CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT @ IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 7 – Seven championships were decided during the Saturday, Oct. 7 conclusion of NASCAR Advance Auto Parts 2023 point racing for Irwindale Speedway track championships. Double points were awarded in all divisions that ran a single main event Saturday. The spec late model series ran a pair of features that opened and closed racing and each race awarded the usual 50-points to the winner with two points less for each lower position.
Attendance topped 2,500 (lowest this season) on a mid-90s afternoon that dropped to 81 degrees when the first race started at 7:00. Faithful racing fans ignored or recorded two local sports teams playing at the same time on free television about seven miles apart via the 110 freeway. The Dodgers opened baseball’s NLDS playoff series in Dodgers Stadium at 6 pm while undefeated USC played the University of Arizona in the LA Memorial Coliseum at 7 pm and won the game 43-41 in triple overtime. Huge crowds attended both events.
YouRaceLA SPEC LATE MODEL / IS RACE TRUCKS – 1st 30: A field of six cars and two trucks opened competition and raced 30 all-green laps. Pole-sitter Jacob McNeil led the first 17 laps on the half-mile in his No. 97 truck. HPR teammates Tanner Huddleston, 20, and Andrew Chapman traded P. 2 twice before title-contender Huddleston took second on lap 12 and then took first from McNeil on lap 17. Spec LM title contender Andrew Porter, 29, also passed McNeil on lap 18 and pressed Huddleston closely from lap 25 onward. Chapman pressed Porter also during the closing laps in a three-way dogfight. On lap 30 Porter passed Huddleston for the lead on the inside entering turn three and held the point through turn four. He edged Huddleston by a foot as they crossed the finish line side-by-side. Officially, Porter nipped Huddleston by 0.008 with Chapman third, 0.342 off the lead.
McNeil placed fourth overall and first in the truck division. His brother Lucas (the 2018-19 series champion) drove the only other truck (No. 78) in his first start of 2023 and finished sixth. Troy Andersen placed fifth. Huddleston clocked the fastest lap of 88.692 mph. All eight starters finished with seven on the lead lap. The caution-free race took 10:27.905 and averaged 86.000 mph. It was Porter’s third victory of 2023 and his 27th IS main event triumph. He won his third IS series championship after being the 2020-21 IRT truck champion. The newlywed of two months drove the RCF-built No. 43 Chevy owned by his maternal grandfather Kenny Smith, the 2019 Spec LM champion at age 73. Point leader Porter after the second 30 lapper beat title-runner-up Huddleston by 14 points—434 to 420. First-time IS champion J. McNeil won five of the eight truck races and scored 446 points to runner-up and three-time feature winner Nico Mongenel’s 242.
YRLA SPEC LM / IRT – 2nd 30: Six cars and two trucks returned at 9:10 pm for the second 30 and championship deciding season finale on the half-mile. The first four finishers in the first 30 were inverted in the first two rows. J. McNeil, from Acton, and Pasadena resident Chapman occupied the front row. Impressive rookie Chapman, only 14, shot into the lead aboard the HPR No. 55 and opened a 25-yard advantage by lap 25 as championship contenders Porter and Huddleston dueled each other. Porter took second from McNeil on lap 16 and Huddleston took third on lap 18. Porter cut into Chapman’s lead slowly but trailed by 15-yards (-1.055) at the checkered flag. All eight starters finished and seven completed 30 laps.
Prior to interviews with infield announcer Tim Huddleston, the car and truck champions drove to the start/finish line from opposite directions. They did simultaneous burnouts nose-to-nose at the finish line. Huddleston said, “I’ve never seen that before in 23 years at Irwindale.” It was an unplanned, spontaneous celebration. Series rookie/enduro and junior spec LM veteran Mikey Killen, now 17 as of October 1, again finished all 30 laps as he did in the first 30 in his first races on the half-mile. Chapman thanked his parents and team after winning his first feature in 10:26.717 (86.163 mph). This season the series rookie had seven top five and nine top ten finishes. He placed fourth in final points with 372, only 16 behind third place Troy Andersen. Four drivers won the nine main events with Porter a four-time winner. Andy Partridge won three times, and single wins went to Huddleston and Chapman.
JUNIOR SPEC LATE MODEL 30: The new 2023 IS series for drivers age 12 through 16 created by IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati raced on the third-mile for the tenth time in Spec LMs (with restrictor plates to reduce HP). Fastest qualifier Charlie Carty, 12, led all 30 laps from pole position in the blue and orange No. 6 Sunrise Ford. It was his sixth triumph. Mikey Killen, aged out of the series a week ago by his 17th birthday, finished second, -0.956. Johnie Stamps, 13, Skyler Schopp[e, 13, and Ryan Schank, 12, followed. Killen ran the fastest lap at 73.954 mph. The 12-minute event had three caution flags after solo spins. All five drivers were interviewed by co-IS promoter Huddleston after the race and all thanked their parents and sponsors. Points were not kept during this introductory season for the class. There were four feature winners with single wins going to Rowe Luckingbill, 15, Killen, then 16, and Keegan Kaminski, 14. All of the RCF-built cars had Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro bodies (four each).
STREET STOCKS/ PRO TRUCKS 35: Eight cars and five trucks raced on the third-mile to determine champions in both divisions. Fastest qualifier Jesus Quintero, 18, from Adelanto, started on pole and led all the way in his No. 72 truck. He won the pro truck championship by eight points (382-374) over race runner-up Clayton Byers, who trailed his title-rival by 3.074 seconds. Zack Green, from Long Beach, drove his black & gold number No. 28 Camaro from ninth starting to third place after being involved in a first lap turn two crash involving three vehicles. His car received RF fender damage and had to restart lap 1 from the back in the field of 13.
During his post-race interview Green said, “I was ready to pull off the track after the crash, but I decided to continue and see what it would do. I’m glad I did.” Green entered the race leading prior point leader Jim Vermillion by only four points. Street stocks ran eight races in 2023 with five winners. Vermillion won three times and Green twice. Single wins went to Matthew Hicks, Jay Verduzco, and Bryan Harrell. Green won his second IS championship. He also drove his Camaro to the 2014 super stock championship before the super stock division name was changed to street stock in 2019.
Trucker Steve Flood placed fourth overall with street stock title contender Vermillion fifth. Nine of 13 starters (eight on the lead lap) finished the 16-minute race that had a pair of yellow flags. Quintero ran the fastest lap of 72.929 mph. Quintero won his second consecutive pro truck (formerly called West Coast Pro Trucks) championship. He won three of the eight races. Jeff Williams won twice and single victories went to Whittier’s Mike Kelperis in his lime green No. 8 and to rookie Clayton Byers, 23, from Castaic.
INEX LEGENDS 35: A strong field of 18 legend cars raced 35 laps on the third-mile with a seven car inverted starting lineup based on qualifying times. Jim Smith led the first four laps from pole position. Fastest qualifier Jake Bollman, 16, from Huntington Beach, was second after two laps and led laps 5-35 for his fourth victory in the series eight races. Bollman won the first race in March and the last three events. He also raced in the Spears Mfg super late model series and missed three IS legends races. An opening lap crash in turn two involved three cars that started near the front. Ryan Schartau (a pro LM veteran), point leader Logan Chambers, and Stephen Bazen had to restart at the back. Bollman won by 3.722 seconds and won all four of his 2023 races in the series. He turned the quickest race lap of 73.366 mph. He said he plans to take his No. 71 coupe to race soon in the INEX Nationals event at Charlotte, North Carolina. Legends title contender Nathan Quella, 17, dropped out on lap 12.
All eyes were on Schartau and Chambers as they charged from the back to the front. Schartau was in P. 2 and Chambers P. 6 on lap 12. Bandolero graduate Chambers (in his family-owned No. 13 coupe) passed Schartau for second on lap 31 as they worked past lapped cars. Chambers, 14, trailed Bollman by 3.722 seconds; Schartau (in a rental Ricky Schlick No. 24 coupe) placed third, 5.011 seconds back. Five-time IS Legends champion Chad Schug and 2020 series champion Tyler Hicks finished fourth and fifth. The 26-minute race had three yellow flags. Eight of 14 finishers completed all 35 laps. Rookie Michael Spagnola, 27, finished seventh in only his second race. His brother Andrew Spagnola, 37, placed ninth in his first race. The impressive duo from San Dimas bought their Nos. 51 and 38 coupes recently from Arizona and look forward to racing a full season at IS in 2024.
There were eight features this season from March to October and monthly fields ranged from a low of 11 to high of 20 cars. Car counts were 18 three times, 19 and 20 from June to October. Bollman won four times, Nathan Quella twice, and single wins went to Chambers on April 8 and to Las Vegas driver Brendan Tracy on his first visit to IS on July 8. Chambers won his first IS series championship in his second year in the legend car series. He scored 362 points to runner-up Schug’s 334. Quella slipped from P. 2 after race six (only eight points behind point leader Chambers) to third with 296 points.
ENDURO 30: Seventeen four-cylinder enduro sedans (11 stock class and five sport class) raced 30 laps on the six-turn roval course with a mid-backstretch jog into the infield. Stock class cars (without a DOHC ) started in front of all the faster sport class cars. Robert Rice (No. 7 Honda Accord) led four laps from the pole. Twelfth starter Jason Woolcott led laps 5-16. Rodney Argo (No. 9 Honda Prelude) led laps 17-21, 24-25 and lap 30. It was his sixth victory of 2023 and 44th at IS (tied for P. 7 all-time on the IS feature winner list).
Bory Molina, from Glendora, started his self-built No. 71 Toyota Celica at the back after setting the fastest qualifying time (later disallowed). He dueled Argo and led laps 22-23 and 26-29, but he exited the track to the half-mile first turn on the white flag lap and parked at turn four. Argo won by 4.948 seconds over Bobby Ozman’s No. 18 Acura Integra. Mike McIntyre, Woolcott, and Joseph Bereiter (first outing of 2023) completed the top five. Three drivers logged all 30 laps. Molina ran the fastest lap of 82.842 mph. Asked afterwards why he did not finish the final lap, Molina said, “Because my car isn’t legal (tires/engine).” He races occasionally for fun and not for points or money.
Rice finished sixth overall but first in the stock class. It was his 83rdIS main event win, second all-time to 84 victories by Trevor Huddleston. Rice won his fifth consecutive enduro stock class title by 12 points (724-712) over Rider Gardner, who finished seventh Saturday in his No. 76 Honda Accord. Rice had seven victories to three by Gardner. Third in final points was four time winner Mikey Killen with 676 points. Sport class champion Ozman won eight mains in 2023 and beat sport class runner-up and six feature winner Argo 736 to 678. Woolcott was third with 632 points. Ozman won his third IS sport class championship after scoring titles in 2020-21. He now has 23 IS main event triumphs. There were 14 main events run during 11 nights of action for the division. Enduro racing for IS points started in 2018 and one-year only racer Daniel Hudson won the first enduro championship (combined stock and sport classes) by 92 points over retired 410 cu.in sprint car driver Argo. In 2019 the enduro division was split into two classes for stock and faster sport classes with champions in each.
The final event Saturday prior to the usual ten-minute aerial fireworks show was an event called “Demo Divas Demo Derby” with ten enduro sedans–all driven by females. It took place on a 30′ by 30′ watered battleground in the infield. All ten drivers, including several demo derby rookies, backed into and bashed other cars until the last car running was declared the winner. The 18-minute event came down to veterans Cheryl Hyland and Shayla (Zins) Mason. The wife of Tommy Mason, IS track announcer and co-owner of Low Budget TV racing coverage, won with the last car still moving.
The next IS oval track event on Saturday, October 28 will feature Halloween theme Night of Destruction events plus a non-points, high-dollar pro late model race on the half-mile.