Irwindale, CA., Jul. 13 – Bakersfield’s Blaine Perkins, 19, held off Trevor Huddleston to win the first NASCAR Pick Your Part Late Model 35-lap main event that opened racing at the Irwindale Speedway half-mile Saturday. He had a shrinking margin that was only 0.882 at the checkered flag. It was Perkins’ second feature triumph this season in the No. 21 Alan family Victory Circle Chevy.
There was no stopping three-time (2015-17) series champion Huddleston in the second 35-lap co-feature for the Whelen All-American Weekly Racing Series top class at the San Gabriel Valley track. Huddleston’s 48th career main event ended competition at 9:46 pm and send more than 2,500 spectators to the exits or pits with the temperature now 75-degrees.
Huddleston, 23, started third and led all 35 laps for his fourth late model victory of 2019 and fifth at Irwindale including the touring NASCAR K & N West 150-lap race on March 30. He drove the K & N West No. 9 Sunrise Ford Fusion owned by IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati. He drove the No. 50 HPR Chevy owned by his father Tim, the IS co-promoter, to all of his late model victories.
Five track divisions raced in a six point-counting main events program. Two series used the third-mile and three raced on the half-mile that routinely provides three-wide racing. Two series combined in one 40-lap race that awarded separate points. Both class winners in the race received 50 points, with two point dropoffs per position for both divisions.
The combined double-winners race for Lucas Oil Race Trucks and You Race LA Spec Late Models was the most exciting race of the night. Seven spec late models started on the inside row and six trucks started on the outside row. There were three race leaders and four lead changes.
Time trials were not held during the low 90s afternoon because the track electronic transponder timing/scoring system malfunctioned. Heat or sun stroke for the timing system were possible causes? Starting lineups for each main event were lined up by current Irwindale point standings. Electronic timing/scoring was operational after 7:00 pm.
HEAT RACES: Two fully-inverted by points 6-lap heat races shortly after 7:05 pm were run with the temperature still 88-degrees. Lucas Oil trucks winner Dennis Arena started second and led all the way. Point leader Lucas McNeil, Andrew Porter, and brother Jacob McNeil followed.
A spec late model heat went to pole starter Ed Cutler, who led ever lap, over John Watkinson, 61, point leader Kenny Smith, 72, and series rookie Troy Andersen, 23, an enduro car graduate driving for Jan’s Towing. Demonstrating how even the two series are, the spec late model winner clocked 2:04.959, only .011 faster than the truck winner’s time of 2:40.970.
TRUCKS/SPEC LM 40: The penultimate race—the combined truck/spec late model feature—captivated onlookers with close, position-swapping competition all 40 laps. Arena started second in his truck and led nine laps. Fifth starter K. Smith, the 2018 spec late model champion, took second on lap 4 and grabbed the lead on lap 10 during a close, three-vehicle duel that that included Watkinson. Three-vehicles tangled on lap 18 high in turn four, causing a caution flag. A two-by-two restart followed. P. 2 Watkinson was sent to the back by officials for causing the P. 3 No. 19 car to spin, involving Ed Cutler and Ron Nava. Nava’s car hit the wall and had to be towed to the pits during the resultant red flag.
At the green flag, Smith led three cars in front, including Andy Partridge and rookie Andersen, from Glendora. Truck racer Nico Mongenel and fellow trucker J. McNeil completed the top five. Partridge, had his older brother Ryan, a multiple IS series champion, on the roof spotting for him. The half-mile oval rookie had only raced enduro cars on the third-mile and participated in demo derbies in 2014-15 prior to getting the No. 21 spec late model ride this season.
Andy, 29, took the lead with an inside pass in turn four and led lap 18. Smith used the same move in turn four and led lap 19. Partridge, from Rancho Cucamonga, switched to the outside in the fourth turn and retook the lead for good on lap 20. He won his first main event and became the fourth different winner after six spec late model races at IS this season.
Andy almost won the last main event on June 8. He was leading on the final lap in turn four when Smith made contact that spun Partridge and cost him several positions before he regained speed. This week he had Smith on his tail again on the final lap, but he won by 0.508 for his initial victory. Last year in the IS pits Andy was inside a race car hauler when he received an electrical shock that caused him to stop breathing. His brother Ryan quickly applied CPR and saved his life before track EMTs arrived on the scene.
The top three spec late models and top three trucks all stopped at the start/finish infield for interviews. Andy told the crowd, “We got the car back from Racecar Factory Monday night. Ryan and I worked every night to 10 pm including last night to get it ready to race. I want to thank RCF, and car owner Robert Arevalo. This win is the sweetest thing in the world. I think I’ve got my confidence back.”
Runner-up K. Smith, who drove his own No. 43 car, revealed he gave Partridge whatever parts he needed to help get him back on the track. He added that his wife Mary Lou is still battling cancer but has been feeling better lately. Rookie Andersen scored his best finish (third) and thanked his backer Jan Quakenbush (Jan’s Towing). The top three finishing cars and trucks received identical 50, 48, and 46 series points.
Truckers Mongenel, Arena and Cutler also received those points. The overall finish order behind P. 3 Andersen was: P. 4-11—Jagger Jones, Watkinson, Mongenel, Arena, Cutler, and truckers J. McNeil, Andrew Porter and L. J. Billings. Truck point leader L. McNeil blew his engine on lap 1 high between turns three and four at the crash-wall and exited to the pits. The race had two yellows and one red flag and took 32 minutes.
SUPER STOCKS: Six cars raced and four were Chevy SS cars from the DeLong family from Castaic. Rich DeLong III led laps 7-25 in his No. 84 Chevy SS and won for the fifth consecutive time this year. He won the series 2018 IS track championship in the same car. His younger brother Jason placed second, 60-yards back. Harry Michaelian’s 1970 Dodge was third and the only other driver running at the finish on the third-mile. Rich DeLong II, father of the DeLong brothers, and their fourth Chevy SS dropped out early.
LEGEND CARS: Seven legend cars raced on the third-mile and point leader Darren Amidon started last. Sixth starter Ricky Schlick took the lead from early leader Ricky Leigh on lap 4 and kept it all the way. He won by 35-yards over Amidon. Tyler Hicks, Leigh and Chad Schug finished on the lead lap in third through fifth positions. The 14-minute event had one caution flag on lap 2 for a solo spinner. The series now has three different winners in five races this season.
1ST LM 35: Perkins entered the race tied in points at 464 with pole starter Ryan Vargas. He led all 35 laps while Huddleston, the eighth starter in a 12 car field, worked six laps to pass Vargas. Huddleston used an inside pass in turn two on lap 18 to take second. He was 40-yards in back of Perkins at lap 22. The margin was 35-yards on lap 25, 30-yards on lap 30, 25-yards at lap 32 and 15-yards on the white flag lap. Perkins won by only 10-yards.
Followers were Huddleston, Vargas, Jace Jones, 14, Nick Joanides, L. McNeil, Dean Thompson, Kevin Furden, and Rodney Peacher on the lead lap. Six different drivers have won the 12 features this season. Perkins stopped at the finish line for his post-race interview. Then he spun a large wheel to determine the starting lineup inversion for the second feature. It landed on TEN. Only 11 cars appeared for the second race after Furden’s No. 34 scratched with an engine problem.
2ND LM 35: Several front row drivers elected to start at the back and Jones had to go there after going to the pits for a last minute adjustment. The front two rows were: L. McNeil and Thompson, with Huddleston and Joanides in row two. At the green, Huddleston shot to the inside entering turn one and emerged with the lead by turn four. He ran away to a 2.136 seconds (50-yards) winning margin over second year late model driver Thompson.
Jones, Vargas, Joanides and Perkins also completed 35 laps in that order. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 90.781 mph and averaged 87.942 mph in his No. 50 HPR Chevy. The race time was 11:56.384. It was slsightly slower than Perkins’ winning time and speed in the first 35. Perkins’ time was 11:52.268 for a 88.450 mph winning average. Perkins logged the fastest race lap in either race with his 91.445 mph. Both races ran under the green-light all the way.
Next up for Irwindale Speedway on Saturday, July 20 is the second appearance of 2019 for three touring series. The Spears Mfg SRL Southwest Tour super late models and Spears Modifieds presented by Lucas Oil will be joined by the Southwest Tour Truck Series. All races will be on the half-mile.