IRWINDALE, Calif., Jun. 13 – Racing at Irwindale Speedway returned Saturday for the first time since February 1 with a six division, eight main event program for competitors and pit crews. The event excluded fans in the grandstand because of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that halted racing since mid-March.
The local economy gradually restarted in late May using precautionary measures such as wearing masks and proper social distancing. Management recreived permission from local authorities to conduct the event by adhearing to currrent federal, state and local guidelines. No grandstand tickets were sold. Persons in the grandstand were spotters and members of pit crews. The entire event was televised live by LBTV on irwindalespeedwaytv.com. The June 13 Irwindale event will be re-telecast on the MAV-TV Network on a date to be announced.
To avoid using the speedway lighting system, the event was conducted during daylight hours. Pits opened at 9:00 am with the pit meeting at 10:30. Practice ran from 11:20 to 1:40 and the drivers meeting was 1:50. Qualifying started at 2:30 in sunny, mid-70s weather. Opening ceremonies started at 4:25 with 255 scheduled racing laps to be completed by approximately 7:30 pm.
The welcome return of short track racing to southern California was the NASCAR Advanced Auto Parts All-American Series point season opener. It was postponed from March 14 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers utilized an open practice session Friday from 4:00 to 7:30 pm. They also had two sessions per division practice time during mid-day Saturday before time trials.
The event Saturday attracted 67 entries, including 15 first-time Irwindale racers. Six female drivers—two each in late models, legends and enduros—raced. Numerous teenager drivers competed. Drivers came from five states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Oklahoma—and one from Japan.
Series racing on the progressively-banked half-mile were:
> LKG Pick Your Part Late Models – (18 entries) with two 35-lap main events;
> Lucas Oil Race Trucks (five entries) and You Race LA Spec Late Models – (seven entries) in a combined 40-lap race that awarded points in both series.
Series that used the four-degree banked third-mile oval were:
> INEX Legend Cars – (12 entries) with a pair of 35-lap features.
> Tucker Tire Enduro sedans – (17 entries) with two 25-lap mains.
> Progressive Paint Super Stocks – (eight cars) with a 25-lap feature.
There were twin main events for three of the divisions and separate winners in the truck/spec late model race. The enduro cars as usual had winners in both races in the super and stock divisions of the series. So there were 11 main event winners in the eight features conducted.
Trevor Huddleston, 24, won both 35-lap late model features that were the first and last races of the day. As second fastest qualifier to teammate Dean Thompson, Huddleston started second in the first 35 and led all the way. He started tenth in the second race that inverted the top ten finishers from the first race. The three-time track and California NASCAR champion increased his IS feature victory total to 53, fifth most in track history.
The second 35-lap feature started at 7:10. Huddleston passed Nick Joanides for the lead on lap 20. The race concluded with a red flag on lap 32. Cars three and four wide from second through sixth were lapping a pair of cars exiting turn four. Cars made contact and several cars received damage. Fourth place Dylan Garner spun broadside at speed into the third-mile turn one wall attenuator which shattered. He walked away uninjured from his totaled, self-built No. 97. The race was terminated at 7:23 pm for safety reasons because of the destroyed attenuator. The official finish reverted to the lap 31 running order.
The two winners in the spec late model and trucks 40-lap race were two-time spec LM series champion Kenny Smith, 73, and his grandson Andrew Porter, 26, in the No. 7 truck. Porter placed fourth overall. It was the 15th IS victory for grandpa and tenth IS triumph for his grandson. Interviewed together at the finish line, Smith remembered his wife Marylou, who succumbed to cancer months ago. “We were married 55 years and one day”, he told promoter Tim Huddleston via the pit mic.
Third-mile winners were:
> Legend Cars: Brent Scheidemantle, the IS 2014 series champion, led the final ten laps of the first race. Jordan Holloway, 16, one of the teenage visitors from Las Vegas, was the third leader of the second race. He led the final 11 laps after finishing third in the first 35 during his first competition at IS.
> Enduros: The first 25 lap main went to Rodney Argo, a 46-year old former 410 sprint car feature winner at Ascot and Perris, He started last in the 17 car field, led all but the first nine laps, and captured the sport class victory. Robert Rice started fourth, led nine laps and finished second overall in his Honda Accord. His stock division triumph was his 55th at IS.
The second enduro 25 also went to Argo in his Honda Prelude and lifted his IS feature victory total to 26 in three years of enduro car racing. Chris Voight started his Honda Accord on pole, led 18 laps and finished second overall and first in the stock class.
> Super Stocks: Seven of eight cars present started. Three drivers waged a close battle during the final ten laps. Back row starter Bryan Harrell, 58, led the final 15 laps in the No. 94 Sampson Camaro . It was the 29th victory at IS for the 2006 and 2008 super stock track champion. Reigning champion Rich De Long III, the winner of all eight series races last season, took P.2 from early leader Jim Verrmillion on lap 22. He trailed Harrell by 1.083 with Vermillion 1.934 back.A
Summary: (pick up agate):
TOP TENS:LM # 1 – Trevor Huddleston, Dean Thompson, Dylan Garner, Jagger Jones (No. 26), Joey Iest, Jesse Love, Lucas McNeil, Tanner Reif, Nick Joanides, Holley Hollan.
LM # 2 – Huddleston, Joanides, McNeil, Thompson, Reif, Iest, Hollan, Jones, Lawless Alan, Dustin Vandermooren.
Spec LM/Race Trucks (Overall Finish) – Kenny Smith, Jake Drew, Troy Andersen, Andrew Porter, Dennis Arena, Andy Partridge, L. J. Billings, Will Browne, Bory Molina, Steve Lozano.
LC # 1 – Brent Scheidemantle, Tyler Hicks, Jordan Holloway, Tyler Reif, Christian Bazen, Ethan Naciemento, Jake Bollman, Mike Vanderlip, Chloe Lynch, Parker Heffel.
LC # 2 – Holloway, Hicks, Bollman, Reif, Naciemento, Vanderlip, Lynch, Bazen, Skyler Meisenbach, Heffel.
Enduro # 1 – Rodney Argo, Robert Rice, Chris Voight, John Beard, James Bolinas, R. J. Rice, Rick Conti, Joseph Bereiter, Mike McIntyre, Bobby Ozman.
Enduro # 2 – Argo, Voight, Ozman, Bolinas, Beard, Conti, R. Rice, R.J Rice, Bereiter, McIntyre.
SS – Bryan Harrell, Rich De Long III, Jim Vermillion, Robby Harryman, Jerry Toporek, Harry Michaelian, Tyler Gallup.