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IRWINDALE LATE MODEL TWINS & FIREWORKS – By Tim Kennedy

Irwindale, CA, Jul. 4 – Irwindale Speedway presented its annual “Salute to America” racing and post-race fireworks show presented by 211 Entertainment Saturday in front of 5,972 spectators. It was the third consecutive Saturday night that Irwindale Speedway attendance topped the 4,400 mark. Guest starter for the first race was Riverside resident Paul Blevin, Verizon Indy Car Series starter at Fontana and the Indianapolis 500 this year.

Seidner's Collision Centers NASCAR Late Model stock cars were the featured racing attraction and had 21 cars present. They took the advice of late Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks who said, “Let's play two.” Drivers raced a pair of 30-lap features, won by Trevor Huddleston, 19, from Agoura Hills, in the opening race. and veteran Toni Marie McCray in the final race on a mid-70s evening.

Pick-Your-Part super stocks also used the banked half-mile and raced a 35-lap main with nine cars. Series 2013-14 champion Zack Green, from Long Beach, led every lap and won in his No. 21 Camaro. Ten mini stocks raced 35-laps on the third-mile. Fastest qualifier Garrett Green, 21, preceded the super stock victory by his older brother. He drove his 1979 Ford Mustang II from fifth starting spot to lead laps 4-35.

A 13-minute aerial pyrotechnics show, launched from beyond the backstretch from 9:39 to 9:52 pm, concluded the evening. Patriotic music also played over the track Public address system as fans filed out of the grandstand to their vehicles in the parking lot.

1ST LM 30: Fast timer Huddleston, son of three-time late model champion at Irwindale, drove the Race-car Factory-built blue No. 50 High Point Racing Chevy, made famous by his father Tim. He started from pole position in the first race at 7:30 and led every lap. June 20 feature winner McCray, from Highland, traded second with teenagers Christian McGhee, 16, and rookie Riley Herbst, 16, for the first half of the race. Outside-running Herbst took third from McGhee on lap 13 and passed McCray for second on lap 15. He closed on Huddleston, but could not catch the now three-time 2015 feature winner of six races held to date.

Huddleston beat Herbst by 0.571, with P. 3 McCray 0.735 back and P. 4 McGhee 1.917 behind the winner. Luis Martinez, Jr. placed sixth. Series rookie Blaine Perkins, a 15-year old racing phenom from Bakersfield, was sixth. Late model rookie Ricky Schlick, 18, Kyle McGrady, David Ross and “Racey” Lacie Price, 21, completed the top ten. McGrady, 22, was in third place in 2015 points when he missed the June 20 race to attend the college graduation of his sister. He slipped from third to eighth in points. He climbed back to seventh after the July 4 twin-30s. Both McGrady siblings work work for K & N Filters in Riverside and the firm sponsors his No. 11 Chevy.

Nineteen of 21 starters finished with only two cars lapped. McCray's 19.038 (94.548 mph) was the fastest lap of the race. When the top three finishers were interviewed, she said, “It was my first time that I have run next to him (Herbst). He did a heck of a job.” The Las Vegas teen drove the ex-No. 48 Ryan Partridge 2014 championship Toyota Camry now owned by his father Troy, of off-rad racing fame.

Herbst, a 5'3”, 95-pound sophomore at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, is also a rookie in the Irwindale Race Truck Series. He already captured a truck main event at IS this season. He won the June 6 IRT 40-lap main in his No. 19 ex-No. 48 Toyota Tundra ride that Partridge drove to the 2014 truck title. As he becomes more familiar with the Irwindale half-mile, the legend cars graduate of shorter tracks could be an Irwindale championship contender. However, he was not present for the April 4 twin features and ranks ninth in late model points, 126 points in back of leader Huddleston's 340.

2ND LM 30: Fast timer Huddleston started fifth in the final race of the night at 9:00 pm. McCray started third with Mike Johnson on pole and McGhee alongside. She shot her No. 90 Clay Wooster-owned No. 90 Chevy to the inside entering turn one and grabbed the lead. She remained out front all 30 laps and led by half a straight at lap 20. Johnson, 57, held off the impressive IS teen brigade. The No. 9 hit the third turn wall and stopped on lap 24, causing a caution flag.

Under caution fifth-running McGhee felt a vibration at the back of his car and pulled into the pits for his crew to check. They found nothing wrong. He returned to the track in last place. He was hustling to catch up to the field when “the left rear hub broke” and the LR wheel rolled into the infield to the second turn. His car, trailing sparks, veered up into the wall at the right front, breaking the fender. The car stopped at the wall and McGhee climbed out without injury. A wrecker towed his No. 71 to the pits.

For the 2 X 2 restart of lap 24 McCray selected her favored inside lane, leaving Johnson the outside row. She led lap 24 over Johnson, seventh starter Ricky Schlick, Huddleston and Herbst. Huddleston took P. 2 from Schlick on lap 25 as P. 2-4 engaged in a nose-to-tail dogfight. McCray took the white flag to start lap 30 with a 35-yard advantage over Johnson. Huddleston entered turn one on the inside of Johnson and emerged from turn two with second place. McCray won by 1.567 over Huddleston, with Covina resident Johnson 1.798 back in P. 3, tying his season best finish.

P. 4 Herbst finished 1.990 off the lead. Series rookie Perkins, 15, took fifth place from Schlick with a last lap pass. McGrady, from Hesperia, placed seventh, with Martinez, Jeff Williams and Lacie Price completing the top ten on the scoring pylon. Seventeen of 20 starters finished; 16 ran all 30 laps in a 17-minute event. McCray again ran the fastest lap of the race at 19.148 (94.005 mph). Standings after six races show the top five in points as: Huddleston (340), Johnson (276), Perkins and McCray tied for third at 274, and Schlick at 246.

MINIS 35: Aubree Porter, from La Verne, led the first three laps in her florescent pink No. 43, the long-time number used by her maternal grandfather Kenny Smith. Reigning series champion and fastest qualifier Garrett Green, 21, led laps 4-35. he won by 40-yards (2.670 seconds) in a Ford Mustang II.

Robby Harryman (Pinto) and Mike Coleto followed. However, Coleto's No. 49 Pinto was disqualified (clutch) during tech inspection of top finishing cars. Porter moved up to P. 3 officially and Coleto was not classified. Danny French, sub-driving the Tim Cox No. 88 1980s mini-Toyota truck, and Nevada Chovin's Pinto completed the top five and also ran all 35 laps. Green's 16.989 (70.563 mph) was the quickest lap of the almost 13-minute race.

A lap 27 incident involved Coleto and Porter as they battled for second position. Porter hit the back of Coleto's car, which spun out. Both drivers had to restart at the back. Ryan Bragdon, the point leader and winner of all three mini-stock mains this season, was in P. 2 on lap 15 when the engine of his 1979 Ford Mustang II blew in a huge cloud of smoke near the starting line. He parked on the grass at the half-mile first turn. Despite the DNF, Bragdon still sits atop the series points—188 to 184—over Porter.

SS 35: Zack Green, 25, started fourth and led all 35 laps. He won by 40-yards (2.692 seconds) over the Camaro of 2005 Irwindale super stock champion Jimmy Sloan, from Indio. P. 3 Greg Crutcher's Camaro was 4.043 seconds back. Fastest qualifier Gary Frankovich (Chevy Impala SS) took fourth. Pole starter Bobby Dezarov was fifth and the top five completed all 35 laps.

Rookie Matthew Sampson, 21, of Covina, was seventh on lap 6 in his dad's No. 94 Camaro. His dad Larry built the car in 2000 and raced it to 2011. Exiting turn two on lap 6, “I gassed it too much and the car turned right into the backstretch wall.” He retired from his third ever race in the car. Ironically, the top seven finishers also ranked one through seven in point standings. Green's 21.196 (84.922 mph) was the fastest race lap of the 16-minute event.

Next Saturday will be a rare Saturday night of drag racing at the one-eighth mile Irwindale Drag-strip. The next IS oval track event on July 18 will be a six division card, topped by twin-30s for late models, and seven main events.

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