MICHELS & PARTRIDGE ADD TO IRWINDALE FEATURE WINS - By Tim Kennedy
MICHELS & PARTRIDGE ADD TO IRWINDALE FEATURE WINS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA. Sept. 28 – Feature winners in a five series racing card on Hispanic Heritage Night presented by Coca-Cola Saturday at Irwindale Speedway were familiar with the post-race routine. Three of them are series point leaders and added to their point leads with the season nearing completion. After a rocky opening super stock feature, in which a 17-minute red flag stopped action, the second through fifth features were green all the way and resulted in a speedy evening. The final checkered flag flew at 9:34 pm, sending about 1,000 spectators home early on a shirt-sleeve, 70-degree early autumn evening.
Point leader Rip Michels, 48, added to his all-time track record feature victory total by notching his 66th triumph in a NASCAR Super Late Model 40-lap main event. Point leader Ryan Partridge, 25, charged to another impressive NASCAR Lucas Oil Late Model 40-lap victory. Point leader Neil Conrad, 58, won his fourth Pick Your Part Southwest Tour Trucks 35-lap main in four Irwindale events this season. The three drivers also set their series quickest lap during early afternoon practice sessions.
The only other series using the half-mile track was the Superior Automotive Super Stocks. Title-contender Greg Crutcher, from Covina, drove his 1976 Camaro to his hard-earned, first victory this season. He closed to within two points of the series point leader with one race remaining in the seven race series. Crutcher has raced in the series since 1999 when the track opened and later finished a career best second in points. He said he is using his second Camaro because the first one only lasted a year or so. He will try to capture his first track championship on November 2.
The fifth event used the third-mile oval. A 25-lap Pick Your Part open competition, non-point race had cars and trucks from seven series compete together. Series represented (with competitors in parenthesis) were: super stocks (seven), classic stocks (three), and one each SLM, S-2 Touring, PPR Truck, SWT Truck, and a dirt track mini-modified. Fastest qualifier Kenny Smith, 66, drove his California Lottery Quick Pick Motor-sports No. 43 Chevy truck to his first open comp main event victory. He also drove it to a past truck series feature victory. He won a handful of Irwindale features in MSRA Pro 4 cars a decade ago, and two in S2 cars while sub-driving for his injured grandson in 2010.
SLM 40: With 11 SLM cars present, Michels started third in his Pick Your Part Chevy. He ran second for 15 laps behind fastest qualifier/second starter Juan Garcia, the 16-year old from Bogota, Columbia who edged him for the July 20 feature victory. The first four drivers—Garcia, “the Ripper”, Toni McCray and David Ross—captivated attention by running virtually nose-to-tail for the initial 15 circuits. Michels made an inside pass of his 2012 season Position One protege in the second turn on lap 16 and led the final 25 laps. McCray and Ross also passed Garcia the next lap and the finishing order was set. McCray closed to within three lengths of Michels during the closing laps and trailed by 0.395 at the end.
Michels later spoke to the media and praised McCray's growing talent and clean driving. He said his mother and his wife like her and want her to win races. He holds a 20-point lead (346-326) over McCray with one race remaining on November 2. Michels now has won five of the seven 2013 mains; teenagers Ryan Reed and Garcia won the others. Ross finished third, 1.724 in back of Michels. Garcia settled for fourth in Joe Nava's No. 03 Chevy. John Manke, Dennis Furden and Matt Lundstrom, from Concord, N.C, were the only other finishers and all completed 40 laps. The race took 12:45.573 and averaged 94.047 mph. Garcia ran the fastest race lap early at 18.393 (97.863 mph).
LATE MODEL 40: In the final feature, a 13-car field had Covina resident Mike Johnson on the pole in his rebuilt 2011 RCF Chevy. The car needed a new rear clip after a costly crash a week earlier while he ran third in the feature. He used the body from his older RCF-built car. Johnson grabbed the early lead from the pole. Trophy dash winner McCray (doing double duty in the two fastest Irwindale divisions) started third and ran second to lap 17. By lap 12 the first seven cars were nose-to-tail lap after lap. The order was Johnson, McCray, Partridge, rookie Andrew Porter, 19, Luis Martinez, Jr., fastest qualifier/rookie Ryan Cansdale, 14, and past champion Nick Joanides, making his first start this season in Adrianne Murlin's No. 19. Partridge, aboard Steve Latina”s No. 48 Loan Mart Toyota Camry, took second on lap 17 and passed Johnson for first a lap later.
LA Racing Experience at Irwindale Speedway driving instructor Partridge increased his lead gradually to 35-yards (1.995 seconds) over runner-up McCray. She passed Johnson for P. 2 on lap 21 and beat him by 2.172 seconds. P. 4-9 finishers were: Porter, Martinez, Cansdale, Joanides, Trevor Huddleston, 17, and Jeff Williams. All completed 40 laps and all 13 starters finished the 13:09.079 race. Winner Partridge averaged 91.246 mph. McCray, whose brother Ricky was her spotter, recorded the fastest race lap at 19.195 (93.774 mph). Partridge has won five of the eight late model mains this season. McCray has two triumphs in her No. 90 Chevy and Johnson won the August 17 feature. Race nine, the 2013 season finale, will be run October 5. Two title-contenders are separated by 36 points. Partridge has 390 points to McCray's 354 with 50 points awarded to winners.
SWT TRUCKS: The tailgaters used an inversion of five, putting FQ Neil Conrad, of Arcadia, inside row three. From pole, Ronnie Davis, Jr. led lap 1. Fourth starter Zack Green led laps 2-32 in Jeff Williams' No. 27 Ford. Conrad retired Christmas Day 2006 as an Arcadia Fire Department captain and now serves as a Sierra Madre volunteer fire service battalion chief. He took second on lap 5 and dueled Green all the way amid lapped trucks. Conrad's No. 87 Pick Your Part Chevy sped into the lead on the backstretch on lap 33 and opened a 15-yard advantage during the final three laps. Green, from LongA Beach, trailed by 0.873. Ed Cutler took third, 8.284 seconds off the lead. Rookie Mike Gilboy, 50, and Davis were the only other finishers with 35 laps. The 12:14.190 race time equated to a speed of 85.809 mph. Conrad's 20.407 (88.205 mph) was the fastest race lap. He praised the clean racing of Green all season and said he will be a champion.
The touring truck series, formerly called West Coast Pro Trucks, has raced six events this season away from Irwindale. Other races were at Madera Speedway (with Green, Conrad and Gilboy the feature winners), at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond (with Cutler a two-time winner), and at Kern Country Raceway Park where Conrad won on June 8. Two SWT Truck Series events remain—at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe on October 26 in a double-points race, and at Irwindale on November 2. The SWT series uses a point system that awards ten points for fastest qualifying time and a one point drop-off per position to one point for tenth. Race leaders all receive one point and the driver who leads the most feature laps gains an additional point. Main event 50, 48, 46 etc. feature position points are the same as Irwindale's system. SWT POINTS: Conrad entered the race Saturday with a 37 point lead (505-468) over Gilboy. Conrad now leads by 47 points over Gilboy (566-519) with Cutler ten points in back of Gilboy.
S/S 35: A season high 17 cars raced in the super stock main. FQ Crutcher started seventh and watched returning Irwindale veteran Rich DeLong III take his No. 84 Impala SS to a narrow lead for the first ten laps. Top ten drivers were in a tight pack for ten laps. Crutcher shot from second to the lead on lap 11. Double-duty driver Zack Green claimed P. 2 on lap 13. On lap 25 fifth place Eric Sunness got out of shape on the front straight and collected P. 6 DeLong's car. Both cars spun towards the infield; Sunness slammed into the huge tires attenuator protecting the end of third-mile first turn wall. His Camaro rose off the ground and almost took out the track signal lights before it stopped in the third-mile first turn. DeLong's car spun to the half-mile first turn grass. The Sunness car was a tow-off. DeLong's car returned from the pits minus hood and fenders and finished tenth, the last car on the lead lap. A 17-minute red flag followed to remove cars and to repair the attenuator.
At the green flag, Craig Rayburn shot from third to first place via a swift move to the extreme inside as the field raced into the first turn. The three leaders ran in a pack, with Crutcher inside and the other two drivers running the outside. Crutcher used that line after his tires had cooled during the delay and eliminated his loose car condition. He used the inside line on lap 32 in turn four to reclaim the lead and opened a 15-yard (1.356) winning margin over Rayburn. Aaron Coonfield, a Stockton 99 Speedway veteran, started tenth and ran in the top four during the final 15 laps. He charged past Green on the last lap in turn four to earn the final podium position. His 1980 Camaro did not meet Irwindale S/S specs so he raced only for money. Third place points went to P. 4 Green according to IS Racing Director Mike Atkinson. Point leader Gary Read finished fifth and saw his slim point lead slip to two points (278-276) over Green. Crutcher at 268 is a viable championship contender as well. The final S/S race number seven will be November 2, which could be called championship Saturday.
OPEN COMP 25: A unique all comers class replaced the slim car count Figure 8 division. The third PYP open comp 2013 race had a season-high car count of 15 and produced the third different race winner from the third different class. A late model won in a 12 car open field on July 20. A Figure 8 won August 31 in a field of eight. Rayburn's super stock led the first six laps from pole. Then third starter K. Smith's truck went to the inside in the fourth turn and had the lead before the starting line. He won by 30-yards (1.848) over Rayburn. Tom Morley, in his second race ever at Irwindale, placed third in his Ventura dirt-track mini modified. Crutcher's Camaro and Daryl Scoggins' S2 car also completed 25 laps to round out the top five. Coonfield (S/S), Mark Whitson (classic stock), Robert Dezarov (S/S), and Davis (SWT truck) all finished a lap down. The all-green light race took 6:53.579 for a speed of 72.465 mph. Winner Smith set the best lap time of 15.999 (74.930 mph).
Week 13 of the 15 week Irwindale oval track season will be run October 5. A six division event has late models, SRL S2 cars, mini stocks, legend cars, bandoleros and popular PYP skid plate cars. On Friday, October 4 bandoleros will race a 20-lap main and will have an unprecedented Friday night legend car feature also during the 5:00-9:00 pm open practice session. Legend drivers wanted to add a seventh point race to their Irwindale season.
LOAN MART TDs: Track officials selected the SLM and late model divisions to race in a pair of Loan Mart sponsored six-lap trophy dashes for the six fastest qualifiers in each division. Winners each received $250. If the fastest qualifiers could race from sixth position and win the dashes an additional $250 would be paid by Loan Mart. Both winners led all the way. McCray won the SLM dash from third starting and Johnson captured the L/M dash from second starting spot.