MICHELS WINS 65TH IRWINDALE FEATURE IN FIVE DIVISION CARD - By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Aug. 31 – Five racing divisions raced on Unilevel night during NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series action at Irwindale Speedway Saturday. Three classes used the progressive banking of the half-mile and two divisions used the tight, four-degree banked infield oval. Feature winners on the half-mile were: 65-time Irwindale feature winner Rip Michels (NASCAR super late models), Connor Cantrell, 22, (Progressive Painting Race Trucks), and Neil Conrad in the touring Southwest Tour Trucks. Dennis Croasmun (mini stocks) and past Figure 8 champion Rod Proctor (Pick Your Part Open Comp) won the third-mile main events.
About 1,2000 die-hard short-track racing fans braved the heat Saturday to attend. It was still 91 degrees at 6:00 pm. Spectators attended Irwindale racing despite the Labor Day weekend, the opening weekend of the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, and a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta televised live. They watched 65 racing cars/trucks compete in a pair of trophy dashes and five main events totaling 165 laps. Two of the features ran caution-free and the rapid evening concluded at 9:24 pm, allowing fans more time to visit race teams in the pits.
LOAN MART DASHES: The six fastest qualifiers in the mini stock and super late model divisions raced six laps in fully inverted trophy dashes. Winners received $250 and had a chance to double that amount if they won their main event. Fifth fastest qualifier Robby Hornsby started fifth and passed second starter/laps 1-5 leader Robby Harryman with an inside move in the third turn and won by 0.225. Both drove Ford Pintos. Fastest qualifier Ryan Bragdon's Ford Mustang II was third. Garret Green, Dennis Croasmun and Aubree Porter followed closely.
Andre “Wolfman” Prescott, a 17-year old La Quinta resident, started second and led all six laps of the SLM dash. He beat runner-up David Ross by 0.244. Luis Martinez, Jr., Dennis Furden, Toni McCray and Michels followed. Prescott, who will be starting Cal Poly Pomona University soon as a civil engineering major, said he picked up his nickname during his kart racing years for passing so many cars (“eating them up”). Prescott, at age 8 in 2004, was rookie of the year and California points champion a year later. He was in the top ten in national points in 2006 and California points champion in 2007 during his four years in karting.
Prescott spent two years racing legend cars and has raced his family-owned black No. 80 Chevy Impala SS two years. He was runner-up for the 2011 Irwindale rookie of the year title. With no Irwindale oval racing last season he raced in the SRL Southwest Tour. He has stock car racing and civil engineering career goals. He qualified fifth fastest at 96.931 mph in the 11 car SLM field Saturday. Prescott entered the race third in Irwindale SLM point standings and departed still third in points with 214. Leader Michels has 296 and second place Toni McCray has 278. Prescott's 2013 feature finishes have been in order—P. 8, 7, 8, 11, 8, and 7.
SLM 40: Eleven SLM drivers took the green in event three. L. Martinez, Jr. started fifth driving the car in which 16-year old Juan Garcia, from Bogota, Columbia, won the July 20 feature. Luis led the first 25 laps. McCray and Michels made the top three a close contest from the third lap forward. There was a car length between each car from laps 16-22 with Martinez and Michels cars on the outside and McCray's car on the inside. P. 8 starter Michels took second on lap 23 and on lap 26 used an inside pass entering turn one to take command for good. It was his fourth victory in six SLM features this season. McCray dropped Martinez to third on lap 27. She then battled Michels to the finish and fell short by two lengths (0.268). Later Michels praised McCray's racing ability. Martinez trailed her by 1.870. P 4-8 drivers also finished all 40 laps. In order, they were: John Manke, Dennis Furden, Jeffrey Eshleman, Andre Prescott and David Ross. The all-green light 14:27.902 race averaged 82.959 mph. Martinez logged the fastest race lap at 96.805 mph.
PPRT 40: Eighteen trucks started the fifth and final feature Saturday with a nine truck inversion based on time trials. Fastest qualifier Cantrell charged forward to third by lap 15 and second spot six laps later. Outside front row starter Dennis Arena led the first 25 laps. Cantrell made an inside pass through the third and fourth turns and had the lead for good on lap 26. He opened a 30-yard advantage (-2.160 seconds) by the lap 40 checkers. It was Cantrell's second win in six 2013 races to go along with a P. 4. He was not present for three events, so he currently ranks 12th in points. Arena placed second. The position battle of the night was the duel for third position between 32-time feature winner Ryan Partridge and 15-year old Bando/Legend Car vet/truck rookie Christian McGhee. They raced virtually side-by-side for the final 18 laps. Talented McGhee ran the inside and Partridge the outside lap after lap without contact. McGhee made an inside move on the final lap in the final turn and edged Partridge by 0.015. He earned the final podium position and a chance to thank his sponsors during his post-race interview.
Todd Cameron, Ken Michaelian, Andrew Porter, Kenny Brown, point leader Darren Cheek and ASA Truck veteran Cole Loftsgard, from Lake Havasu, AZ, completed the top ten. Seventeen of 18 starters finished with 16 on the lead lap during an all-green event. Only sprint car veteran Bruce Douglass, 61, was lapped in his No. 31 truck. The Ventura resident was driving in his first truck race in the ex-No. 81 John Sereika truck that he bought. He had 14-year old Bandolero winner Ricky Lewis race it in the last event. Arena posted the fastest race lap of 89.428 mph. The checkered flag flew before 9:25 pm in the speediest race night of the season. Cheek now leads with 258 points. There is a three-way tie for second place among Michaelian, Cameron and Arena at 240 points.
SW TOUR TRUCKS: FQ Neil Conrad started fourth and was the third and final leader in a 13-truck, 30-lap race with four lead changes. Ronnie Davis, Jr. led the first lap from the pole. Super stock vet Zach Green paced laps 2-13 and 20-23 in the No. 27 Ford truck he rented from Jeff Williams. Conrad was in front on laps 14-19 and 25 to the lap 30 checkers. He won by 35-yards (1.736 seconds). Green was second with Davis third. Mike Gilboy, a 50-year old truck rookie from Quartz Hill, started second and placed fourth. He won the last touring SWT Truck Series feature at Madera Speedway. Al Rizzone, Cecil Phelps, Shawn Rizzone and James West finished fifth through eighth and all completed 30 laps.
MINI STOCKS: In the second main, 15 mini stocks ran a 16-minute main with one caution flag for a slow speed head-on crash between Ford Pintos in turn two. Newcomer Tony Reed spun and P. 7 Aubree Porter hit him while braking. Neither driver was injured but both cars exited at the back of tow trucks. Pole starter Robby Hornsby (No. 61) led the first 28 laps. Then fifth starter Dennis Croassmun (No. 46) made an inside pass at turn four and ran out front to the lap 35 finish. Pintos finished one-two with Hornsby 0.266 in back of Croasmun, who won his third career feature. His other min stock victories came in 2010 and 2006. Hornsby logged the quickest race lap at 70.134 mph. The top three in points are Hornsby (242), Brogdan (240) and Croasmun (212).
OPEN COMP: The fourth feature Saturday started eight cars from six divisions—two classic stocks, two modifieds, one Figure 8, one super stock, one SLM and one late model. Slower cars started in front and passing was plentiful early. Richie Altman's SLM paced the initial eight laps as Rod Proctor's exotic-looking Figure 8 car worked forward. The top three were nose-to-tail at lap 8. A lap later Proctor made an inside pass on the backstretch and won by 40-yards (1.223). over modified driver Jerry Toporek, from Venice. P 3-4 Altman and late model driver Jeff Williams also completed 20 laps. Greg Crutcher's Camaro super stock placed fifth, a lap down. First-time Irwindale racer Tom Morley brought his Ventura Raceway dirt track modified home sixth, one lap back. Classic stock drivers Justin Good (Chevy) and Harry Michaelian (Plymouth) were two laps back and also finished. Proctor's 15.278 (78.723 mph) was the best lap time on the third-mile.
The next races at Irwindale Speedway will be three weeks in a row for the first time this season. The dates are: September 21, 28 and October 5.