Irwindale, CA, Oct. 9 – It was “champions night” at Irwindale Speedway on the usual NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series second Saturday of the month. The top tier Pro Late Model schedule concluded on September 11 when Dean Thompson, 20, from Anaheim Hills, won his second consecutive track championship. He won one of 14 main events and beat the runner-up by 28 points with 26 drivers earning points. All other series had 2021 IS series championships in play with 59 racing vehicles and 4,800 spectators present.
> YouRaceLA Spec Late Models: Andy Partridge, 32, from Rancho Cucamonga, won his first track championship by 52 points aboard Robert Arevalo’s RCF-built No. 21. He won five of nine features and 16 drivers earned points.
> Race Trucks: Andrew Porter, 27, from La Verne, won his second consecutive truck series title by 24 points. He won eight of nine races and nine drivers earned points.
> INEX Legend Cars: (Double points) – Chad Schug, 33, from Huntington Beach, captured his fourth Legends championship b0y 46 points after eight events in which 36 drivers earned points. Chad, the 2010, 11, 15 and 21 champion), won one feature—the season finale. Five drivers won the eight mains.
> Street Stocks: (Double points) – Craig Rayburn, 58, from Simi Valley, won his second title in the series by 44 points in his own No. 18 Chevy Camaro. He won seven of eight mains. Seventeen drivers earned points. His first IS title season was 2004.
> Mini Stocks: (Double points) – Ford Pinto driver Greg Didoha, 67, from Mohave, won his first championship by 72 points after five events in which 19 drivers received points. Four drivers won main events and three drove the No. 51 Pinto to victory. As the only entrant Saturday (because of a conflicting OSS race date) Greg “won” a 10-lap single-car run during the afternoon. He became the second oldest IS series champion at the speedway that opened in 1999. Kenny Smith won 2018-19 spec LM titles at ages 72-73.
> Enduro sedans: Ten events awarded separate points in two classes–Sport (OHC-equipped) and Stock. They raced on five or six turn “r-ovals” on the third-mile, infield and front straight at start/finish).
> Sport class: Ian Rotundo, 29, from Sylmar, won his first IS championship by 28 points aboard his No. 4 Honda Prelude. He won six mains and took the title by 28 points. Eleven drivers earned points.
> Stock class: Robert Rice, 55, from Hawthorne, drove his orange PYP No. 7 Honda Accord. It was his third consecutive title. He edged John Beard by four points (762-758) in a dramatic finale. Seventeen drivers earned points.
The penultimate IS oval race of 2021 started with the appearance of the Northview High School of Covina 66-member marching band performance of the National Anthem on the front straight. The Covina Valley Unified School District requested the opportunity as as post-COVID reward for band members. Following their well-received performance, band members received grandstand seats for the races and fireworks show before they bussed back to the campus.
The first of two combined spec late models and race trucks 30-lap features opened main event action at 7:10 pm on the half-mile. A season-high ten cars and season-high seven trucks raced. Fastest overall qualifier Andy Partridge, started from pole position with second fastest Nick Joanides, 51, alongside in his first ride aboard Kenny Smith’s No. 43 spec LM. Absent Ryan Partridge had driven it to two victories in August. Joanides led all 30 laps and won by 0.850 over polesitter A. Partridge. It was real estate appraiser Joanides’ 57th feature victory at IS, fifth best total at the track.
Truck racer Andrew Porter started fourth and finished third to earn the 50-point truck series victory. Trucker Jacob McNeil started third and finished fourth overall. Nash Youngren, 18, drove his No. 13 spec LM to fifth. Fourteen of 17 starters (ten cars and seven trucks) finished the 10:16.297 all-green light event. The winner averaged 87.620 mph and ran the fastest lap of 89.370 mph.
Actor/racing fan Frankie Muniz, 38, (of TV show “Malcolm in the Middle” fame) drove one of three High Point Racing team cars (No. 56). He set the 11th fastest overall time during 4:15 pm qualifying. He started 11th and finished ninth with 12 of 14 finishers on the lead lap, 10.474 seconds behind the winner. Muniz had raced the HPR No. 50 spec LM in the last “celebrities-only” race in 2016 against movie/TV actors/actresses and a TV news person.
The second spec LM/truck 30-lap feature was the final point race of the season on the oval. The first six finishers from race one were inverted. That put trucker Dennis Arena on pole and with teen Youngren alongside. Arena led two laps and Porter paced laps 3-20. A. Partridge led laps 21-30 and defeated Joanides by 0.374. Porter, the highest finishing trucker, was third. Youngren and truckers J. McNeil and Arena followed.
Nico Mongenel (truck), rookie Aaron Combs (HPR No. 51), Nevin Iwatsuru (car), Ed Cutler (car), L. J. Billings (truck), spec LM title-contender Troy Anderson, and Muniz (HPR No. 56) all finished 30 laps in P. 7-13 order. The all-green race took 10:17.483 and averaged 87.452 mph. Joanides again logged the quickest lap of 88.661 mph. During time trials A. Partridge set a new track record of 19.721 (91.273 mph). That eclipsed the old record of 19.859 (90.139 mph) set by Robby Hornsby on April 8, 2017.
ENDUROS: The first of two 25-lap Tucker Tire enduro sedan mains on the five-turn “r-oval” course used the third mile with a jog onto the half-mile at start/finish. The two class event started all nine stock four-cylinder sedans in front of the faster sport sedans which started tenth through 18th. Robert Rice started sixth and led the initial 12 laps. Fourteenth starter Bory Molina (Toyota Celica) led laps 13-25 and earned the overall victory and 50 points in the sport class. Jason Woolcott, of San Pedro, came from ninth starting to earn second overall and win the stock class 50-points. The 12-minute all-green race averaged 57.965 mph.
The second 25-lap enduro main has stock class championship contenders John Beard on pole and Rice alongside in Honda Accords. Beard led laps 1-4 and 10-13. Rice led laps 5-9 and 14-16. Robby Salcido’s third-starting Honda Accord led laps 17-23. Molina, from 18th, led lap 24, but Rodney Argo took the lap 25 checkers first for his 34th victory at IS. Salcido, Woolcott, Beard, 2019-20 sport class champion Bobby Ozman, Rotundo, Rice and Molina followed in P. 2-8 order and on the lead lap.
Beard, who entered the race only two points behind Rice (712-710) in the stock class, appeared to be a first-time champion over Rice and was announced as the champion. But wait. On the final lap, P. 6 Beard hit and spun P. 5 Rice 360 degrees on the backstretch. That resulted in Beard crossing the finish line fourth and Rice seventh. Beard apparently earned 46 points to Rice’s 44 and that left them tied at 756 points. By rule, ties are broken by most wins and Beard had seven to two by Rice so Beard appeared to be a new champion in the third year of two enduroses.
However, officials reviewed scoring and because Beard had spun Rice and gained positions that action resulted in a penalty. The racing director moved Beard one position behind Rice as is the usual IS practice. Rice finished sixth overall and Beard seventh. That gave Rice P. 3 in the stock class (46 points) and Beard P. 4 (44 points) so Rice won his third consecutive title by four points (762-758) over Beard. The race took 8:06.021 and third finisher Jason Woolcott ran the fastest lap. The first eight finishers officially were: Argo, Salcido, Woolcott, Ozman, Rotundo, Rice, Beard and Molina. All eight completed 25 laps with 14 of `18 starters still racing. Woolcott’s 18.451s was the quickest lap.
LEGENDS 30: Sixteen INEX coupes and sedans ran 30 laps on the third-mile oval in 21-minutes with two caution incidents. An opening lap crash entering turn three had leader Joe Smith spin out and stop in mid-track. Cars veered left and right to miss him. Skyler Meisenbach, running 12th, struck the left side of Smith’s car hard and the red flag flew. Rookie Smith was helped from his car and was shaken but escaped serious injury. The cleanup took 16 minutes. Title contender/third starter Tyler Hicks was only two points behind the point leader. He led three laps but also spun out entering turn three on lap 4 and was sidelined in the ensuing crash.
Point leader Chad Schug started fourth and led laps 4-6. Four-time 2021 feature winner Christian Bazen executed an inside pass from turn four to start/finish on lap 7 and led laps 7-28. Bazen, 16, spun leaving turn four at the white flag and Schug led the final two laps. He won by 0.567 over fastest qualifier/rookie Sean Hingorani, 14, in one of driver Ricky Schlick’s four Legends in the event from his fleet of ten Legends available for rental. Rookie Gavin Ray, 15, started second and finished third, three seconds back. Rookie Nathan Quella, 15, drove a Schlick rental to fourth. Justice Hadlick placed fifth and was the last driver on the lead lap. Ten of 18 starters finished. Bazen ran the fastest lap of 16.627 while leading.
STREET STOCKS 25: Craig Rayburn started fourth and led all but the last two laps in his No. 18 Camaro. It was his seventh victory in eight races this season and 14th at IS. Fastest qualifier Jay Verduzco started sixth in a seven car field and trailed Rayburn by 1.574. Robby Harryman (Camaro) placed third, 4.240 in arears. Ken Michaelian sub-drove for his father Harry in a 1974 Dodge Dart and was the only other lead lap driver. Vermillion ran 24 laps for P. 5 in a race with one caution flag.
DEMO DIVAS DEMO DERBY: A 14-car field of female drivers competed for the $1,000 victory in well-used enduro four-cylinder sedans on a soapy-water soaked section of the infield. Large white tires marked the battleground. Drivers smashed and bashed for 25 minutes to 10:25 pm when the starter mercifully waved his checkered flag with only three cars still moving. KTLA-Channel 5 morning news reporter Wendy Burch was a pit reporter earlier and demo derby contestant. However, her No. 5 car failed.
Judges in race control consulted while a ten-minute aerial fireworks show took place over the darkened infield. Then using the PA, Tommy Mason announced the demo derby winner as No. 93 Jessica DeNike, the fiancee of veteran trailer race driver Cody Pearlstein. New mom/IS timer/scorer Jannie Atkinson (No. 17) and Cheryl “Mistress of Mayhem” Hyland (pink No. 176) placed second and third.
During the drivers pit meeting prior to practice promoter Tim Huddleston announced that the 2021 season awards ceremony will take place Saturday, January 8, 2022 under the main grandstand. Current COVID precautions will be in place. The final IS event of 2021 will be Saturday, October 30. The “Haunted Halloween Night of Destruction” event will have enduro sedans and skid plate racing, plus Figure 8s, trailer destruction race, and a PYP jet-engine truck burn-down of an old car in the infield.