IRWINDALE — 2019 CHAMPIONSHIP AWARDS BANQUET – By Tim Kennedy
Monrovia, CA., Feb. 8 – The Irwindale Speedway 2019 championship awards banquet took place here Saturday in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Courtyard Hotel. Some 180 persons feted honorees of six NASCAR Whelen Al-American Racing Series and four NHRA Summit ET Racing Series. Six special appreciation awards also were given to deserving persons in the audience.
IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston emceed the event. It began with cocktail hour at 6:00 pm, followed by a catered three course dinner at 7:00, and awards presentations from 8:00 to 10:15 pm. Season highlight videos by LBTVplayed on a screen behind the stage prior to the awards ceremony. The emcee mentioned how important sponsors are for car owners and speedways. He thanked Everlast Roofing, Jan’s Towing, Lucas Oil, Pinnacle Peak Steakhouses, and LKQ Pick Your Part for continuing contributions to IS.
Two of the four Irwindale Dragstrip 2019 champions were present and accepted their awards. Jack Johnson and Jeff Jones spoke about their straight-line careers and invited others to join them at the eighth-mile dragstrip and also have fun. A female junior drag racing participant spoke about junior drag racing, which has three classes for ages 6-9, 10-13, and 14-17.
More than 40 door prizes, including a large television. automotive and recreational prizes, and apparel were distributed to holders of door prize tickets given to each attendee. Prize recipients also included persons who answeredIrwindale Speedway-related trivia questions correctly.
Oval track champions honored in order were:
INEX LEGEND CARS: Champion Darren Amidon, 34, won four of eight main events and his sixth IS legends championship by 12-points. He and runner-up Ricky Schlick were unable to attend. Tyler Hicks, P. 3 in points, accepted his trophy and said he raced 25 times last season.
Progressive Paint SUPER STOCKS: Champion Rich DeLong III, 31, won all eight main events and set fastest qualifying time for all eight events. He repeated his 2018 and 2010 SS championships in a division dominated by his family. His brother Jacob and father Rich also raced Chevy SS cars owned by the family.
Tucker Tire ENDUROs: The affordable entry level racing class was split into two divisions (DOHC sport and SOHC stock) in 2019 and had two champions.
> Sport champion Bobby Osman (No. 18 Acura Integra) won two of 10 mains and captured the title by 12-points. He said he will step up to the late model division in 2020 and drive one of Joe Nava’s cars. P. 2 Rodney Argo was not in attendance.
> Stock champion Robert Rice (No. 7 Honda Accord) collected his awards and thanked his long-time sponsor Pick Your Part. He won two of 10 mains and the title by 24-points. Runner-up Brad Stillman was not present. P. 3 Robbie Salcido collected his trophy on stage.
YouRaceLA SPEC LATE MODELS: Champion Kenny “Cowboy” Smith, 73, is the oldest track champion in IS history. He won four of 10 features and repeated his 2018 championship. He said it was his tenth track championship including Saugus Speedway. He emotionally told the audience that it was the first ceremony his wife Marylou missed. He said she is receiving hospice care at home. Runner-up John Watkinson also raced at Saugus. Third place Troy Andersen thanked his sponsor Jan’s Towing, Joe Nava and his parents. Fifth place Andy Partridge, 29, received the rookie of the year trophy. He won three of 10 features in the formerly called S2 cars.
Lucas Oil RACE TRUCKS: Champion Lucas McNeil, 26, won five of 10 features and earned his second consecutive crown by four points. He thanked family members. He also races a late model. Runner-up Andrew Porter gave a spirited acceptance monologue and concluded by saying that it was great fun racing with fellow competitor Kenny Smith, his grandfather. Third place Dennis Arena was absent, but P. 4 Jacob McNeil (Lucas’ younger brother) also thanked family members.
LKQ Pick Your Part LATE MODELS: Champion Blaine Perkins,19, won four of the 18-series races aboard the No. 21. Lawless Alan won the 2018 IS championship driving it as No. 25 for his father. The Bakersfield resident won his title by 36-points. He also won the 2019 Kern County Raceway and California State NASCAR titles as well. He said he started racing at IS on the third-mile in a Bandolero and will be racing a Sunrise Ford for Bob Bruncati in the 2020 ARCA West Series.
Late model runner-up Jace Jones, from Arizona, was unable to attend. The 14-year old grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones won a main event for HPR and was the series leading rookie in 2019. Third place Nick Joanides accepted his award and recalled racing at Saugus Speedway in a car bought from John Watkinson and made race-ready by Tim Huddleston. Late model P. 5 driver Dean Thompson, 18, also spoke and will drive for HPR in 2020.
SPECIAL APPRECIATION AWARDS:
> Ambassador Award – The second annual award went to car owner/ex-driver Robert Arevalo, who fields three spec late models for other drivers.
> Sportsman of the Year – Late model owner/driver Rodney Peacher, 71, accepted and said, “I’m still racing. I’m not winning, but I’m still racing. My grandson saw a video on TV and said grandpa you’re winning.”
> Irwindale Speedway Award – to Breanna McNeil, mother of the truck racing McNeil brothers. Last year Marylou Smith won this award.
> Real Life Hero Award – went to late model No. 18 owner/driver P. J. Hernandez who served in the military on active duty in the Middle East.
> A new Angel Award – to John DeHomme.
Huddeston said he and his wife Lisa spent so much time at Irwindale Speedway it was their home away from home. He and Lisa, who was ins charge of banquet arrangements, accepted a gift bench on stage and sat on it. He recognized by name scores of individuals who keep the track functional all year. IS 2020 schedule cards distributed at the banquet showed IS increased from 17 in 2019 to 23 Saturdays this season. Tim Huddleston concluded by announcing Paul Blevins, Indy Car Series and Indianapolis 500 starter for the last 20 years, has been hired full-time as IS operations manager. IS races will be televised taped delayed on MAVTV and the track lease has been extended as long as the current management team wants. Lisa concluded by thanking “everyone present for making Tim’s dream come true. It is his love and passion. I hope he gets to do what he wants to do. Let’s go racing.”