Irwindale, CA., Jan. 26 – Irwindale Speedway kicked off its 20th season of oval track competition Saturday with the first of seven scheduled “Night of Destruction” event so poplular with fans of mayhem. It was the first of 19 weekly events on the IS schedule. More than 6,000 spectators packed the grandstand for the season opener.
Management delayed the announced 7:00 pm starting time for the six event program by twenty minutes to allow more fans to enter the premises. Cars were lined up on Live Oak Ave. to the east and west to the 605 Freeway until about 7:30 pm. Eventually all spectators parked and found seats in the main grandstand.
So Cal winter weather was a “balmy” 73 degrees at 6:30 pm and still in the low 60s when racing concluded at 9:39 pm with an always entertaining trailer race. The winner of that event was chosen by a panel of five male judges selected at random and escorted from the grandstand to the race control booth.
Racing events for four-cylinder sedans included a 35-lap enduro race on the third-mile oval, a skid plate cars 20-lap race, a 25-lap Figure 8 race, and a 20-lap infield “flag pole” race in which cars crossed paths (Figure 8 style). A Pick Your Part pickup truck called “Inferno” has an aircraft jet engine mounted at the back and entertained fans by torching an old sedan in the infield amid flying metal debris prior to the final event.
The final event was the trailer race so eagerly anticipated by fans. Eleven entrants lined up on the front straight two by two. Fans applause determined the winner of the best decorated float on a trailer. The unique Valentine’s Day float theme won many votes. At the green flag entrants started circling the third-mile from a standing start.
Entrants destroyed two parked old mobile homes at the exit of turn four and demolished trailers of other competitiors as they vied for entertaining hits. Laps were not counted and judges looked for entertaining hits by competitors. After 20 minutes only four drivers were still circulating the debris-littered track when the stareter unfurled his checkered flag to end the carnage.
The five judges determined the black and white checkered No. 3 pickup truck driven by Cole Pearlstein, from Santa Clarita, was the winner. It was his first-ever victory at Irwindale. Michael Avrick’s No. 58 pickup truck was awarded second place. Robert Rice’s No. 7 Chevy El Camino, towing a boat, received third place.
Another first-time Irwindale feature winner was veteran enduro car driver Joe Labrosciano, from Montclair, in his No. 95 1991 Honda Accord. He started the 20-lap flag pole race 11thin a field of 17 and chased Robert Rice’s No. 14 Honda Accord for five laps. On lap 6 he used an inside pass at the flag pole and passed Rice easily in traffic congestion. Labrosciano quickly opened a 40-yard lead of 2.2 seconds. Rice cut into his lead quickly at lap 18 in traffic and was only ten yards back at the white flag lap. Labrosciano negotiated his way past a slower car entering the final two corners and won by 0.732 over Rice. Several fellow drivers stopped at the finish line to congratulate the winner.
ENDURO CARS 35: The opening race at 7:20 pm was a 26-car, 35-lap enduro sedans race on the third-mile oval. A ten-car inverted starting lineup based upon afternoon time trials put ex-SCRA 410 cu. in. sprint car driver Rodney Argo outside in row two. The Gardena resident, ranked second in final enduro 2018 IS points, shot into the lead at the rolling start and led every lap in his all black No. 9 Acura Integra. Argo opened a straightaway lead by lap 20 and won by 9.140 seconds over Bory Molina’s No. 71 Toyota Supra.
Fastest qualifier Mike Hudson, came from tenth starting slot to third by lap 15, but he trailed winner Argo by 14 seconds. Top five drivers Dewitt Jones and Mike McIntyre were lapped by Argo during the final two laps. The all-green light race took 11:05.332. Twenty-four starters were racing at the finish.
SKID PLATES: Fourteen enduro sedan drivers installed metal skid plates on the back wheels instead of tires. They ran 20 quick laps on a five-turn R-oval that had cars jog from turn four to the finish line on the half-mile prior to angling to the first turn of the third-mile. Ashley Rice, from Yucca Valley, started on the pole next to her father, Wayne Lee, and led the first lap.
Her brother Austin Lee started 15th and passed his sister on lap 2. He led through lap 7. Sixth starter Steven Belling paced laps 8-14. On lap 12 in turn four the No. 11 Nissan Sentra of Chase Schmitt spuin and Belling’s car smashed into it but continued with some damage. On lap 15 Belling spun out at the starting line and R. Argo’s car spun into it. Both drivers continued but A. Lee had taken the lead and won by a full lap over Robert Rice, driving the pink No. 3 Honda usually raced by Cheryl Hyland.
Belling lost second place to Rice on the 20th and final lap, but he held on for third place. McIntyre, A. Rice and Robbie Salcido also completed 19 laps in P. 4-6 respectively. The winner averaged 52.811 mph. Thirteen cars finished the 11-minute race. It was Lee’s third career skid plate car victory and second in a row. He also won the final races of 2014 and 2018. All-time IS skid plate feature winner Mike Di Gregorio was not present.
FIGURE 8s: Event three of the night was a 16-car fan-favorite Figure-8 race through the infield. Argo started ninth in his second car, a tan & brown “cowhide car” Honda Accord, and led laps 3 and 5-25 for his second $300. victory of the night. It also marked his 14th Irwindale career triumph since he started “fun-racing” three years ago.
Joe Labrosciano drove his second 1991 Honda Accord from fourth starting spot to lead the first two laps and lap 4. He chased Argo closely to the checkered flag and even nosed into the lead briefly in traffic, but he trailed winner Argo by 1.005 at the finish. Dewitt Jones was third, with Robert Rice and Robert Rice, Jr. next across the finish line. Eight drivers ran all 25 laps and 12 cars finished. The all-green flag race took 9:52.232. Argo averaged 57.292 mph.
The next Irwindale oval track NASCAR event will be Saturday, March 9 with a six event program on the half and third-mile ovals. Twin late model main events will top the program. Irwindale Race Trucks, super stocks, spec late models and INEX legend cars are also on the schedule.