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Irwindale Speedway – 6 Divisions, 7 Mains – By Tim Kennedy

 

Irwindale CA., Jun. 20 – Irwindale Speedway used banked half and third-mile tracks and presented six divisions and seven main events on Father's Day weekend. The 2,879 persons present Saturday departed the busy evening after watching veteran late model driver Toni Marie McCray cross the finish line first in both 30-lap main events in the featured NASCAR LKQ Pick Your Part late model division. However, routine post-race tech inspection produced a different result. 

Mike Atkinson, IS Racing Director, said fastest qualifier McCray's Chevrolet, owned by former driver Clay Wooster, had used “ a non-complying part” (front shocks). Therefore, the car was placed last (18th) in both features and earned 16 points in both races (32 for the evening) instead of 100 points for the pair of apparent victories. 

McCray and the No. 90 car now have 342 points for the season and rank fifth in driver and car owner points. Without the penalty, she and the car would be a championship contending second with 410 points. The two feature victories went to Nick Joanides, a past IS track champion, and Trevor Huddleston, the 2015-16 track and California State late model champion and 2017 point leader by 34 points with 428. 

1ST LM 30: All 18 qualifiers started the first race of the night straight-up based upon qualifying times. That put McCray in pole position and Huddleston alongside. Huddleston led the first 16 laps over McCray despite two caution flags for spins on laps 7 and 9. On lap 17 the side-by-side leading cars of Huddleston and McCray came together on the backstretch and both cars spun out simultaneously to the infield. They continued non-stop but the yellow flag was waving. Both drivers were sent to the back of the now 15 car field for causing the caution. 

Joanides inherited the lead and held it through lap 26 as the two former front-runners raced back to the front. McCray was third on lap 23, second on lap 26 and first a lap later after using an inside pass in turn four. Huddleston reached fourth spot by lap 25. The top five at the checkers were: McCray by 15-yards (-1.614) over Joanides, Dylan Garner, 18, Huddleston, and Ryan Vargas, 16. Rookie Matt Johnson drove his father Mike's No. 17 Chevy to sixth. Lawless Alan, 14-year old rookies Ryan Schartau and Jagger Jones, and Bill Helgeson completed the top ten. All 15 cars logged 30 laps. 

2ND LM 30: The second late model feature was the sixth race on the program and used a ten car inverted start based upon finishing positions in the first 30. McCray and Joanides started from row five. Helgeson and Jones, the son of two-time Indy 500 starter P. J. and grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli, occupied row one. The entire Jones family, including P. J, Parnelli and uncle Page Jones and his children, plus wives,watched from a suite as both of P. J's sons raced. Jace Jones, 12, raced at IS for the first time in a legend car that he races in Las Vegas. 

Helgeson led the first five laps. McCray sliced through the field quickly and was third by lap 5. In three-wide racing action on lap 6, she passed two cars on the inside and took the lead. Huddleston also showed speed and was in P. 2 by lap 10. His No. 50 HPR Chevy could not catch McCray's fleet No. 90 and gradually trailed by 30-yards (-1.647) at the checkers. 

Garner, Joanides, Jones, Helgeson, Schartau, Vargas, Alan and Johnson crossed the finish line in that order. Twelve of 16 finishers were on the lead lap. The all-green light race took 10:07.111 and averaged 88.946 mph. McCray ran the fastest lap of 91.006 mph. 

Seidner's Collision Centers IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS: Eleven trucks were present and ten raced 35 laps. FQ Lucas McNeil, the point leader, started sixth and led laps 8-35. Dennis Arena took second from laps 1-7 leader Zack Green and they finished in P. 2-3, about 30-yards in back of the winner. Younger brother Jacob McNeil placed fourth. Recent Glendora High graduate L. J. Billings, an outside linebacker on the football team, finished fifth in a second Arena truck. Ken Brown, Mike De Gregorio and Niko Mongenel finished all 35 laps in that order. 

De Gregorio, 26, started racing in 2013 and is the IS all-time leading skid plate cars winner with 14 triumphs. He was making his first start in a truck and his first start on the half-mile. He and Sean Brennan, his brother-in-law and a 13-time skid plate feature winner, bought a truck recently and take turns racing it. Brennan's father Paul raced a truck during the early years of IS operation and they use his No. 33. 

SHARKY'S SPEC LATE MODELS 25: Seven of the formerly called S2 cars, built by Racecar Factory in Irwindale, raced 25 laps and were the fifth race. FQ/point leader Robby Hornsby, 26, started sixth in Kenny Smith's No. 43. He won the final three features last season at IS and also won the first two mains on the IS half-mile this season. 

Todd Conrad, a former late model driver, started third and led the first 12 laps. Hornsby, the 2013 mini stock champion on the IS third-mile in his own Ford Pinto, made his winning pass on lap 13 on the inside at turn two. He won by 1.074 over Conrad. Ed Cutler, the 2014 touring truck champion from Ventura, and Craig Yeaton followed at the finish and were within 2.3 seconds of the winner. 

Blade Hildebrand, 18-year old Yucca Valley High graduate and starting quarterback on the school's 6-3 football team, made his stock car debut. He had fifth quickest qualifying time and finished fifth, 5.197 seconds off the lead. All seven starters finished the 8:43,682 (85.930 mph) race. Robert Arevalo placed sixth with 25 laps. Shelby Rae Hildebrand, Blade's 28-year old sister, was lapped once on lap 14 and completed 24 laps in her stock car debut. She missed practice and qualifying because of a business commitment and started last. 

Both Hildebrand siblings also race buggies in the Lucas Oil desert off-road racing series. Their father Mike, a past off-road racer, bought the Toby Stanford No. 31 and No. 33 cars (ex-Lowenstein Nos. 44 and 45). Versatile Blade is named for the 1990s Marvel Comics movie character played by actor Wesley Snipes. He raced a Young Gun 360 sprint car for the first time last month on the Perris half-mile clay and finished second in the 15-lap main event. 

LEGEND CARS 35: Legends are replica 1930s Ford and Chevy coupes and sedans and use the third-mile oval for 35 laps with a six car inverted staring lineup. Colton Page, from Bakersfield, started on pole and led two laps. Then point leader/three-time series champion Darren Amidon, from Lakeside, took the point and won by ten yards (0.792). He ran the fastest lap at 72.902 mph. Fourth starter Donny St. Ours, from Upland, was second. Chad Schug, also a three-time series champion, started fifth and finished third. 

Fastest qualifier Ricky Schlick, the June 3 feature winner, started sixth and finished fourth. Tyler Fabozzi. C. Page, Gary Scheuerell, Bandolero graduate Austin Farr, younger brother Dylan Fabozzi, and Jace Jones, 12, comprised the top ten. The 19-car field was the season high car count. It was augmented by six cars and drivers from the idle Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring three-eighths mile oval. 

Seidner's Collision Centers COMPACT CARS FIGURE 8: Ten compact cars were an added event (race four) and ran the third mile oval and mid-infield intersection. James Bolinas led the first 12 laps from pole position. A nose-to-tail four-car pack had pressing Robert Rice's Honda second to lap 13. Then his son Robert Rice, Jr, in a lapped sixth place car, momentarily blocked leader Bolinas' leading Honda on the inside entering the first turn. That block allowed Robert, Sr. to pass both cars on the outside in turn one. 

Rice won the all-green flag 20-lap race in a time of 6:54.127. He averaged 65.545 mph and barely avoided several collisions at the X. Bolinas (-1.710), Tony Cummings (-2.500), and newcomer Harold Howell (-5.996) were the only drivers who completed all 20 laps. Of special interest to sprint car fans, Rodney Argo, a 410 sprint car owner/driver of the No. 19 sprint car two decades ago at Ascot and Perris, ran his first F-8 race at IS in a second Bolinas sedan. The Gardena driver started seventh and finished eighth with 19 laps. All ten drivers finished. 

Robertson Solar SW TOUR TRUCKS 35: The touring truck series had ten drivers race in the final race of the night. Ron Davis started fourth and led all the way in his Chevy Silverado. The lap 1 green flag at 9:50 pm produced a red flag immediately. The pole truck of rookie Gary T. Howard, 17, and outside front row driver Zack Green, in Jeff Williams' No. 27 Ford F-150, came together with Green's truck slamming the crash-wall. He was uninjured.

Impact with the wall caused a broken fuel line fitting and dumped fuel onto the track. A 12-minute red flag was necessary to clean the track and use the track sweeper to remove oil-dry residue. Davis moved up from row two to one with the exit of Green's truck. Officials also sent Howard, the son of 1990s open-wheel drivers Gary W. and Tabitha Howard, to the back of the field for the complete re-start. 

Howard, in his second race aboard the ex-No. 18 Anthony Edwards truck, raced forward rapidly and was in P. 3 by mid-race. FQ/fifth starter Dustin Vandermooren was third when he exited to the infield with a problem. Runner-up Mike Kelperis finished a straightaway (-5.631 seconds) behind the winner. Howard (-9.955 seconds) made the final podium position after passing Barry Kelperis on lap 15. Steve Reeves (P. 5) was the final lead lap finisher.

The next Irwindale Speedway event (Saturday, July 1) will be the third 2017 “Night of Destruction” with aerial fireworks as usual for the July 4 weekend. In addition, NASCAR late models will race twin 30-lap features on the half-mile as events one and three. One race is the rain date for a May 6 rain-out. Enduro cars will race 20-laps on the third-mile in event two. Events four on will be the fan-popular “N of D” mayhem events that litter the track surface. Aerial pyrotechnics will conclude the evening that annually packs the grandstand.