Irwindale, CA., Sept. 19 – Irwindale Speedway ran its first “Irwindale 500” Saturday in an unprecedented extravaganza from 4:00 to 9:15 pm. Competitors-only attended because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Mask wearing and social distancing protocols were required for racing to receive government approval. Usual attendees in the grandstand were able to watch the event live at home on irwindalespeedwaytv.com via pay per view.
It was the sixth competitors-only racing event at the speedway since mid-June. The event consisted of ten racing divisions, 13 main events and 500 laps of competition on the half and third-miles. There were 110 race cars/trucks present in the expanded pits that included part of the front parking lot. Competitors came from five states–Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. One driver flew in from his native Japan.
The gigantic program became necessary because raging wildfires in Los Angeles County forced track management to postpone the six division September 12 program one week. Unhealthy air throughout the area caused by smoke from forest fires made breathing outdoors unhealthy for everyone. The postponed race joined the scheduled four series already scheduled for September 19.
Wind from the southwest Thursday improved air qualify. Competitors practiced four hours from 5:00-9:00 Thursday and Friday nights. Saturday practice for all divisions took place from 10 am to 12:30 pm with the temperature in the 90s. Qualifying followed with five divisions using group qualifying and five divisions employing two individually-timed laps.
Touring series included Spears Mfg Modifieds presented by Lucas Oil, Sigma Engineering Pro Late Models, and Southwest Tour Trucks. Advance Auto Parts NASCAR divisions that competed were: Pick Your Part Late Models, INEX Legend Cars, Tucker Tire enduro sedans, super stocks and spec racers (spec late models and trucks).
Twin main events on the third-mile were run in three divisions–legend cars, enduros, and pro late models. NASCAR late models on the half also raced two features. Spec racers combined seven cars and five trucks in the same race with separate winners in each class. Enduro cars also had two classes in the same race. Winners in the stock and faster sport classes both received 50-points for victories.
The temperature was 97-degrees at 4:10 when the first race started. It was still 86 with 38% humidity at 6:00, 76-degrees at 8:30 with 52% humidity, and 74-degrees with 54% humidity when the final checkered flag waved at 9:15. Competitors sat in the grandstand shade under the suites to watch the races.
Track lights were used for the first time this season during the pandemic. Five races this summer started shortly after 4:00 pm and were completed before sunset. This week the sun set earlier so track lights were turned on at 6:40 before event eight–the second enduro race.
> NASCAR late models ran twin 35-lap features as events one and 11. Fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 24, won both races after starting first in the opener and led every lap in the RCF-built No. 50 HPR Chevy. With the second 35 inverting the first six finishers in race one, Huddleston started sixth and became the third leader on lap 18. He led the balance of the race and recorded his third victory of the day and 57th at IS. Thirteen cars competed.
In race one Nick Joanides (-1.573) and Dean Thompson (-2.928) completed the top three in the 11:47.799 all-green flag race that averaged 89.008 mph. Eleven of 12 starters finished. In the second 35 Thompson and Joanides placed second and third. Joanides took third from Dylan Garner on the final lap with an outside pass exiting turn four. The race took 18 minutes because of one caution flag.
> SWT TRUCKS: The So Cal-based series has ten scheduled races at four tracks in three states. The Las Vegas Bullring and Havasu (AZ) 95 Speedway scheduled two races each, Madera Speedway booked one, and Irwindale scheduled five. A season-high 13 trucks raced a pair of 20-lap races Saturday instead of one 30-lapper.
Riverside’s Jeff Peterson won both races in the No. 21 Ford-F150. He took the lead in race one with a last lap, final turn pass of leader Jacob Smith, 15, from Eagle, Idaho. Smith, the fifth fastest qualifier in a 13-truck field, started fourth and took the lead from lap early leader Ron Nava on lap 4. His quickly opened a 30-yard lead.
Fastest qualifier Peterson started eighth and took second on lap 7. He closed ground on Smith until he was on his back bumper at the white flag lap. His final lap pass edged Smith by 0.090 in a thriller. Whittier’s Ron Davis, Jr. started seventh as second quickest qualifier and placed third, 0.562 back. Austin Edwards, 15, finished fourth. All 13 trucks completed the all-green 8:42.757 (68.866 mph) race.
Smith, a Northwest Tour Truck rookie, has won three main events and is a NWTT championship contender at his home tracks in Meridian and Twin Falls, Idaho. He and his father towed their No. 11 Chevy south on I-15 922 miles in 15 hours to race at IS for the first time. It was his first race on a half-mile and he said he “loved” IS.
A red flag after the first 20 laps brought all trucks to a halt on the front straight. Officials repositioned trucks for the second 20 with the first four finishers inverted in the first two rows. That put Edwards and Davis in row one with Smith and Peterson in row two. P. 5-13 drivers from race one started as they
finished race one. Edwards led laps 1-3. Peterson led laps 4-20 for his fifth IS triumph. Davis, Edwards and Smith completed the top four. Smith and Edwards traded third position on lap 7 after a two-by-two restart following a spinout. They did so again on lap 14 after a driver looped in turn four following contact. Davis departed with the SWTT points lead.
> SPEC RACERS: The 40-lap race (event 12) combined seven spec late models (former S2cars) and five Irwindale Race Trucks. The 12 similar speed vehicles race had three leaders with trucks in front early. L. J. Billings paced the first five laps from row one. Truck rookie Will Browne, 17, came from row two and led laps 6-11 during a three-way dogfight.
Trucker Andrew Porter, 26, took command on lap 12. He raced his grandfather Kenny Smith, 73, for most of the race and won his fifth main this season. Spec LM driver Andy Partridge took second from Smith on lap 34 with an inside pass at turn four and won 50 points for the third consecutive spec late model race. He trailed Porter by 0.630. Smith was third, with spec LM rookie Jake Drew, 20, fourth and Browne fifth. Eleven of 12 starters finished every lap in a 24-minute race with two caution flags.
> SUPER LATE MODELS: The 13th and final feature had nine starters. Spears SWT veteran Dylan Lupton, 26, from Elk Grove, led all 50 laps for his ninth IS victory. He started second in his dad’s Van Doorn chassis, No. 4 Chevy, in which he won the July 11 IS feature. Fastest qualifier Jimmy Parker, 34, started fourth in Tom Clift’s No. 92 2019 Senneker chassis. He only had two prior races at IS in 2010 aboard the Vision Airlines No. 92 super late model. The Las Vegas resident and 2018 LVMS Bullring SLM champion closed rapidly during the final 12 laps, but trailed Lupton by 0.287 at the finish.
Dan Holtz, driving his new car, placed third, 4.783 seconds off the lead. Las Vegan Chris Clyne and IS driver Dean Thompson (No. 51 HPR Chevy) also completed 50-laps. The 15:15.268 all-green race averaged 98.332 mph. Scott Sanchez ran 48 laps. Trevor Huddleston was in P. 5 on lap 24 when he dropped out in the Jim Vermillion No. 26.
> SPEARS MODIFIEDS: Event two was the touring Spears modified series fifth race of 2020. The Traffic Management, Inc. 75 presented by General Tire winner received $1,500. Drivers raced 75-laps on the third-mile instead of the series usual half-mile venue. Fastest qualifier Eddie Secord (in his own RCF-built No. 84) set an automatic new track record of 15.493 (77.377 mph) during his 2:10 pm qualifying run. The top six positions awarded $1,500, $1,000, $800, $650, $500, $400; P. 7-15 drivers each received $300.
Secord started third and led the final 69 laps to earn his fourth Irwindale victory. He edged runner-up Jeremy Doss and took the point lead from Doss by four points (366-362). Lodi resident Travis McCullough, from the pole, led the first six laps. Secord used an inside pass entering turn three on lap 7 and led to the lap 75 checkers for his second series victory this season. He also won June 27 at KCRP in Bakersfield.
Doss, from Nor Cal, took second from McCullough on lap 14. The two-time 2020 series winner at Roseville and at IS on July 18, battled Secord evenly to the conclusion but trailed by 1.119 seconds. McCullough was third, 3.297 from the lead. Travis Thirkettle, winner of the series opener at IS on February 1, placed fourth. NASCAR Winston West 1991-92 champion Bill Sedgwick, 65, finished fifth.
Fourteen of 15 starters from three states finished and 12 ran all 75 laps. The 30-minute race had five yellow flags for spins and stalls. Secord became the third different winner in three scheduled Irwindale races this season. The series point season will conclude October 31 at Lake Havasu, AZ and November 21 in Las Vegas.
> LEGENDS: Eleven cars raced the third and seventh events in a pair of 30 lappers. The winner was a surprise entrant who had not raced at IS since 2011. Mitchell deJong, 23, has been racing in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series through 2017. TheTemecula resident has been E-Sport I-racing since then and surprised everyone by qualifying fourth fastest in an 11-car field and winning both mains after starting fourth and eighth.
Karting and off-road racer deJong drove Donny St. Ours’ No 08 replica 1930s Ford coupe. LC 2014 IS track champion Brent Scheidemantle drove the same car to victory in the first race this season on June 13. DeJong raced his family No. 24 legends car at IS briefly in 2011 before turning his attention to rallycross racing. He raced a No. 24 Honda against drivers such as Scott Speed, Tanner Foust and European drivers through 2017 until the series ceased operations. He then became an E-sport, I-racing winner. He started fourth in the 11-car first main and led the final 17 laps. Tyler Hicks trailed by 0.717. Versatile Jeremy Doss, Chad Schug and Las Vegan Tyler Reif, 13, followed. The race took 8:26,811 and averaged 70.961 mph.
The second LC main used an eight-car inverted lineup based on the first race finish. DeJong led the final nine laps after passing Doss at start/finish on lap 14. Fourth starter Reif led the first 20 laps. DeJong passed him on the inside in the third turn on lap 21 in a tight, four-car lead pack. Runner-up Doss was 0.460 back at the checkers. Reif, Schug and Hicks followed closely in a 14-minute event with two caution flags.
> ENDUROS: Events four and eight had 19 four-cylinder enduro sedans racing 30-lap mains on the oval without a detour into the infield. Ten stock and nine sport sedans started with all sports sedans at the back. Bory Molina (Toyota Celica) won both sport class mains. Stock victories went to Honda Accord drivers Robert Rice and Brad Stellman.
Molina inherited the second triumph after apparent winner Rick Conti’s No 88 Acura Interga was disqualified and placed last after routine post-race tech inspection uncovered a “motor modification” according to Race Director Mike Atkinson. Sport class drivers Bobby Ozman, Ian Rotundo and sprint car veteran Rodney Argo finished second through fourth.
Robert Rice (Honda Accord) finished fifth in the first enduro stock class which increased his IS main event victory total to 58, third most in track history. The 12-minute race had one yellow flag and 16 of 19 starters finished. Enduro event two had Conti in front at the finish by 0.357, but Molina collected the trophy and 50-points after Conti’s DQ. Rotundo, Ozman and stock class winner Stellman followed in a 16-minute contest with two caution flags.
> PRO LATE MODELS: The twin-40s (races five and nine) for nine cars went to Parker Malone, from Redlands, and Trevor Huddleston, from Agoura Hills. The two winners also finished second to each other. Malone, 24, started seventh and led all but the first four laps. It was the first IS victory for the former IS legend cars and current Orange Show Speedway driver. He held off three-time NASCAR IS and California late model champion/eighth starter Huddleston by 3.264 seconds.
Fastest qualifier/Madera resident Tyler Herzog, 22, placed third in race one and was 6.197 seconds behind the winner. Dean Thompson and OSS driver Mike Weiman completed the top five as eight of nine starters finished. The ten-minute race averaged 73.098 mph.
Race two inverted seven cars based on race one finishing positions. Huddleston. 24, came from sixth to lead laps 13-40; he beat Malone by 2.021 seconds in a 13-minute race with one caution flag. Thompson, Barry Karr, Tyler Reif, and Herzog also completed all 40 laps and finished third through sixth.
> SUPER STOCKS: A series season-high ten cars raced in event six. Fast timer/reigning champion Rich DeLong III, 32, won his second main this season in the series fifth event. The driver from Castaic started last in his No. 84 Chevy SS and became the third leader on lap 13. He used an inside pass in turn three to nip lap 3-12 leader Robert Harryman’s Camaro and win the 35-lap event by 2.415 seconds.
Bryan Harrell, a two-time SS track champion and double 2020 winner, took second from August 8 winner Harryman on lap 26 and placed second in the No. 94 Sampson Camaro. OSS regulars Kevin James, from Yucaipa, and Jay Verduzco, from Covina, completed the top five in a 16-minute race slowed by two caution flags. Six of nine finishers ran all 35 laps.