IRWINDALE RACE TRUCKS & “N of D” -- By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 28 – Irwindale Speedway held the fifth of six scheduled “Night of Destruction” events, presented by LKQ Pick Your Part and Seidner's Collision Centers, Saturday along with a Seidner's Irwindale Race Trucks double-points 50-lap season finale. An added treat for spectators was an eight-lap demonstration race by three King of the Wing Series winged sprint cars on the banked half-mile as the first event.
As usual, fans of motorized destructive mayhem helped pack the grandstand. Some 5,950 spectators arrived well before the advertised 7:00 pm start. The first action was the King of the Wing winged sprint car demonstration with the busy night of on-track action going to the final checkered flag at 9:57 pm. Irwindale racing competed Saturday evening for TV viewer “ eyeballs” with MLB World Series game four (LA Dodgers at Houston Astros) and the 7:45 pm NCAA football game (USC at Arizona State).
The special King of the Wing sprint car demonstration by three of the traveling sprint cars was done to attract the crowd back for the King of the Wing point race Saturday, November 18, at IS. That is a night before the group, led by Indy 500 veteran Davey Hamilton, races in Bakersfield at the banked Kern County Raceway Park paved half-mile.
Super-modified/winged sprint veteran A. J. Russell, Audra Sasselli and Austin Carter drove the three Fresno area-based winged sprinters. Carter edged Russell by 0.003 and early leader Sasselli by 0.087 as the three drivers tried to finish in a three-way tie at the finish line. The 8-lap race averaged 105.205 mph with the fastest lap of 17.542. The winged sprint car series raced at IS in November of 2014-15 and holds the IS all-time, one-lap qualifying track record of 13.791 (130.520 mph) by Jo Jo Helberg on November 22, 2014. Helberg, from Santa Rosa, won both KotW main events at IS.
TRUCKS 50: Six of 15 drivers entered the 11th and final 2017 IRT event with a mathematical chance to win the championship. Two-time 2017 winner Lucas McNeil, of Saugus, led by eight points over win-less but consistent podium finisher Dennis Arena, of Duarte. He said he had to finish three positions in front of McNeil. As fifth fastest qualifier at 5 pm, Arena started outside row one while second quickest McNeil started fifth.
Arena beat his 2017 rookie of the year teammate L. J. Billings to turn one and led the first eight laps. McNeil worked up to third quickly in his No. 78. On lap 9 McNeil suddenly slowed, pulled into the infield and parked. Later, he revealed “a broken ignition wire” ended his confident bid for his first IRT championship.
Fastest qualifier Connor Cantrell, 27, started sixth and made his winning pass on the inside in the fourth turn on lap 9. He opened a 50-yard lead by mid-race. The 2011 and 2016 series champion went on to victory for the fifth time in just five starts this season. He missed five races from June through August while working in Nor Cal, yet finished eighth in final points. He ran the fastest race lap at 90.904 mph.
Runner-up Mike De Gregorio, the leading skid plate feature winner (15) in just his fourth IRT event, started third. He took second from Arena on lap 25. Arena dropped to fourth on lap 34 and began slowing with a brake problem. Ken Brown took fourth from Arena on lap 47. Arena, Pat Mintey III, Zach Green, Philip Lauck, Mark Perry, Jr. and John Watkinson completed the top ten finishers. Nine drivers ran all 50 laps in a 26-minute race with two caution flags on lap 33 and 40 after solo spins.
Final IRT Points: 1-Arena, 490; 2-L. McNeil, 458, 3-J. McNeil, 436, 4-Green, 434, 5-Niko Mongenel, 412, 6-Billings, 386, 7-Brown, 312, 8-Cantrell, 300, 9-Ken Michaelian, 298, 10-Perry, 294. Twenty-two drivers scored 2017 IRT points. Arena became the fifth different series champion since 211 Entertainment, LLC took over IS promotion in 2013. In order, IRT champions have been Darren Cheek, Ryan Partridge, Riley Herbst, Cantrell, and Arena.
First-time IS champion Arena said his best IRT point finishes have been second twice, including last season. He also raced his NASCAR super late model No. 34 Chevy to fifth place in final points during the 1999 inaugural IS season. Arena, a Home Depot department manager, said he also won two Pro 4 Modified championships in 1994-95 at the Willow Springs Raceway paved oval in Rosamond.
ENDURO 20: The first oval race Saturday took place at 7:20 at the third-mile track on a five-turn through the backstretch infield “R-oval” with 35 four-cylinder enduro cars. Drivers used a 13-car inverted starting lineup based on afternoon practice/qualifying times. Fastest qualifier at 18.870 (a NTR for this configuration) was former dirt track sprint car driver Rodney Argo, of Gardena, who started 13th.
Kevin Zanit started his green machine second and led four laps. Ninth starter James Bolinas, of Torrance, led laps 5-20 in his Honda Accord and won by 7.508 seconds. Robert Rice (No. 7 Honda Accord) was second. Dewitt James came from 12th to third, 7.709 seconds off the lead. P. 4-8 Bory Molina, Zanit, Todd Paperny, Brad Stellman and Troy Andersen also completed 20 laps. The all-green light, nine minute race averaged 66.440 mph. Six drivers completed 19 laps and nine ran 18 laps; 28 of 35 starters were running at the finish. Molina's 70.699 mph lap was the quickest.
SKID PLATE CARS: A 20-lap Seidner's SPC race started 21 of 29 entered cars and raced in a clockwise direction this week on the four-turn third-mile oval. It was the 57th SPC race since the initial event in 2009. Austin Lee, from Rancho Cucamonga, started fifth and led all the way in a 1991 Honda Accord given to him by a friend. His second career SPC victory came three years after his November 1, 2014 SPC victory. All cars used metal skid plates instead of tires on the rear axle.
Runner-up Sean Brennan, a 14-time SPC feature winner since 2013, was 3.886 seconds back. Robert Salcido (-18 seconds) and Robert Rice (-48 seconds) drove Honda Accords to P. 3-4. Two drivers, led by Wayne Lee (father of the winner) completed 19 laps. The winner's sister Ashley (Lee) Rice, of Yucca Valley, placed tenth, three laps down, in her Honda Accord. The 12-minute race had one caution flag on lap 8 to remove a stalled car. Seventeen of 21 starters reached the checkered flag. Brennan ran the fastest lap of 33.213 mph (54.196 mph).
FIGURE 8: The Seidner's 20-lap race started 16 cars and also ran in a clockwise direction. Robert Rice, Jr. led four laps. Bory Molina led laps 5-12 before R. Rice, Sr. made his move to P. 1 at the starting line and paced the final eight laps. Enduro 20-lap winner J. Bolinas placed second, 1.470 back in an all-green, 7:21.272 race that averaged 65.679 mph. There were only close calls and no collisions at the infield intersection. Dwayne Wallace, from Riverside, and Rodney Argo also ran all 20 laps and finished fourth and fifth. P. 13 Nick Argo completed 17 laps with 13 of 16 starters still on track.
PYP Powder Puff Demo Derby: Seven female drivers, including the two IS scorers, competed in enduro four-cylinder sedans on a watered infield section inside huge tires marking the battleground. After 11-minutes of bashing and crashing into each other, newcomer Raquel Acosta won her initial victory at IS over timer-scorer Sarah Atkinson-Hancock. Cheryl Hyland, Quebet King, Jannie Atkinson, Shayla Zins and Gina Denike placed third through seventh.
TRAILER RACE: The eagerly anticipated 16-entrant trailer race was 25+ laps and this week awarded $1,000 from promoter 211 Entertainment to the winner. Competitors used sedans, pickup trucks, Chevy El Caminos, and vans to tow trailers containing miscellaneous cargo and boats. Several drivers towed small house trailers. Circling racers crashed through trailers and cargo littered the third-mile oval as usual to the delight of fans.
Dalton Bolinas, the teenage son of the Enduro 20-lap race winner earlier, won the 18-minute race. It was his initial victory. Fans and officials selected the winner based on big hits made and entertainment provided by the final few drivers still circling the track. Robert Salcido and the winner's father, James, placed second and third.