No. 50 owned by his father Tim, the IS co-promoter.
Huddleston held a 60-yard advantage at the white flag on lap 149 and won by 3.354 over the Chevy of Eric Nascimento, Jr., the older of two brothers in the race. It was his best ARCA result. His prior best was a fifth place in 2019 at Colorado National Speedway. The winning race time was 52:21.268 (with one yellow flag for eight laps). The winning speed was 85.953 mph. Hingorani’s pole winning speed was 97.917 mph. Lewis logged the fastest race lap at 18.715 (96.180 mph). Huddleston scored his all-time IS best 82nd feature victory. It was his third ARCA triumph. He won a pair of 2019 features when the series was called the NASCAR K & N West Series. His first victory was on March 30 in the Irwindale 150 and his second was on August 17 at the Evergreen Speedway 175-lap race in Monroe, WA. He drove the No.9 Sunrise Ford, owned by current IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati, to both victories.
While the first half of the race featured lead-swapping of Hingorani and Lewis, the last 25 laps saw the remarkable climb of a 17-year old first-time ARCA Series driver from Madera, CA in his family-owned RCF-built Ford that they bought from Huddleston’s team. It was the ex-HPR No. 55. Robbie Kennealy, a pro late model driver at the third-mile Madera Speedway, only had one hour of practice Saturday before he qualified on the largest track he has raced. He was 13th fastest of 15 qualifiers and started 13th. He was in P. 10 of 12 drivers on track at lap 70. Kennealy’s confidence grew during the race and he was eighth when he began his move forward with early leader Lewis in ninth. The ARCA newcomer passed three experienced drivers to finish fifth in his ARCA and IS debut. He passed three-time IS champion Nick Joanides on lap 133, Jake Bollman (in the new HPR No. 55) on lap 139, and teen Tyler Reif, the ARCA 2023 season opener Phoenix150 winner, on lap 141 for P. 5. There were ten finishers with nine on the lead lap. P. 3 through P. 9 were Tanner Reif, 17, (- 4.713), Todd Souza, 58, (-7.318), Kennealy (-11.539), Tyler Reif, 16, (-14.205), Bollman, 15, (-14.572), Joanides, 53, (-15.023), and Lewis, (-17.262).Takuma Koga, 46, from Japan, completed 147 laps after pitting briefly. Ethan Nascimento, 17, and Kyle Keller, 18, dropped out before lap 12.
Nof D events on the third-mile followed. A 35-lap enduro race on the six-turn r-oval started the 14 four-cylinder sedans at 8:45 pm. Ten slower stock class cars started in front of four faster sport class cars. Mikey Killen, 16, drove his Honda Accord from the pole and led 13 laps. Eleventh starter Bobby Ozman paced the next four laps. Fastest qualifier and 14th starter Rodney Argo was second by lap 14 and the leader from lap 20 to the checkers. The all-green race took 13 minutes. Ozman ran the quickest lap of 22.110 but trailed Argo by 0.977. Sport class drivers Jason Woolcott and Mike McIntyre were ten seconds back in P. 3-4. Killen placed fifth and earned 50-points as the stock class winner for the third time in six 2023 events. Rider Gardner and Robert Rice were P. 6-7. Six drivers completed all 35 laps with 12 drivers still on track.
Figure 8: Eleven of the same enduro cars came back for 25 laps on the Figure 8 course. The all-green race took 8:34.060. Second starter Argo, a past 410 sprint car winner at both Ascot Park and Perris, and now from El Segundo, used the same silver No. 9 Honda Prelude to lead all 25 F-8 laps. It was his 42nd IS main event victory in just five years of enduro racing for fun. He currently ranks ninth all-time in IS feature triumphs and is only two wins short of seventh place on the list of all-time winners at IS which opened in March, 1999. Argo’s enduro racing protege Jason Woolcott chased him from lap 3 to the finish and trailed by one length. R. Rice, R. Gardner and Devyn Azzolina were two laps down in third through fifth. Nine of 12 starters were still dodging each other at the dangerous X-intersection at the checkered flag.
The next race was a 13-car skid plate race for enduro sedans. Some drivers used the same cars and some used a different car already fitted with metal ski plates instead of tires on the rear axle. The winner of the 9:10 to 9:21 pm 15-lap race was Robert Rice in his No. 7 Honda Accord. It was his third skid plate victory this season and fourth in enduro sedan racing. It moved him to 78 IS main event victories, second only to ARCA 150 winner Trevor Huddleston. McIntyre and Argo followed. Robbie Salcido and Tanner Huddleston, 19, completed the top five.
The Pick Your Part three-quarter ton red Chevy pickup named “Inferno”, with a J-10 jet engine mounted at the back, was next on the schedule. It fired off without a hitch this month and incinerated an old car parked in the infield in minutes. The driver said it did not fire on June 10 because a fan sat in it and hit a switch that prevented the J-10 engine from firing. The final event before the fireworks was a “Trailer Destruction Race” of 20-laps. Eleven drivers towed decorated boats or cargo on trailers. They raced on the watered third-mile and demolished four sacrificial old house trailers parked on the front straight. Pre-race judging for the $200 best decoration went to the No. 82 Matt Coryell, a newcomer, who had a decorated outhouse. After the checkered flag, drivers pulled to the half-mile front straight and applause/cheers by spectators determined the winner based on entertainment value provided. Bailey Maywald (No. 20) won his second such event over Coryell, and Rice. The expanded 15-minute fireworks show over a darkened speedway went from 10:04 to 10:19 pm. Three Irwindale PD patrol cars helped the largest crowd of the year exit the IS east parking lot onto Live Oak Avenue in an orderly manner. The next IS racing event on Saturday, July 8 will be the monthly NASCAR Night with numerous races on both the half and third-mile ovals.