IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY ROUND 4 OF 15 -By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., May 25 – Irwindale Speedway presented round four of 15 this season on “Armed Forces Appreciation Night” Saturday. Military personnel and vehicles, Military Order of Purple Heart recipients, and Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle-riding veterans paraded around the track during opening ceremonies. Presented by LA Racing Experience and Garden State Fireworks, the pyrotechnic firm staged aerial fireworks beyond the backstretch during the National Anthem and for ten-minutes following the final main event. “Americal Idol“ season two finalist Josh Grobin sang the National Anthem in front of a media estimated 3,500 spectators.
Three series used the progressively-banked half-mile and two divisions raced on the four-degree banked third-mile. Total racing vehicle count was 93. They were: 14 super late models, 19 Progressive Painting race trucks, 11 Superior Automotive Engineering super stocks, 17 INEX Legends, and 32 of the innovative and popular Pick Your Part skid plate cars. PYP skid-plate drivers closed competition at 9:29 pm with another entertaining and competitive race.
Feature winners in order were:
. Darren Amidon – Legends.
. Zack Green – Super Stocks.
. Rip Michels – current SLM point-leader and track-leading feature winner with 63.
. Race Liberante – Race Trucks.
. Sean Brennan – Skid Plate Cars.
Legends graduate and ASA Truck Series veteran Liberante, 18, crossed the finish line 0.940 in back of apparent winner Ryan Partridge. However, the winning truck was disqualified during the usual post-race technical inspection of top finishers. Partridge's No. 48 Toyota Tundra had an unapproved part--an illegal carburetor. Later, the third place skid plate car also was disqualified for using a locked rear end or differential.
ROAD RAGE: On a full moon night, fireworks were not limited to aerial bursts. The super stock feature on lap 7 had the car of second place Rich DeLong III hit and spun in turn four by third place Curtis White. DeLong's No. 64 Impala SS was t-boned by the DeLong Racing No. 84 Impala SS driven by Eric Sunness. DeLong's No. 34 Camaro team car driver took offense and pursued White's No. 6 Camaro under caution but missed. So Jason DeLong parked in the infield. He climbed out and rushed to the backstretch, helmet in hand, as cars circled the half-mile slowly under caution. He threw his helmet at White's Camaro and struck the front of White's car. Radioed by race control to go to the pits he did so. He drove at White's car on the front straight but missed it. Race Control then radioed the team to load up and go home.
Eight cars finished with the three DeLong cars in P. 9-11. The super stock 35-lap main event had two yellow flags and took 26 minutes to complete. Green, who ran the fastest lap of the race at 86.174 mph, beat May 4 series winner Gary Read, 56, by 0.755. Camaro drivers Craig Rayburn, Greg Crutcher and Robert Dezarov completed the top five. Point leader Green, from Long Beach, increased his point lead from two to four points (148-144) over Read after three races.
LEGENDS: With 17 starters, fastest qualifier Peyton Saxton, from Las Vegas, started sixth. Pole starter Mike Womack, 13, led the first three laps. Then third starter/Bandolero graduate Ricky Schlick, 15, paced laps 4-25 as eighth starter Amidon moved from fourth to second at lap 24. On lap 26 Amidon took the lead in the fourth turn and opened a ten-yard advantage by lap 30 of 35. Fifth starter Chad Schug, driving the borrowed the No. 37 Ryan Cansdale coupe, took second spot on lap 28 and closed on leader Amidon, but he fell 0.463 short at the finish. Schlick, Womack and Lacie Price, 18-year old daughter of ex-late model driver Mike Price, completed the top five. All 17 cars finished the all-green light race that took only 9:48.484. Fourteen cars finished on the lead lap. The average speed was 71.298 mph. Winner Amidon ran the quickest lap at 72.326 mph.
SLM 40: Fastest qualifier Linney White, of Colton, started seventh with Ryan Partridge on the pole in Rob Kiemele's No. 7. The race had three leaders—Partridge (L 1), third starter Luis Martinez, Jr. (L 2-21), and fourth starter Michels (L 22-40). Michels took second position from Jason Patison with a slide job pass in the second turn and then used a similar move, but easier pass in the same location, to take command from Martinez. Patison passed Partridge for second at turn two with another inside move, but he trailed Michels by 0.435 at the conclusion. The caution-free race took 12:39.931 and averaged 94.745 mph. The event had close racing and frequent passing among front runners. Martinez logged the fastest lap of 98.146 mph while leading. White, Toni McCray and Martinez finished third through fifth respectively. Twelve drivers finished and eight completed all 40 laps.
TRUCKERS: Eighteen truckers started. Dennis Arena paced the first two laps. Partridge, from outside front row, used an inside pass in turn four and led the final 38 laps. P 2-3 trucks of Arena and 17-yea r old Blake Dunkleberger tangled in turn one on lap 24. Both restarted at the back. Fourth running Liberante, from Quartz Hill, inherited second place for the lap 24 green flag. Liberante's ASA No. 6 truck chased Partridge to the checkered flag, but trailed by 15-yards at the end. He received his first Irwindale truck victory later after Partridge's truck was DQ in tech. Officially, Darren Cheek and Bandolero/Legends graduate Christian McGhee, 14, finished second and third. It was McGhee's best result on the half-mile to date. Lucas McNeal and former classic stock champion Ken Michaelian completed the top five. Twelve trucks ran all 40 laps with Liberante's 90.284 mph lap the quickest circuit.
SKID PLATERS: A field of 32 front wheel drive cars came to the third-mile front straight with welded metal plates on both rear wheels instead of tires. Drivers had drawn for starting positions and they lined up two-abreast in 16 rows instead of the two wedges formation used last month. The course Saturday was altered by use of large white tires placed on the front straight. That moved cars wider out of turn four and onto the half-mile front straight before cars could arc into the third-mile first turn. The green flag flew at 9:18 for the standing start. Fans were able to follow the entertaining race with the top ten positions accurately displayed on the scoring pylon at turn one. Positions changed frequently. Despite spins and stalled cars (cleared by the push bar equipped track ex-police cruiser driven by Mike Atkinson), the race was green all 15 laps.
The race had six lead changes among five drivers. Second starter Steve Dien led the first three laps. Then 16th starter James Altman, a multi-time skid plate winner, led laps 4-6. Jeffrey Best, a Low Budget TV videographer, started seventh and passed Altman to lead lap 7. He promptly spun across the line and returned the lead to Altman, who led laps 8-10. Andy Partridge, from 23rd starting slot, led laps 11-12. Fast-closing Sean Brennan, a 23-year old Temecula resident, had started 28th. He drove smoothly into the lead while dodging leader Partridge's spinning car in the second turn. Brennan, the April 27 skid plate first-time winner, drove the same gold and black No. 33 1998 Toyota Camry with 311,900+ miles on the odometer. He led the final three laps of the 15-lap event. It was his third ever race and second victory in a row. He finished tenth in the final Irwindale skid plate race of 2011. He earned $300 and another coveted gold mini helmet trophy to make perfect bookends for his home.
Legends veteran Gary Scheuerell (No. 13) finished second, 2.567 seconds back and earned $200. Third place Fred Adams, a mini stock veteran, had his No. 12 sedan DQ in tech inspection because it used a banned locked rear end. Altman received third place $150. Past skid plate feature winners Robert Rice and Jim Smith placed fourth and fifth and collected $100 and $50. All starters received $35 to cover their pit pass cost. The race averaged 31.068 mph with the spin-prone cars. Scheuerell ran the fastest lap at 34.982 mph. Seven drivers finished on the lead lap and 25 cars were still racing at the end. The 32-car field was dominated as usual by Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys and Celicas, but a VW Golf was the car choice of Zack Hawthorne. The newcomer raced a Cory Kruseman 410 cu. in. sprint car four years at dirt tracks in Perris and Ventura until 2008. He started 19th and finished 16th. Fans interested in racing a skid plate car may rent one for the night from several teams such as S & J Towing or Pick Your Part. Helmets and racing garb also may be rented.
The next Irwindale Speedway race will be run on June 15 with late models topping a six division racing program.