Irwindale, CA, Sept. 14 – Irwindale Speedway presented eight features Saturday night in shirt-sleeve, low 80-degree temperature. The first Elite Tuner Car Show used both the half and third-mile ovals plus the infield for the second auto soccer match of 2019. More than 2,000 spectators included many members of two car clubs who displayed their cars in the parking lot behind the grandstand during a concours from 4:00 to 7:00 pm.
Track management promoted the evening as “Youth Soccer & First Responders Night”. The CHP and several local cities sent police cars, fire trucks and ambulances that parked on the front straight during the autograph session for fans. Following opening ceremonies, emergency vehicles exited after parading around the half-mile. About 30 of the auto clubs show cars later paraded slowly around the half-mile prior to the final race.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series final race of the season crowned a first-time Irwindale late model champion. Point leader Blaine Perkins, 19, mathematically clinched his first IS track championship by starting the second 35-lap co-feature. The Bakersfield resident entered the evening with a 40-point advantage and won by 36-points (828-792) over series rookie, single main event winner Jace Jones, 14. Perkins also won the 2019 NASCAR Whelen California State Championship.
Perkins also won the 2019 NASCAR Kern County Raceway Park late model track championship a week earlier in an eight-car field at his hometown half-mile. He edged Dylan Garner by three points. Perkins drove the same No. 21 Victory Circle chassis, Four Star Fruit / Auto Park It Chevy owned by Christopher Alan, father of 2018 Irwindale late model champion Lawless Alan. His son, who now races in the Trans Am Series and attends the University of Alabama, was in the pits Saturday to support Perkins.
Trevor Huddleston, 23, won both LKQ/PYP late model 35-lap features in the Racecar Factory-built No. 50 HPR Chevy. The three-time IS late model champion (2015-2017) now has 51 main event victories at IS and ranks fourth all-time in main event triumphs at the 20-year old speedway. He scored 50 of his 51 victories in car No. 50. He won a NASCAR K & N West Series 150 six months ago in a No. 9 Ford owned by IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati.
LATE MODEL TWIN-35s: The first 35 used a straight-up starting lineup based upon qualifying times. Huddleston and his HPR twammate Jace Jones ran one-two all 35 laps in an all-green event that took 13-minutes. Jones trailed by 1.968 seconds. Third place Ryan Vargas was 5.201 seconds off the lead. Christian McGhee, Dylan Garner, Dean Thompson, now 18, Perkins, past track champion Nick Joanides, and double-duty series driver Lucas McNeil also completed 35 laps. Eleven of 12 starters finished.
Second 35: Ten cars started the final event at 10:03 pm with an eight-car inverted lineup based on finishing positions in the first 35. Joanides and Perkins occupied row one and Perkins led the initial 18 laps. First race winner Huddleston was second by lap 11; he took the lead from Perkins on lap 19 with an inside pass in turn four. He opened a half-straightaway lead and won by 3.337 seconds by the end of the all-green 11:47.191 race. Thompson dueled Perkins from lap 30, took P. 2 on lap 32, and finished 15-yards in front of Perkins. Fourth place Joanides barely held off closing Vargas by 0.026. Jones, McGhee, Garner and McNeil followed in sixth through ninth. All completed 35 laps. Only Rodney Peacher, 70, did not finish.
The only position changes in the final 2019 late model track championship points was for fifth and sixth positions. Second year driver Dean Thompson (not related to the late champion CRA Ascot Park 410 ci sprint car driver) scored 88 points (as did two other drivers). McNeil scored 68 points, so they swapped P. 5-6 in final points. Irwindale late model final points (top seven) are: Perkins—828, Jace Jones ®-792, Joanides-762, Vargas-746, Thompson-714, McNeil-708, and Huddleston-646.
AMAZING WINNERS: Other highlights were victories by first-time Irwindale feature winners. INEX Legend Cars 12-year old rookie Jake Bollman, from Huntington Beach, and first-time paved track driver Giovanni Scelzi, 17, from Fresno, were the surprising winners. Bollman missed the first two of seven IS 2019 L/C events because he did not reach the series minimum age of 12 until April 22.He had seventh, fourth and third place finishes prior to his victory.
Bollman became the youngest winner in a legends car at IS and now ranks fifth in points among more than 20 drivers with IS points. He raced his replica 1930s legend car that is a 5/8th scale, tube frame, 120-horsepower, motorcycle engine-powered racing car. Bollman started racing at age 3 in a go-kart and in 2018 became a J-1 and J-2 kart champion. Jake also raced Bandolero cars at San Bernardino’s Orange Show Speedway and became the series champion.
He raced in the Lucas Oil off-road racing series in 2016. This year Bollman has raced the No. 38 Junior Late Model at Madera Speedway, which has a nationally televised series on MAVTV for drivers from ages 12-16. His L/C No. 71 coupe numerals are in his favorite color–neon green–as is part of his driving uniform. His goal is to race full-time.
Scelzi is the younger son of four-time NHRA drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, from Fresno. Gary won three Top Fuel and one Funny Car title during his 1997-2008 straight-line career. He now backs sons Dominic, 22, and Gio in their 410 and 360 ci winged sprint car dirt track racing careers on various national circuits, including the World of Outlaws. Both sons are sprint car feature winners in California and elsewhere. This summer Gio became the youngest-ever WoO and Knoxville (IA) feature winner.
Scelzi phoned car owner Tim Huddleston several weeks ago to inquire about racing at IS. He practiced in the HPR No. 50 spec late model (formerly called S2 cars) Thursday and Friday nights during open-practice sessions. Scelzi qualified fourth fastest of 15 cars/trucks and was second fastest of nine spec late models during Saturday time trials. Six Irwindale Race Trucks (IRT) also qualified for the combined series 40-lap main event.
Both series qualified in the low 20-second bracket (89+ mph). Both series award first place points and recognize the top three finishers in each class during post-race PA interviews. IRT trucks use two-barrel carburetors and spec late models use four-barrel carburetors. Both divisions use the same General Motors spec 602 crate motors.
Scelzi (Gio in sprint car racing) started the feature seventh in a 15 car/truck field. The 40-lap race on the progressively-banked half-mile had one caution flag on lap 14. Gio was tenth after five laps, eighth two laps later, seventh on lap 10, fifth on lap 13 and fourth on the lap 14 green flag. He was the leading car and fourth behind three trucks on lap 20. Then he passed two trucks and moved into P. 2, only ten-yards in back of the race leader.
Andrew Porter and Scelzi battled evenly for six laps with leader Porter outside and Scelzi inside. On lap 27 Scelzi took the lead from Porter with truck point leader Lucas McNeil making the race a three-way battle. Scelzi opened a ten-yard advantage by lap 35 and held it to the lap 40 checkers. He won by 0.830 over McNeil, who used an inside pass in turn four to take P. 2 from Porter on lap 38. Jagger Jones (car No. 19) took third from Porter on lap 39 exiting turn four.
The top three spec late model drivers were: Scelzi, J. Jones and series point leader/reigning champion Kenny Smith, 72. L. McNeil, Porter and brother Jacob McNeil were the top three truckers in event points. Fourteen of 15 starters finished with 12 drivers on the lead lap in a 25-minute contest. One combined race for both series remains on the track schedule that was recently changed to allow about three or more weeks of no racing at IS to accommodate filming of a major action movie. The next oval track race will be October 12.
Pit announcer/IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston interviewed drivers and said, “Scelzi called me and wanted to be a NASCAR driver. We worked it out and he drove my car.” Scelzi then told the crowd, “Thanks to my spotter. He walked me through it. I’d like to come back here and race more.” He should have one more opportunity to race in a You Race LA spec late model this season.
Lucas Oil Truck class winner/series point leader L.McNeil had an eventful race. He was in P. 2 when spec late model point leader Smith (on his back bumper) made contact and vehicles behind them spun, causing a caution flag. McNeil had to pit to replace a flat tire under the yellow and returned to the back of the field. Officials penalized Smith to the back also for avoidable contact. Both series point leaders charged forward quickly. McNeil was third by lap 27 and took second three laps from the finish. His truck slowed with a mechanical problem on the cool-off lap after the checkers. It stopped leaving turn four and he needed a push to get to his interview.
The top ten officially (P. 6-10) were: trucker L. J. Billings, K. Smith, spec late model rookie/enduro sedan graduate Troy Andersen, past Grand Am Modified champion John Watkinson, and Ed Cutler. One race remains for the combined series that produced seven outstanding “race of the night” 40-lap features after IS started running combined races this season during April.
LEGENDS 35: Track history-making legends car rookie Bollman, 12, made his fifth IS start on the third-mile in the replica 1934 Ford coupe a winning one. He was third fastest qualifier, started fifth in a nine-car field, and became the third and final race leader on lap 31 of 35. He actually led lap 29 but a yellow flag negated that pass of lap 21-30 leader Jaron Giannini, from Nevada. Darren Amidon , the five-time IS series champion, started sixth and led laps 12-20. He slowed on lap 21 and drove to the pits on lap 22 with a mechanical problem.
The legend cars main had three yellow flags and one red flag on lap 2. Two cars made contact and fastest qualifier Ricky Schlick hit the third turn crashwall hard at the RF end. He was not injured, but his car had to be towed to the pits. The surprising finish had Bollman, Giannini, and three-time IS legend cars champion Chad Schug in the top three positions. Ricky Leigh, Tyler Hicks, and first-time IS driver Todd Hamann trailed in a 20-minute event.
SUPER STOCKS 25: Fast timer and 2018 IS series champion Rich DeLong III started eighth in a nine-car Progressive Paint Super Stock main. He passed his father Rich on lap 3 and led the final 22 laps. It was seventh victory in seven races this season. He won by 3.424 seconds. Brother Jason DeLong and Jerry Toporek also completed 25 laps. The DeLong brothers dad, Bridgette Shaw, and Harry Michaelian all ran 24 laps in P. 4-6 in the 10:05.437 all-green flag race.
ENDUROS: Four-cylinder Tucker Tire Enduro sedans ran 35-laps and used the third-mile oval instead of the usual r-oval course. A 16-car field had two classes—stock and sport sedans—with all sport class cars starting behind all stock class cars. Separate points were awarded in both classes and winners were interviewed from both classes. Pole starter Brad Stellman led the first ten laps in his Honda Accord.
Bory Molina started 11th in a Toyota Celica Supra and led laps 11-35. He outlasted fellow sport class Honda Prelude drivers Kirk Kubik, the fastest qualifier and tenth starter, and 12th starter Rodney Argo. The first three drivers finished within five yards. Molina’s second victory this season came via hand scoring because his electronic transponder did not operate all 35 laps. Bobby Ozman was fourth. Robert Rice (P. 5 overall) won 50-points for the stock class victory in a Honda Accord. Stellman (P. 8) and Robert Salcido (P. 11) received second and third points in the stock class. Fourteen of 16 starters finished.
AUTO SOCCER: The second match this season again had four Pick Your Part orange cars against four Jan’s Towing black cars. PYP won 5-0 in an 18-minute match in the infield. PYP won 5-1 on May 25. Three K-rails in both the east and west ends formed the goals and an empty 400-pound round propane tank (painted white with black spots) served as the soccer “ball”. The IS ex-black & white police car was the referee car.
The highlight for Jan’s Towing was was two excellent blocks after a PYP car nosed the “ball” directly towards an empty goal. Rodney Argo, an auto soccer rookie and ten time enduro/Figure 8 winner this season, scored the first two goals for PYP. R. Rice scored goal three and R. Salcido scored the final two goals. Auto soccer was revived this year after its last inclusion in a Night of Destruction program during 2015. Fans were vocal and enjoyed the event as they do Figure 8 and trailer races.