Irwindale, CA., Sept. 11 – The annual Irwindale Speedway tribute to first responders Saturday became more significant this year because the date was September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. Patriotic music and tributes took place during opening ceremonies with Irwindale’s mayor and two city council members present. Mention was made about the Irwindale race on September 15, 2001 when the speedway handed out candles and lighters to incoming spectators. Later track lights were turned off and fans lit candles to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost during the 9/11 attacks.
Again this year, numerous fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, tow trucks and even a helicopter parked in the infield prior to NASCAR competition. The 4,500 spectators present were able to check emergency vehicles while they took part in the driver autograph session next to their parked racing vehicles on the front straight. At 7 pm Mayor Manuel Ortiz gave the command, “Drivers start your engines.” An Irwindale Police Department black and white SUV patrol car served as the pace car for the first of two NASCAR pro late model 35-lap features.
Twelve LKQ Pick Your Part NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series late models opened racing with the first 35-lap feature. It was the final night to earn local, state and national NASCAR points for that series. Point leader Dean Thompson, the reigning Irwindale and California series champion, entered the evening with a slim 14-point lead. A maximum of 100-points were available for any driver able to win both 35-lap races.
Thompson did not have to contend with his two HPR Chevy teammates–Jake Drew (second in points) and Trevor Huddleston (fourth-ranked). They were in Oregon racing as Sunrise Ford teammates for IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati at the Portland International Raceway road course Saturday afternoon. They both compete full-time in the ARCA Menards West Series and Saturday was the sixth of nine point races. Thompson drove his HPR No. 51 Thompson Pipe Group Chevy to second fastest qualifying time and started on the front row next to third-ranked point driver Ryan Schartau, the fastest qualifier.
Schartau led 34 laps but finished second to third-starter Nick Joanides, 51, a three-time IS champion in super late models and late models in 2008-09. Joanides drove Joe Nava’s No. 77 past Thompson on lap 15 and waged a side-by-side battle with Schartau to the finish. He made frequent stabs for the lead on the inside of outside-running Schartau. On the final lap Joanides went low in the third and fourth turns and emerged with the lead and 0.142 victory over Schartau. It was Joanides’ 56th IS main event triumph and first since May 11, 2019. He ranks fifth on the list of drivers with the most IS victories. “I’m so happy to win again,” Joanides said. He thanked the large crowd for attending and his long-time car owner Nava.
The all-green light race started at 7:06 and took 11-minutes. Scott Youngren started fourth, passed points-conscious Thompson for third spot on lap 22 and finished third, 1.296 off the lead. Thompson settled for fourth, 3.003 behind Joanides and added 44 points to his season total. P 5-10 — Lucas McNeil, Kevin Furden, Dustin Vandermooren, teenagers Ethan Cheek, 16, and Tegan Harlan, 18, and Rodney Peacher, 72, also completed 35 laps. The winner averaged 88.820 mph.
The second 35-lap pro late model main started at 9:35 with the first eight finishers from race one inverted. That gave rookie Cheek pole position. The teen led the first two laps in a No. 62 owned by his father Darren, a three-time IS champion (2002 and 2007 super stocks and 2013 IS race trucks also carrying No. 62). McNeil led laps 3-9 in a tight, three-way contest with Youngren and Joanides. On lap 10 Youngren, from Fallbrook, took command in the distinctive all turquoise blue, yellow numeral No. 13 owned by Tim Cash. Joanides followed into P. 2 at the same time.
Youngren was a six-time IS feature winner in his maroon No. 45 late model during the first decade of racing at IS, which opened in 1999. He returned to racing with his son Nash, 18, recently. His seventh career main event victory followed a third place in race one. Joanides battled Youngren closely to the finish line, but trailed by 0.218 and earned 98 points for his P 1 and P2 finishes. Schartau placed third, 6.128 seconds behind Youngren. McNeil, recent COVID positive-test recoveree Thompson, Harlan, Furden, Vandermooren, Cheek and Peacher completed the top ten and all logged 35 laps. The all-green race took 13 minutes; the winner averaged 76.350 mph.
FINAL 2021 POINTS: The top ten are: Thompson 632, Schartau 604, Joanides 578, McNeil 562, Drew 532, Huddleston 482, Peacher 456, Vandermooren 426, Youngren 310, and 15-year old series rookie Cody Kiemele 250. Other Irwindale racing series will conclude their point seasons on Saturday, October 9.
Spec LM/ Irwindale race trucks 40: The other main event on the half-mile was a 40-lap contest with a season-high nine YouRaceLA spec late models and six race trucks with comparable lap times. Dennis Arena started second and led the first six laps in his No. 4 truck. Then fastest qualifier/sixth starter Andy Partridge made an outside pass on lap 7 and led the final 34 laps in car owner Robert Arevalo’s No. 21 spec late model. It was his fourth victory in seven races this season.
Fallbrook’s Nash Youngren, the 18-year old son of late model race two winner Scott Youngren, started seventh in the No. 13 Tim Cash-owned spec late model. He took second from truck series point leader Andrew Porter on lap 30 and held it. The second generation driver who started racing late last season in the series, drove his best race at IS. He earned second place points and money. Porter placed third overall and won the truck series 50 points. He increased his point lead with his sixth victory in seven races.
Truckers Arena and fastest truck qualifier Jacob McNeil finished fourth and fifth overall. The cars of pole starter Robby Hornsby (No. 43 of Kenny Smith), Nevin Iwatsuru, Ed Cutler, and Griffin Steinfeld followed. Truckers Nico Mongenel and Legend Cars veteran Tyler Hicks also completed 40 laps. The all-green race took 14:01.793 and the winner averaged 85.352 mph.
THIRD MILE RACING:
> INEX Legend Cars had a season-high 19 cars present including several new cars for teenage drivers. Three cars came from Las Vegas and there were two female drivers. Jake Bollman, 14, set the fastest qualifying time during the afternoon and started outside row four with an eight-car inverted lineup. He took the lead from truck racing veteran/pole starter Andrew Porter on lap 6. Bollman, who has expanded his racing into pro late models this season, won by ten yards over Tyler Hicks. The 19-minute event had two caution flags after solo spins.
Rookie Sean Hingorani, 14, started fifth in the new No. 69 coupe maintained by racer Ricky Schlick. He placed a career-best third. Veterans Chad Schug and Porter followed. Rookie Nathan Quella, 15, father Chad Hadlick, Mike Vanderlip, Las Vegan Jovan Fox, and son Justice Hadlick completed the top ten. Thirteen of 18 starters finished.
> Street stocks 25: Eight drivers raced 25-laps on the third-mile. Fastest qualifier Craig Rayburn, 58, drove from eighth starting to first by lap 7 and led the final 19 laps. The series 2004 IS track champion drove a Camaro with his usual No. 18. It was his sixth victory in seven mains this season. The 11-minute race had one caution flag for a spin on lap 17. Covina resident Jay Verduzco, first six laps leader Robby Harryman, Jerry Toporek, and Harry Michaelian completed the top five with the top four on the lead leap. Rayburn’s 71.209 mph was the fastest lap.
> Enduro sedans raced a pair of twin-25-lap races on the five-turn r-oval course that used a jog onto the half-mile across the start/finish line. The usual backstretch jog into the infield was not used because 18 RV/Trailer entrants were parked there. Nineteen cars (in sport and stock classes) started the first event. Stock class drivers Robby Salcido (L 1-4) and Mike DiGregorio (L 5-8) paced the field early as faster sport sedans raced forward quickly.
Fastest qualifier Rodney Argo, a former 410 cu. in. sprint car driver and 1998 Perris Oval Nationals feature winner, led laps 19-25. He won by seven seconds in his No. 9 Honda Prelude. The Gardena resident won his 33rd feature at IS since he started racing for fun several years ago. Fellow sport class drivers Bobby Ozman (a two-time enduro champion) and Ian Rotundo followed. John Beard (Honda Accord) started seventh and placed fourth to win the stock class. All 19 starters finished the 7:55.333-minute race with nine drivers on the lead lap.
The second enduro 25 lapper went to San Pedro’s stock class driver Jason Woolcott, who led every lap in a nine-minute event. Rick Conti, from Alhambra, placed second and earned 50 points as the sport class winner. Argo, from 19th grid position, Rotundo, and Robert Rice completed the top five. The next NASCAR Night will be Saturday, October 9 when the four preceding divisions will crown 2021 IS champions.
The evening concluded with a 20-lap, ten-minute Figure 8 event featuring 18 mini-RVs towing trailers with boats. The unscored event provided near misses and one minor hit of a trailer at the X-intersection. Robert Rice and Joe Labrosciano traded the lead at mid-race, but Rice prevailed in the closing laps over Labrosciano. A ten-minute aerial fireworks show closed the eventful evening at 10:14 pm.