IRWINDALE NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA, May 27 – Irwindale Speedway presented its annual Memorial Day weekend salute to the Indianapolis 500 with another “Night of Destruction” presented by Pick Your Part. The event attracted about 6,000 spectators for planned destruction that the Indy 500 the next day seemed to replicate. The exciting 33-car 107th running of the Indianapolis “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” turned into a car destroying event during the final 15 laps with three red- flag producing multi-car crashes. Thankfully, everyone escaped unscathed.
The opening race at Irwindale was a Tucker Tire of Covina enduro sedan race on the usual six-turn r-oval course through the infield. Thirteen cars started with the faster four-cylinder OHC-equipped sport class cars in back and eight slower stock class sedans in front. Devyn Azzolina led four laps from the pole. Mikey Killen led the next two laps. Fastest qualifier Rodney Argo, in a Honda Prelude, came from 13thstarting spot and led laps 7-17. Bobby Ozman, 49, started 12th in his 1998 Acura Integra and passed Argo on lap 18 in turn two and paced the event to the lap 25 checkers. He beat Argo by 1.612 seconds and collected $200. The race had one caution flag to remove a stalled car.
Ozman, from Phillips Ranch, revealed he is a second generation racer. He said his father Bob Ozman, from Pomona, raced a 410 cu. in. sprint car with the California Racing Association at Ascot Park in Gardena during the 1960s. He quit driving in 1970 when roll cages became mandatory in CRA. Bob, now 85 years old, usually comes to IS to help his son in the pits whenever possible, but he was not present to see his son win his 20th enduro feature at IS.
Stock class winner Rider Gardner, from Glendora, started his Honda Accord seventh and finished fifth overall. He trailed sport class drivers Jason Woolcott and Mike McIntyre. Argo set a new enduro division one-lap track record during afternoon group qualifying. His 22.192 broke his own 22.363 record set two weeks earlier. Some enduro drivers were absent this week because of major engine problems two weeks earlier.
A 25-lap enduro sedan Figure-8 race started 11 of 12 cars entered. Fastest qualifier Jason Woolcott, from San Pedro, started fourth and led laps 2-25 in his No. 19 Argo team Honda. It was his seventh career victory at IS. His mentor Argo trailed in second spot. Hawthorne resident Robert Rice, 57, placed third in his usual orange No. 7 PYP Honda Accord. The contact-free event took 12 minutes.
The third event was a 20-lap, all-green flag skid plate race using enduro sedans. The 14 drivers used the same six-turn r-oval course with left and right-hand turns in the infield. Wayne Lee and M. McIntyre led the initial laps. Robbie Salcido, from Perris, drove his orange No. 16 Honda Accord into the lead on lap 3 and remained the leader for the final 18 laps. It was the 19th victory at IS for the enduro sedan specialist.
Austin Lee finished second, 0.855 behind the winner. Father Lee beat his son Wayne, the third place finisher, who trailed winner by 41-seconds and was about to be lapped at the start/finish line when they passed the waving checkered flag. McIntyre, Gardner, Rice, and Lee’s daughter Ashley Rice all completed 19 laps in fourth through seventh positions respectively. The all-green race took 13-minutes.
Drifting demonstration runs on the third-mile and infield took place between the three racing events. In one demo run the YouRaceLA driving school No. 52 spec late model was used as a drifting vehicle. A red car (for the fire department) and the IS black and white ex-sheriff patrol car (for police) raced each other on the third-mile oval. The police car won.
The PYP-sponsored “Inferno” red pickup truck with a J-10 jet aircraft engine mounted at the back was scheduled to burn down an old sedan in the infield. For the first time at IS, the jet engine did not cooperate and would not fire. Infield workers then lit the sacrificial sedan ablaze and it burned fiercely for several minutes before water quelled the fire.
The final on-track event was a nine car non-scored race on the third-mile to destroy three old mobile homes parked on the front straight. Drivers used pickup trucks and full size sedans and towed boats or other cargo on trailers. Tom Ryan towed a small, Morris Minor-type car on an open trailer. Other drivers soon had the small car dislodged and tumbling down the front straight. The trailers lasted only a few minutes before drivers drove through and over the debris. After the checkered flag spectators voted for the top three who provided entertainment value. Robert “master of mayhem” Rice, R. Salcido and Cheryl Hyland finished in P1-2-3 in that order.
The fan popular IS usual ten-minute aerial fireworks show followed and concluded by 9:40 pm. The next IS oval track event on Saturday, June 10 will be another NASCAR Night using both the half and third-mile ovals.