FIVE DIVISIONS = ACTION AT IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY - BY TIM KENNEDY
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 17 – Five racing divisions (89 racing vehicles) entertained about 3,500 fans at Irwindale Speedway Saturday in a Lucas Oil MAV-TV-sponsored resumption of oval racing after a brief hiatus. Preparation and tear-down work for the August 1-4 X Games, televised live by ESPN, resulted in three weeks without NASCAR oval track racing. Loan Mart was the presenting sponsoring Saturday and a truck it sponsors won one of the five features. Lucas Oil MAV-American Real TV sponsors the touring Lucas Oil Modified Series that visits six tracks in four states. A car sponsored by MAV-TV and driven by an MAV employee won the featured Lucas Oil MAV Modified 75-lap feature. It was the only modifieds race in Los Angeles County this season.
Three divisions used the progressively banked half-mile and two classes used the four degree banked third-mile. Jason Patison, a 32-year old MAV-TV programming director, dominated the featured 75-lap Lucas Oil Modified race and won the first Irwindale main event of his career. The Corona resident was a multi-feature winner and the first Lucas Oil Modified champion in 2006. He almost won about three NASCAR super late model main events in recent seasons. He said engine or tire problems, or wrecks, left him with a second place as his best result prior to Saturday. His family was able to watch him score his impressive victory on his home track. He won $1,300.
The other two half-mile victories, both 40-lap races, went to Ryan Partridge in the Progressive Painting Race Trucks and to Mike Johnson in a NASCAR Lucas Oil Late Models thriller. Johnson made a last lap, final turn inside move that deprived Partridge of his second feature victory of the night. The INEX Bandolero series 20-lap main for youngsters 8-14 opened racing at 7:00 pm. Ricky Lewis, a three-year series veteran from Oxnard, led all the way after starting second as second quickest qualifier. He won for the fourth time in six races at Irwindale this season. Next, 2007 INEX Legend Cars track champion and current point leader Darren Amidon, 28, started eighth and won his second 35-lap feature this year. Only one of five scheduled races remains for the series at Irwindale this season. Amidon has a 30-point lead.
TROPHY DASHES: Loan Mart originated and sponsored six lap trophy dashes for the six fastest qualifiers in the truck and late model series went to front row starters. Partridge in the No. 48 Loan Mart Toyota Tundra, and 16-year old Bogota, Columbia resident Juan Garcia, in the No. 77 Joe Nava Chevy late model, won the first two of three dashes. They each won $250; the finishing order of both races determined the first six positions in the two features. The Lucas Oil Modified six fastest qualifiers during afternoon time trials also raced a six lap dash that versatile Rod Johnson, Jr. won from the pole. The finish of that race did not determine the starting order of the modified feature. The series uses a pill draw by the fastest qualifier to determine an inversion of up to eight cars. Fastest qualifier Chris Gerchman, from Spring Branch, TX, pulled a four, putting him outside row two.
The Lucas Oil Modified Series Irwindale race was the sixth of a nine race season. Patison became the fourth different 2013 winner. Point leader Gerchman, who is seeking his first championship, has won three races this season. The 25-year old second generation driver/ is the son of fellow modified driver Larry Gerchman. Chris Gerchman won at his former hometown Lake Havasu City, AZ, Salt Lake City, UT and Madera, CA. Jim Mardis won the Blythe, CA event; Dylan Kwasniewski won at his hometown Las Vegas Bullring. Remaining races are at Blythe (9/28), Lake Havasu (10/19) and Las Vegas (11/16). The Lucas Oil Modifieds raced at Irwindale once in 2010 when Andrew Phipps won in a 16 car field. In 2011 the series raced twice at Irwindale and Austin Barnes, 16, won both races. With 19 cars present on June 4 he won a 50-lap main. On August 13 Barnes won a 75-lap race with 24 modifieds in the pits.
MODIFIEDS 75: Third starter Jim Mardis grabbed the lead entering the first turn and led the initial lap over Patison, Tim Morse, and Gerchman. Pole starter/fourth fastest qualifier/series rookie Jessica Clark slotted fifth after one circuit. She drove the No. 44 STR car built by Steve Teets Racing and driven to the 2012 series championship by prior driver Barnes. The Clark family bought the car from the Barnes family this season after Barnes jumped to the Spears SRL Stock Car Series. Patison took the lead on lap 6 in turn four. On lap 21 fourth-running R. Johnson, Jr. blew his engine and oiled the track. Three cars spun in the third turn and one looped in turn two. Cars of Dave Arce, Elliott Stjerne and Michael Zimmerman were unable to continue.
Gerchman passed two-time series champion Mardis for second on the lap 21 green. He then made an inside move in turn four for a one lap lead over Patison. On lap 23 Patison was back in P. 1 to stay. Twenty cars remained on track at lap 50 with 15 on the lead lap. Patison, Gechman and Morse occupied the top three positions and Clark was on the scoring pylon in tenth. The final 25 laps remained a close duel among the top three runners as they lapped slower cars. Patison saw his lead slip from 15-yards to five yards during the final ten circuits. Morse tried to pass Gerchman for second during the final two laps, but he could not muster the necessary speed. Gerchman trailed Patison by 0.517; Morse was 0.676 behind the winner. Fourth place Matthew Hicks was four seconds off the lead. Las Vegas driver Doug Hamm, Mardis “in a very loose car”, Idaho's Shelby Stroebel, Taylor Miinch, Roger Brown and Daniel Williams completed the top ten.
P. 11 Rich Lindgren was the last driver to complete 75 laps. Leading series rookie (P.4) Nik Romano and Jessica Clark were lapped on the white flag lap. They finished 12th and 13th respectively. Both Romano, 23, and Clark, 19, have raced USAC Ford Focus Midgets and NASCAR stock cars at Irwindale. Nineteen of 27 starters finished the 32 minute race. It actually took 44 minutes to complete because of one yellow flag and the 13-minute red flag for oil cleanup and removal of wrecked cars. The race averaged 69.843 mph. Patison clocked the fastest race lap of 19.190 (93.799 mph). Gerchman's fastest qualifying time was 19.119 (94.147 mph). The top three cars were STR built and the firm constructed eight of the top ten. P. 4 and 10 were Lefthander built. Howe, Ellis and several other chassis were in the field.
LATE MODEL 40: Seventeen drivers raced in the fourth main Saturday. Second starter Toni McCray, a two-time series winner this year, led the first 31 laps. Fastest qualifier M. Johnson, 56, came from fourth slot to lead lap 32 with an inside pass in turn four. Then McCray's engine blew in the first turn and emitted a huge cloud of white smoke all the way to the fourth turn where she stopped by the crash-wall. Crews cleaned the track while a wrecker towed the disabled No. 90 to the pits. Officials counted two laps under caution. On the lap 37 green flag P. 2 Ryan Partridge took the lead with an outside pass in the third and fourth turns. He led through lap 39. On lap 40 determined Johnson, from Covina, shot low entering the third corner and emerged from turn four in front of Partridge. Runner-up Partridge finished on Johnson's back bumper (-0.129).
Leading rookie Andrew Porter, 19, started and finished third in the Bowles No. 7 and was 0.908 in back of Johnson. Pole starter Juan Garcia, from Columbia, placed fourth, 1.102 off the lead. He won his last Irwindale main in Nava's No. 03 super late model. Trevor Huddleston, 17, Jeff Williams, rookie Ryan Cansdale, 14, Billy Helgeson, Kyle McGrady and Shaun Estes, in the Loan Mart No. 72, completed the top ten. Fourteen drivers finished and 12 completed all 40 laps in a 29-minute contest. Winner Johnson ran the fastest race lap of 19.220 (93.652 mph). He said it has been three years since his last feature win (August 21, 2010). He credited his 33-year old son, a former mini stock driver and high school football coach, for revitalizing his pit crew. His winning No. 17 Villa Roma Chevy is the 77th Racecar Factory-built car. Johnson first raced it on November 26, 2011 in Irwindale's Candidae/Lucas Oil Open Classic. He raced it a few times in Las Vegas last season while Irwindale's oval was closed. “This car has less than ten races on it. I'm going to win more this season too,” Johnson told the media. Johnson is third in series points, only two behind McCray. Three-time late model 2013 winner Partridge has a 32 point lead.
RACE TRUCKS 40: Sixteen trucks experienced one yellow and one red flag that extended the race to 33 minutes. Third quickest qualifier Partridge started first and led every lap in Steve Latina's Loan Mart Toyota Tundra. It was his second truck victory after five of seven scheduled races in 2013. It also was his 32nd Irwindale feature triumph in various series. He moved into sole possession of seventh on the list of prolific feature winners at the track. Second fastest Lucas McNeil ran second for the initial 35 laps as four trucks ran in a tight pack and exchanged third position frequently. Then Christian McGhee contacted the 99 truck of FQ Todd Cameron and spun into the first turn wall. He drove to the pits. When lap 36 resumed second place McNeil spun leaving turn two and P. 3 Blake Dunkleberger's No. 4 hit the spinning 78 truck. Both trucks exited on the hook. Several trucks veered to the inside and avoided contact.
After a lengthy red flag for track cleanup, Partridge led Cameron home by ten yards (-0.613). Kenny Brown and Dennis Arena battled fiercely for P. 3 in the closing laps. Brown prevailed by 0.031. Point leader Darren Cheek, Ken Michaelian, grandpa Kenny Smith, Ron Nava, hood-less John Watkinson, and Bandolero driver Ricky Lewis, 14, finished fifth through tenth respectively. It was the first truck and half-mile race for Lewis, who earlier won the Bandolero main on the third-mile. He drove the No. 31 Bruce Douglass truck. Lewis received the “lucky dog” pass onto the lead lap at the lap 35 caution and finished only 5.944 seconds in back of the winner. Partridge ran the fastest lap of 19.990 (90.045 mph).
LEGENDS 35: Sixteen legend cars qualified but Troy Wesolowski's No. 84 coupe was a non-starter. His brother Ian had eighth fastest qualifying time and occupied pole position in the family No. 14 coupe. Ian led the first four laps. On lap 4 in the second turn the cars of P. 4 Ben Walker and P. 5 Brent Scheidemantle made contact. Scheidemante's No. 98 coupe rode up Walker's No. 35 sedan and barrel-rolled five times to the backstretch. It landed upright and the June 15 Irwindale feature winner emerged unhurt. Third starter Mark Borchetta took the lead on lap 5 as Las Vegan Chris Trickle dropped Wesolowski to third. Amidon raced into third by lap 6, second at lap 9 and was first on lap 18 after passing Borchetta on the inside entering the third turn. Borchetta trailed the winner by 0.367. Aaron Wells started fourth and finished third, 2.562 back. Wesolowski placed fourth, 3.655 off the lead. Michael Smith, Trickle, Mark Iungerich, Tyler Hicks and Fred Chavez finished fifth through ninth. All ran 35 laps with 11 drivers still running. Amidon's 16.609 (72.178 mph) was the quickest lap of the 18-minute race, including down time.
BANDOLERO 20: Saturday – Second fastest qualifier Ricky Lewis, 14, led all 20 laps and edged one-time winner Ryan Vargas, from La Mirada, by 1.838 seconds. Fifth fastest qualifier Levi Jackson (No. 4) placed third, 3.151seconds in back of the winner. He passed Austin Farr for fourth on lap 19. Pole starter Ryan Dunkleberger took fifth in a 13-car field. Mckenzie Eshleman, rookie Ryan Borchetta, Jakob Ulrich, rookie Zack St. Onge, 11, and Allison Gay, 12-year old daughter of driver stock car driver Danny Gay, finished in P. 6-10. Ten cars ran all 20 laps. Nico Mongenel dropped out before the pace lap because of a dead battery. The all-green light race took 6:13.572 and averaged 64.180 mph with Briggs & Stratton engines providing power.
Friday – During the Friday 5:00-9:15 pm open practice session for all divisions 11 Bando drivers qualified. At 8:00 pm they ran a 20-lap feature in 6:13.588, an almost identical time to Saturday's Bando feature. Fastest qualifier R. Dunkleberger, 12, led the first 19 laps in pursuit of his first main event victory. On the final lap, second place Vargas got inside the leader entering the first turn. At turn two their side-by-side cars made contact. Both cars spun 360 degrees simultaneously and continued. However, five cars following closely raced past the spinning leaders. Levi Jackson, 12, won his first main event in only his fifth race. The Trabuco Canyon resident had his entire family in the grandstand cheering his surprise victory. He was third, ten yards in back of the leaders, when they spun. Jackson's right side rubbed Dunkleberger's left side as he took command. Mongenel, Lewis, Farr and Borchetta, 12-year old son of the second place Legends driver, finished second through fifth. Vargas and Dunkleberger followed in P 6-7. Eschleman, St. Onge and A. Gay rounded out the top ten; all completed 20 laps.
NOTE: The Lucas Oil MAV-TV Network production truck and crew were present Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. They taped the Lucas Oil Modified race for a one-hour telecast on Saturday, October 5 from 1- 2 pm PT. The July 20 Lucas Oil Modified race in Madera will be shown on Saturday, September 21 from 12-1 pm. MAV-TV is channel 248 on the Dish Network, channel 214 on Direct TV, and channel 420 on Charter Cable in numerous San Gabriel Valley cities.