IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY – NIGHT of DESTRUCTION VII – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Nov. 23 – Irwindale Speedway hosted its seventh 2019 Night of Destruction presented by LKQ Pick Your Part Saturday. It was the 18th oval track event of the season and completed the second year under co-promoters Tim Huddleston and Bob Bruncati. The track also held a weekend of drifting competition during October and then was the site for a two-week movie shoot for Fast and Furious 9 that is scheduled for release in May.
With a sunny, mid-70s afternoon and a pleasant evening temperature, a late arriving crowd boosted attendance to more than 6,000 in the grandstand. They witnessed an eight event program that concluded before 10:30 pm with a 12-minute aerial fireworks show launched from beyond the backstretch with track lights dimmed.
TUCKER TIRE (Covina) ENDURO CARS: A 35-lap main event on the third-mile, six-turn “r-oval” had 19 four-cylinder sedans compete. Orange cones directed drivers into the backstretch infield and from turn four of the third-mile oval onto the half-mile track front straight at the start/finish line. Danny Love, an Orange Show Speedway veteran and IS mini stock driver in 2015, started fourth and led the first 11 laps with the first four cars virtually nose-to-tail.
Third starter Rodney Argo’s 1999 Honda Prelude led lap 12 before slowing with a problem. Smoke came from the car and the engine blew on lap 30. He stopped next to the outside crashwall. Fifth starter Bobby Ozman led laps 13-35 and won his second 2019 feature in his 1998 Acura Integra. He won by 25-yards over 17th starter Bory Molina (Toyota Celica Supra). Ian Rotundo’s 2001 Honda Prelude started eighth and ran second from laps 13-25 but he yielded second to Molina on lap 26.
Joseph Bereiter set a new track record of 24.913 during late afternoon time trials and finished fourth in his No. 27 1998 Acura Integra. Kirk Kubik, Brad Stellman, Robert John Rice, dad Robert Rice, and Robbie Salcido also completed all 35 laps in P. 5-9. Sixteen of 19 starters were racing at the finish. Enduro cars ran 12 main events in 2019 and had four different winners. Argo won six times and Molina scored three victories.
FLAG POLE 20: The third flag pole race this season produced the third different winner in a 20-lap contest. It started 12 of the 16 entered and still mobile enduro sedans. The event used a new, fan-friendly location for the Irwindale Speedway flag mounted inside a large tire. Staff placed it on the half-mile front straight between turn four and start/finish. Drivers used the same six-turn “r-oval” course, but all cars had to negotiate a 360-degree turn around the flag pole tire while dodging oncoming cars.
Pole starter John Beard led two laps. Then eighth starter Bory Molina took charge and led the final 18 laps in his same No. 71 Toyota Celica. Quickly closing Kirk Kubik came from 15th in the 15 car field and finished second, only ten yards in back of Molina. Beard, R. Argo (in the second of his three enduro cars for three events), and Robert Rice completed the top five; all logged 20 laps.The 14-minute race had one caution flag at lap 18 after contact between two cars at the flag pole turn caused one car to stall in a precarious position.
Event three was a new (for Irwindale) “EGO CHALLENGE”. Eight drivers (announced as being from the grandstand) drove their street-legal passenger cars onto the third-mile oval. They ran four rounds of two-car match races of one lap, with only the winner advancing. The first race featured a white BMW driven by Christine Clement against an Audi, which won. Co-promote/pit announcer Tim Huddleston interviewed each driver, stood between the cars and flagged off each match race. Two drivers said their names were Billy Bob Thornton and Harvey Wallbanger.
The final challenge race was two laps and the winner was the first-ever Ego Challenge IS champion. The event was popular at Saugus Speedway, which closed in 1995. There fans could sign a waiver and drive their personal car on a timed lap around the track, one car at a time.
Round four at IS Saturday produced side-by-side contact between the two finalists as they entered turn one. Banging and attempts to spin each other out in the turns followed on both laps. One car spun the other across the finish line as the starter waved the checkered flag. When the two drivers stepped from their cars it turnout out Robert Rice beat fellow enduro car racer Robbie Salcido in the entertaining event.
FIGURE 8: Robert Rice won his second enduro cars Figure-8 race of 2019. It was his 49th IS feature triumph, ranking him fifth all-time at IS. Fourteen of 18 entrants started the 25-lap race. Brad Stellman led the initial two laps. Rice’s No. 7 Honda Accord led laps 3-25 and won by 5.709 seconds. His son Robert John Rice finished second. Stellman placed third, 12-seconds off the lead. R. Salcido and B. Molina also completed 25 laps in P. 4-5. Eleven of 14 starters finished the nine minute race that averaged 57.486 mph. Seven enduro Figure 8 races this season had three winners, led by R. Argo with four.
Then Rice, Sr. ran a Ford Crown Victoria with a large front bumper from the third-mile first turn wall through the infield and up a slight dirt ramp through a parked large mobile home from back to front through the hollow interior. The movie-like prop was hollow and only slight debris scattered from the scene.
SKID PLATE CARS RACE: Fifteen drivers entered the 20-lap race after swapping-out back tires for metal skid plates or used a second car with skid plates already mounted. The skid plate race on the third-mile oval had three leaders. Wayne Lee led lap one. His son Austin Lee led lap 2 over his dad; his sister Ashlee Rice was third for the first three laps. Salcido drove his Honda Accord into P. 2 on lap 9. As he dueled for the lead on lap 15 leader A. Lee spun leaving turn two and dropped to second. Salcido extended his lead to 35-yards by the lap 19 white flag.
A. Lee closed rapidly on the final lap and trailed Salcido by only ten yards at the finish. The Lee family—son Austin, dad Wayne, and daughter Ashlee–finished second through fourth respectively. Only the top three finishers completed all 20 laps. Ashlee and P. 5 Mike McIntyre ran 19 laps. The all-green light race took 14-minutes and averaged 40.458 mph. SPC ran five races this season and Austin Lee won three times.
Next on the schedule was the PYP-sponsored J-10 aircraft jet engine mounted at the back of the pickup truck “Inferno” burn down of an old sacrificial sedan—a 1980s Mercury Sable—in the infield. The usual quick fiery annilation of the old sedan amazed NoD rookie spectators.
TRAILER RACE: The usual wild closer was a trailer race on the watered third-mile oval. A season-high 22 vehicles (sedans, pickup trucks, and El Caminos) towed trailers with boats (large and small), jet-skis, tires and various cargo. The event ran more than 25 unscored laps from 9:42 to 10:10 pm with competitors trying to win favor with spectators by making spectaculr hits on parked old mobile homes and the contents of other trailers. Cheryl Hyland again won fans vote as the best appearing trailer. It had holiday lights and figures and won easily.
With only three vehicles still circulating, the checkered flag ended the mayhem. Fans then voted with their cheers and applaluse the top three finishers. They were: San Diego’s Daniel Souto, Robert Rice and Ray Reyes. Souto is the fifth different winner of the six trailer races this season. He drove in both enduro and trailer races before his absence from IS. Souto last competed at IS during 2015-16 in the No. 4 red/white sedan called the Starsky and Hutch car.
A new fan drawing produced a $1,310 surprise take home haul for one lucky spectator in the grandstand. The 2020 Irwindale Speedway and Irwindale Dragstrip schedules have been released. The first oval track event–the first of seven NoD events–is set for Saturday, January 25th.