HUMPHRIES WINS KING OF THE WING IRWINDALE MAIN – HAMILTON HOSPITALIZED – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA, Nov. 18 - More than 30 Royal Purple Synthetic Oil King of the Wing Series (winged 360 and 410 cubic inch restricted power sprint cars) raced at the half-mile banked Irwindale Speedway Saturday. The once a year event attracted 3,160 spectators with temperature in the 70s. It was the first time since 2015 the series with the fastest cars in Irwindale history have visited the track.
Fastest qualifier Eric Humphries, 31, turned a 127.669 mph qualifying lap (short of the KOTW three year old mark of 130.520 mph). As quickest qualifier, he drew the 10 pill and started tenth in a 29-car field aboard a 2008 Beast chassis with a restricted 410 Chevy. Humphries, from Chowchilla, CA, became the fourth race leader in a race with five lead changes. He led the final 11-laps of a 40-lap main for a $3,000 payday from the $15,000 purse. He became the first repeat feature winner in the eighth KOTW event in five states since July 20.
A 42-minute red flag delay resulted after two of the earlier race leaders collided on lap 28 while running third and fourth. Davey Hamilton, Jr. and Aaron Willison, the first eight laps leader, slammed into the first turn crash-wall. Hamilton, the lap 10 leader, climbed out and sat behind his car near the wall in obvious discomfort. Medical staff arrived quickly and moved him by ambulance to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
Hamilton, the 20-year old son of the Indianapolis 500 driver, was treated for a compression fracture of his back and a migraine headache. He was discharged at 4:00 pm Sunday wearing a back brace and with crutches to aid walking temporarily. He even asked the doctor if he could attend a KOTW Sunday night race in Bakersfield. He gave credit to his full containment racing seat in the Rex Hutchison sprint car for minimizing his injuries.
The third generation Hamilton racer is a veteran of super-modifieds, midgets, sprints, Indy Lights, Stadium Super Trucks, and on November 4 a NASCAR K & N West stock car race in Bakersfield. On November 21, after “the biggest hit I've had in my career”, he visited noted racing physician Dr. Terry Trammel in Indianapolis. He learned more bad news. He had received a major concussion, broken rib, and T4 compression fracture of his back that did not require surgery. He was instructed to get bed rest for a few weeks.
Hamilton and laps 8-9 and 11-29 race leader Bobby Santos III, from Massachusetts, traded the lead several times a lap from lap 8 to mid-race. Hamilton tweeted later that he and Santos “changed the lead nine times in eight laps.” Early laps featured three-wide racing mid-pack in the turns and on the straights with speeds in the 115 to 119 mph range.
On lap 25 Hamilton faded to third with tire wear. New runner-up Humphries then engaged Santos in a similar duel of power passing in the turns. Humphries won by 20-yards. Runner-up Santos (in his No. 22a Beast) trailed the winner by 1.067. Twenty of 29 starters finished with six drivers on the lead lap.
KOTW drivers ranged in age from 15 to 76 (Ken Hamilton, grandfather of Davey, Jr.). Many of the KOTW drivers were racing at Irwindale for the first time. They came from seven states—California, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Three drivers towed 25 hours from British Columbia, Canada.
The traveling KOTW paved track series began its 2017 season in Michigan and Ohio with July 20-22 events at three speedways. It had a race in Colorado August 19 and three races September 14-16 at two speedways in Idaho. Rounds eight and nine were Irwindale and Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield the night following Irwindale. The series awards regional and national championships.
KOTW FEATURE: At the 8:51 pm green flag, Willison shot into the lead over pole starter/point leader Johnny Giesler, the husband of former No. 25J driver Sierra Jackson, who finished second and third to the 2014-15 KOTW Irwindale winner Jo Jo Helberg, who has not race this season. Sierra, seven months pregnant with her first baby (a boy due January 8), was in the pits supporting her team. Initial lapping started at lap 6 when Ken Hamilton went a lap down in his No. 5 Diablo that he co-owns with son Davey Hamilton, Sr. The caution flag flew for a stalled car in turn two. Lapping started again on lap 10. A two-man thrilling duel between Santos and Hamilton captured the attention of fans.
Second place Santos (the feature winner in 2017 in five different touring series-including KOTW, USAC Silver Crown and NASCAR Modifieds) took his 2016 Beast to the front on lap 8. He shot under laps 1-7 leader Willison entering the first turn. Hamilton, Jr. made it a three-way dogfight as Cody Gerhardt took fourth from Giesler. Hamilton darted to the inside in turn three and took the lead from Santos as the yellow flag waved on lap 28, so he had to return to second.
On lap 19, P. 8 Robert Beck quickly drove his car with a smoking engine to the infield, avoiding a caution flag. Tenth place Bryan Warf spun his No. 91 Beast to the third-mile front straight to avoid the back of a slower car. He lost a lap before the yellow flag flew to get his car out of harms way. Santos continued to lead at the lap 25 green flag, but Humphries immediately took second as tire-wear slowed Hamilton. The eventual winner trailed Santos by a length at lap 28 and made an inside pass entering turn three as the yellow and then red flags flew for the Hamilton-Willison crash.
KOTW officials allowed all teams to add “fuel only” during the red flag. At 9:50 pm, the 22 remaining cars in a 29-car field took the green flag. Outside-running Santos had to contend with inside-running Humphries. On lap 30, Humphries No. 15 made an inside pass in the fourth turn and claimed the lead for good. Santos could not lap slower cars a quickly as Humphries and trailed the winner by 20-yards at the checkers. Santos is the 2008 USAC Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix at Irwindale winner.
Cameron Niesinger, a 19-year old from Everett, WA and first-time IS racer, set sixth fastest qualifying time. He finished third in his family-owned Diablo 360 Chevy. They built the car themselves from parts ordered from Dave Steele Performance Parts in Florida. He finished 8.063 seconds behind the winner. Larson, a Canadian logger, was 10.096 off the lead, Dubois 10.359 and Madera resident Gerhardt 14 seconds from the lead.
Warf, USAC 360 Western Sprint veteran Audra Sasselli, from Selma, CA, and first-time IS competitors/Utah-based brothers Tristen, 17, and Aidan Spiers, 15, completed the top ten. They all ran 39 laps. Driver with 38 laps were in order were: uncle Jeff Bergener, 46, and his nephew Kyle Bergener, 26, on their first visit to IS. Jason Conn, 32, Jim Waters, Justin Kawahara, Tom Baker, Mike Anderson and Austin Carter, 22, also ran 38 laps.
Gordon Rodgers, 65, completed 37 lap for 19th position. The 20th and last car running was Giesler, who ran 21 laps. He went to the pits on the lap 6 caution to replace a power steering fixture. He waited at staging to return at the first yellow flag on lap 25.
Larson practiced but did not qualify in late afternoon time trials. He tagged the field and drove forward quickly during early laps that featured three-wide racing in the turns and on the straights. P. 8 Thorne exited to the infield on lap 31 with a flat RR tire. P. 7 Ensign also drove to the infield on lap 36 when his engine “just quit”.The final 13 laps took only four minutes.
Humphries winning car is owned by Carl Mott and Dennis Bolding. They cashed a $3,000 check from the purse posted by Irwindale track promoter 211 Entertainment, LLC, series sponsor Royal Purple, and KOTW. Jo Jo Helberg, from Santa Rosa, won the 2014-15 KOTW races at IS. Utah driver Ryan Burdett, the 16th fastest qualifier, finished sixth in his heat race but dropped out. His car was to start 26th in the 30-car posted lineup but was scratched for mechanical reasons.
Counting two cars, including the No. 3K of Madera driver Kyle Vanderpol, practiced Friday from 5:15 to 9:00 pm and blew engines, forcing scratchs from Saturday activities. That comprised the KOTW series season high 33-cars. Anderson blew his No. 68 engine and the the loaned backup car No. 3F Ted Finkenbinder engine Saturday. He took over his No. 68L ride Saturday from his Utah-based driver Stacey Jensen.
The first three finishers stopped at the finish line for photos and interviews over the PA mic. Tommy Mason, of www.Low BudgetTV.com, said his camera crew recorded the KOTW exciting race for anyone not fortunate to see the action in person.
KOTW HEATS: Four 6-lap heats from 7:00 to 7:30 pm used three-car inverted starting lineups based on qualifying times. Three winners—Warf, Willison, and Beck--led all six laps in their heats. Hamilton took the lead from Giesler on lap 6 with an inside dive at turn four to win by 0.249 in the 1:30.947-timed race that averaged 118.750 mph. Hamilton clocked the fastest heat lap at 121.869 mph. All 29 cars that qualified made the feature so drivers raced the heats only for track time under racing conditions.
SUPPORT RACES: Two stock car races were run after the four KOTW heats. A ten-car Figure 8 race for 25-laps through the infield used 4-cylinder enduro sedans. Rodney Argo, a former SCRA non-wing 410 cu. in. sprint car driver and winner of the 1998 PAS Oval Nationals at Perris, started fourth. He led 12 laps in his 1995 Honda Accord. While holding a 15-yard lead on lap 13 his car was hit at the infield intersection by fifth place Bory Molina. Argo spun to a halt off course and was unable to restart because of a broken ignition wire.
Past winner Eddie Howell, of Carson, inherited the lead and led the final 13 laps in a nine minute race. He won by half a lap (13.3 seconds) over Robert Rice, Jr., who edged his father by 0. 363. Molina finished fourth, 19 seconds off the lead and was the final driver on the lead lap. Eight of ten starters finished.
An advertised super stock post-season race attracted only two cars—1970s Dodge Darts that started from the first row. Eight enduro sedans that ran the Figure 8 race started in rows two through six to complete the 11-car field for a 12-lap race. The caution-free race averaged 64.677 mph. Harry Michaelian (No. 40) and led Bridgette Shaw, who turned 20 November 8, raced in the team car (No. 43).
Argo shot from tenth spot in his same No. 19 Honda Accord with a repaired ignition sire and was third by lap 3. He took the lead on lap 4 and maintained a steady ten-yard advantage to the checkered flag over Michaelian and Shaw, who was well back in P.3.
However, because the race was a super stock race the official finish listed Michaelian, Shaw and Argo in that order. Argo was the enduro division winner over F-8 winner Howell's No. 81 Honda Accord. Rice, Sr, Jeremy Queener, Troy Anderson and Rice, Jr were the only other drivers who completed 12 laps. All 11 cars finished the all-green light, 3:42.423-timed race.
OFFICIAL KOTW FINISH:
Eric Humphries, Bobby Santos III, Cameron Neisinger, Ron Larson, Randy Dubois, Cody Gerhardt, Bryan Warf, Audra Sasselli, Tristen Spiers, Aiden Spiers, Jeff Bergener, Kyle Bergener, Jason Conn, Jimmy Waters, Justin Kawahata, Tom Baker, Mike Anderson, Austin Carter, Gordon Rodgers, Geoff Ensign, T. J. Thorne, Davey Hamilton, Jr., Aaron Willison, Anthony Quintana, Johnny Giesler, Robert Beck, Ken Hamilton, A. J. Russell, Aaron McPeak. - DNS Ryan Burdett.
LATE NEWS: The Sunday night, November 19 KOTW season finale at the half-mile, banked Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield attracted 27 cars. Santos set fast time of 14.529. Six lap heat winners were: Jo Jo Helberg, in his first start of 2017, Santos, and Warf. Finishers (with five on the lead lap) in a 40-lap feature were: Warf, Humphries, Conn, Giesler, Willison, Sasselli, T. Spiers, Carter, Helberg, Baker, Thorne, K. Hamilton, Dubois, A. Spiers, Rodgers, Anderson, Quintana, Ensign, J. Bergener, Santos, Gerhardt, Kawahara, Russell, Beck, and McPeak. Jim Waters did not start.
Jo Jo Helberg was leading the KCRP feature with two laps remaining. On lap 39 in the first turn Giesler attempted to take the lead. The two cars made contact and spun to the crash-wall. Helberg was sidelined and Giesler restarted at the back. Winner Warf, edged runner-up Humphries by 3.429 seconds. Conn was 5.140 back, with Giesler -7.420 and Willison -8.489 seconds from the lead.
KOTW 2017 champions announced at Bakersfield were Humphries (P. 1 at Irwindale and P. 2 at Bakersfield) as the KOTW Western Regional Champion, and Giesler as the KOTC National Series Champion. Prior KOTW National Champions were Helberg (2014), Aaron Pierce (2015), and Davey Hamilton,Jr. (2016).