Saturday night's NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series Food 4 Less 150 was witnessed by a full house of 5,852; with one of that number in labor and seemingly about to deliver as she was whisked to the hospital just seconds before the Star Spangled banner was sung. (At press time we hadn't yet heard whether our newest Irwindale Speedway fan was a boy or a girl, but, if the proud parents name the baby either Dale Irwin _______ or Irwin Dale _________ they'll be receiving a lifetime pass to the Speedway.)
Had the proud parents stayed around to watch, they would have seen Rocky Nash notch his first NASCAR Southwest Series win, and a most popular one at that. Journeyman driver Nash has been trying for a Tour race victory for a long time and the 45-year old Murietta driver was very much pleased with his win.
Always in the top four and never very far behind, Nash took the lead away from Tulare's Matt Crafton coming out of a brief yellow flag condition on lap 81. Nash was never headed from there but that's not to say that Crafton and Zach Niesser from Royal City, Washington weren't taking plenty of hard shots at him.
Behind them 1999 Winston West champion Sean Woodside (up from the last row on the grid in a stirring drive) and Keith Spangler from Northridge putting on a hot dogfight over the third slot, while Frank Maronski, Jr. (Quartz Hill), Augie Vidovich (Lakeside), and Darrell LaMoure (Phoenix, AZ) staged a spectacular three-wide passing show only a few scant feet down the track from the flying lead pack.
Niesser showed a lot of maturity, on what he let on to the fans in Pat Patterson's post-race interview was his 19th birthday, by smoothly slipping past all of the frontrunners (but one) in his strong run from 17th place on the starting grid to second by the time that the checker flag was waved.
Santa Clarita's Woodside too had what he surely considered a good night in netting a very well-deserved third place while "playing in pain" from bangs and bruises in a Karting miscue sustained in a race on the Irwindale infield road course on Thursday night. He was a little stiff and sore after the 150-lap NASCAR race but pleased with the outcome under the circumstances. All of drivers, fans, track, and NASCAR officials polled were extremely pleased with the 150-lap length format for the Southwest Series cars. The racing was every bit as intense (in fact this 150-lapper went into the record books with a higher race average speed than their last 100 lap race at Irwindale), and there were less cautions (a total of ten laps out of the 150, but it seemed like less) for the 75 mile-long main event. Ten cars finished on the lead lap of the exciting NASCAR event on the smooth banks and wide straightaways of "IS".
These same cars and star drivers of the Southwest Series Tour will return to the Irwindale oval for one last 2000 season shot at the "1/2-Mile Super Speedway" on Saturday, October 7. Its not too early to secure tickets for this rematch right now on (626) 358-1100, at www.tickets.com, or by visiting the on-site ticket windows at Irwindale Speedway any Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.
Earlier in the evening's curtain-raiser, fans saw a favorite drop out coming out off of a yellow flag pace lap and a former champion (if 1999 can be called "former") come out a winner for the first time this year in the pugnacious NASCAR Super Stock Division's 40-lapper main.
The winner was Mike Price from San Pedro, 1999 divisional champion and a guy who has run well all year but just not quite good enough to catch either points leader Jeff Green or seven-time race winner T.K. Karvasek. Saturday night, Price managed to do both as Karvasek had an uncharacteristic engine failure and finished the evening in 30th (second to last on the score sheets) with 2 scant points to take home to North Hills, and Green simply fell to Price's relentless charges that took him to the popular win. Green now has a 526 to 458 lead over T.K., with Price stealthily edging up on both of them at 432 in third.
Just to add interest, Price qualified first and won the Super Stock trophy dash in a most convincing fashion.
There are five races left for this division in the Irwindale season and remember, (if everyone's not too tired of hearing it) last year's championship here was won by 2 points . Two points! We knew you'd ask: Next edition: August 12.
Irwindale's NASCAR Late Models are another one of those must-see divisions for true motorsports fans and it was great to put them on display as the closer for the big Food 4 Less Southwest Series evening. No one that we saw, save the momma-to-be and her nervous husband, left the park early on Saturday night.
In a wire-to-wire win, Riverside's Todd Burns ran a smart and measured race giving him main event win number five (that's two in a row if you're counting) at the track where he strung main event victories together like pearls in win after win at the close of last season.
Points leader James Weston (Goleta) who ran in third most of the night was a beneficiary of a late race single car spin by the driver who had been on Burn's backside for almost the entire race . On lap 49 Palm Desert driver Rick Miller just hung 'er out a little bit too much coming out of four and his whole night came crashing down as he skated through the infield, missing a chance at his best 2000 season finish at Irwindale and ending up a disappointing eighth overall as car after car got to the track's ineffable AMB electronic timing stripe before him.
Rookie points leader Tony Green moved up one place to third after another well-driven race, and Canyon Country's David Hessing announced that he was "back" with a good 44-point performance in fourth. Shaun Estes, also from Riverside was fifth on the night putting up his best finish of the season.
(By the way, we (Irwindale Speedway Media) typoed Weston to "Weaton" in our early edition late results . apologies all around Bam-Bam.)
FOOD 4 LESS 150 NASCAR FEATHERLITE
SOUTHWEST SERIES, TOURING (150 LAPS)
1) ROCKY NASH (photo) CHEVY MURRIETA
2) ZACH NIESSNER CHEVY ROYAL CITY, WA
3) SEAN WOODSIDE PONTIAC SANTA CLARITA
4) MATT CRAFTON FORD TULARE
5) KEITH SPANGLER CHEVY NORTHRIDGE
6) FRANK MARONSKI, JR. CHEVY QUARTZ HILL
7) AUGIE VIDOVICH CHEVY LAKESIDE
8) DARRELL LaMOURE CHEVY PHOENIX, AZ
9) MARK REED CHEVY BAKERSFIELD
10) GREG PURSLEY CHEVY LAKEVIEW TERRACE
NASCAR SUPER STOCK MAIN (40 LAPS)
1) MIKE PRICE CHEVY SAN PEDRO
2) JEFF GREEN CHEVY LONG BEACH
3) YAGEL BERKOVITZ CHEVY BURBANK
4) TOM SIEBUHR CHEVY NEWHALL
5) DOUG McCOMB CHEVY THOUSAND OAKS
NASCAR LATE MODEL MAIN (50 LAPS)
1) TODD BURNS CHEVY RIVERSIDE
2) JAMES WESTON CHEVY GOLETA
3) TONY GREEN CHEVY OAK HILLS
4) DAVID HESSING CHEVY CANYON COUNTRY
5) SHAUN ESTES CHEVY RIVERSIDE
More of the same for next week: Super Late Model madness, Grand American goings-on, Mini-Stock mayhem, and American Race Trucks aggression . All on tap on Saturday, August 5 . See you then! -DS