Irwindale NASCAR Night– 5 Divisions, 6 Mains – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA., May 11 – The third 2019 Irwindale Speedway “NASCAR Night” had five divisions in action and six main events Saturday on the half and third-mile ovals and Figure 8 course. “Youth Baseball Night” had numerous youngsters in their team uniforms among the estimated 1,800 spectators present on Mother’s Day eve.

Featured LKQ Pick Your Part NASCAR late model twin-35 lap features on the half-mile opened and closed the program. Thirteen cars comprised the field this week. Two missing drivers were NASCAR K & N West touring series drivers—Trevor Huddleston and Jagger Jones—who were racing Saturday in K & N West twin-100-lap point races at Tucson, AZ.

The Irwindale twin 35-lap mains produced the second victories of the season for a pair of teenage drivers with recent experience racing in NASCAR and ARCA national series. Ryan Vargas, 18, won the first 35 after starting second. Blaine Perkins, 19, won the second 35-lapper after starting fourth. In 2014 he became the youngest NASCAR series feature winner on the Irwindale half-mile and still holds that distinction.

Both late model winners drove cars rented from established Irwindale teams with cars available for rent. Vargas drove the Luis Martinez No. 26 that the Vargas family sold in 2017 when Ryan went east to race on the NASCAR K & N East circuit. Perkins again drove a Lawless Alan family-owned car. Feature victories were the fifth in an IS late model for Vargas and fourth for Perkins.

The second-ever combined race for two division–Lucas Oil Race Trucks and You Race LA Spec Late Models (formerly called S2 cars)–produced another exciting and evenly-matched 40-lap race on the half-mile. It could be called the race of the night. The combined event awarded separate points towards the 2019 track championships in both divisions. Winners were Robby Hornsby (car) and Lucas McNeil (truck).

Third-mile racing produced the second consecutive 35-lap victory for five-time INEX Legend Cars track champion Darren Amidon. It was his 39th feature triumph at IS. The 30-lap Progressive Paint Super Stock main went to reigning series champion Rich De Long III, from Castaic. He now has won all three main events this season.

The four-cylinder enduro cars 25-lap Tucker Tire (of Covina) 25-lap Figure 8 main was a flag-to-flag victory for Robert Rice. He set fastest qualifying time Saturday afternoon. He started on the pole and led every lap despite close pressure from two drivers. Rice drove his usual PYP orange No. 7 Honda Accord.

FIRST LM 35: Fastest qualifier Jace Jones, 14, started from pole position in the usual straight-up start of the first main based upon single-car qualifying. The Scottsdale, AZ resident led the first five laps aboard the HPR No. 55 Chevy that his brother Jagger raced during the last two seasons. His grandparents, Parnelli and Judy Jones, mom, and uncle Page Jones, were present to watch the legend cars graduate compete as a rookie on the half-mile.

Vargas, who is seeking sponsorship for a NASCAR truck series ride, executed a crossover pass low in turn four on lap 6 and led the final 30 laps. Perkins took second from Jones on lap 18 in three-wide racing in turn four with Vargas the third racer involved. During the final ten laps Jones slipped from third to sixth with a deflating tire. Rookie Dean Thompson, 19, from Anaheim Hills, Lucas McNeil, Nick Joanides, and Jones completed the top six. Dylan Garner, Rodney Peacher, Andy Allen and Keith Furden also completed all 35 laps in the all-green 13:29.975-timed race.

All 13 drivers finished. Early leader Jones ran the fastest lap of 92.379 mph. Vargas beat runner-up Perkins by 2.036 seconds and averaged 77.780 mph. During his interview at the finish line Vargas tearfully revealed he dedicated the victory to his late maternal grandmother, who succumbed to breast cancer earlier in the week. He had placed a breast cancer awareness pink ribbon on his race car in her memory.

SECOND LM 35: The first four rows for the second main were inverted by finishing positions in the first 35. That put Garner on the pole. Jones was moved to row four because his team changed a flat tire after the first 35. Teams were required to race both races on the same tires. Garner led four laps in his self-built No. 97 over L. McNeil, the outside front row starter. Perkins and Joanides made it a four-car, nose-to-tail battle until McNeil dipped low in the fourth turn and took the lead from Garner on lap 5 and Perkins also moved past Garner. The top four drivers continued their torrid battle lap after lap. On lap 15 Joanides dropped Garner to P. 4.

The yellow flag waved on lap 24 after HPR teammates Jones (P. 6) and Thompsopn (P. 7) got together leaving turn two. Thompson (on the inside) corrected a slide and his RF fender hit the back of Jones’ car, which hit the backstretch wall hard and stopped. He was unhurt, but his damaged car was sidelined. The leading series rookie had ranked fourth in points as of May 10.

A lap 24 two-by-two restart resulted in Garner reclaiming P. 2 over McNeil, Joanides, Vargas and Thompson. The top five exchanged positions each lap and Joanides took second from Garner on lap 26. A lap later McNeil and Vargas ran second and third with Joanides, Thompson and Garner in P. 4-6. On the white flag lap Thompson took fourth over Joanides and Garner. Allen, septugenarian Peacher, first-time Irwindale racer/Orange Show SLM regular Jim Vermillion, and David Sear completed the top ten and all logged 35 laps. Perkins ran the fastest lap of 90.735 mph.

LUCAS OIL TRUCKS/YRLA SPEC LM 40: The 13 vehicle starting field (seven cars, six trucks) had fastest qualfiers in each division on the front row. Robby Hornsby, 27, who has not raced since he won the 2017 Spec LM track championship, came back from retirement following the birth of a child to start on pole. He drove Robert Arevalo’s No. 19 for the first time. He led laps 16-40 and won by 1.227 over Spec LM rookie Andy Partridge.

Truck fast timer Lucas McNeil led five laps and ran second to lap 18 in a close five vehicle duel. McNeil placed third and earned 50 first place points in the truck series. Andrew Porter’s truck raced all the way with his 72-year old grandfather Kenny Smith, the 2018 Spec LM series champion and current point leader. Porter edged “grampa” by 0.196. John Watkinson, Niko Mongenel, L. J. Billings and Jacob McNeil followed and also ran all 40 laps. The caution-free race took 13:54.161; the winner averaged 86.314 mph. L. McNeil’s 88.015 mph was the fastest race lap.

Third-mile action started with a 35-lap Legends nine-car race that used a fully-inverted by speed starting lineup. Chad Schug led lap 1 and newcomer Jake Bollman paced the next two laps. Reigning series champion Darren Amidon led laps 4-35 and won his 39th legends car feature at IS. He drove his own No. 33 coupe.

Brent Scheidemantle, the 2014 LC track champion in his own No. 98 coupe, has not raced since 2014. He completed his college education and earned a masters degree in chemical engineering. He said he is now employed for a firm developing renewable energy for fuel. He drove the No. 08 coupe raced by two other drivers earlier this season. “Donny St. Ours called me to see if I wanted to race his car and I said sure,” Scheidemantle said. He said his mother and two best friends were in the grandstand. Shaking off rust during afternoon practice, he set fastest qualifying time by 0.002 over Ricky Schlick.

Scheidemantle, from Alta Loma, charged from ninth to fifth by lap 5. Following a lap 32 caution flag, Scheidemantle was all over the back of leader Amidon. They exited turn four and raced towards the waving checkered flag. Scheidemantle pulled to the left of Amidon’s car and it appeared he briefly inched ahead for the victory. However, electronic transponders showed Amidon won by 0.004, the closest IS finish ever in the series. Schlick, Tyler Hicks, Austin Farr, Schug, Bollman, and Ricky Leigh followed and also logged 35 laps in the 11-minute event. Amidon ran the quickest lap of 73.205 mph.

Six super stocks raced 30 laps on the third-mile. Reigning champion and current point leader Rich De Long III set fastest qualifying time and started last. He took the lead on lap 3 and won by 1.931 in his No. 84 Chevy SS. Jerry Toporek, from Venice, led two laps in his 1970 Dodge and placed second. Harry Michaelian’s 1973 Dodge Dart was third, one lap down. Bridgette Shaw was fourth. Rich De Long’s father and younger brother Jason blew their engines and did not finish. The winner ran the fastest lap of 72.964 mph.

A Tucker Tire Figure 8 race with nine enduro sedans went to R. Rice by 0.331 over Robbie Salcido. Joseph Bereiter’s 1998 Acura Integra pressed for the lead early but dropped to third on lap 14 and trailed Salcido by 3.0 seconds. Seven of nine starters finished the nine minute, caution-free event.

Then Mike Mantel, from Texas, performed demo-wheelies with his gold 1968 Plymouth Barracuda 426 cu. in. Hurst Golden Shifter sedan. “Hemi Under Glass” was painted on the side. He said comic Jay Leno was a passenger in a similar 1969 Plymouth Hurst Hemi for an 2016 episode of his “Jay’s Garage” TV show. The 80-year old car owner performed runs with that car and unexpectedly rolled it in the Irwindale Speedway infield with ride-along passenger Leno also tumbling without injury.

Irwindale Speedway will host the next “Night of Destruction” event on Saturday, May 25 with the third-ever Race Trucks/Spec LM combined feature in a 40-lap race also on the Memorial Day weekend program.