FULL MOON CHAOS @ IRWINDALE NASCAR NIGHT – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, May 14 – NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Saturday this month fell on a full moon night and looked like the monthly “Night of Destruction” carnage. The busy program had eight main events, including two races with two comparable divisions in the same race, prior to a scheduled ten-minute aerial fireworks. Positives of the event were a crowded pit area with 95 competing cars and trucks and seven first-time competitors at IS in three of the divisions.
Multi-car crashes and three lengthy red flags started during the first LKQ-Pick Your Part late model race. It began at 7:09 and concluded at 7:53 pm. Two red flags flew—the first on lap 3 was for a two car crash high in turn one. The second red on lap 12 involved four cars entering turn one and scattered debris across the racing surface. Andrew Porter, Dennis Arena, Kevin Furden and Nash Youngren were sidelined. Most seriously damaged was Arena’s recently rebuilt ex-HPR 2020-21 IS championship No. 51 Chevy raced by Dean Thompson. Damage required the battered car to be removed on a flatbed. He escaped serious injury. Officials cut five laps from all main events to make up time for the fireworks show.
IS three-time LM champion Trevor Huddleston, 25, started second and led all 25 laps for his 73rd IS feature victory. He told the estimated 2,500 grandstand spectators, “I’m donating all my money earned tonight to the official charity—TSC Alliance.” An auction during the afternoon also raised money for the charity. Runner-up Parker Malone, 25, trailed by 1.648. Linny White (driving Sean Woodside’s No. 45) was third, 2.039 seconds off the lead. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 92.879 mph.
Fastest qualifier was Christian McGhee (No. 57) in his first IS race of the season. He was on the pole but went to his pit before the green. He returned quickly but had to start last. He raced to fourth place, 2.775 seconds behind the winner. Rookie Frankie Muniz, from Scottsdale, AZ, drove the HPR No. 56 impressively. The 36-year old rookie and star of the 2000-06 television show Malcolm in the Middle, started fourth, ran second early, and finished fifth with 13 cars on the lead lap. On a positive note, a season-high 20 late models raced, including an IS newcomer from Gilbert, AZ.
SECOND LM MAIN: The second scheduled 25 lap final race of the night was cut to 20 laps because of the lengthy third red flag of the night in the series. Only 17 cars started because the cars of Arena, Furden and N. Youngren were damaged too severely in the first race. The first eight finishers in race one were inverted for race two. That put Cody Kiemele, 15, on pole, Nick Joanides alongside, and Huddleston outside of row four.
Joanides, in Joe Nava’s No. 77, led the first six laps. Then fifth-starter McGhee paced laps 7-16. Huddleston made an inside pass for the lead on lap 17 exiting turn four and won his IS record 74th main event by 1.548 over McGhee. Malone, Joanides, and Robby Hornsby completed the top five. The second LM main started at 9:40 pm and the major crash of the night occurred on lap 10 when seven cars crashed together at the third turn crashwall. All drivers escaped serious injury. Involved drivers (in order of their final placing) were: Tegan Harlan, Lucas McNeil, F. Muniz, Scott Youngren, L. White, Christian Bazen, and Arizonan Joey Brooks. All were sidelined.
Two yellow flags also extended the race to 10:20, even after officials had lopped five laps from the scheduled 25-lap distance. Officials also moved the fireworks show forward from ninth on the schedule to eighth because of the late hour. Fireworks ran from 10:22 to 10:32 with the track lights dimmed. The less noisy compact car demolition derby with eight Honda Accords ran from 10:35 to 10:57 in the infield. No driver names were given and the orange No. 7 outlasted cars 2, 3 and 22.
TUCKER TIRE ENDUROS: A season-high 20 cars used the six-turn “r-oval” course on the third-mile and infield to the half-mile front straight and ran 30 laps. Ten stock series six-cylinder sedans started in front of the faster sport series cars with 50-points going to the winner in both classes. Dan Azzolina led lap 1. Robbie Salcido came from row three to lead laps 2-15. Ian Rotundo, from 14th, led laps 16-30 in a three-way fight with sport class drivers Rodney Argo and Bobby Ozman. Ozman’s Acura Integra placed second, 1.291 off the lead. Third finisher was Salcido, who won the stock class 50-points. Sport class drivers Mike McIntyre and Jason Woolcott completed the top five in a 14-minute race with one caution flag. It was Rotundo’s third win in his No. 4 Honda Prelude this season and the second for Salcido in his No. 16 Honda Accord.
INEX LEGENDS: A season-high 19 replica 1930s coupes and sedans raced 30-laps in an all-green light 8:27.120 race. Bakersfield’s Logan Chambers, 13, led the first two laps from pole position. Christian Bazen, 16, led lap 3. Four-time IS legends champion Chad Schug paced laps 4-21. Bazen, from Saugus, led laps 22-30 and edged Schug by 0.640. He is the third different winner in three IS mains this season. Fastest qualifier/sixth starter Nathan Quella, 15, from Yorba Linda, finished third. Tyler Hicks and Nevadan Tyler Reif were fourth and fifth. Eighteen of 19 starters finished with 13 on the lead lap. Bazen, who won four of eight legend car mains last season, clocked the quickest lap of 16.661 (71.952 mph).
COMBINED STREET STOCKS AND PRO TRUCKS: Five cars and three trucks raced 25 laps on the third-mile for separate points. Fast timer and April 9 winner Jim Vermillion led 13 laps from the pole and laps 16-20 in his Monte Carlo. Covina’s Jay Verduzco, in a Camaro, led laps 14-15 and 21-25 and beat Vermillion by 1.131. He also won the March 12 season opener. Rookie truck racer Jesus Quintero, 17, from Adelanto, placed third and won the truck division. He trailed the winner by 1.528. Brothers Barry and two-time 2022 truck winner Mike Kelperis, from Whittier, finished fourth and fifth overall. All seven finishers logged 25 laps. The all-green light race took 9:38.029. Verduzco’s 72.378 mph was the fastest lap.
LATE MODEL TRUCKS: The second IS appearance of the Las Vegas-based late model truck series (formerly ASA Trucks) raced a pair of six-lap heats about 4:15 to determine main event grid positions for the 30-lap main on the third-mile. Mark Allison and Gary Wyatt won the heats and started at the back of the main. The finale ran caution-free and finished in 8:18.184. Six drivers were from Las Vegas. The race had three leaders. Chloe Lynch, 17, started third and led two laps. Stan Mallis, a first-time IS visitor, started fifth and led laps 3-9. Seventh starter Allison, the March 12 Irwindale feature winner, executed an inside pass in turn four on lap 10 and led the final 21 laps. He won by 50-yards over first-time IS racer Mellis, who trailed by 3.247 at the checkers.
Wyatt, who owns five of the seven trucks, placed third, a straightaway behind second. Lynch, who also raced her family-owned legend car coupe and placed 11th, drove her No. 4 truck to fourth, 8.738 seconds in back of the winner. First-time IS racer Bill Black, from Glendale, AZ, finished fifth and also completed 30 laps. First-time IS racers Mike Riefler and Arlie Daniel started in the front row, were lapped, and finished seventh and eighth with 29 laps. The series, which competes at the LVMS 3/8th-mile asphalt “Bullring”, has one more 2022 race scheduled in Irwindale.
YOURACELA SPEC LATE MODELS/IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS: The combined spec late models (ex-S2 cars) and Irwindale Race Trucks have similar lap times and raced together on the half-mile for separate points. Nine cars and four trucks raced. Fastest qualifier and rookie Tanner Huddleston, 18, started eighth. Niko Mongenel, a two-time truck 2022 main event winner, started second and led three laps. Truck fastest qualifier Jacob McNeil started seventh and led laps 4-28. Nash Youngren, 19, from Fallbrook, started fourth and fell to sixth. He was third by lap 18 and dueled closely with the two leading truckers. Youngren took second from Mongenel on lap 25 and took the lead from McNeal via an inside pass in turn four on lap 29.
Second generation driver Youngren, whose father races in the late model series, opened a 50-yard lead by the lap 35 checkered flag. It was his second feature triumph in the turquoise blue No. 13 owned by Tim Cash. Runner-up McNeal trailed by 2.145 seconds and earned 50 points for the truck victory. Mongenel, and spec LM drivers Nevin Iwatsuru and Ron Nava completed the top five in a 19-minute event with two caution flags. Eight drivers finished all 35 laps. McNeil turned the fastest lap of 20.502 (87.796 mph).
Following the fireworks show, eight four-cylinder Honda Accords drove into the watered 30′ by 30′ infield “battleground” for the demo derby. The eight cars (four orange/black and four yellow/green) were used in 2019 for an auto soccer match between the orange PYP and Jan’s Towing teams. They waged hari-kari on each other and quickly eliminated four cars. Four cars remained active hitters until near the end. The checkered flag flew just before 11 pm with only the orange No. 7 car still mobile. It concluded the longest IS evening in recent memory.
On Saturday, May 21 the Spears Mfg SRL tripleheader featuring super late models, pro late models and modifieds should pack the grandstand as usual. An RV Figure 8 race and fireworks complete the evening. On Saturday, May 28 the usual “Night of Destruction” events and fireworks will be preceded by a special event—the $5,000 to win pro late model 100-lap feature that should bring numerous out of the area competitors chasing the higher than normal purse.