IRWINDALE, California - Andrew Myers victory parade rolls on at the banked, half-mile Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. The late model and NASCAR Grand National West veteran from Huntington Beach drove his new ride--the No. 15 Eugene Dewberry-owned Chevy Monte Carlo-to its fifth consecutive Auto Club Late Model Series feature victory at the start of the season, a track record. During an earlier fan autograph session on the front straight, Myers said his team is on a "Drive for Five". The event honored mothers and admitted all moms free on the eve of Mother's Day. Moms also received free pink track caps. About 2,000 spectators watched Myers' dominant, victorious ride from pole position in the five-car inverted lineup. He led all 40-laps and won by 40-yards (1.593-seconds). His car had been idle for the last three seasons until the season opener in March. The four-division evening also set a new track record for completion of all main events from 7:00 to 9:07 p.m. on an overcast, chilly evening.
Myers extended his series point lead from 12 to 52 points. He came to the press box and spoke to media members briefly. "I have to go to my brother Daniel's wedding reception in Laguna Beach now. I'm two hours late. My tuxedo is in my car." Before departing, Myers revealed he was able to pull away from the field easily at the start and after every yellow flag. He said near the end of the race he heard a noise and thought he had a problem, but he continued without slowing. He praised his crew and car owner and said the Jeff Schrader-built car is legal. "We found a great set-up and don't change it from race to race." Myers said he wanted to race and keep his winning streak going. When he signed up for the Dewberry ride he didn't know his brother's wedding and an ACLM race would conflict. Myers, who won an ACLM feature and a Grand National West race at Irwindale, counts his hometown track as one of his favorites. He also won a past GN West race at the Phoenix International Raceway mile. Myers added that he will drive Joe Nava's GN West car at Iowa Speedway near Des Moines next weekend as he tries to earn a ride in one of NASCAR's three national series.
LATE MODELS: A strong 24-car field took the green flag at 8:11 and following two caution flags and 29-minutes the checkers flew at 8:40 with Mike Johnson's Racecar Factory Chevy Monte Carlo still in second place where he had been all 40 laps. Kevin Callahan, a 19-year old three-year ACLM veteran from Bakersfield, charged from tenth starting spot to finish third, 2.939-seconds behind Myers. He won the final 2007 ACLM point race last September in the same car. Colin Fleming, a 23-yea old stock car rookie from Formula Atlantic and Formula Renault open-wheel ranks, started eighth and finished fourth in the No. 55 Justice Brothers High-Point Distributing Chevy driven last year by Jace Meier, the series rookie of the year and winner of one feature and second place in final ACLM point standings. Lindsey King, his 19-year old High-Point Racing teammate, started sixth and finished fifth. Travis Irving, Sean Bennett, Daniel DiGiacomo, Brian Yeager and Tim Huddleston rounded out the top ten. Nineteen of the 24 starters finished and 18 drivers completed every lap.
A serious-looking crash on lap 13 sidelined the car of Dennis Schlarbaum, who made contact with the Brian Jones car near the starting line. Schlarbaum's car spun into the third-mile first turn wall attenuator hard at the left rear of his car. He was unhurt. During early laps Nick Joanides, rookie Ryan Kaplan and Huddleston ran nose-to-tail and three-wide from laps 2-19. At lap 20, third-place Joanides' car "got squirrelly" exiting turn four with a suspected fuel-pick-up malfunction. Fourth place Huddleston spun out to avoid contact with Joanides and caused his fifth-place protégé Kaplan to spin out also in the inside groove. Both drivers had to restart at the back of the now 21-car field. Race Director Lester Boyer also radioed Joanides to go to the back because of his mechanical problem to avoid any additional mishap. When the lap 22 green flag flew Joanides quickly pulled to the infield and made several slow laps on the third-mile with a suspected fuel pick-up problem and he parked after 24 laps.
Two-time series champion Huddleston and Kaplan, 21, put on a show as they charged past drivers in tandem from lap 22 to 30. They each passed ten cars, primarily with inside groove passes. Without benefit of another caution flag, they moved up to tenth (Huddleston) and 11th (Kaplan) positions by the finish. Kaplan was only 0.090 behind his boss/team leader. Kaplan, the leading ACLM rookie in series points with consecutive finishes of P.8, 7, 6 and 4, was in third place in point standings entering the race. He dropped to fourth and will vacate the No. 51 Chevy for three or four weeks because of conflicting USAC National Midget Series races, including the May 24 Night Before the Indianapolis 500 race at Anderson, IN. Team owner Huddleston said Beau DeBard, another Ron Sutton Winners Circle Drivers Development Program Ford Focus Midget veteran, will drive the No. 51 Chevy this season whenever Kaplan is unavailable.
USAC FF MIDGETS: Alex Bowman, who turned 15 three weeks earlier, started second in a 4-cylinder Zetec Ford Focus powered Beast midget and won his third feature this season in a 35-lap K & N Filters main on the four-degree banked third-mile. He races his "combo car" on both paved and dirt tracks. The talented baby-faced youngster from Tucson, AZ has won on dirt at Ventura (April 5) and on the 3/8-mile "Bullring" oval at Las Vegas (May 3). His No. 55 was the No. 4 Gary Scelzi-owned Beast raced by Michael Faccinto during 2006. Bowman now has won one of two dirt track mains and two of seven paved track features on the USAC touring circuit that visits four states-CA, NV, AZ and UT. Six drivers, primarily teenagers, have won the nine California FF Midget series combined paved and dirt series features this season. Bowman climbed from third to second in current CA FF paved track series point standings, 41-points behind 19-year old point leader Justin Hommel, the 2007 rookie-of-the-year.
Brendan Langlois, a 15-year old from British Columbia, Canada, drove a Ron Sutton W.C Team Steve Kent-built paved track chassis from third starting to runner-up position, 50-yards (1.979) in back of the winner. Langlois won his first FF Midget feature in the last series race at Irwindale on March 29. Brennan Newberry, 18, Hommel, Zack Stout, 20, Jeff Oleen, 18, fastest qualifier Ian Miille, 18, Walt Johnson, 48, Austin Smith, 15, and retired airline pilot J. R. Williams, 73, completed the top ten in a 12-car field. USAC scoring set Miille back three positions from fourth to seventh for passing three cars before the green flag on lap 22. The only caution flag of the race occurred when second fastest qualifier Jessica Brunelli, 15, and Miille spun their fifth and sixth place cars in turn four. Brunelli's Sutton team car backed hard into the outer wall at the LR of the car. She drove to the infield, trailing sparks from the LR and parked the car. Pole starter Shawn Buckley spun on the opening lap at turn two and again on lap 27 when he parked his car for 11th position.
MINI STOCKS: Tyler Rogers, 22-year old 2006-07 Justice Brothers Mini Stock champion, dominated the series Saturday on the third-mile. He drove his 1970 Ford Pinto to fastest qualifying time, started seventh and led lap 18-40 of the 19-car race for the four-cylinder sedans. Officials added ten laps to the race in a fast-paced evening. Tom Dye, in a Toyota Celica, led the first 17 laps from pole position and settled for third place. Rich Garver, the second quickest qualifier and sixth starter in his Toyota Celica, took second from Dye on lap 23 and trailed Rogers by 1.543 seconds (30-yards). Garver took the point lead by four points. Jacob Rogers, 18-year old brother of the winner, was second on lap 17 when his Pinto had a momentary problem on the front straight. With his older brother on his back bumper they made contact and Jacob spun to the half-mile front straight. He restarted at the back and charged forward to fourth place with former point leader Darryl Scoggin's Pinto fifth. All 16 finishers completed 40 laps.
PURE STOCKS: The Pure Stock series used a fully inverted 15-car lineup on the third-mile and ran an all-green flag 30 laps with abundant passing. Winner Justin Good made his first start of the year in his Chevy Nova and started fifth. He took the point on lap 2 and won a tight nose-to-tail dogfight with past winner Michelle Rouse's 1970s Chevy Monte Carlo (from tenth)-- 0.246 back, and quick qualifier Mike Colato's 1976 Chevy Nova (from 14th)-- 0.665 back. Ken Michaelian and Tommy Agosta followed. Only one of the 15 starters failed to finish. Ten drivers ran all 30 laps. Eighth place Chad Kelly jumped from third to first in points after three races with the top three within six points.
Myers won the ACLM trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers. He started second and led all six laps to defeat fastest qualifier/sixth starter Joanides, the second ranked driver in series points after five events. Joanides' DNF in the feature dropped him 52 points behind Myers, who is seeking his first track championship. Rookie Kaplan, King, Huddleston and Johnson followed. All six drivers finished the 1:55.152-time race. Fastest qualifiers were Joanides (ACLM), Miille (FF Midgets), T. Rogers (Mini Stocks) and Colato (Pure Stocks) with a new track record 17.472 (68.613 mph). He broke the old mark of 17.536 (68.362 mph) by Tom Whitson on July 14, 2007. Hard charger award winners for TS@I series were Stevc Rogers (MS), Agosta (PS) and Brian Jones (ACLM).