IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY “NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION” - By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 26 – BAM. ZAP. POW. CRASH. No, it wasn't the latest Batman movie Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. It was the traditional Pick Your Part “Night of Destruction” Halloween week bash at the San Gabriel Valley oval. The promised motorized mayhem attracted the largest crowd of the season. An announced 6,000+ spectators filled the main grandstand and suites to watch three demolition derbies and four races on the third-mile track.
Banging, steaming, smoking, spinning, crashing cars sent sparks, parts, and trailer contents flying throughout the evening. The third-mile track and infield looked like a war zone with scattered debris everywhere. An overnight track cleaning crew deserved medals for getting the facility in order for a race training center class Sunday. An engine fire and a high-revving dragster also caused oohs and aahs from amazed and vocal spectators. They even booed one demo derby perceived villain at times.
By many estimates, most of the spectators were first-time attendees at Irwindale Speedway and were witnessing their first racing action. The turnout had one lane of Live Oak Avenue backed up almost to the 605 Freeway near race time and long lines at all concession stands. Track management used an innovative Groupon promotion in which afternoon go-karting, food discounts and tickets to speedway races brought out new spectators and families seeking different entertainment on a 70-degree evening.
In order of events run, the seven events were:
ENDURO – A 25-lap Enduro main event started 31 cars, all 4-wheel drive skid plate cars with tires mounted on the back wheels instead of metal skid plates. All cars ran a modified oval or “ro-val” marked off by large truck tires painted white to mark the course. The track jogged to the infield just past turn two and rejoined the third-mile on the backstretch just before turn three. Gary Scheuerell started second and led the first three laps. Ninth starter Sean Brennan's No. 33 1998 Toyota Camry led laps 4-22 by as much as a straightaway. Jim Smith started 11th and was in P. 2 by lap 10. He was at Brennan's back bumper by lap 22. As they approached slower cars Smith took the lead in the final turn on lap 23. He led two laps.
On the 25th and final circuit Brennan and Smith again approached slower cars near the third turn. Brennan shot to the inside on the infield side of the course marking tire and took the lead with the checkered flag waving. Brennan crossed the finish line 0.719 in front of Smith. Race Director Mike Atkinson immediately called Smith the race winner and assessed a one position penalty on Brennan for short-cutting the course. Scheuerell was the only other driver on the lead lap. The top three finishers received $250, $200 and $175. Every starter received at least $35, the pit pass cost. The all-green light race took 9:27.330 and had an average speed of 52.760 mph. Smith posted the fastest lap at 56.799 mph.
OPEN COMP. - Eight of nine cars present ran an all-green light 20-lap main event on the third-mile. The contest took 5:16.546. A diverse field had two late models, two Enduro Honda Accords, and one each Figure 8, classic stock, S2 car, and dirt modified. Tom Morley led the first lap. Then Jerry Toporek, from Venice, shot his No. 40 Figure 8 car into the lead on lap 2 and won by 3.484 seconds over Richie Altman's No. 31 late model. Daryl Scoggins, down a lap, placed third in his No. 46 S2 car. Morley's dirt modified, Harry Michaelian's classic stock and Dennis Furden's late model followed; all completed 19 laps. It was Toporek's second feature victory at Irwindale. His first came on 5/12/07 in a Figure 8 main. Toporek also won the six car, six lap trophy dash prior to the first of seven features.
SKID PLATE CARS – The seventh SPC race of 2013 again captivated fans attention. Every car had spark-producing metal skid plates mounted to both rear wheels. A field of 34 took the green flag for 20 laps in the third feature. Four drivers led with five lead changes. Third starter Gary Scheuerell led the first lap. Tenth starter Jim Smith paced the next two laps. Then second starter Sean Brennan led laps 4 and 5. Smith led laps 6-18. Eighth starter Todd Browne took the lead in the third turn when Smith briefly got involved in a crash. Browne led the final two laps and won by 10.464 seconds and received $300. Runner-up was Smith, who earlier won the Enduro main in the same car with four tires, earned $200. The race time was 15:28.867. There were three brief red flags to push stalled cars from the third-mile into the infield. Brennan placed third, 12 seconds off the lead and took home $175. Robert Rice (-21 seconds) and Austin Lee (-27 seconds) completed the top five and also ran 20 laps. All starters received at least $35. There were 23 cars still racing at the conclusion.
Browne, a Jet Blue Airline 320 Aerobus pilot who flies out of Long Beach Airport, was in his fifth skid plate race and won for the first time. His best prior finish was a recent second place to Michael DiGregorio. Browne drove the No. 86 1988 Toyota Camry that was his grandmother's car and then his mother's car. It sat idle for the last eight years and had 240,000+ miles on the odometer when Browne converted it to a skid plate car. Browne, from Glendora, had the most vocal fans, with 30 family and friends in a suite. They cheered him forward each lap throughout the race. The winning speed average was 25.812 mph. Scheuerell ran the fastest race lap at 38.731 mph.
TRAILER RACE – Eleven cars towing trailers with boats, miscellaneous cargo or house-trailers raced 20 laps. Hitting and general mayhem were allowed and encouraged by track rules. The winner received $500, with the next three earning $300, $200 and $150. All others received $50. Spectators cheered, laughed and applauded as drivers separated boats and house trailers from tow vehicles, and in succeeding laps smashed through cast adrift objects littering the track. The race lasted from 8:44-8:53 pm. Robert Rice, competing in six of the seven events, won in his faithful Chevy El Camino from the pole. He led the first 19 laps and kept his large PYP orange boat on its trailer despite several well-timed hits by other drivers. On the final lap John Zimmerman passed Rice and reached the finish line first. However, fan-voting determined the winner from the first three finishers after they stopped at the finish line. Rice won for the third time in three trailer races this season. Low Budget TV racing videographer Jeffrey Best received fans nod for second place. Zimmerman had to settle for third spot.
DEMOLITION DERBIES (3):
> Powder Puff - Four females bashed each other for about ten minutes on a watered patch of infield. Audra Moore, Executive VP of 211 Entertainment (the Irwindale Event Center track lessee), outlasted Cheryl Hyland following their 5-10 mph head-on crash. IS track scorers Jannie and Sarah Atkinson, daughters of Racing Director Mike Atkinson, had car problems and did not finish.
> Compact Car – Eight cars participated. #37 Lawrence Tannas won. #14 Adam Ditto second, #00 Jeffrey Best third, fourth went to #7 Robert Rice and taking fifth place the #96 Tommy Mason. Sixth through eighth only had one registered name. #07 sixth, #1 Steve Dien seventh and eighth went to the #11.
> Full Size Car – Dave Smith, of Yorba Linda, (No. 18 1976 Chevy Impala) was the final car running in a six-car field. The concluding demo derby lasted from 9:39-9:54 pm. Scptt Zizelman, from Ohio, placed second in a 1967 Chrysler Cordoba. Joshua Holley, from Yorba Linda, took third in a 1967 Chrysler Cordoba. The top three finishers received $1,000, $500 and $200 respectively.
The 15th and final Irwindale Speedway 2013 season Saturday night race will be Saturday, November 2. It is also fan appreciation night with prizes distributed throughout the evening. Track championships are up for grabs in five divisions—super late models, Progressive Painting Race Trucks, super stocks, Legends and Bandoleros. PYP SW Tour Trucks will race as well for their traveling series points.