IRWINDALE SPDWY – “1ST RESPONDERS NIGHT” – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Sept. 9 – Irwindale Speedway held its annual “First Responders Night” Saturday and honored them. Fans during the autograph session in the infield inspected police cars and fire engines from area cities. LA County sent a green and gold huge bomb disposal rig and rescue helicopter flown into the infield for the occasion. Eight main events, featuring nine IS racing divisions and 64 vehicles raced 250 laps on the half and third-miles. An impressive crowd of almost 6,000 spectators witnessed the competitive night that concluded with the usual popular IS aerial fireworks ten minute show. A motor-home demolition derby featuring Robert “master of mayhem” Rice concluded the evening.
Racing started after the front gates opened at 4:00 pm. The first of two Tucker Tire Enduro sedan 25-lap races started at 4:40. Nine stock and four sport class sedans raced on the usual six-turn R-oval course with a jog into the third-mile backstretch and another extended run from the third-mile turn four to the half-mile start/finish line. Bobby Ozman (No. 18 Acura Integra) started last and won the event for his 23rd IS career triumph. Sport class drivers Jason Woolcott, fastest qualifier Rodney Argo and Mike McIntyre followed. Robert Rice started second and finished fifth overall (first in the stock class) and also received 50-points. It was his 82nd IS main event victory. He now trails only all-time IS feature winner Trevor Huddleston’s 83 triumphs
LATE MODEL TWIN 30s: The first race following opening ceremonies was the first of twin 30-lap features on the half-mile. The track championship was on the line with 50-points available for the winner of each race. Linny White, the 2022 series champion, had 628 points to 622 for three-time (2015-2017) champion Trevor Huddleston. Fastest qualifier White started from pole position in a 13-car field with past track champion Nick Joanides alongside. Joanides led lap one and White led the final 29 laps in the No. 55 Clay Wooster Chevy. Runner-up Joanides trailed by ten yards (0.666).
Huddleston started fifth and finished third, 1.375 behind White. He earned 46 points. Jeff Peterson started third and placed fourth in Wooster’s No. 90. Christian Bazen, Sean Woodside, Dennis Arena, Cody Kiemele, Las Vegan Jaron Giannini, and Michael Zimmerman completed the top ten and ran 30-laps. The 15-minute race had a single caution flag on lap 2 after Eric Bewley’s No. 12 hit the third turn crash-wall at its right front and stopped. He was uninjured but his car was sidelined for the night. Winner White ran the fastest lap of 19.407 (92.750 mph).
SECOND LM 30: The final 30-lapper for late models started at 9:34 with 12 cars using an eight-car inverted starting lineup based on finishing positions in the first 30. It produced a compelling contest with three race leaders and top five position changes on the final lap. Kiemele, 17, and Arena started in row one, but third starter Woodside led the first ten laps. Peterson came from row three to lead laps 11 through 27. Eighth starter White reached P. 2 on lap 18 and dueled his teammate Peterson closely to lap 28 when he took command and led the final three laps. He won by 0.372 over Peterson.
It was White’s 11th victory in 15 series mains this season and his 20th triumph at IS. It gave the 45-year old Colton resident his second consecutive title in the final point race of 2023. Huddleston, 27, started sixth and finished third, 1.549 back. His 714 points trailed champion White’s 728 in a cliff-hanger championship race undecided until the final checkered flag. Huddleston stopped his No. 50 next to White’s car at the finish line after the checkers to congratulate him.
Joanides, 53, drove Joe Nava’s No. 77 Chevy to fourth and finished third in final points with 618. He took fourth position from Bazen, 18, on the final lap leaving turn four and edged the fast-improving teen by 0.036. Woodside, 52, Arena, Ethan Cheek, 18, Giannini, and Zimmerman rounded out the top ten with all on the lead lap. The all-green light race took 10:09.458 and winner White averaged 88.603 mph. His fastest lap was 91.130 mph.
JUNIOR SPEC LATE MODELS30: The new in 2023 IS division for young drivers (ages 12 and up) ran a 30-lap main on the third-mile oval with all eight spec late models built to date by Jeff Schrader’s Racecar Factory in Irwindale in action. The starting grid was set by mid-afternoon practice laps. Ryan Schrank, 13, from Barstow, started first and led six laps. Keegan Kaminski, 14, from San Dimas, started fourth and led laps 7-30 for his first victory in the series. Four drivers have won the eight races. Charlie Carty, 12, from Jamul, has won five mains.
Runner-up Rowe Luckinbill, 15, trailed by 2.852. Schrank was third with eighth-starter Carty fourth after a turn four spin on lap 6 following contact. Skyler Schoppe, 12, from Clovis, was fifth (-5.501) with Micah Morris, 12, from Henderson, NV., sixth, 13-seconds off the lead. Johnie Stamps, 13, from Riverside, and with two deflating tires Mikey Killen, 16, from LaVerne, were a lap down in P. 7-8 after incidents. The race took 18-minutes because of three caution flags. Kaminski ran the fastest lap of 16.188 (74.055 mph).
STREET STOCKS / PRO TRUCKS 35: The two series with similar speeds raced together on the third-mile with seven cars and three trucks competing for separate points. Pole starter Bryan Harrell’s No. 94 Camaro led lap 1, but truck rookie Clayton Byers, 23, from Castaic, started third and led laps 2-35 for his initial victory and 50 points. Past IS champion Harrell, 61, trailed by 40-yards, finished second, and won the SS series 50-points. Pit crewman Steve Flood, 34, from Yucaipa, drove to third place in his second race subbing for No. 8 truck owner/driver Mike Kelperis, who is recovering from a recent minor heart attack.
Zack Green (Camaro) and rookie/first-time racer Vincent Verduzco (Camaro) completed the top five. Point leader Jim Vermillion held a four point lead over Green entering the race. Vermillion’s own Monte Carlo experienced a mechanical problem during practice, so sportsman owner/driver Kevin Furden (third in points only 34 points behind Vermillion) offered him use of his Camaro to race that night. They put his No. 26 over Furden’s No. 34. Vermillion started eighth in the ten car field and was in second position when he spun out low in turn two on the white flag lap. He lost a lap and dropped to P. 9 in the final order with eight drivers on the lead lap during the 15-minute event. Green moved from second to first in points with 332 to 328 for Vermillion. The final points race will be October 7.
INEX LEGEND CARS 35: Another strong field of 18 legend cars included cars from several non-SoCal areas in California plus Nevada. Fastest qualifier Jake Bollman, 16, started outside row three in the six fastest cars inverted lineup. He chased fifth starter Sean Hingorani, 16, also from Huntington Beach for two laps. Hingorani has raced for ARCA West and National points all season as driver of the No. 15 Bill Venturini Toyota and has won four of eight ARCA West 2023 features. Bollman took command and led the final 33 laps in his No. 71 coupe. Runner-up Hingorani (black No. 13 coupe) trailed by 1.921 before heading to Bristol, TN for the televised ARCA 200 Thursday, May 14.
Bakersfield’s Logan Chambers, 14, drove the white No. 13 coupe to third place, 7.061 seconds off the lead. Newcomer Tyler Di Legge, from Tennessee, started ninth and finished fourth in his IS debut. Junior Spec LM rookie and LC rookie Rowe Luckinbill, 15, from Pacific Palisades, started on pole and finished fifth, 12-seconds behind the winner. Five-time IS legend car champion Chad Schug, 36, from Chino, started eighth and placed sixth as the last lead lap driver. Late model veteran Ryan Schartau made his first appearance at IS this year and finished seventh after starting 12th. Jim Smith, legends rookie Daniel O’Donnell, 14, and Stephen Bazen completed the top ten in a 12-,minute contest with a lone caution flag on lap 2. Bollman, who also races Spears Mfg super late models, ran the fastest lap of 16.340 (73.266 mph). It was his third win in seven 2023 events and eighth at IS.
SECOND ENDURO 25: Veteran 410 ci sprint car driver Rodney Argo, from El Segundo (home of the 2023 baseball LLWS champions), started tenth and led laps 7-25 for his 43rd IS feature triumph since 2018. He is now in a three-way tie for P. 7 on the list of more than 600 main event winners at IS since the first race on March 27, 1999. Ozman placed second, 35-yards behind Argo’s silver No. 9 Honda Prelude. Woolcott and McIntyre followed. P. 5 Rider Gardner’s No. 76 Honda Accord beat Rice’s No. 7 Honda for the 50-first place points in the stock class. The all-green flag race took 10:21.722. Ozman ran the fastest lap of 22.367 while chasing Argo.
YOURACELA SPEC LM / SPEC TRUCKS 40: Eight cars and one truck raced 40 laps. Andy Partridge, 33, started on the pole in the HPR No. 51 and led 20 laps in a close duel with HPR No. 50 teammate Tanner Huddleston. A red flag on lap 21 stopped the race for 11-minutes after Shea Barkley’s Robert Arevalo-owned No. 20 blew its engine in turn four. He pulled onto the third-mile track with the engine ablaze. The fire crew extinguished the fire quickly. He was uninjured but the engine had a hole in the block.
On a two-by-two restart Huddleston, 20, passed Partridge on the inside in turn four and led lap 21 to a lap 34 yellow flag. Another two-by-two restart had Huddleston outside and Partridge inside. Partridge took command with an inside pass in turn four and led the final seven laps. He edged Huddleston by 0.731. Andrew Porter (-0.811) and rookie Andrew Chapman, 20, from Pasadena, followed closely. P. 5 and 50-first place truck points went to Jacob McNeil, of Acton. Robin Steel and Troy Andersen followed. First-time racer Dennis Belloso, a long-time Sunrise Ford crewman for Ryan Partridge, and Bob Bruncati employee from Fontana, drove the No. 19 Arevalo Chevy but dropped out of his debut race.
1 – Decals on some street stocks honored the late Frank Loverock, who passed away at age 82 on July 22, 2023. The long-time Norwalk resident raced stock cars at Gardena’s Ascot Park and later fielded a competitive NASCAR Southwest Tour No. 99 stock car for his driver/son Brandon Loverock. RIP.
2 – IS had a pair of first-time Irwindale booth announcers on September 9. They were Allen Bailey and Antonio Correa. They were Orange Show Speedway announcers in San Bernardino “many years ago”. Usual IS co-announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best were in Indianapolis with their Low Budget TV doing the annual Figure 8 World Championship telecast at the Indianapolis Speedrome short track. Mike Flanders (son of the late Perris, Long Beach GP, and IS booth announcer Bruce) has been the IS substitute booth announcer in recent years when both Tommy and Jeffrey were not available. However, Mike’s regular gig is announcer at Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu, AZ and that speedway was racing September 9. Allen and Antonio had a nice dialogue going between and during races and sounded a lot like Tommy and Jeffrey.
3 – The next IS racing event on Saturday, September 16 will be the third and last IS 2023 Spears Mfg triple-header featuring Spears super late models, pro late models and modifieds. The Junior Spec Late Models have been added to the program. It will be the ninth race for the new IS division.