LUCAS OIL MODS + NASCAR (5 SERIES, 6 MAINS) – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 18 – Lucas Oil Modifieds and NASCAR All-American Racing collaborated Saturday in a multi-series event for the only time this season at the Irwindale Speedway half-mile. The result was a five division, six main event marathon involving 62 racing vehicles and 230 scheduled laps of main event action that attracted about 3,500 spectators on a balmy 80+-degree evening.
Onlookers watched a surprised first-time feature winner and series rookie Trevor Cristiani, from Boise, Idaho, win the 75-lap Lucas Oil Modified feature in only his fourth race with the touring series. Kenny Smith, a 71-year old racing grandfather and Sharky’s Spec Late Model Series point leader, also won his feature to the amazement of appreciative spectators. When the PA system informed them Smith “is 72 years young” he received a rousing round of applause. He will turn 72 in September.
The other three feature winners are on the top ten list of all-time main event winners at the speedway that opened in 1999. Ryan Partridge, 30, won a 25-lap Irwindale Race Trucks feature for his 59th career IS triumph in several racing series. His total ranks second only to 67 victories by retired multi-champion Rip Michels.
Another top ten all-time IS winner, Trevor Huddleston, 22, won both LKQ Pick Your Part NASCAR late model twin 35-lap features for his 40th and 41st victories at the speedway. His father Tim, a three-time IS late model champion (2005, 07-08) , began co-promoting IS earlier this year. Trevor is now seventh all-time on the list of IS feature winners and his father is fourth all-time with 45 victories.
The only division that used the inner third-mile oval was the INEX Legend Cars. Four-time series IS track champion/fastest qualifier Darren Amidon, 33, won his seventh main event in eight races this season. It was another of his expected charges from the back row. Amidon, from Lakeside, now has 36 IS feature victories (all in his legend car). He is now tied with retired 2002-03 IS late model champion Todd Burns for eighth place all-time on the list of prolific winners at IS.
LUCAS OIL MODS 75: The final race of the night delivered action as expected. Round seven of the 11-race Lucas Oil Modified Series was also the second of three rounds in the Spillvak Triple Crown Series for Lucas Modified Series drivers. Jason Irwin won the first round on June 30 in Bakersfield. After an open-practice session Friday night, all 22 modifieds raced in the 75-lap feature Saturday. Twenty cars reached the checkered flag with 11 drivers on the lead lap.
Two brief caution flags at lap 18 for debris on the front straight and on lap 69 for a car off track slowed the rapid race. The Lucas Series did not count yellow flag laps during the usual 75-lap feature distance. All 22 drivers, from five western states, qualified from 3:45 to 4:10 pm in 94-degree heat in single car runs with two timed laps. Remarkably, all drivers qualified within 1.147 seconds from 18.763 to 19.910.
The six fastest Lucas Modified qualifiers started in the first three rows. Fast timer Scott Winters, a 50-year old Ph.D mechanical engineer for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory near his Tracy home, started third. That put second and third quickest qualifiers and 2018 series main event winners Jason Irwin and four-time 2018 feature winner Taylor Miinch on the front row.
At the green flag, past Irwindale winner Miinch, from El Cajon, led over Winters, Irwin, past IS Lucas IS winner Dylan Capello, series newcomer Justin Johnson, (Irwindale’s 2010 NASCAR super late model track champion in the No. 98 Vision Airlines Chevy), Lucas rookie Cristiani, and four-time IS track champion Ryan Partridge in his own RCF-built car
Irwin, from Albuquerque, took second from Winters on lap 2 as Miinch opened a 20-yard advantage. Irwin dropped to P. 4 on lap 5 and pulled into the infield on lap 14 with a problem to become the second of only two non-finishers. Eddie Secord parked his No. 84 a lap earlier.
At lap 25, Miinch continued to lead Winters, Capello, Cristiani, Partridge, Blake Rogers, Aaron McMorrow, Lucas Mod rookie Ryan Schartau, 15, Lucas modified rookie Cody Kay, 23, from Reno, and Dave Arce. Kay was driving the ex-No. 51A Austin Barnes STR series championship car purchased last year from Barnes, of Escondido,who moved to Texas to pursue a career in aviation. At the one-third mark, 18 of 20 drivers were on the lead lap.
On lap 44, Cristiani began his determined move forward by taking third from Capello. At two-thirds distance (lap 50), the top ten on the scoring pylon were: Miinch, Winters, Cristiani, Rogers, Partridge, McMorrow, Schartau, C. Kay, younger brother Jeremy Kay, 17, and Johnson. On lap 60 outsider running Cristiani passed Winters for second position on the outside from turn four to the starting line.
With race leader Miinch running the inside line ten-yards ahead of him, first-time IS driver Cristiani closed in rapidly and was just a few lengths in back of the leader from laps 64-67. On lap 68 Cristiani made a clean “slide job” pass in the second turn without contact and led lap 68. The lap 69 caution flag did not phase the new race leader.
At the lap 69 green flag, Cristiani’s No. 90 2018 STR chassis, in only its fourth race, sprinted away from Miinch’s No. 4T STR chassis. He increased his lead to ten yards within four laps. At the lap 75 checkered flag, Cristiani held a 20-yard lead (1.173 seconds) over Miinch. Winters was third (-2.089) in the red No. 24A Ferrari Farms of Linden, CA 24A STR car he has driven for years. Arizonans Capello and Rogers placed fourth and fifth.
Partridge (-2.865) led the other drivers who ran all 75 laps. They were: McMorran, C. Kay, Johnson, J. Kay, and Schartau (-7.894 seconds). On the final lap P. 8 Schartau had his LR tire hit by closely pursuing Johnson, driving the No. 17 (ex-No. 99 Linny White ride last season). A cut LR Hoosier tire caused Schartau to slow and lose three positions to C. Kay, Johnson, and J. Kay. Schartau, a double-dipping Lucas modified and NASCAR late model driver, crossed the finish line 2.425 seconds in back of tenth place in his STR No. 7.
The race took 36 minutes and averaged 61.565 mph with the speed reduced by two cautions. Miinch clocked the fastest lap of 95.102 mph while leading. The series is owned by Lucas Oil, Inc. of Corona, CA and run by respected racing official Greg Schiedecker. He announced during the post-race tech inspection of top finishing cars that Cristiani had won the hard charger award.
During his finish line interview over the track PA system, Cristiani said, “I visited this track once in 2010 and sat in the stands. This is awesome to win in such a tough field. My dad and I made big changes after practice last night and they worked. I’m getting married to my fiancee Aubrey in two weeks, so this is my last race. The entire field was within a second and two-tenths and that’s terrific.”
Runner-up Miinch, the Hoosier Tire West series point leader, stated, “We were pretty good, but got beat at the end. We’ll go to Orange Show Speedway next (September 15). We have about a 30-point lead I think.” … Third finisher Winters told the crowd, “This is a great track. I brought it home third, so that’s good.”
WINNER: Cristiani said he raced legend cars and super late models in the Pacific Coast Series at Nor Cal tracks when he lived in Ukiah, CA. Irwindale was only his fourth race in a Lucas Oil Modified. His earlier starts came in Las Vegas, Madera and Bakersfield. His team owner, Don Newman, from Eagle, Idaho, purchased a brand new 2018 STR for Cristiani to race. His best finish was a fourth place prior to the Irwindale round. The winner qualified sixth fastest and said he loves the Irwindale half-mile.
The first three finishing cars all used STR chassis built by Steve Teets Racing of Ramona, CA.. Other chassis builders were: Phil’s Phabrication of Las Vegas, Racecar Factory in Irwindale, and Lefthander Chassis.
TROPHY DASH: Racing started at 7:10 pm with a 6-lap K & N Trophy Dash for the six fastest modified qualifiers fully inverted by qualifying times. A winner takes all $500 purse went to Capello, who started third and led the final four laps after he shot from third to first on the inside in the fourth turn. Early leader Johnson, 32, from Pahrump, NV, finished 0.821 behind Capello. Cristiani, Miinch, Winters, and Irwin followed. Drivers came from four states: two each from California and Nevada, and one each from Idaho and New Mexico. The winner averaged 94.685 mph.
The Lucas Oil Modified Series 2018 schedule runs from March to November. Speedways visited were in Lake Havasu, AZ., Tucson, Las Vegas (3/8ths mile Bullring), Madera, Kern County Raceway Park half-mile-Bakersfield, Salt Lake City, UT, Irwindale, OSS-San Bernardino, and return races in Madera, Lake Havasu, and the November finale in Las Vegas. With the closing of Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City recently many racers and fans hope Irwindale also will host two Lucas Oil Modified races in 2019.
1st LATE MODEL 35: Sean Woodside set the fastest qualifying time of 19.496 (92.327 mph) and started from pole position in a 16-car field with a straight-up by qualifying times starting order. He led the first 17 laps in only his second race night this season. Trevor Huddleston started third and traded P. 2 three-times with his HPR teammate Jagger Jones, 15, the second quickest qualifier.
The top three drivers were nose-to-tail after lap 10. Huddleston passed Jones on the inside at turn three on lap 15. He nipped leader Woodside with another inside pass in turn two on lap 18 and opened a ten-yard lead by lap 20. Positions remained unchanged to the lap 35 checkers. The P 4-6 battle among Schartau, series point leader Lawless Alan, and past champion Nick Joanides captured fans attention. They finished in the same order.
Dylan Garner, Zachary St. Onge, 16, Tucson super late model driver Brandon Farrington, 21, and Mike Johnson completed the top ten in an all-green, 11:48.629-timed race. Winner Huddleston averaged 88.904 mph, won by 0.848, and ran the fastest lap of 91.227 mph. Teams had more than an hour to prepare for the second feature that started at 9:06 as the fifth of six main events. Fourteen of 16 starters finished with all but one driver on the lead lap.
2nd LATE MODEL 35: The top ten finishers in the first 35 were inverted for the second 35 based upon finishing positions in the first 35. M. Johnson had the pole with Tucson’s Farrington, in his second race night at Irwindale, alongside. Farrington grabbed the lead in the Tony Martinez No. 26 and led the first 12 laps over Garner and point leader Alan. A lap 11 crash in turn four sidelined P. 6 Johnson with front end damage. A two-by-two restart had Huddleston in fourth when a solo spin by P. J. Hernandez caused another caution flag two laps later.
The lap 13 double file restart had Huddleston race past IS newcomer Farrington immediately with a slide job pass in the second turn. He opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 20 Jones took P. 2 on lap 24. Another yellow for debris on the front straight allowed Schartau and Joanides to pass Farrington. St. Onge passed the initial leader for P. 5 on the final lap as five drivers in P. 4-8 raced in a tight pack. P. 7-10 at the finish were: Woodside, Garner, Rodney Peacher, and Lucas McNeil.
The 27-minute second feature had 14 of 16 starters racing at the finish, with 12 on the lead lap. Point leader Alan was in fourth place on lap 27 when he pulled into the infield with a problem. The DNF cost him the point lead after 14 races. Second year late model driver Schartau now leads Alan by ten points (608-598). Jones is third with 572. Huddleston was not present for four races earlier this year and is in seventh place.
The twin-35 mains had a 16-year old female driver, Presley Truedson, from Kennedy, Minnesota, race the No. 56 HPR Toyota. She races a Toyota-powered midget for Zach Daum in the POWRi Series based in the Midwest. She also races a Henchcraft winged lightning sprint in the upper Midwest. She raced the Daum No. 5T Toyota midget this year in the Tulsa (OK) Chili Bowl Classic indoor race during January and raced in one of Saturday’s two “H” mains.
Rookie Truedson had never driven a stock car and had only raced open-wheel cars on dirt tracks. The IS half-mile was the largest track in her racing career so far. She and her dad flew on United Airlines from Manitoba, Canada to Denver to Ontario Thursday and had two nights to practice at IS during open practices. Her goal was to log laps and learn as much as possible. Her ultimate goal is to compete on the winged 410 sprint car World of Outlaws circuit.
Truedson was the slowest qualifier and started last in both races. She dropped out after 11 laps in the first 35 and ran 30 of 35 laps in the second race, being sure to stay low out of the leaders way. Her No. 56 ride had been raced by Hailie Deegan earlier this season at IS and on August 4 by Toyota midget driver Maria Cofer.
SHARKY’S SPEC LATE MODELS: Seven starters were fully inverted by qualifying times in the starting lineup of a scheduled 25 laps race also on the half-mile. A flat tire caused an opening lap spin on the backstretch by second fastest qualifier Dr. Shannon Millen, a high school vice principal at Lake Arrowhead, who was making her stock car debut. She drove series sponsor Craig Yeaton’s teal color backup car 24. She had raced in the Pikes Peak Hill-climb in the 1990s and finished second in class.
After a quick trip to the pits for a new tire, Millen, 49, rejoined the field at the back for the restart. On lap 1 in turn two driver Yeaton (in his black No. 24) got hit in the side by the 98 car and collected the outside wall. Then the 19 car hit Yeaton from behind and sent his car (without brakes or steering) looping toward the infield. It got to the inside groove where it was tee-boned hard at the LF corner by his backup car driven by Millen. Both cars were damaged heavily. Yeaton received EMT attention for muscle soreness on his left side. He remained in the pits.
Removing both of Yeaton cars on a wrecker and a roll-back required 15 minutes. Officials cut the race to 20 laps. Todd Conrad led the first three laps. Then fastest qualifier Kenny Smith took command in turn four with an inside move. He won by 0.893 and ran the fastest lap at 87.095 mph. The race ran 20 laps without incident in 7:31.561 for an average speed of 79.723 mph.
Rookie Dean Thopmpson, 16, from Anaheim Hills, started fifth in his second late model race. He took P. 3 on lap 15 with an inside pass that moved John Watkinson up the track. Thompson used the same inside move at turn four on the final lap to move early leader Conrad up the track. They bumped side-to-side on the front straight near the finish line. Thompson edged Conrad by 0.118. Watkinson and Jason De Long also completed 20 laps.
When informed by co-promoter Tim Huddleston via the infield PA mic that “the winner is 72 years young” the larger than normal “NASCAR Night” crowd erupted in cheers and applause for the senior citizen. The series point leader wants to become the oldest track champion in IS history. It was his third feature victory in six main events this season. He now leads by 18 points (292-274) over Yeaton.
Runner-up Yeaton, who owns series sponsor Sharky’s Swim & Dive, said his rental No. 24 driver Dr. Millen and her sponsor Tim Cash Grading bought the 24 teal blue car to fix it and race again. Yeaton also will send his black 24 RCF car back to Racecar Factory in Irwindale to get a new front clip if the frame isn’t bent too severely.
IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS 25: A seven truck field raced 25 laps in 14-minutes with one brief yellow flag for a solo spinner. Pole starter Jeff Williams led lap 1. Fifth starter Ryan Partridge moved from P. 3 to the lead via inside passes in the third and fourth turns to pass 2017 IRT champion Dennis Arena and Williams.
Fast timer Lucas McNeil, 25, took P 2 on lap 5 and closed on the leader for another of their now expected side-by-side duels during the final ten laps. With Partridge on the outside and McNeil inside there was seldom more than a length between them. Ken Michaelian made it a three-way dogfight for victory from lap 23 to the conclusion. They ran the final three laps in a tight pack. Runner-up McNeil was 0.173 back. Michaelian was 0.561 behind Partridge and P. 4 Mike Johnson trailed by 0.901. Arena and Williams also completed 25 laps. McNeil ran the fastest lap of 87.852 mph.
In eight IRT races this season Partridge won six and McNeil two, including a July 28 30-lap feature in which he edged Partridge by 0.265. The first two finishers stopped at the finish line for PA system interviews. Partridge said, “Lucas and I have been going at it hard the last three or four races. That’s what I call good hard, clean racing.” McNeil stated, “I thought I could get by him there, but I lost a little brake pedal and got into him a bit.” Partridge now leads McNeil by six points (392-386).
LEGEND CARS 35: Ten INEX Legend cars raced on the third-mile with a fully inverted starting grid based on qualifying times. There were five race leaders—Mike Vanderlip (L 1), Tyler Hicks (L 2-4), 13-year old Jace Jones (L 5-8), and fastest qualifier/four-time series champion Darren Amidon (L 9-35). It was his seventh main triumph in eight races this season.
Runner-up Chad Schug, a three-time IS Legends track champion, trailed by 3.305 seconds. Jones, Ricky Leigh and Hicks completed the top five. All ten starters finished with seven drivers on the lead lap. Amidon ran the fastest lap at 73.106 mph. The winner told the crowd, “It’s good to see a lot more fans here tonight. A big thanks to the City of Hope (renowned medical center in nearby Duarte) for all they do to fight cancer.”
The INEX Legends race was a national qualifier to earn a guaranteed starting spot for a race later this year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. The 12-minute race had one caution flag on lap 22 after a solo spin out. Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, was present in a suite to watch his two grandsons—Jace (LC) and Jagger (LM)—compete.
The IS event was called “Race for Hope” to raise funds for the renowned medical center just north of IS and within sight of the speedway. A 50/50 cash drawing for spectators to benefit the City of Hope resulted in two fans receiving $380 each and the medical center receiving half of the total collected. Val Cummings, a two-time cancer survivor treated at the City of Hope, stopped his No.67 late model at the finish line after the second LM main and drew the winning ticket numbers.
Trevor Huddleston, standing nearby following his second victory of the night, stepped forward and said over the PA mic, “I’m giving all my winnings tonight to the City of Hope.” Races Saturday were streamed live on the internet for a fee to subscribers via Low Budget TV. Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best, operators of Low Budget TV, record all IS races for You Tube use. They used three cameras to capture all action.
The next IS event on Saturday, September 1 will be another of the “Night of Destruction” events so popular with spectators.