IRWINDALE OVAL SECOND 2018 RACE NIGHT

IRWINDALE OVAL SECOND 2018 RACE NIGHT
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Four racing divisions used the half and third-miles and raced six main events Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. Sunrise Ford (in Fontana and North Hollywood) presented 1980s attire night and six competitive features. Grand marshal Doug Stokes, the long-time track VP of Communications, gave the“Drivers start your engines” command at the starting line. He then joined numerous long-time friends and media in the press box before he settles into retirement.

NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series IS top-tier series—the LKQ Pick Your Part Late Models—raced a pair of 40-lap features (events one and five) on the half-mile. Irwindale Race Trucks used the same venue during the fourth race. The third-mile was the setting for four-cylinder enduro sedans twin-20-lap mains in events two and six. A 35-lap race for INEX Legend Cars, also on the third-mile, was the third event.


1ST LM 40: All 17 late models present used a six-car inverted starting grid that put fastest qualifier Alec Martinez outside in the third row. Lawless Alan started second and led 33 laps. The race had a yellow flag on lap 32 and a 25-minute red flag after a five-car crash on lap four in the fourth turn. Mike Johnson, who returned to driving this season after letting his son Matt drive the No. 17 Chevy to IS rookie of the 2017, cut to the inside and contacted the car of fifth place Ryan Schartau and spun out.

Several cars quickly piled into the melee. The Joe Nava No. 77 Chevy driven by Nick Joanides received major front end damage and a fire erupted under the hood and near the torn off RF fender. He stopped on the front straight and climbed out without injury. Track firemen quickly extinguished the blaze. Four cars were sidelined for the night. No drivers were injured.

A double-file restart had Alan and current K & N West driver/multi-IS champion Ryan Partridge alongside in row one. Alan had led Partridge, Martinez and pole starter Zachary St. Onge, 16, for 30 laps. Teenagers Jagger Jones, Blaine Perkins and fifth starter Schartau dueled closely for fifth position. Leaders were lapping slower cars on lap 32 at turn two when two slower drivers spun out after contact. Officials sent second place Partridge to the back for avoidable contact.

On a two-by-two restart Alan took the outside lane with P. 2 Martinez inside. At the green flag, the Martinez car stumbled with a problem and cars scattered high and low. P. 3 St. Onge spun across the starting line and Martinex retired his car to the infield. Alan led lap 32, but then began slowing with a tire problem. Schartau, 15, assumed the lead and led the final seven laps. It was the first IS late model victory for the impressive 2017 series rookie.

Jagger Jones, 15-year old son of two-time Indy 500 starter P. J. Jones and grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, also enjoyed his career-best IS result aboard the No. 55 HPR Chevy. The Scottsdale, AZ resident trailed the winner by 0.813. IRT truck veteran and LM series rookie Lucas McNeil drove from 14th starting in his own No. 78 Chevy to his best LM result—third. He trailed Schartau by 3.488 seconds. McNeil said his car was the RCF-built No. 24 raced years ago by paraplegic driver Ricky James.

Rookie Hailee Deegan, 16-year old daughter of motocross and off-road racing star Brian Deegan, came from 12th grid position and also enjoyed her career-best IS result of fourth. The 2018 NASCAR Next trailed the winner by 4.502 seconds. Partridge raced from the back to fifth place with ten cars racing at the finish. Alan clocked the fastest lap of 92.678 mph prior to his tire problem.

2ND LM 40: With the top ten finishers inverted for the second feature, lineup changes were made after six cars were eliminated by crash damage or mechanical problems. Blaine Perkins, a March 24 IS 30-lap feature winner, and McNeil, 24, occupied the front row. Alan was sent to the back row for making a needed tire change. Eleven cars started. Perkins led the first 24 laps. The all-green flag race took 15:13.888 and averaged 78.784 mph.

Alan raced into second position by lap 22 and engaged fellow teens Perkins and St. Onge in a nose-to-tail battle. Alan cut to the inside in turn four on lap 25 and took command for the final 16 circuits. He won his second 2018 IS main (and fourth of the season including two at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield) by 50-yards (2.572 seconds). Alec Martinez, from Tustin, came from eighth starting spot to pass both Perkins and St. Onge on lap 35 with a strong inside move leaving turn two.

St. Onge challenged Perkins closely all 40 laps and made an inside pass exiting turn four with the lap 40 checkered flag in sight. St. Onge edged Perkins by 0.059 for his best late model result to date. Jagger Jones started seventh and finished fifth, five seconds back. Jones set the fastest race lap of 91.547 mph. After four IS point races this season, Schartau leads all drivers with 180 points, two digits ahead of Alan. All three feature winners are teenagers as IS continues its role in developing competitive race drivers.

TRUCKS 35: Busy Lucas McNeil, from Saugus, started second in the IRT 35-lap main and waged an entertaining three-way battle with pole starter Ryan Partridge and third starter Connor Cantrell, the 2011 and 2016 series champion. Cantrell set the fastest qualifying time during 4:45 pm time trials for ten trucks. Partridge led the first three laps and laps 18-32. On lap 33 McNeil made an inside pass leaving the fourth turn his winning move. McNeil now leads in points 96-94 over Partridge.

Dueling Andrew Porter and 2017 truck series champion Dennis Arena dropped Partridge to fourth on the final lap. Jacob McNeil, younger brother of the winner, finished fifth. Eight of ten starters finished. Cantrell, running third on lap 28, caught the fourth turn crash-wall and stopped with damage. Prior to his exit, Cantrell ran the fastest lap of 88.409 mph.

McNeil uses No. 78 on both his IRT Chevy S-10 and late model in honor of his late grandfather Jim Robinson, of Reseda. The NASCAR Winston West driver from 1979-87 won 11 features in the series and was a three-time series champion (1983-85). He raced at Saugus and used No. 78 on his stock cars. Robinson was injured in a two-car crash at the backstretch dogleg of the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway during a February 7, 1988 Copper World Classic late model race. He spent a lengthy period in a coma at a convalescent hospital before eventually regaining consciousness. He died from complications of pneumonia in 1995. McNeil's mom Breanna is one of two Robinson daughters.

LEGENDS 35: A 15-car field of INEX Legend Cars used a six-car inverted starting grid that put fastest qualifier Darren Amidon outside row six. Jace Jones, 13-year old son of P. J and grandson of Parnelli, came from Scottsdale, AZ and started third with the No. 98 coupe he races in Las Vegas. Jones passed the front row starters and led the initial 11 laps. Amidon took second on lap 8 and battled Jones to lap 12 when four-time series champion Amidon took the lead and kept it to the checkered flag. After winning both 2018 races, Amidon has a perfect 100 points, and is four points ahead of second place.

Three-time series champion Chad Schug took second on lap 18 and trailed Amidon by 0.389. Jones placed his IS best position of third, 2.165 seconds back. Jaron Giannini, also 13 and a Las Vegas “Bullring” legend car driver, finished fourth. Tyler Hicks was fifth with 13 of 15 cars racing at the finish. Jones ran the fastest lap of 73.618 mph. Austin Farr was third when he spun out of the fourth turn on the final lap and collected P. 7 Ricky Leigh. They had started on the front row in the 23-minute event.

ENDUROS: Eighteen four-cylinder sedans grid for the first 20 in the usual counter clockwise direction. Fastest qualifier Daniel Hudson was inside row three. The 29-year old from Garden Grove set a new track record of 17.878 (67.054 mph) during time trials. He was the only sub-18 second qualifier. Two other drivers beat the old record and one tied it. Hudson broke the old record of 18.579 (64.524 mph) set by Bory Molina on December 2, 2017. Hudson, an enduro veteran at Orange Show Speedway and the Willow Springs Raceway short track, made his IS debut March 10. He and his 36-year old brother Mike, from Buena Park, drove a pair of 1990s Acura Integras.

FIRST 20: Past enduro winner Eddie Howell, of Carson, led laps 1-2 and 18-19. D. Hudson swept past Howell and led laps 3-17 as the lead duo lapped cars in tandem. Howell passed for the lead on lap 18 in traffic. D. Hudson retook the lead on the final lap and had five lapped cars separating his winning No. 17 Acura and Howell's runner-up Honda Accord, which trailed by 7.813 seconds. The 6:11.136-timed race averaged 64.602 mph.

Second quickest qualifier Mike Hudson (No. 117) started fourth and finished third in only his second race at IS. He trailed his brother by 14 seconds. Robert Rice, Jr., Dewitt Jones and James Bolinas finished in P. 4-6, 15-seconds off the lead. Rodney Argo finished seventh, with Robert Rice, Sr. eighth and the last lead lap driver. Sixteen of 17 starters reached the checkered flag. D. Hudson clocked the fastest lap of 18.059 (66.382 mph).

SECOND 20: The second enduro used a fully inverted starting lineup that put the first 20 one-two finishers in row eight. The second 20 raced in the opposite direction—clockwise--on the third-mile, making only right turns. Fourth starter Robbie Salcido led lap 1. Rodney Argo, a 1990s 410 cu. in. sprint car driver and 1998 Perris Oval Nationals winner, started sixth in his 1995 Honda Accord and led laps 2-20. It was his third enduro feature triumph this season and his seventh victory since he came out of retirement a year ago to race four-cylinder sedans at IS for fun.

As Argo, 44, lapped cars up to eighth place, D. Hudson worked past Howell for P. 2 on lap 11. Hudson trailed Argo by 15 yards at lap 16. He steadily cut the distance to five yards at the white flag lap and trailed the winner by three yards at the finish. The all-green light race took only 6:10.720 and averaged 64.674 mph, almost the same pace as the first 20 run in the opposite direction. Hudson again ran the fastest lap at 18.838 (63.637 mph).

Howell, D. Jones, J. Bolinas, M. Hudson, Rice, Jr. and Travis Mooney followed and also completed 20 laps. All 17 starters finished. The enduro division is racing this season for IS points and a track championship for the first time. D. Hudson leads second place by four points after four events with three different winners.

Irwindale Speedway oval track racing will resume Saturday, April 21 with late models, junior late models, spec late models, IRT, legends and Figure 8 races. The next IS “Night of Destruction” will be Saturday, April 28.