CHAMPIONSHIP AWARDS CEREMONY @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Nov. 13 – Irwindale Speedway and Irwindale Dragstrip racers, family and friends celebrated 2022 successful seasons Sunday at the speedway from 4:45 to 7:45 pm in a combined celebration/dinner. It honored NHRA straight-liners and NASCAR oval trackers for their 2022 racing achievements. Plaques were awarded to top drivers in nine dragstrip classes and eight oval track divisions. The event followed the final oval track racing event on the half-mile Saturday night, November 12 for three Sparks Mfg SRL touring series.
About 220 diners enjoyed a complimentary dinner of salad, bread, spaghetti, meatballs, soft drinks, coffee and various desserts. It was provided again this year by IS management in appreciation for the racers’ involvement. Alcohol was available for purchase as well. Food and beverages were served from a speedway concession stand. Attendees dined at 25 tables under the main grandstand. A stage area was in the center with NHRA racers on the east side and NASCAR racers on the west side. Numerous space heaters were situated under the grandstand on an upper 50 degrees evening to make diners comfortable.
The 2021 IS and ID combined championship celebration was held earlier this year on a warm Sunday, February 12 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at 20 tables under the main grandstand because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier season-ending award ceremonies/banquets were held in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in nearby Monrovia and attendees bought tickets in advance.
Tim Huddleston, track president and co-promoter, again served as master of ceremonies. The three-time NASCAR Late Model Irwindale and California State Champion welcomed attendees and thanked them for their participation in 2022. Speedway announcer Tommy Mason was the announcer and track staff members Paul Blevin and Will Kozak assisted with the awards program. Awards were presented first to drag-strip participants and then to NASCAR oval trackers. Special appreciation plaques were presented to surprised recipients between various drivers award segments.
Junior Drags were called to the stage individually as follows:
Group 1 (ages 6-9): Caden Oliveira – Two wins and 394 points.
Group 2 (ages 10-12): Dylan Nelson – Two wins and 372 points.
Group 3 (ages 13-14): Noah Kolb – Two wins and 373 points.
Group 4 (ages 15-17): Paige Smith – Two wins and 330 points.
Junior Comp – Chris Klostreich – Six wins and 510 points.
Summit Drag Racing Series:
Pro Bike – Laverk Harper – won his fourth consecutive ID track championship – Three wins and 505 points.
Sportsman – Hubert Peirce – Two wins and 530 points.
Pro Class – Rob Strong – One win and 494 points.
Super Pro Class – John Castro – won his second consecutive ID title – Two wins and 461 points.
NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series: Rookies of the Year in four classes were called from the audience to receive their awards; They were:
YouRaceLA Spec Late Models: Tanner Huddleston – the 19-year old son of emcee Tim won two of nine main events and finished first among 13 drivers. He set the fastest qualifying time in seven of eight race dates and won the title by 24 points.
INEX Legend Cars: Nathan Quella – the 16-year old from Yorba Linda set the fastest qualifying time three times in eight events and had three third place finishes. He placed third among 44 drivers in final points.
Tucker Tire Enduro Sedans : Rider Gardner, 20, from Glendora, had 11 top three finishes in the stock class driving a Honda Accord and placed fifth in final points among 17 point scorers.
LKQ-Pick Your Pro Late Models: Parker Malone, 25, from Redlands – won the season opener after setting the fastest qualifying time. He finished second in final points, 56 behind the champion.
NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Series: The top three in points were called to the stage in the following order for a group photo. The champion was interviewed by emcee Huddleston before he addressed the audience and gave thanks to his sponsors, pit crew, family and supporters.
- 3 – Barry Kelperis – four podiums in four starts with 188 points.
- 2 – Mike Kelperis – four wins in seven starts with 374 points.
- 1 – Jesus Quintero – the first-year 18-year old driver from Adelanto won twice and had eight top fives in scoring 428 points.
- 3 – Nathan Quella – five top fives, seven top tens and 376 points.
- 2 – Tyler Hicks – one win, six top fives and 388 points for the 2020 series champion.
P.1 – Chad Schug – one win, seven top fives and 414 points. It was his fifth INEX Legends championship. His other titles came in 2010-11, 2015 and 2021.
- 3 – Robby Harryman – one win, eight top fives and 422 points.
- 2 – Jay Verduzco – three wins, eight top fives and 432 points.
- 1 – Jim Vermillion – four wins, eight top fives and 432 points. (Won title based on most wins).
TUCKER TIRE ENDURO—STOCK:
- 3 – Mikey Killen, 15, – 13 top fives and 770 points.
- 2 – Robbie Salcido – seven wins and 850 points.
- 1 – Robert “Master of Mayhem” Rice – seven wins and 874 points. It was his fourth enduro stock class title in a row.
TUCKER TIRE ENDURO—SPORT:
- 3 – Jason Woolcott – one win, 14 top fives and 718 points.
- 2 – Bobby Ozman – eight wins, 16 top fives and 834 points. Ozman finished second in NASCAR National Division 3 and is the Western Region Champion for Division 3.
- 1 – Ian Rotundo – eight wins, 17 top fives (including 16 top twos) and 880 points. He won his second sport class title in a row and is the IS overall Enduro Champion.
YOURACELA SPEC LATE MODELS:
- 3 – Nash Youngren – one win, four top fives and 374 points.
- 2 – Troy Andersen – three wins, six top fives and 398 points.
- 1 – Tanner Huddleston – two wins and only two finishes outside the top two in the eight races with 422 points.
YOURACELA SPEC TRUCKS:
- 3 – Thomas Bramall – three podiums and 226 points.
- 2 – Jacob McNeil – four wins and 438 points.
- 1 – Niko Mongenel – five wins in nine races with 440 points. The title was not decided until the final checkered flag.
LKG-PICK YOUR PART PRO LATE MODELS:
- 3 -Trevor Huddleston – eight wins, 12 podiums in 14 starts, and 636 points.
- 2 – Parker Malone – one win, 12 top fives, and 642 points.
- 1 – Linny White – six wins, 14 top fives (including five runner-up finishes) in the 15 races, and 698 points. He secured his second IS track championship. He also won the IS 2014 Super Late Model championship. A total of 31 drivers scored points.
> Sponsor of the Year: Jan Quakenbush of Jan’s Towing for supplying tow trucks at every race annually.
> Ambassador Award: Tim Kennedy for writing all IS race stories, maintaining track records and list of champions and feature winners since the track opened in 1999.
> Michael Atkinson Humble Hero Award: Quebet “Q” King for working diligently for years in the ticket office and pit credentials office.
> Nights of Destruction Coordinator: Robert “Master of Mayhem” Rice.
Emcee Huddleston thanked his entire family for their involvement at IS since he and Bob Bruncati signed the IS and ID lease in 2018. He thanked his “scrappy little team” for keeping the track going strong for five years and into the future. He thanked Racecar Factory owner Jeff Schrader and Cindy Levin for their constant involvement. He thanked security staff, fire/safety crew, co-IS announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best and the music provided by the booth. He also thanked IS race director Sarah Atkinson-Hancock, who took over in the race control booth when she succeeded her late father Mike. Sister Jannie assumed Sarah’s timer/scorer duties and both have performed flawlessly.
Huddleston praised key office staff members Will Kozak and Paul Blevin for their IS and ID key roles. He lauded Manny Gonzalez for taking over most of the duties of the late operations manager Michael Atkinson. He called driver Ryan Partridge his “reliable problem solver”. He then thanked his wife Lisa “for heading our concessions and novelty/souvenir booth operations”.
Huddleston concluded by thanking his co-promoter Bob and wife Maureen Bruncati for their involvement. He said, “I have raised my three kids here at Irwindale and my entire family is still involved.” Two sons are now IS champions and his daughter has been a frequent singer of the National Anthem when she is home from college. The unique battery-powered holiday tree centerpieces at all 25 tables were made by Lisa Huddleston and were given to persons at each table as souvenirs. Attendees were invited to stay at the site following the awards to “bench race” and visit with friends and many did so.
PS – This writer learned that although Bob Bruncati has ended his ARCA West Series two car team ownership with his 2022 driver (Jake Drew) and car owner championship, he will remain involved at Irwindale as co-promoter. Huddleston said he bought the two Sunrise Ford cars (Nos 6 and 9) and will race them as his High Point Racing Nos 50 and 51 in 2023. His son Trevor will drive the No. 50 in ARCA and a second team driver will be named in the future. IS hosted one ARCA West race in recent years and a second ARCA West race at IS is planned.
The third annual Santa’s Speedway IS Christmas Lights Experience, in partnership with creative Mobile Illumination, Inc.,will commence on December 1 and will run through January 1, 2023. This year it will be a walk-through versus the drive-through experience in 2020-21. It will run from 5 to 10 pm and the cost has been lowered from $59 to $39 for adults and $19 for youngsters on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Prices will be slightly higher for Thursdays through Sundays and holidays. The fourth annual IS All-Star Showdown will be held on the third weekend of January (January 20-21) 2023.