IRWINDALE “N of D”, TRUCKS & SPEC MODS = SRO SELLOUT – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Dec. 2 – The final 2017 racing event at Irwindale Speedway included the sixth of six “Nights of Destruction” with eight events on the half and third-mile ovals, the Figure 8 course and the infield demo derby battleground. The LKQ Pick Your Part aircraft jet engine-powered pickup truck melted two old cars in the infield. All that action attracted a sellout, standing room only crowd of more than 7,000 spectators and a crowded pit area.
211 Entertainment, LLC had to be pleased with the huge crowd as the organization concluded its fifth year as promoter of the track that opened in 1999. All admission tickets were sold prior to the 7:00 pm starting time, so the track's electronic sign adjacent to the 605 freeway flashed “Race Sold Out”. Vehicles still lined up west and east of the main entrance on Live Oak Ave. to the 605 trying to enter the parking lot. The first race was delayed to 7:15, allowing more people to enter the speedway before the first race.
Three oval-track events took place prior to the track littering destruction events. The first race was a 30-lap main on the half-mile for Kern Country Raceway Spec Modifieds. It was the initial appearance at IS for the series that races regularly at the half-mile track in Bakersfield. The series uses IMCA modifieds adapted for pavement and gasoline fueled. All cars use sealed GM 602 Chevy crate engines as an economical spec series.
Next was a Seidner's Collision Centers 20-lap enduro-race on the third-mile for four-cylinder foreign or domestic sedans. A unique aspect of the race was a change of direction for the second half of the race. A yellow flag enabled officials to reline cars two by two for the lap 11 green flag. Cars then raced in a clockwise direction for the final ten laps.
The final oval race again used the half-mile oval for the touring Southwest Tour Truck Series in the season finale that awarded double-points. The feature was extended to 40-laps. It was the eighth race this season at IS for the SWTT racers. The field included entrant Drew Reitsma, from Jerome, Idaho. He towed his own truck that races at Magic Valley Speedway (third-mile paved track in Twin Falls, ID) south on I-15 to race at IS for the first time.
Twenty lap Seidner's Collision Centers races with four-cylinder enduro cars followed on the third-mile and Figure 8 course. Twenty-five skid plate cars also raced counter-clockwise before a yellow flag at mid-race allowed officials to reset the field in running order, two-by-two. They completed the final half of the race in reverse direction (clockwise).
The LKQ PYP pickup truck named “Inferno” took only five minutes to reduce two old, battered Figure 8 sedans to smoldering rubble. Flying aluminum and magnesium sparks from the burning cars almost reached the third turn of the third-mile oval. Fans, especially children, were amazed by bursts of flame from the back of the truck and the amazing result.
The final two events were the LKQ PYP compact car demolition derby with eight entrants. Seven cars actually participated on a watered, tire-marked section of the infield and front-straight of the third-mile at the starting line. Adam Ditto, from Monrovia, became the first DD repeat winner this year in the fifth DD of 2017 and earned $300.
The final event was a trailer race where laps completed were not important. The fan-favorite event used only the front straight and turns of the third-mile and a short-cut to the infield for the backstretch inside the third-mile backstretch. Eighteen vehicles—sedans, pickup trucks and Chevy El Caminos—towed trailers containing boats, jet-skis, and miscellaneous cargo. They raced about 40 laps from 10:05 to 10:30. Only two of 18 starters (which tied for most event entrants in 2017) were still circulating the littered track when the checkers waved. Five drivers won the six trailer features in 2017.
A judging panel (five male fans picked randomly from the grandstand) watched the trailer race from the race control suite. They voted for the top three drivers who provided the most entertainment and destruction. Cheryl Hyland (No. 173 pink station wagon) was awarded the victory and $500. She also won a trailer race in 2014. Two-time 2017 trailer race winner Robert Rice ((No. 7 orange El Camino) placed second. Third went to newcomer Joe Labrasciano, whose black sedan lost its trailer cargo and eventually blew its radiator with a shower of white smoke on the front straight.
TRUCK CHAMPIONSHIP: Fastest qualifier Dustin Vandermooren, of Cerritos, set a new one-lap track record in his No. 71 Chevy Silverado during 4:00 time trials for 14 trucks. He ran a 19.738 (91.195 mph) that eclipsed the 19.748 (91.148 mph) mark set by current series leader Jeff Williams on 5/14/11. He started eighth with an eight-truck inverted starting lineup and took the lead on lap 7. First six laps leader Alec Martinez, in a Ford F-150, gradually faded to fourth place at the finish.
Chris Dalton, from Bakersfield, made his first IS start memorable. He started the No. 19 fifth and finished second after passing Martinez on lap 9. He trailed winner Vandermooren by 9.979 seconds. Point leader and IS June 7 35-lap feature winner Ronnie Davis, Jr., of Whittier, drove his No. 78 Chevy Silverado wisely. He finished third, 11-seconds back, and secured the 2017 SWTT championship.
Mike De Gregorio, from Menifee, started seventh in the rented No. 77 and finished fifth as the last driver on the lead lap. De Gregorio, the all-time IS skid plate cars feature winner with 15 in 58 events since 2009, was a late season rookie truck racer. Eleven trucks finished the all-green light race. It took 13:44.637 and averaged 87.311 mph. Vandermooren, 30, ran the fastest lap of 88.775 mph while extending his lead. It was his third IS triumph including the 35-lap main on July 15. He won his first SWTT feature in September 2016.
KCR SPEC MODS 30: Ten spec modified drivers, who towed south on I-5 to race at IS for the first time, ran three practice sessions Saturday at 12:30, 1:35 and 2:30 pm. Drivers completed up to 24 laps and saw their lap times drop from 20.2 to 20.1. Jim Coffey, the 2017 series champion and 2016 runner-up, won the most recent race in the series at KCR and owns the most feature victories in the relatively new series. He was the only driver to qualify under 20 seconds; his 19.963 (90.167 mph) became the automatic new IS one-lap track record for the entertaining series.
Spec modifieds opened racing with a seven-car inverted starting lineup. Fourth starter Tanner Wattenbarger, from Bakersfield, led the initial 22 laps despite intense inside pressure. Sixth starter Jason Galvin, a Bakersfield TV station news anchor and former IS track-side announcer, relentlessly applied pressure. Galvin made a quick inside move exiting turn two on lap 23 and took the lead. He opened a 20-yard advantage and won by 1.250 over Wattenbarger and 5.246 seconds over quickest qualifier Coffey. Eric Brust, Anthony Barket and Ed Coffey finished less than ten seconds off the lead.
Excited Galvin, who is third in series points with two race wins and two seconds in the last four races, said he really wanted to win on Irwindale's half-mile. He said his prior IS main event victory was on the third-mile (on 6/18/11 in an open-competition 25-lap main driving the No. 84 De Long modified against cars from numerous divisions). He added that his family was present, including his mother who came from Palm Springs to watch him race.
The all-green flag race took 10:16.372 and averaged 87.609 mph. Only one of nine starters, a rookie, was lapped. One starter was black-flagged before the start for not having a spotter on the roof in radio contact with him as required. Galvin, the 2016 series rookie of the year, ran the fastest race lap of 20.186 (89.171 mph) while leading. He drove the No. 32 spec mod for STZ Motorsports.
ENDURO 20: A field of 41 cars, largest of the year by one, raced and included 12 first-time competitors who wanted to race at IS at least once before the 211 Entertainment, LLC property lease expires on January 31, 2018. The race had three leaders—Eddie Howell (L 1-12), Bory Molina (L 13) and former 410 SCRA sprint car driver Rodney Argo, of Gardena, (L 14-20).
The 17-minute race had two caution flags and 37 finishers, ten on the lead lap. Argo won by 0.709 over first-time entrant Casey Dennis. Third place Howell ran the fastest lap of 18.612 (64.410 mph), Past enduro main event winners Brad Stellman and Robert Rice finished fourth and fifth respectively. It was Argo's first enduro main event triumph. He earned $300.
FIGURE 8s: The second largest field of the season (18 cars) raced in ;the ninth Figure 8 event of 2017. Todd Paperny, a winner earlier this year, led the first four laps. R. Rice, 51, led laps 5-8 before sixth starter R. Argo took command for good. With the large field, collisions at the infield X intersection were expected and four such collision occurred. Leader Argo was struck twice in glancing fender-benders and continued without losing the lead.
The red flag flew on lap 12 to remove one disabled car at the intersection. The final two car crash at the X on the final lap sidelined both cars. No driver injuries resulted. Ten starters finished. Argo joined Robert Rice, Sr. as three-time Figure 8 feature winners this year. He won his second main event (enduro and F-8) Saturday and collected another $300 winner's check. He drove the same white No. 19 (his sprint car number)1995 Honda Accord in which he won two F-8 races several months ago.
SKID PLATE 20: Argo started from pole position in a 25-car field using metal skid plates on the back wheels. Argo led two laps going for the hat-trick triple victory night. He dropped out early and watched as Mike De Gregorio led through lap 16 and ran the fastest lap of 39.630 mph. The all-time SPC leading winner (15) had contact with other cars and looped several times on lap 17, losing two laps.
Robert Salcido, from Perris, led the final four laps in his Honda Accord and won by a lap officially over Jeffrey Best, of Low Budget TV videos. “N of D” veteran Salcido collected $300. Cole Schmitt had his best finish to date with third place. Sixteen of 25 starters finished.
NEXT EVENT: The next and final event at IS under the auspices of 211 Entertainment, LLC was announced for Saturday, January 27, 2018. The “Night of Destruction” and fireworks show is called “The Finale”. Plans are being formulated to honor all past track champions from the inaugural 1999 season through the 2017 season. If attendance on December 2 is any indication, get your tickets early to avoid being shut out of this historic event. And arrive early to avoid traffic delays on Live Oak Avenue.