IRWINDALE, California - Point leaders and prior 2009 series feature winners took the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale spotlight again Saturday during NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action. About 1,800 spectators watched five series stage five main events on the half and third miles and on the Figure 8 venue. Nick Joanides, of Woodland Hills, won his third AC Delco Super Late Model 50-lap race in four events this season. It was his 21st triumph at Irwindale. He also won one of two Auto Club Late Model features this season giving him four victories in six races this year in the top two weekly racing series at the track. The SLM race was the first round of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Super Six special competition for Irwindale's SLM top tier division. The three drivers who accumulate the most points while competing in the six designated SLM races comprising the Slick Mist Super Six will share the $10,000 financial bonus. The next five designated race dates are May 16, June 20, July 11, August 15 and September 12.
Other winners included the 2009 opener victor Pat Mintey, Jr. in the King Taco Super Trucks, also on the banked half-mile. In third-mile action, Chad Schug won again in Legends, and Aaron Anderson took top honors in Bandoleros. Long-time Outlaw Figure 8 front-runner “Barefoot” Billy Ziemann led all the way in the 20-lap Pick Your Part Figure 8 event in the infield and on four turns of the third-mile. All eight cars in the Figure 8 event were self-built, winged Figure 8 specials.
SLM: A quality field of 24 SLM drivers took the 50-lap green flag at 8:41 with a seven-car inversion. Pole starter Danny Gay, from Lakeside, led the first 19 laps in his own No.01 Chevy, which had to carry 40 more pounds this week, as did all Chevy entries, to meet the 3,000 weight minimum. Gay said he bought the ex-No. 17 Russell White car last year to race in the Toyota All-Star Showdown. A lap 5 tangle on the backstretch involved second starter Luis Martinez, Jr. and fourth starter Joanides as they battled for third place. Their cars banged together twice as the Martinez No. 03 moved to his left and contacted Joanides' No. 71 Loyd McGhee Chevy. Martinez slowed, trailed sparks from suspension damage and stopped in the fourth turn near the infield grass. Joanides said the double side-to-side contact “knocked the toe out on my car and it got tighter during the race. Fingers on my right hand are swollen now too,” he said as he showed them to the media.
On lap 8 Joanides passed Travis Thirkettle for second and Bear Rzesnowiecky also passed Thirkettle later that lap. With the top six cars running in close formation high and low, cars of Thirkettle and Scott Dodd came together leaving turn four. Dodd's P. 5 car bounced off the front straight wall, causing him to pull to the infield angrily on the backstretch. Inside-running Joanides dueled outside running Gay from lap 10-19 before he made an inside pass entering the first turn on lap 20. Rzesnowiecky also passed Gay on lap 20 and chased his Jackson Race Cars teammate to the finish line. The only other caution flag came on lap 25 when Dennis Furden and Jeff Eshleman tangled and Eshleman spun in the middle of turn three. Miles Copenhaver spun sideways into Eshlelman's car. Both cars were eliminated. Copenhaver suffered a possible broken wrist during the incident according to reliable sources. L.A. Country Fire Department emergency responders arrived outside the third turn and transported him to a hospital for treatment.
Joanides extended his point lead from 18 to 26 points over Rip Michels. He won his 21st TS@I feature by 0.325 in a 25:16.017-timed event. Rzesnowiecky, who will turn 17 on May 10, said he learned a lot by closing on his Jackson Racing teammate. “I learned his racing line and not to move the steering wheel back and forth too much. I needed five more laps.” The Las Vegas resident comes to Irwindale for each race with his family. He scored his career-best finish at Irwindale and beat his prior best result of third. He said he has won three SLM mains and a touring main at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway three-eights mile “Bullring” oval. The personable teen from “Sin City” said his given name is Stefan. His grandmother nicknamed him “Bear” because of the way he growled as a youngster. Asked about his racing goals he promptly replied, “Formula One”. In fact, he said he watches each F.1 race on TV. He said he would watch the F.1 Chinese Grand Prix live from Shanghai at 11:30 pm (PDT) when he returned to his hotel room. He planned to rest Sunday on their drive home to Las Vegas.
Gay settled for third place, 5.393 seconds in back of the winner. Gay ran the fastest lap of the race (18.450) on lap 3. He said it was his best Irwindale feature finish and topped his prior best of sixth. Gay joined the top two finishers and met the media afterwards. The Cajon Speedway veteran and modified racer at Havasu, Blythe and Orange Show tracks said he has been out of racing recently. An off-road racing crash in early 2006 on a Rhino almost cost him his left leg. Doctors at a desert area hospital wanted to amputate his leg, but he felt his toes and bottom of his feet so he told them no. He was flown to a hospital in California and doctors grafted bones from his side to his leg and saved it. Rounding out the top ten were: Dan Moore, fastest qualifier Rip Michels, Thirkettle, David Ross, Matthew Hicks, David Beat and Derek Becker. Fifteen drivers finished and 14 ran all 50-laps. As the two leaders raced through turn four to the waiting checkered flag, 14th place Rickey McCray (battling his sister Toni and four other drivers closely for positions 11-16) got sideways and spun out to the inside in front of the two leaders. No contact resulted.
SUPER TRUCKS: Sixteen King Taco Super Truck drivers took the green at 7:15 on the half-mile and ran the series third 40-lap feature of the season. Todd Cameron started second and led six laps. Then fifth starter Mintey made an inside pass in turn four as the top three ran in tight formation without contact. He opened a 35-yard lead by lap 13 when Rod Johnson, Jr., 19, finally got by Cameron. Johnson, who won the final two 2008 series features as a rookie, steadily reeled in Mintey and ran the final two laps about three yards behind Mintey's Chevy S-10. However, Mintey prevailed by 0.353 for his second victory in three races. Sacramento-resident Mason Britton, the April 4 winner, placed third with “a popping engine” and was 4.414 seconds behind Mintey. Grant Hebner, Dennis Arena, Jeff Peterson, Ryan Partridge, Bob Barker, Ron Peterson and Cameron completed the top ten. Fifteen of 16 starters finished the 15-minute race and 13 drivers were on the lead lap at the conclusion.
LEGENDS: Chad Schug sub-drove the No. 148 Cory Miles replica 1934 Ford coupe instead of his own replica 1937 Ford sedan on the third-mile in a 21-car, 35-lap race. He won the last Legends feature two weeks ago in his own No. 29 sedan, but that car had a major engine problem so he borrowed Miles car and was the eighth fastest qualifier in it. He received the outside front row starting spot when the quickest qualifier spun a nine as the field inversion. Josh Geer led the first five laps from the pole. Mark Iungerich led the next two laps. Then Schug made an inside pass in the second turn and paced the balance of the race. The top six cars ran nose-to-tail early. A yellow flag flew on lap 31 when fastest qualifier Ryan Reed, a 15-year old from Bakersfield, got under Iungerich for second place on the backstretch. Iungerich's car came down the track. After contact Reed spun into the third turn. Both cars restarted at the back and finished in P. 12 and P. 13 (Reed) after engaging in side-by-side “conversation” for several laps. Fourth starter Gary Scheurell finished second, 0.438 behind Schug. Kenny Maier, Jr. started fifth and finished third. Brandon Toy, Geer, teenager Brent Scheidemantle, Kyle Neveau, Zac Bozanich, Michael Smith and 15-year old rookie Dallas Montes complelted the top ten. Nineteen of 21 starters finished the 22-minute race that had one caution after two restarts caused by a solo spin and then a five-car accident. Fourteen drivers ran all 35-laps.
BANDOLEROS: A 12-car field of Briggs & Stratton-powered Bandoleros challenged the third-mile as the second main event of the night. Rookie Ryan Cansdale, 10, led the first seven laps before 2008 series champion/fastest qualifier Aaron Anderson used a slower car to pass both Cansdale and the slower car on the inside in the fourth turn. Cansdale applied pressure to the end as the two youngsters opened a straightaway advantage over third place driver Ricky Schlick. They finished in that order with Blake Dunkleberger and Christian McGhee fourth and fifth. All 12 drivers finished the 20-lap race with only two drivers lapped in the 8:38.037-timed event.
OUTLAW FIGURE 8: The Pick Your Part Outlaw Figure 8 race was the second feature on the schedule. Fastest qualifier/2000 track champion Billy Ziemann led all 20-laps in an eight-car field. He defeated three-time series champion Steve Stewart by a straightaway (5.604-seconds). Harry Kuenniger trailed by 11 seconds, with Tony Curtis fourth in Rusty Stewart's usual ride. The top four drivers ran all 20-laps. The only other finishers—Sean Hansen and Rod Proctor—ran 19 laps in the seven minute race. A five-minute red flag on lap 2 interrupted the race to remove a stalled car in turn two. The final checkered flag of the night flew at 9:29 pm.
The first race of the night was a six-lap trophy dash for the six fastest SLM qualifiers. Thirkettle started second and led all the way over Martinez in the 1:50.732 race. Hard Chargers: The $100 awards went to (KTST)--D. Arena (10th to 5th); (LC)--D. Montes (17th to 10th) and (SLM)--D. Moore (12th to 4th). The five fastest qualifiers by division were: Bandos—A. Anderson – 18.825 (63.681 mph); (LC)--R. Reed – 16.998 (70.526 mph); (F-8)--Ziemann – 19.495 (69.618 mph); (KTST)--R. Johnson, Jr. - 19.930 – (90.316 mph), and (SLM)--Michels – 18.016 (99.911 mph).