SIX DIVISIONS - TWO CHAMPIONS AT IRWINDALE - By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 5 – A busy night of racing at Irwindale Speedway Saturday featured six racing divisions and 104 cars competing in front of a media estimated 1,500 spectators. Two track champions—Robby Hornsby (mini stocks) and Ryan Partridge (Lucas Oil late models)--were crowned after final races for those series. The event was “Breast Health Awareness Night Benefiting the City of Hope” in nearby Duarte. Dignitaries from City of Hope, which marked 100 years fighting disease, and cancer survivors participated in opening ceremonies. Irwindale Speedway President/CEO Jim Cohan contributed $2.50 from each admission ticket Saturday to the City of Hope (“research-treatment-cures”) to help fight diseases. Grand Marshal Dr. Joanne Mortimer, Director of Womens Cancer Program and Vice Chair of Medical Oncology, spoke to spectators and acknowledged the welcome partnership between City of Hope and Irwindale Speedway.
Late model driver Val Cummings put City of Hope on the hood of his No. 01 Chevy. Fans signed the hood during the 5:30-6:30 pm drivers autograph session on the front straight. Cummings, the 1997 American Race Trucks champion, raced at Irwindale Speedway from 1999-2003. He had cancer in 2004 and underwent chemotherapy. It went into remission. Lymphoma returned in 2008 and was at a critical stage three of four. His doctor referred him to City of Hope for trial stem cell replacement treatment using his own stem cells. It was successful and his cancer went into remission. Cummings said the City of Hope saved his life and he is proud to spread the word about the world renowned medical center located only a few miles from Irwindale Speedway. Cummings was 17th fastest qualifier of 19 drivers. He dropped out of the main on lap 35.
The evening also was “Los Angeles Dodgers Appreciation Night” with special guest Tommy Lasorda, former Dodgers manager and current team executive. Jorge Jarrin, a Dodgers broadcaster, served as emcee during opening ceremonies at the starting line. Prior to the ceremonies numerous big rig trucks paraded around the half-mile track on “Truckers Night”. Truckers also participated all day Sunday from 8:00 am in “Truckin' for Kids Day at the Irwindale Drag-strip” All proceeds benefited another good cause—Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Lasorda, 86, was in Atlanta Friday night for his Dodgers NLDS game two. He told spectators baseball is not for owners or players. Its for fans. He added, “This is the first time I've been here. I'm completely amazed.” Prior to the first race Lasorda gave the command, “Drivers start your engines.” He watched the first main (Bandoleros) from a suite before going home so he could get to Dodger Stadium early Sunday for playoff game three.
Six main events followed a pair of Loan Mart six-lap trophy dashes for the six fastest qualifiers in the late model and mini stock divisions. Cole Custer led all the way and won the L/M dash from outside row one. Point leader/fast timer Robby Hornsby started sixth and won the mini stock dash after a final lap pass of Daryl Scoggins, leader of the first five laps. Both dash winners received $250 from Loan Mart. Hornsby became the first winner of the additional $250 bonus for racing from last to first in a dash. Loan Mart proposed the unique promotion in mid-season.
Bandoleros, mini stocks, legend cars, and Pick Your Part skid plate cars raced on the third-mile. SRL S2 Touring Cars and Lucas Oil Late Models used the progressively banked half-mile. Feature winners (with division car counts in parenthesis) were: Nico Mongenel (11 Bandoleros), Brent Scheidemantle (18 legends), Hornsby (14 mini stocks), Ryan Cansdale (10 S2 Cars), Custer (19 late models) and Michael DiGregorio (32 skid plate cars). Two dashes and six mains (207total laps) were run from 7:12 to 10:20 pm on an 80 degree evening prior to sunset.
LATE MODEL 50: As a reward for a high late season car turnout, racing officials rewarded late model teams by increasing the usual 40-lap distance to 50-laps. Trophy dash winner Custer, from Ladera Ranch, earned pole position with dash runner-up Partridge alongside. They thrilled fans by racing in tandem all the way. Custer, 15, prevailed by a mere length until the final lap when Partridge made his last and most intense bid for the lead. They lapped three cars (P. 11-13) on lap 49. Partridge got alongside the left side of Custer's car leaving turn four and spun 360 degrees to the inside of the track. He continued non-stop after two of the three lapped cars re-passed him before the finish line. Custer became a first-time NASCAR late model series winner at Irwindale aboard the RCF-built No. 55 High Point Racing Chevy. Partridge trailed by 3.105 seconds and settled for second in the Loan Mart Toyota Camry. He earned the Lucas Oil Late Model track championship by 38 points (438-400) over Toni McCray, who ran third all 50 laps. Partridge, 25, won five of nine features this season and earned his second Irwindale championship. His first came in 2010 in the King Taco Super Truck Series.
Rookies Andrew Porter, 19, and Ryan Cansdale, 14, came from row three to finish fourth and fifth. Porter drove the Kevin Bowles No. 7 and Cansdale drove the No. 51 HPR car. Porter finished third in final points with 380. Trevor Huddleston, 17, came from eighth starting to earn sixth in one of three HPR Chevy “blue crew” cars owned by his father Tim. Veterans and past feature winners returned from lengthy absences to finish seventh through ninth. Travis Irving in his CHP No. 85, Nick Joanides and Sean Woodside ran close all the way in a five car pack with positions swapped frequently. Billy Helgeson, 35, placed tenth and was the last driver on the lead lap. Eighteen of 19 starters finished the all-green light race in a winning time of 18:09.814 (82.583 mph). Custer, whose father Joe is executive vice president of NASCAR's Stewart-Haas Racing in North Carolina, is a 2013 rookie in the NASCAR K & N East Series. He became the youngest race winner ever in that series on August 2 in a 150-lap event at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway. On September 2 Custer won his second K & N East feature at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon aboard the No. 00 Chevy.
SRL S2: A ten car field of RCF-built S2 touring cars ran 11 of 12 events at four tracks. Point leader Ryan Cansdale increased his advantage over main event and series runner-up Trevor Huddleston, his late model teammate. Cansdale leads Huddleston by 40 points (1,870-1,830) after Irwindale. Only a November 16 Las Vegas “Bullring” doubleheader remains in the first season under SRL rules and points. S2 racing started in 2009 at Irwindale Speedway. Three events were run this season at Irwindale; Cansdale won twice and Huddleston once. Other S2 races this season were in Madera, Las Vegas and on Bakersfield's new Kern County Raceway Park half-mile. Cansdale has won five of 11 features this season and Huddleston two. Anthony Giannone won twice. Kenny Smith and Daryl Scoggins were the other S2 winners.
As fastest qualifier, Huddleston (No. 50) started fourth with Cansdale's No. 37 alongside. Lindsey King led the first two laps from pole position. She later dropped out of P. 4 with a smoking engine. Kenny Smith, 67, led laps 3-9 over pressing Cansdale. On lap 10 the teen made an inside pass without contact in the fourth turn and took command for good. He opened a 40-yard advantage by lap 30 despite a lap 19 caution. Huddleston took second from Smith on lap 30. Contact broke a valve stem on Smith's No. 43 and a deflating tire sent him to the infield a lap later. Uli Perez and two-time mini stock track champion Scoggins waged a ten lap duel for P. 3 to the end. Perez took third on lap 33 and kept it to the lap 35 checkered flag. Scoggins, Bill Waters, ex-late model driver Johnny Butler (in his S2 debut), Chris Morrison and Dave Lowenstein finished fifth through eighth; all ran 35 laps. Two-time Bandolelro champion/legend car veteran Cansdale ran the quickest race lap at 20.331 (88.535 mph).
MINI STOCKS: Robby Hornsby, 21, put a ribbon on his first Irwindale championship season by setting FQ time in his No. 61 Ford Pinto and winning the trophy dash from P. 6 to earn a $250 bonus. As dash winner he started first and led every lap in the seventh and final series event of 2013. He won three of the seven mains, including the last two. Ryan Bragdon did not qualify his 1979 Mustang II but charged from the back row (13th) to earn second (0.270 back). Hornsby won the title by 26 points (342-316) over Bragdon. The fastest lap of the race was Bragdon's 70.588 mph. Kevin Meador, Dusty Morgan, Josh Hodges, Bud Smith and rookie Garret Green also ran all 35 laps. Four cautions extended the race to 32 minutes. R. C. Zimmerman, at age 94 the world's oldest active race driver, caused a yellow after the engine in his Ford Pinto blew on the backstretch.
SKID PLATE 20: The sixth feature Saturday was a 32-car skid plate race with cars starting two abreast from a standing start. Cars raced counter-clockwise and had to veer right at the finish line because four large tires were placed across the track forcing drivers into a slalom-like move to the right onto the half-mile. Twenty cars ran skid plate qualifying laps for the first time at 4:45 pm. Alec Martinez set a NTR of 30.133 (39.784 mph) in a Honda Accord that had a pair of metal skid plates welded onto both rear wheels instead of tires. Three drivers beat the former record. The old mark was 31.671 (37.852 mph) by Scoggins on 8/14/10.
A straight-up start put the two fastest qualifiers on the front row. Michael DiGregorio started second and led all 20 laps in a rout. It was his third consecutive skid plate victory this season in his No. 18 Honda Accord. He had 16 lapped cars and a 25.842 seconds lead over runner-up Todd Browne, who was driving his Honda Accord in his third SPC event. Robert Rice, 33.843 seconds back, was the only other driver who completed 20 laps. The all-green light race took 11:44.445 and averaged 34.035 mph. Winner DiGregorio, from Temple City, ran the fastest lap of 31.586 (37.954 mph). Fred Adams, Austin Lee, Randy Kruse and Wayne Lee completed 19 laps. Todd Hartwig, two-time winner Sean Brennan, Andy Brittain and Low Budget TV's Jeffrey Best followed in order with 18 laps. Twenty-five of 32 starters were still circulating at the finish. The seventh and final skid plate race of 2013 will occur on the next race night--October 26.
LEGENDS 35: The 18-car legends main had three race leaders. Bakersfield's Brandon “Shorty” Weaver, 13, led the first ten laps from the pole. Ricky Schlick, 16, paced the next three laps. Then FQ/seventh starter Brent Scheidemantle, 21, made an inside pass exiting turn four and led the final 21 laps. He won by 0.951 over Schlick in the same No. 98 coupe that he rolled recently in turn two. Chad Schug, point leader Darren Amidon, Mark Borchetta, Weaver, Mark Iungerich, Blaine Perkins, Christian McGhee and Aaron Wells completed the top ten. Sixteen of 18 drivers finished and all logged 35 laps. The race took 18 minutes because a red flag was necessary after Troy Wesolowski's No. 84 coupe blew its Yamaha engine on the backstretch. With his engine ablaze he stopped at turn four of the half mile. Firemen extinguished the fire quickly and he escaped injury. Schlick's 73.164 mph lap was the quickest.
On Friday during the 5:00-9:00 pm all divisions open practice session, 13 legend car drivers qualified and raced a 20-lap main only for INEX Legends points. Scheidemantle had FQ time and led all the way from pole. He defeated Schlick's No. 24 coupe by 1.388. Schug, Borchetta, McGhee and Iungerich followed. Ten cars finished the 11-minute event that had a lengthy caution to remove the stalled car of Buddy Shepherd, 13, a frequent winner at KCRP. The Bakersfield youngster's replica l937 Ford sedan broke a trailing arm bolt and drive-shaft in his first racing visit to Irwindale.
BANDOLEROS: Eleven of the Briggs & Stratton powered INEX Bandoleros competed both Friday and Saturday. Niko Mongenel, 16, and point leader Ricky Lewis, 15, swapped roles each night. Mongenel set fastest qualifying time Friday and Lewis won the 20-lap main by 0.592 over Mongenel. The next night Lewis set FQ time and Mongenel won his initial IS career feature victory by 0.337 over Lewis. Ricky Vargas led the first 15 laps Saturday as the top four cars raced nose-to-tail lap after lap. On lap 16 in turn two P. 2 Lewis got inside leader Vargas and moved him up the track. Observant Mongenel shot under both drivers and went from third to first. P. 4 Ryan Borchetta followed him to second place as Vargas and Lewis followed. Lewis took second on lap 19 and Vargas dropped Borchetta to fourth on the last lap. Austin Farr was fifth. The six minute race had a two car crash in turn two that caused a red flag for removal of a car with a broken LF spindle via a roll-back wrecker.