NASCAR NIGHT THREE @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA. May 13 – The third NASCAR Advance Auto Parts NASCAR Night of 2023 on Saturday honored Mothers Day with a near full-house audience of 5,500 according to co-promoter Tim Huddleston. Spectators witnessed eight main events with several different divisions competing in the same event. Twelve winners received 50-first place points towards 2023 track championships. A demolition derby with eight economy sedans and a ten-minute aerial fireworks show concluded the busy evening.
A pair of 30-lap Pick Your Part main events for the track’s top tier pro late model series had a field of 12. In the first 30 lapper at 7:00 pm, fastest qualifier Linny White, from Colton, started from pole position and led laps one and 11-30. It was his fourth victory of the season and 12th of his career at IS. He drove Clay Wooster’s No. 55 Chevy. Second quickest qualifier Trevor Huddleston executed an inside pass in turn two and led laps 2-10. White returned to the point on lap 11 via an inside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line. He opened a 25-yard lead and won by 1.543 over three-time series track champion Huddleston. The all-green light race took 10:02.713. The winner averaged 89.595 mph. Huddleston turned the fastest race lap of 93.652 mph.
Nick Joanides started and finished third in Joe Nava’s No. 77. Jeffrey Peterson, from Grand Terrace, started and finished fourth after relinquishing third to Joanides on lap 17. Nevadan Tyler Reif, 15, started seventh and finished fifth in his ARCA pro late model No. 41 Fury chassis owned by Chris Lowden. He trailed the winner by 9.575 seconds. Pomona-based truck racer Nico Mongenel, 25, made his pro late model debut in his own No. 44 Chevy, the ex-Mike Johnson No. 17 that has been idle for several seasons. Mongenel started and finished sixth as a series rookie. Ethan Cheek, Christian Bazen, Dennis Arena, and rookie Brayden Allen completed the top ten.
The second PYP pro late model 30 was the final oval track race at 9:30 pm. The first eight starters were inverted by their finishing positions in the first 30. Bazen and Cheek occupied the front row while Huddleston and White occupied row four. Bazen, a legend-car veteran and second year pro LM driver, led the first 19 laps. He ran the outside groove and had a 30-yard advantage after ten laps. On lap 7 at the starting line, cars in P. 2-4 came together. White (in P. 5) got bumped and spun wildly into the third-mile infield near the first turn. He continued without stopping, but lost six positions. The caution flag was not needed.
Third generation driver Huddleston, 26, took second on lap 12. At mid-race Bazen led Huddleston, Reif, Joanides, Peterson, Mongenel, and Cheek, who dropped out on lap 16 with a flat RR tire, giving P. 7 to White. On lap 20 Huddleston passed Bazen on the inside entering turn three. He opened a 40-yard lead by lap 29 and beat Bazen by 1.696. Huddleston won his 80th Irwindale-feature, the all-time best at the track which opened in March 1999.
The all-green race took 10:03.080 (89.540 mph), 0.367 slower than the first 30. It was Bazen’s best late model finish and beat his prior best of fourth. Reif, Peterson, White, Mongenel, Allen, Arena, and Mike Zimmerman followed and completed 30 laps. Joanides was fourth on the final lap when his engine flamed out with a broken part. He pulled into the infield and placed tenth. White turned the quickest lap of 19.474 (92.431 mph).
The other main event on the half-mile was the combined YouRaceLA spec late model and spec trucks 40-lap race at 9:00 pm. Nine cars and three trucks raced for 50-points in each division. This race provided late race thrills as fastest qualifier Andrew Porter, the ninth starter, chased laps 4-39 leader Tanner Huddleston, 19, and gradually reeled him in by the final lap. Porter made his winning pass on the inside exiting turn four as the duo raced side-by-side and bumped near the finish line. Porter won his 26th IS main event in several divisions by a fender (-0.146) over Huddleston.
Porter drove the Racecar Factory-built No. 43 owned by his maternal grandfather and past spec late model champion Kenny Smith. Following his post-race interview at the finish line, Porter barely steered his car with its noticeably-toed-out RF wheel through the first turn entrance to the pits. Side-by-side contact near the finish line likely caused a broken tie rod and he probably would not have won if he had made his winning move a lap earlier.
Andy Partridge raced from eighth to third. Truck racer Jacob McNeil, from Acton, started second and finished fourth overall to earn the truck victory over third starter/fifth finisher Nico Mongenel in his No. 44 truck. Troy Andersen, J.D Partridge and series rookie Kevin Carter followed and all completed 40 laps. The 19-minute race had a lengthy caution flag on lap 3 after HPR team rookie Andrew Chapman, 17, bounced off the turn four wall and had to be towed to the pits with right front suspension damage.
The new IS Junior Spec Late Model series with all-new RCF-built Mustangs and Camaros ran its third race this season for drivers age 12 and slightly older. Eight cars have been built and raced so far with up to four more due this season according to builder Jeff Schrader. Seven cars raced this week, including two cars for newcomers. Most drivers have raced go-karts, legends, or enduros and want to climb the ladder to NASCAR touring series. IS co-promoter/ARCA West champion car owner Bob Bruncati originated the series and owns all the cars and rents them to competitors.
Charlie Carty, 12, set his third consecutive fastest qualifying time and tied his month-old record of 16.059 in the No. 6 blue and orange Sunrise Ford Mustang. Carty started first and led all 30-laps, which was ten laps longer than the first two events for the budding racers. Newcomer Rowe Luckenbill, 15, from Pacific Palisades, set the second fastest time and started second. He spun out on lap 1 in the second turn. He restarted last and raced back to fifth, behind the other newcomer Keagan Kaminski, 13, from San Dimas. Legends veteran Logan Chambers, 14, and enduro veteran Mikey Killen, 16, finished second and third. Ryan Schank celebrated his 13th birthday by finishing sixth, 10.266 seconds behind the winner. Carty’s 16.033 (74.771 mph) was the fastest race lap.
Street Stocks 30: Twelve vehicles (nine cars and three trucks) competed for 50-P.1 points in each class. Fast timer Kevin Furden (now in a black No. 34 Camaro) started on pole and dropped behind fellow front row starter Jim Vermillion’s No. 26 Monte Carlo. Vermillion, from Moreno Valley, led every lap and won by 0.436 over Zack Green’s No. 28 Camaro. Green took second on lap 5. Third place Furden dropped out four laps from the finish. Covina’s Jay Verduzco inherited third. Truck winner Jesus Quintero. 18, from Adelanto, placed fourth overall with fellow trucker Clayton Byers, from Castaic, fifth. Nine of 12 starters finished the 27-minute contest.
INEX LEGENDS 35: Eleven drivers raced on the third-mile oval again after using the r-oval course last month. Fastest qualifier/second-year legends driver Nathan Quella, 17, started fifth and passed lap 1-3 leader/pole starter Logan Chambers, 14, on lap 4. He raced to half a straight winning margin (- 4.054) over Chambers. The winning No. 42 coupe is one of three rental cars from Ricky Schlick. It was the first legends victory at IS for Yorba Linda’s Quella, an El Dorado High School student. He had one feature triumph earlier at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino.
Four-time IS legends champion Chad Schug, now from Chino Hills, started fourth and finished third. Younger brother Steven Bazen, from Santa Clarita, placed fourth and veteran Jim Smith fifth. Nine of 11 starters finished the 25-minute event that had three caution flags for spins. Personable Quella, whose grandfather Danny Quella was a famous Indianapolis 500 chief mechanic, ran the fastest lap of 16.271.
Two Tucker Tires of Covina enduro sedan events with 15 cars raced 25 laps on the usual six-turn r-oval course through the infield. The first enduro ran in the afternoon at 5:00 after qualifying and before the 5:45 to 6:30 on-track autograph session. Sport division driver Bobby Ozman set a new track record of 22.363 during group time trials. It beat his own record of 22.377 that he set on October 8, 2022 in his sport class 1998 Acura Integra. He won the pre-opening ceremonies first main (his 19th IS victory) over Rodney Argo and AMA speedway bike D-2 rider Bruce Marteney, from San Dimas. Robert Rice, from Hawthorne, was fourth overall and the stock class 50-points earner over Rider Garner and Mikey Killen in P6-7. The race took 9:42.023.
The second enduro 25 at 8:40 pm went to sprint car veteran Argo in his No. 9 Honda Prelude. It was the 39th victory for the IS ninth most victorious driver now in his sixth season at Irwindale. The race took 9:30.531. Argo started 14th and passed early leader Daniel Azzolina, from Buena Park, in traffic on lap 6. Sport class drivers Ozman and Jason Woolcott followed. P.4 overall went tio stock class first time winner Rider Gardner, from Glendora. Mike McIntyre, Killen, and Rice followed.
After the final oval race eight old economy sedans drove into the watered arena between large tires that denoted the combat zone for the demolition derby. After 13-minutes of smashing and bashing, spectators voted for the top three. Cheryl “mistress of mayhem” Hyland edged her mentor Robert “master of mayhem” Rice for the win. Rider Gardner, Hyland’s nephew, placed third. The usual ten-minute aerial fireworks show over a darkened speedway took place at 10:05 pm.
The next IS oval track racing will take place Saturday, May 20 with the extremely competitive Spears Mfg triple-header featuring super late models, pro late models and modifieds. Also that night, the first celebrity race of the year will pit actors, actresses and local TV news personalities in a 20-lap race on the third-mile in spec late models.