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IRWINDALE NASCAR 2022 SEASON OPENER

IRWINDALE NASCAR 2022 SEASON OPENER
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Irwindale, CA., Mar. 12 – Irwindale Speedway opened its 23rd season of NASCAR points oval track racing Saturday with an Advance Auto Parts Series busy program. Eight main events for seven series and a RV trailer Figure-8 race with 17 entrants were followed by a ten-minute aerial fireworks show. All that action attracted a near-capacity crowd of 6,000 racing-starved spectators to the San Gabriel Valley speedway. Warm winter temperature in the mid-70s at 5 pm dropped to the upper 50s by the end of the entertaining event that lasted three and a quarter hours.

LKQ / PICK-YOUR-PART Pro Late Models had 14 cars present for a pair of twin-30-lap main events. Fastest qualifier Parker Malone, 25, from Redlands, started from pole position in the first 30 at 7:05. Trevor Huddleston, 25-year old three-time IS late model champion, was alongside as second quickest. Malone led pressuring Huddleston for eight laps. On lap 9 in turn two third-running Linny White, driving absent Sean Woodside's No. 45 Chevy, made contact with the left rear of Huddleston's HPR No. 50, which spun out in the low groove. The 14th place No. 35 driven by Rodney Peacher, 73, hit the back of Huddleston's car hard, inflicting major damage to both cars. Jan's Towing wreckers towed both cars to the pits.

Malone continued to lead every lap and won his second career IS feature by 25-yards (1.254 seconds) over third starter White. Malone won his first IS main in a 2020 pro late model event. Nick Joanides, 51, started and finished third in Joe Nava's No. 77 Chevy. Dennis Arena started and finished fourth in his newly purchased car, the 2020/2021 IS championship HPR No. 51 driven by Dean Thompson. Actor Frankie Muniz, a 36-year old NASCAR rookie and star of TV's “Malcolm in the Middle”, started seventh and finished fifth in the No. 56 HPR Chevy. All 11 finishers completed 30-laps. Malone turned the quickest lap of 19.249 (93.511 mph).

SECOND LM 30: The second late model 30 lapper started at 9:30 with 12 cars. The first eight finishers from the opening main were inverted. Lucas McNeil, 28, led the first seven laps after starting second. White, 44, started inside row four and was fourth by lap 4. He took the lead on lap 8 and paced the final 23 laps in Woodside's usual ride that he co-owns with Tim Sweet. White earned his third career IS feature triumph by 0.787 over pressing Malone, who wanted to win the doubleheader. White ran the fastest lap of 19.409 (92.740 mph).

Tegan Harlan, 16, from Canyon Lake, started and finished third in his family-owned No. 28. It was his best finish since he started as a rookie two years ago. McNeil finished fourth and Joanides fifth. The race had a red flag on lap 13 after P.4 Arena was bumped by P. 5 Joanides and spun out in the fourth turn. P. 9 Scott Youngren slowed but rammed the drivers' side door of the stalled Arena No. 4. Drivers escaped injury, but both cars were eliminated.

YouRaceLA Spec Late Models / Irwindale Race Trucks 40: This racey two races in one offered 50 points each to the car and truck winners. The 14 entrants drove nine cars and five trucks. The first five starters were inverted by qualifying times during 3:45 time trials. That put second year spec late model driver Nash Youngren, 19, on the pole in a turquoise blue and yellow No. 13. Jacob McNeil's No. 97 truck was alongside. McNeil led 11 laps over Youngren. On lap 12 McNeil spun out in the fourth turn, causing the only yellow flag of the race.

A two by two restart lineup had Youngren and veteran truck racer Nico Mongenel, 24, on the front row. Mongenel led lap 12 via an inside pass in the second turn. Impressive second year, second generation driver Youngren, from Fallbrook, led laps 13-40 and scored his first Irwindale feature triumph by 3.370 seconds. He drove the same Racecar Factory-built (formerly called S2 Cars) car owned by Tim Cash,. He also owns the late model raced by his father Scott Youngren, a late model feature winner at IS during the first eight years of the track's existence.

Runner-up Tanner Huddleston, 18, is the younger son of Tim Huddleston, IS three-time late model champion and co-promoter since 2018. The teen had only raced on the third-mile in a Bandolero once in 2015 and with a four-cylinder enduro sedan twice in recent years in skid plate events. He decided he wanted to race on the half-mile and practiced once on Friday night before racing Saturday. The junior college student started the HPR No. 50 Chevy fourth in the 14-car field after setting the second quickest qualifying time. He ran fourth to the lap 12 yellow flag that sent McNeil and Huddleston to the back row.

Huddleston worked his way up to seventh by lap 20, fourth on lap 34, third past Mongenel on lap 35 and second on the final lap by passing veteran Ron Nava (in Kenny Smith's No. 43 spec LM). Troy Andersen, 26, placed fifth with all 14 starters still circulating and ten on the lead lap at the finish. P 6-10 were: Nevin Iwatsuru, legends vet Chad Schug, Aaron Combs, McNeil, and Dylan Interlicchia. Youngren ran the fastest race lap of 20.339 (88.500 mph).

THIRD-MILE ACTION:

Tucker Tire Enduros 35: Seventeen four-cylinder enduro sedans raced on the third-mile oval instead of the roval course. The race took 11 minutes. Cars were divided into two classes—stock and sport—based on whether they had an overhead valve engine. Winners in both classes received 50 points towards track championships. Six sport sedans started behind all the slower stock class cars. John Beard, 59, started eighth in his No. 35 Honda Accord and led the first 31 laps.

Rodney Argo, an ex-410 sprint car driver/feature winner from Gardena, led laps 32-35 and edged Beard by 0.668. Robert Rice, 56, was third in his stock class Honda Accord. However, post-race tech inspection of top finishing cars resulted in penalties for three cars for use of non-conforming parts. Argo, Beard and P. 5 Jason Woolcott were relegated to positions 15-17 respectively. That handed Rice the stock class victory (his 66th at IS in various classes) and the sport class win to Ian Rotundo (No. 4 Honda Prelude). Rick Conti (sport), Ronny Aycock (stock) and Devyn Azzolia (stock) completed the official top five.

INEX LEGEND CARS 35: Fourteen legend cars started on the third-mile and used a six-car inverted lineup with fastest qualifier/second year racer Sean Hingorami, 15, outside in row three. Veteran Tyler Hicks, 26, led seven laps from pole position. Fourth starter Jake Bollman, 14, led laps 8-35 and won his fourth career LC main at IS by 35-yards over reigning four-time series champion Chad Schug, 34. Hingorami placed third in one of team owner Ricky Schlick's four rented team cars. Christian Bazen, 16, finished fourth, half a second in front of Hicks. Rookie Logan Chambers, Mike Vanderlip, Lorenzo Malave, 14, father Chad Hadlick and son Justin Hadlick all completed 35 laps in positions six through ten. Thirteen of 14 starters were racing at the finish of a 20-minute event that had three caution flags. Schug ran the fastest lap of 16.394 (73.124 mph).

STREET STOCKS 30: Seven of eight street stocks present raced 30-laps. Fastest qualifier Jesus Qunitero, 17, set the fastest time during afternoon qualifying in his No. 72 Ford F-150 truck. It is the ex-No. 9 Dennis Parkhouse West Coast Pro Truck. He started his second ever race at IS from pole position in the straight-up lineup based on time trials. The Adelanto resident led the first six laps and then pulled off the track for three laps to solve a problem.

Jim Vermillion, from Moreno Valley, led laps 7-28 in his 1988 Chevy Monte Carlo while barely holding a car length advantage over the No. 1 Camaro driven by Jay Verduzco, of Covina. On lap 29 Verduzco executed an inside pass through the third and fourth corners and took the lead. He paced the final two laps and held a car length victory margin. WCPT No. 8 ( a Ford F-150) driven by Whittier's Mike Kelperis, trucker Ed Cutler, from Ventura, Camaro driver Robby Harryman, and Venice resident Jerry Toporek (1970 Dodge Challenger) followed on the lead lap. Quintero finished three laps down because of his mid-race stop.

PRO SPEED RACE TRUCKS 30: The Las Vegas-based series that races at the LVMS 3/8-mile “Bullring” requested IS to grant them 2022 race dates. They ran the first of three scheduled IS race dates on the third-mile. The series, formerly called ASA Speed Trucks, raced on the IS half-mile in the early years of the track operation. Seven drivers from Nevada raced 30 laps on the third-mile in their reintroduction to So Cal fans. Mark Allison (No. 3) led the final 29 laps. He won by 2.341 seconds over Mike Egurola. Gary Wyatt, Chloe Lynch, a 25-year old legend cars veteran in her first truck race, also finished 30 laps. Gary Cheek and Mike Riefler ran 29 laps for fifth and sixth. Arlie Daniel logged 28 laps in an all-green light, ten-minute race. Allison ran the fastest lap of 16.122 (74.358 mph).

The RV Trailer Figure 8 race followed the conclusion of the second late model feature. All 17 entrants started their mini-RVs in rows of two on the F-8 course. The unscored “for fun only” race lasted about ten minutes with many near collisions at the infield X “danger zone” and a few minor dents. Robert Rice started in the front row and led every lap as he lapped most of the field. Following the F-8 event, a ten-minute fireworks show started at 10:10 and kept fans in their seats to the conclusion.

The next IS race on the oval track will be Saturday, March 26. It will feature a touring ARCA West Series 150-lap race on the half-mile in the first of two such races at IS this season. The usual “Night of Destruction” zany events following the ARCA 150 are sure to attract another large audience.