Monrovia, CA, Jan. 12 – The Irwindale Speedway 2018 season championship awards banquet took place here Saturday in the main ballroom of the Marriott Courtyard Hotel on Huntington Drive. A capacity crowd of 170 persons honored the achievements of seven Irwindale Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series champions and four Irwindale Dragstrip NHRA Summit ET Racing Series champions.
Track co-promoter Tim Huddleston welcomed guests and emceed the festivities following a no-host cocktail hour from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. A catered three-course dinner was served from 7:00 to 8:00 with rotating IS racing highlight videos showing on a screen near the stage. Presentation of trophies, plaques and other awards started at 8:00 and concluded at 10:25 pm.
Video welcomes by NHRA champion John Force, NASCAR national series drivers Kevin Harvick and Cole Custer, an IS graduate, were shown. First awards on the program were presented by Bob Beck, track announcer at the eighth-mile Irwindale Dragstrip. Champions were: Don Mehling, Super Pros, Marvin Rolls, Pro Series, Troy Gonzales, Pro Motorcycles, and Garret Hoefer, Sportsman Division. Three NHRA champions present were interviewed and reviewed their season.
Emcee Huddleston explained how more than 40 door prizes would be awarded. He called individuals by ticket number to answer an Irwindale Speedway-related trivia question. As in a TV game show, if a person did not know the answer it was allowable to ask a friend. Audience members were remarkably knowledgeable about IS history. Lisa Huddleston, Mike Atkinson and Kevin Stevens assisted with door prizes. Track photographer Sal Sigala captured all awards.
NASCAR Whelen Racing Series video highlights of each division preceded presentation of trophies to the fifth through second place series drivers, who posed for a group photo. Then the division champion came on stage for his hardware, an interview about his season, sponsors and 2019 plans.
A video taken in early December during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Awards ceremony at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina was shown. The event recognized all NASCAR State and track champions. Honorees included Irwindale late model track champion Lawless Alan and California State Champion Trevor Huddleston, for points earned at Irwindale and Bakersfield.
JUNIOR LATE MODELS: Champion Kyle Keller, 14, from Las Vegas, won five of 11 main events and scored 572 points. He clinched the first ever title in the new series at the final race and won the championship by eight points. Second through fourth place drivers R. J. Smotherman, Braden Connor, and Cody Kiemele were present as well. P. 5 Rylee Davidhizer, 15, was absent. Nine drivers scored points.
LEGEND CARS: Champion Darren Amidon won eight of 11 features and scored his fifth IS Legend Cars track championship with 624 points to 597 for second place. He now has 37 IS feature victories on the third-mile oval. Second through fifth drivers were: Chad Schug, Tyler Hicks, Mike Vanderlip and Stephen Brucker.
ENDURO CARS: Daniel Hudson, a 30-year old Garden Grove resident, won the first-ever IS NASCAR Division III four-cylinder enduro car championship. He won eight of 13 features with his Acura Integra. He tallied 584 points and won by 92 points. P. 2 through P. 5 drivers were: Rodney Argo, older brother Mike Hudson, Dewitt Jones and Robert Rice. Fifty drivers scored points during the inaugural season of the economical entry-level racing division.
SUPER STOCKS: Rich De Long III, 30, became a second-time Irwindale SS champion, He also won the title in 2010. He finished first or second in the six 2018 events and scored three victories. His 336 points earned the NASCAR Division VI championship by 32 points. Twelve drivers scored points. P. 2 through P. 5 drivers were: Jerry Toporek, younger brother Jason De Long, Harry Michaelian, and Bridgette Shaw. De Long thanked track officials. sponsors, and family.
SHARKY’S (SCUBA & SWIM) SPEC LATE MODELS: Champion Kenny Smith, 72, won five of eight main events and became the oldest track champion in IS history in the 19th oval track season. His 442 pointrs topped runner-up Craig Yeaton’s 350. Twelve drivers scored points. P. 2-5 were: series sponsor Yeaton, Jason De Long, past IS modified champion John Watkinson, and Robert Arevalo. All five drivers were present. Smith thanked his wife Marylou, a cancer survivor.
IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS: Champion Lucas Mc Neil, a 25-year old Saugus resident, had three feature victories and six second place finishes in 11 races. He scored 574 points to earn his first IRT title by 90-points. Second place went to 2017 series champion Dennis Arena. Third was past multi-series track champion Ryan Partridge, who won seven of 11 features but was racing for the 2018 NASCAR K & N West championship in Nor Cal during the IRT double-points season finale. P. 4-5 drivers were younger brother Jacob Mc Neil and single feature winner Nico Mongelel, 21. The top four drivers attended. Sixteen drivers tallied IRT points.
LKQ/PYP LATE MODELS: The premier NASCAR Late Model Series championship went to first-time IS champion Lawless Alan, now 19, and a full-time engineering student at the University of Alabama. The three-time Irwindale main event winner in 2018 was ill at college and unable to attend. His father/car owner, Chris Alan, accepted his awards on his behalf and spoke to the audience. Lawless (the surname of his grandparents) scored 884 points to 862 for runner-up Ryan Schartau.
Other top five drivers were: third place Zachary St. Onge, 2009 series champion Nick Joanides, and Jagger Jones. A total of 36 drivers scored IS points in the top NASCAR division that awards points towards the NASCAR Whelen Series national championship.
SPECIAL AWARDS: During the final hour of the ceremonies various special awards and unique first-time presentations recognized special people at IS.
> Sunrise Ford Sportsman of the Year: Rick Mc Neil, father of racing sons Lucas and Jacob, fielded two IRT trucks and one late model for his sons. He also unselfishly assisted other competitors all year. He continued the racing legacy of his late father-in-law Jim Robinson, a long-time respected and winning NASCAR West Series driver.
> IS Dedication Award and floral arrangement for more than 50-years of support for her racing husband and family: to Marylou Smith, wife of the 2018 Sharky’s Spec Late Model champion.
> University of Northern Ohio (UNOH) Youth Achievement Award (open to drivers ages 14-17): went to Ryan Schartau, 15, who raced both a NASCAR late model and Lucas Oil Modified. He scored one NASCAR feature win and six second place finishes, led IS points for weeks, scored 862 points and ranked second in final points.
> Ambassador Award: This new award went to long-time enduro racer Cheryl Hyland, nicknamed “The Queen of Destruction”, for all of her many hours assisting at events to promote IS. She manned the Irwindale booth at the Long Beach Grand Prix and worked with TV and radio stations. She was one of 25 drivers who participated in the “Racer Bucks” program. She received a plaque and floral bouquet.
> Sponsor of the Year: This award went to Mr. Jan Quackenbush, owner of Jan’s Towing, the official Irwindale Speedway and Pasadena Rose Parade disabled float tow truck provider. He is a long-time IS “Night of Destruction” and late model sponsor, plus Thursday night Irwindale Dragstrip racing backer as well. Huddleston announced the return of long-time IS sponsor Lucas Oil, which provided many door prizes for correct answers to IS trivia questions.
> Special Real Life Champions Award: Three heroes in the pits this summer saved the lives of two men who lost consciousness after coming in contact with an electrical current short inside a race car hauler. Driver Ryan Partridge, plus fire safety team members Josh Leyvas and Thurman Spicer provided prompt and successful resuscitation for Andy Partridge (Ryan’s brother) and Bill Johnson that enabled them to resume breathing. They both recovered fully.
All IS racing officials were called to the stage for recognition and a group photo. Huddleston said, “It takes an army to run Irwindale Speedway” and thanked his staff for their dedication and vital work during a successful 2018 season.
Rookie of the year, hard luck, and most improved driver awards were not presented this year. A final door prize went to the person who had an Auto Club membership car that showed the most years as a member. The winner was a member for 68-years.
> Irwindale Speedway will be starting its 20th year of racing on the half and third-mile ovals. There will be 17 Saturday nights of competition. Opening night will be January 26 with the first of seven Nights of Destruction. Enduro cars also will race that night.
> March 9 will be NASCAR opening night with late model twin mains, IRT, SS, Spec LM and legend cars.
> March 23 will be the touring series Spears SWT stock cars and Spears Modifieds presented by Lucas Oil.
> March 30 will be a NASCAR K & N West 150 and N of D II.
> Junior LM driver R. J. Smotherman, 14, will race his No. 24 late model on the half-mile without a restrictor plate. The Las Vegas will race as a 2019 late model rookie.
> Jan’s Towing will sponsor the 2019 late model of veteran IS No. 98 enduro racer Troy Andersen, of Glendora.
> Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford NASCAR K & N West Series team will be two, not three, Fords in 2019. Drivers will be Trevor Huddleston, the second-ranked 2018 K & N West rookie, and 2019 K & N rookie Jagger Jones, son of versatile driver P. J. Jones and grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones. Both P. J. and Parnelli raced stock cars successfully.
> Ryan Partridge, the second ranked driver in final 2018 K & N West points to Bruncati Sunrise Ford teammate Derek Thorn, is weighing racing options. He has his IRT truck and his Spears Series modified to keep him occupied in addition to being the Irwindale Speedway You Race LA on track late model school chief driving instructor. Late note—Ryan and Lindsay Gilbert, his blonde girl friend of 11-years, will be getting married on Saturday, February 16.
> The “blue crew” High Point Racing stable of No. 50, 51, 55, 56 late models will have at least two rookie drivers in 2019. Confirmed HPR drivers are Dean Thompson, 17, from Anaheim Hills, and Legend Cars third-mile veteran Jace Jones, 14, from Scottsdale. He is the younger brother of Jagger Jones and the next racing Jones from the PJ and Parnelli “tree” as they say about NFL head coaches.