TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 8 – Track championships were decided at Irwindale Speedway Saturday in five of eight NASCAR Advance Auto Parts divisions. It was the eighth of eight scheduled NASCAR nights from March to October. A crowd of 4,500 watched action with temperature in the mid-70s. A brief passing cloud on a sunny afternoon deposited raindrops on the track and pits at 5:30 and canceled the usual 5:45 to 6:30 drivers autograph session on the front straight to dry the wet track. Double points (100) were awarded in the season finales for INEX Legend Cars, street stocks, and pro trucks. Spec late models and spec trucks raced together on the half-mile in a pair of 30-lap- mains with the winners in both series receiving the usual 50-points.
CHAMPIONS: Rookie Tanner Huddleston, 19, from Agoura Hills, won the YouRaceLA spec late model championship in his first season racing the former S2 Cars. He won two of nine mains and set the fastest qualifying time in seven of eight events that usually had nine cars racing on the half-mile. He drove the No. 50 HPR Chevy owned by his father Tim, the IS co-promoter. His 422 points topped Troy Andersen’s 398. Thirteen drivers earned series points.
Nico Mongenel, 25, from Pomona, won the spec truck title by winning five of the nine features aboard his fluorescent yellow No. 44. He also set the fastest qualifying time twice. He entered the final race four points ahead of Jacob McNeil. His 440 points after the race topped McNeil’s 438 by a mere two points. Mongenel won his first IS championship and avoided using the tie-breaking rule—most feature victories. Mongenel had four and McNeil three. Twelve drivers earned points.
Street stocks and pro trucks (formerly called West Coast Pro Trucks) raced a 35-lap main on the third- mile oval together for double points. Jim Vermillion, from Moreno Valley, won the race and his first IS street stock title in his No. 43 1988 Chevy Monte Carlo. The tie-breaker rule was used because runner-up Camaro driver Jay Verduzco also finished the season with 432 points. Verduzco had entered the race four points ahead of Vermillion (336-332). Vermillion had four feature victories to three for Verduzco. The series averaged 6.3 cars per race and 11 drivers earned points.
Pro trucks only had two trucks present for the finale instead of the usual four to a season-high ten trucks on September 10. The two title hopefuls were veteran Mike Kelperis, from Whittier, in his lime-green No. 8 Everlast Roofing, Inc. Ford F-150, and rookie Jesus Quintero, 18, from Adelanto, in his No. 72 Chevy Silverado. They started tenth and 11th in the eleven vehicle combined car and truck field. They raced forward together to third (Kelperis) and fourth (Quintero) as ten of 11 starters finished. Quintero won the truck championship by 54 points 428 to 374 for Kelperis. Thirteen drivers earned points.
INEX Legend Cars: With double points available, four drivers entered the eighth and final 2022 race on the third-mile with a mathematical chance to win the championship. Chad Schug had 322 to 300 for Tyler Hicks, the 2020 IS champion. Fourteen drivers raced. Legends veteran and NASCAR Late Model 2018 IS champion Lawless Alan drove his No. 25 YouParkIt coupe from third-starting to a 0.940 victory. He led laps 3-35. It was the ninth IS main event triumph for the current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie driver of the No. 45 Niece Racing Chevy.
Fastest qualifier and fourth-ranked point driver Nathan Quella, finished second. Schug started on pole in a four-car inverted lineup based on qualifying times. He led the first two laps but finished 4.884 seconds behind the winner. It was his fifth Legends title at IS. He also won the 2010-11, 2015 and 2021 LC titles at IS, and trails only six-time IS Legends champion Darren Amidon. Hicks started second and placed fourth, 5.813 behind the winner. Schug’s 414 points topped runner-up Hicks’ 388 by 26. The competitive LC series averaged 18.6 cars per race, had seven different feature winners and 44 drivers scored points. Numerous teenage rookies raced legends this year and showed impressive racing skill.
Tucker Tire four-cylinder enduro sedans raced one 35-lap race for regular points on the usual six-turn R-oval course. It uses parts of the third and half-mile ovals with a jog into the infield on the backstretch. Former 410 cu. in. sprint car driver Rodney Argo set a new track record of 22.377 (80.440 mph) on his second lap during 3:15 pm qualifying. He broke the old record of 22.454 set by Ian Rotundo on August 21, 2021. Argo dropped out of the race on lap 2. Enduro drivers will conclude their championship season on Saturday, October 29 as part of the final Night of Destruction event. Rotundo (sport class) and Robert Rice (stock class) are the current point leaders in the two classes that compete together.
LKQ-Pick Your Part Pro Late Models, the premier IS division, concluded the 2022 season on September 10 after 15 races. Colton resident Linny White, 44, won his second IS track championship with 698 points to 642 for Parker Malone. White also won the 2014 IS super late model championship. Trevor Huddleston, the 26-year old three-time IS series champion (2015-17), placed third with 636 points.
SATURDAY NIGHT MAINS:
Spec Late Models / Spec trucks 1st 30: Nine cars and five trucks raced 30 laps on the half-mile. Third starter Jacob McNeil (No. 97 truck) led all 30 laps. Troy Andersen and Trevor Huddleston followed in cars. Truckers Lucas McNeil and Mongenel completed the top five as 13 of 14 starters finished the 20-minute race that had two yellow flags. The winner ran the quickest lap (88.309 mph).
2nd 30: Fourteen drivers started with a six-vehicle inverted starting lineup based on the first 30 finish. Mongenel started second and led five laps. Ryan Partridge sub-drove Robert Arevalo’s No. 19 car from 13th starting spot to first by lap 6 and led the final 25 laps in his first race of the year. The versatile former multi-year champion at IS in trucks and cars and ARCA West front-runner for Bob Bruncati scored his 63rd feature triumph at IS. He ranks fourth all-time in victories, only four behind long-time IS leading feature winner Rip Michels, who retired with 67 wins. Trevor Huddleston (78) and Robert Rice (73) have topped Michels’ long-time record.
The second 30 took 31-minutes and had three yellow flags. A four-vehicle crash on lap 22 between the first two turns sidelined all four vehicles. Robin Andrews, from Los Angeles, was shaken after being t-boned by McNeil and was taken by ambulance to the pits for examination by paramedics. He was released without being transported. Car damage in the same crash also sidelined drivers Nash Youngren and Aaron Combs.
Street stocks / Pro Trucks 35: Former NASCAR late model division driver Gerrit Cromsigt, who won 13 main events in the early years of IS racing, came out of retirement in Oregon to help his friend Jim Vermillion complete his newest Monte Carlo street stock (No,. 26) for the finale. When Vermillion decided after Friday night practice to race his reliable No. 43 he offered Cromsigt his No. 26 to race Saturday.
Cromsigt qualified the 26 car third fastest overall and was the fastest car in the combined car/truck field. He started on the pole and led the 11 starters 29 laps by a straightaway. His car was overheating (at 260-degrees) and dumped water in turn four, causing him to spin to the infield. He continued in sixth place to the finish of the 9:57.693-timed race. Winner Vermillion averaged 70.200 mph in his reliable No. 43 and defeated his title-rival Verduzco, from Covina, by ten yards (0.986). Kelperis and Quintero earned third and fourth. Robby Harryman’s Camaro was fifth and Cromsigt sixth. Kevin James and Orange Show Speedway regular/first-time IS racer Evan McCray, 29-year old nephew of former driver Rick McCray, followed. Cromsigt ran the fastest lap of 73.022 mph.
Legends 35: The 16-minute race had one caution flag on lap 2 for a two-car spin in the third turn. With an open date in the NCWT schedule, L. Alan flew home to So Cal for a visit and raced his No.25 legend car that is stored and maintained at the Pomona shop of Ricky Schlick. Alan dominated the race and ran the fastest lap of 72.117 mph. Five drivers completed all 35 laps. Schlick had four of his rental legends in the field. Evan Jacobs, 23, from Encino, made his first racing start in Schlick’s No. 44 coupe. He finished eighth with 12 cars racing at the finish.
Enduro 35: Ten stock and eight sport (with OHC) class four-cylinder sedans raced. Pole starter Rider Gardner led 14 laps in a Honda Accord. Bobby Ozman (No. 18 Acura Integra) came from tenth grid position to lead laps 15-35. He edged his sport class rival Ian Rotundo (No. 4 Honda Prelude) by 1.206. Robbie Salcido (No. 16 Honda Accord) won the stock class 50-points as 14 of 18 starters finished a 25-minute event with three caution flags.
A new event ar IS was “spectator drags” with street legal sedans racing for one lap on the six-turn R-oval course after a standing start from start/finish. Eight cars participated in the two-by-two competition. The final two racers banged into each other deliberately and tried to spin each other in supposed anger. At the conclusion of the entertaining event, the drivers stepped out at the finish line and were IS winning enduro class racers/buddies Robert Rice and Robbie Salcido. The IS ten-minute aerial fireworks show followed from 10:08 to 10:18 pm after being moved forward from its usual last spot on the program.
The final event was the first “Demo Derby Divas” all female drivers demolition derby with ten drivers in enduro sedans. Racing Director Sarah Atkinson-Hancock drove the No. 17. One car was the green and yellow Green Bay Packer car. The 10:19 to 10:40 pm destruction derby took place on a watered section of the infield. Judges ruled the top three to be winner Nicole Lutz (No. 16), P. 2 Cheryl Hyland (No. 176), and P. 3 Shayla (Zins) Mason (No. 2). She is the wife of track announcer Tommy Mason, who was in Bakersfield working with his LBTV team. Mike Flanders, son of the late track announcer Bruce Flanders, filled in as booth announcer for the second time this season.
Next racing event at IS will be Saturday, October 29 with a Night of Destruction and the final point racing for the two enduro classes.