Irwindale, CA., Mar. 9 – Irwindale Speedway opened its 25th season Saturday with the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts premier IS series. Rain postponed the scheduled season opening All-Star Showdown from Saturday, February 3 until May. Saturday, March 9 had afternoon temperature in the 70s and three hours of racing from 7:00 to 10:00 pm were conducted in the 60s. A busy program of nine events and 240 laps had 76 cars/trucks race on the half and third-miles and RVs used the Figure 8 course. More than 4,000 persons attended and watched the IS usual ten-minute aerial fireworks show launched from behind the backstretch. The Speed Sport News affiliated Low Budget TV (via pay per view) streamed the entire evening to a national audience.

PRO LATE MODELS 1ST 30: Fourteen cars opened racing on the half-mile at 7:00. A straight-up lineup based on afternoon qualifying times earned three-time IS track champion Trevor Huddleston pole position. He led all 30-;laps in the No. 50 HPR Ford and recorded his 85th IS feature victory by 1.236 seconds over third starter Parker Malone. Jeffrey Peterson came from sixth grid position to run third from lap 2 to the checkered flag. He trailed Huddleston by 2.224 seconds. Perris resident Cody Kiemele, 17, started fifth and earned fourth a night after he made his ARCA Menards Series debut on the Phoenix Raceway mile. He trailed Peterson by a mere 0.074. Christian Bazen started eighth and finished fifth. Nine of 14 starters completed 30 laps on the lead lap. Malone ran the fastest lap of 93.293 mph.

A lap 2 crash entering the first turn eliminated three cars—P. 3 Scott Youngren, P. 4 Andrew Chapman and 12th starter Dennis Arena. Drivers escaped injury. Racecar Factory (of Irwindale) constructed cars of Youngren (chassis 23-97) and Arena (chassis 23-96) had significant damage that sidelined them for the evening. Youngren’s No. 45 was loaded onto a Jan’s Towing flatbed truck and will require a new front clip according to builder Jeff Schrader. Chapman’s car was able to race in the second 30 two hours later.

PLM 2ND 30: Twelve cars started the second 30-lap main at 9:30 pm with the first eight starters inverted by their finishing positions in the first 30. That put Brayden Allen and Mike Weimann on the front row and Huddleston outside in row four. Allen led the first 11 laps and waged an exciting, three-wide battle with third starter Nash Youngren, 21, from Fallbrook, and eighth starter Huddleston, 27, on laps 10 and 11. Youngren, driving a brand new car (RCF chassis 24-98) in its first night of competition, used the inside groove and Huddleston the outside as they passed Allen simultaneously on the backstretch. Youngren took the lead on lap 12 as Huddleston took second. On lap 14 Malone captured third and that was the top three order to the finish.

Youngren opened a 40-yard lead over Huddleston by lap 17. He maintained that margin to the checkered flag and beat Huddleston by 3.488 seconds. Youngren is a four year veteran of half-mile racing at IS. He won two Spec Late Model main events in 2021 in Tim Cash’s turquoise blue No. 13. He raced in the PLM division last year and happily scored his third IS feature triumph and initial PLM victory aboard the white No. 22. He finished sixth in the first 30, only 2.940 seconds behind winner Huddleston. The all-green second race took 9:59.927 for an average speed of 90.011 mph. P. 3 Malone was 0.328 back. Bazen and Kiemele completed the top five. Eleven of 12 starters completed all 30 laps.  Early leader Allen’s No. 52 ran the fastest lap of 92.374 mph.

Events two through five took place on the third-mile oval.

JUNIOR SPEC LM 25: Charlie Carty, 13, set the fastest qualifying time, started on the pole, and led all 25 laps in the same blue & orange N. 6 Mustang in which he dominated the 2023 season for the new division. RCF-built ten cars–five Mustangs and five Camaros. IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati commissioned the cars to develop new drivers ages 12-16. Youngest driver Carty, from San Diego County, won seven of the ten 2023 series races that did not award points. Drivers are racing for IS points this season.

A pair of now 13-year old drivers in the series last year finished second and third. Ryan Schank passed Johnie Stamps on lap 16 and trailed the winner by 1.654. Stamps was 2.468 off the lead at the end of 25 green flag laps. A pair of 15-year old rookies—Santiago Lopez, and Jack Duffy—started fourth and fifth and finished 25 laps in those spots. The caution-free race took 6:48.16; winner Carty averaged 73.427 mph. Carty clocked the fastest lap of 74.627 mph.

CROWN VICS 15: Event three was a new IS entry-level economical division. All cars are Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Marquis 4.6 liter single ohc sedans with mandated safety enhancements for racing. A demonstration non-points race for the class ran with five cars during the season finale last October. A field of seven Crown Vics appeared for the first point race  and four started the 15-lap event. Fastest qualifier Robert Rice started first and led every lap despite intense pressure from Rider Gardner, who trailed by 0.250 in the 4:57.373 race. Rice averaged 60.470 mph. Todd Paperny finished third and Cheryl Hyland was fourth; all drivers ran 15 laps. Rice’s 19.049 (62.912 mph) was an automatic new track record for the new division that used time trials for the first time.

STREET STOCKS 30: Six drivers competed in Camaros primarily. Jay Verduzco led lap 1 and fifth starter Jim Vermillion led lap 2-18. Fast qualifier Zack Green, the reigning series champion from Long Beach, took command on lap 19 and won by half a straight over fellow Camaro driver Kevin James. Younger brother Garrett Green placed third. Vermillion spun out of P. 2 on lap 24 and lost a lap before resuming. Verduzco finished fourth and Larry Sampson fifth. Winner Green ran the fastest lap of 73.478 mph.

INEX LEGENDS 35: A strong field of 16 legend cars (5/8 scale replicas of American 1930s-40s coupes and sedans powered by Yamaha engines) raced 35-laps. The three fastest qualifiers during afternoon time trials were inverted in the first three positions. Fastest qualifier Jake Bollman, 16, from Huntington Beach, started third after racing the No. 88 Ford in the ARCA Menards 150 on the Phoenix Raceway mile Friday evening. Bollman led the final 34 laps and won the 14-minute event by 4.217 seconds. Bakersfield’s Logan Chambers, the series 2023 IS champion, started second and led lap 1. He tangled with pole starter Steven Bazen on lap 2 and had to come from the back as a result. He raced back to third place and closed on runner-up/five-time IS series champion Chad Schug.

Zach Sansom and IS 2020 series champion Tyler Hicks completed the top five. Nine of the 15 finishers completed 35 laps. Junior Spec LM winner Charlie Carty, 13, made his first legends  car start and raced like a series veteran. He qualified tenth fastest of 16 qualifiers. He came from outside row five and finished an impressive eighth, 14-seconds behind the winner. Bollman won four of the eight series mains last year in his No. 71 1934 Ford replica coupe. He was absent and missed four races while driving a super late model in the touring Spears Mfg SWT Series. He has an ARCA Menards West Series ride this year as he continues to expand his racing career impressively.

ENDURO 30: Fifteen four-cylinder sedans raced 35 laps on the regular third-mile oval instead of the usual R-oval course. Nine stock class cars (single ohc) started in front of six faster sport class (double ohc) cars. Robert Rice started his No. 7 Honda Accord second and led four laps. Jason Woolcott, from 12th, paced laps 5-14. Reigning sport champion Bobby Ozman, from 13th, led laps 15-28. Past 410 ci sprint car winner Rodney Argo, from outside row seven, was second by lap 18 and led laps 29-35 in his No. 9 Honda Prelude. It was his 45th victory at IS; he moved up to seventh in total IS feature triumphs. Argo edged Ozman by 0.392. Sport class drivers Woolcott, Mike McIntyre, and John Beard completed the top five with P. 4 and lower down a lap. P. 6 Rice edged Rider Gardner for the stock class 50-first place points. It was Rice’s second victory of the night and he now has 87 IS feature victories to lead all drivers. Former leader Huddleston now has 85.

Racing returned to the half-mile oval for events seven and eight (the second Pro LM 30). Event seven was an Irwindale first time event—three series in one race with 50-point first place winners in three divisions. All three winners pulled to the finish line infield for post-race interviews over the infield PA microphone.

SPEC LM / SPEC TRUCKS / PRO TRUCKS 40: The race had four spec late model cars, three spec trucks (formerly called Irwindale Race Trucks), and six pro trucks.(former West Coast Pro Trucks). Junior late model 2023 driver Mikey Killen, 16, who graduated from that series, started the No. 19 car on the pole in the 13 vehicle race and led lap 1. Tanner Huddleston, 20, started second in the No. 50 HPR Spec LM and led the final 39 laps to earn 50 points in his series. He beat runner-up  L. J. Billings in a Kenny Smith-owned entry. IS 2023 spec truck champion Jason McNeil placed third overall and earned 50-points in his series.

Killen finished fourth overall. Fifth overall went to pro truck winner/infrequent racer Donny St. Ours. Troy Anderson, Ron Nava, Jeff Williams, Robin Andrews, and Jesus Quintero completed the top ten with the first nine drivers on the lead lap. The 19-minute event had one caution flag on lap 5 for a spin. Huddleston, the younger of IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston’s racing sons, ran the fastest lap of 20.191 (89.149 mph).

The ninth event of the busy, fast-moving program was a fan-pleasing RV Trailer Figure 8 race that went 15-laps in nine minutes with no collisions at the X intersection. Seven RVs started and only one RV was lapped. The checkers waved at 9:59 pm and six RVs stopped at the front straight crash-wall so spectators could vote for the winner. Robert Rice crossed the line in front and won the voting.

The fan-favorite ten minute aerial fireworks show followed immediately and concluded at 10:10. Some fans went to the pits behind the main grandstand to meet drivers. The entire evening of action, including fireworks, was telecast nationally by the NSSN-affliiated Low Budget TV with IS co-announcers / former IS enduro racers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best providing knowledgeable commentary. The next IS oval track racing will be Saturday, March 30 in race two of 2024 for the touring ARCA Menards West Series. The eighth-mile Irwindale Dragstrip continues drag racing each Thursday night.