IRWINDALE, California — Travis Irving enjoyed the best racing performance of his three-year NASCAR Auto Club Late Model Series career Saturday at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale. The 2,000 spectators present included movie actor Michael Rooker, who played stock car driver Rowdy Burns in Tom Cruise's “Days of Thunder” movie. Irving, a 24-year old resident of Corona, is an ex-kart racing and Formula 2000 open-wheel racer who uses his own unique theories about car setups based upon his open wheel experience and in conjunction with his crew. He set the fastest qualifying time in a 26-car field and received pole position when the inversion was one. He won the twin ACLM features in his California Highway Patrol-sponsored black & white No. 85 Toyota Camry built by Jeff Schrader's nearby Racecar Factory.
The twin wins were his second and third this season and fourth in his TS@I career. He earned $1,400 and climbed from fourth to third in 2009 ACLM points. Irving is only 10 points out of second place and 34 points behind point leader Nick Joanides in the 18-race schedule. The series point season will conclude on October 3 with twin features. Irving led all 40 laps from the pole in the first 40. He started fourth and led all but the first lap in the second main, which actually ran 45 laps because of three caution flag incidents that consumed 17 laps and resulted in a green, white, checkered flag finish.
The other three feature winners all are current division point leaders. Larry Cerquettini took the 35-lap Vista Paint Super Stock main. Dalton Kuhn topped the 40-lap Southwest Tour Truck event, and Pat Mintey, Jr. won a 40-lap King Taco Super Truck feature. Both Cerquettini and Mintey led all the way. Cerquettini started eighth in the fully inverted field and Mintey started from pole position. Fastest qualifier Kuhn, now 18, started sixth and led laps 4-40. Total car/truck count was 74 for the four division, five main events show. All races were contested on the progressively banked half-mile.
1ST ACLM 40: The 26 starters ran 25 quick laps shortly after 7:00 pm before the first caution flag flew for a multi-car crash between turns one and two. It involved Ryan Reed, George Atkinson, Tim Smith and eliminated Atkinson's car with significant right side damage. With ten laps to go, quickest qualifier/pole starter Irving led second starter Travis Motley by ten yards, with sixth starter Nick Joanides another ten yards back in third. Mike Johnson was fourth as he attempted to win his fifth feature in a row. In July he promised to win every remaining 2009 ACLM feature because his Chevy was so good. His problems this weekend started Friday night during the open-practice session when the transmission broke. On lap 37 the P. 11-12 cars of Connor Cantrell and Tim Smith tangled and caused the second caution. At the green flag, sixth place Dallas Colodny and fifth place Johnson bumped near the starting line and Colodny spun to the first turn infield grass. Johnson continued, but a flat left front tire caused him to pit for a replacement. Johnson returned to the back at the green but he finished 19th as the last car on the lead lap.
Twenty drivers finished, including three central and northern California visitors. Clovis resident Trevor Schlundt, celebrating his 20th birthday, finished seventh. Carlos Vieira, of Merced, placed ninth in the 34-minute event. Runner-up Motley, from Tucson, AZ, ran the fastest lap of the race (19.316) on lap 2 in the No. 59 HPR Chevy and trailed winner Irving by 0.432. Third place Joanides was 0.910 back. Rookie Beau DeBard, 22, finished 1.311 back in another HPR Chevy. Miles Copenhaver charged from 21st to earn fifth, 1.627 back. Three-time ACLM series champion and 2009 title-contender Tim Huddleston started fifth in one of his five entered HPR Monte Carlos and finished sixth. Chris Johnson (P. 8) and rookie Kyle McGrady (P. 10) were the other top ten drivers. McGrady, on the eve of his 17th birthday, solidified his hold on tenth place in ACLM point standings. Four series rookies are currently in the top ten in points and 53 drivers have earned 2009 ACLM points.
SWT TRUCKS: Race two of the night was a 15-truck, 40-lap main for the Southwest Tour Truck Series. Jeff Williams, from fifth starting slot, led the first three laps. FQ Dalton Kuhn, now 18, started sixth and led the final 36 laps for his fifth win at the track in six 2009 TS@I main events. He beat second place Williams by 0.276 despite a broken shock absorber during the final ten laps. The 20-minute race had one caution flag because of a blown engine that required track cleanup work in the third and fourth corners. Christian Copley, 17, started fourth and finished third, 2.462 seconds in back of second generation driver Kuhn. Neil Conrad, Mike Zimmerman and Ronnie Davis, Jr. were the only other drivers with 40 laps. Twelve of 15 starters were racing at the the finish. Kuhn increased his point lead from 14 to 18 (294-276) over Copley with two races remaining on October 3 and October 24.
VPSS; The Vista Paint Super Stock 14-car field ran a 35-lap main with a fully inverted starting lineup for the 11 cars that posted qualifying laps. Amazingly, point leader Cerquettini started eighth, passed seven slower cars on the first lap and led every lap in his No. 42 Chevy Impala SS. It was his eighth feature win in 11 races this year and his first triumph since he won seven consecutive features from March 28 through July 18. “It feels great to win again, the 42-year old winner said after a three-race winless stretch during the last two months. He extended his point lead from 28 to 34 points with one point race remaining on October 24 in the 12 race VPSS schedule. The 28-minute race had two yellow flags for a stall on lap 11 and on lap 12 when drivers in second, third and fourth place (Curtis White, Gary Frankovich and Rich DeLong III) exited turn four three-wide and got together on the front straight. DeLong spun across the starting line. All restated at the back. Fastest qualifier Eric Sunness, from 11th in his Camaro, was second and tried unsuccessfully to pass the leader on the lap 12 restart. Kenny Brown, a 62-year old Camaro driver who started racing at age 54, took second from Sunness on lap 14. He also took second in points from DeLong (502-500). Brown trailed Cerquettini by 40-yards (2.707 seconds) at the end. Sunness was third, 5.911 back. Gary Read, also in a Camaro, and DeLong's Chevy Impala SS completed the top five. Twelve of 14 starters finished and nine drivers ran all 35 circuits. Legend car driver Brandon Toy made his VPSS debut in a DeLong Camaro. He set ninth quickest qualifying time and finished seventh, 11-seconds behind the winner.
KTST: The 13th of 14 King Taco Super Truck races this season produced the fourth main event victory for point leader Mintey. He increased his lead from six to ten points (586-576) over Rod Johnson, Jr. with two races to go on October 3 and October 24. As fifth fastest qualifier Mintey had the pole because the inversion was five. He led by 15-yards at most until the second caution flag on lap 16 when Ryan Partridge and Johnson joined the lead battle. Top five drivers Jeff Peterson and Grant Hebner spun out together twice (on laps 8 and 26) and continued. The lap 26 restart resulted in a four-truck lead pack that pressured Mintey intensely and changed P. 2 through P. 4 frequently. Johnson and Partridge traded second and Ron Peterson was third on lap 29 before Johnson retook third a lap later. With a mere truck length separating the top three trucks from lap 38-40, Mintey, Partridge and Johnson charged three-wide from turn four towards the waving checkered flag. Mintey beat Partridge by 0.127 with Johnson third (-0.215) and R. Peterson fourth (-0.566). Dennis Arena was fifth (-3.756). Andrew Anderson, 16, Joe Anderson, Scott Dodd, Jameson Spies and J. Peterson rounded out the top ten. Thirteen of 14 finishers in the 17 truck field ran all 40 laps. Two of the 19 truck field entered did not start. A four-truck crash on the backstretch on the initial lap sidelined Todd Cameron's truck, which backed hard into wall near turn three after contact with Matt Kimball. Dodd and Spies trucks returned unscathed. The 27-minute race had three cautions after the lap 1 restart.
2ND ACLM 40 + 5: The starting lineup for the second ACLM main, the final race of the night, was determined by the second of two qualifying laps about 4:00 pm. Twenty-four of 26 cars present started. This time Travis Irving started fourth in a three-car inverted lineup. FQ Travis Motley started third to comprise an “all-Travis row” with Irving again. They started the first race on the front row. Huddleston, the third FQ, had pole position and used it to lead lap 1 over Irving, second starter M. Johnson, Motley and DeBard. Irving took command for good on lap 2 despite having “a sick stomach all day” that made racing difficult. At the halfway mark, Irving led Huddleston, rookie DeBard, eighth starter Joanides, Motley, 14th starter Copenhaver, C. Johnson, Legends point leader Ryan Reed, 16, in his first night of late model competition, M. Johnson and rookie Kenny Smith of Bakersfield. The second ACLM race started at 9:56 pm. Robert Rice's car oiled the track, causing a yellow flag for track crew cleanup work. Officials began counting yellow flag laps on lap 20 and the green flag appeared on lap 31 with the first four drivers in close quarters. With Irving high and Huddleston low, they competed evenly. A solo spin on lap 38 caused laps 38-43 to be run under the caution flag. A green, white, checkered flag finish followed and thrilled onlookers. Irving beat Huddleston by 0.384, with DeBard (-0.708) and point leader Joanides (-0.791) staging their own even closer finish for third. Joanides pulled to the left of DeBard, but he fell short by 0.083 at the finish line. Joanides increased his point lead from 26 to 34 points and said, “That wasn't too bad a run considering we had a clutch going out at the end. We beat the guys we needed to.”
Motley (-1.358), Copenhaver, C. Johnson, K. Smith, newcomer Ryan Reed and M. Johnson completed the top ten. All 19 cars still racing at the checkers logged 45 laps. The 26-minute race had three cautions and 17 laps under the yellow flag. Ricky James, a paraplegic Pro Truck veteran and feature winner at TS@I, made his ACLM debut using hand controls to drive the ex-Michael Wright No. 23 Chevy Monte Carlo. He finished 20th in the first main and dropped out of the second event with a mechanical problem to place 21st. With two races remaining (rounds 17 and 18 in October 3 twins) AC Delco Super Late Model 2008-09 track champion Joanides has 700 points to 666 for Huddleston, 656 for Irving, and 630 for M. Johnson, who dropped from second to fourth place this week. Leading rookies/HPR teammates Colodny (596) and DeBard (568) are fifth and sixth and vying for the rookie of the year title. Motley (490), Copenhaver (474), rookies Tim Smith (438) and Kyle McGrady (434) currently round out the top ten.
Hard Chargers/Fastest Qualifiers: Hard charger award winners were: (ACLM) - 1st 40 – Copenhaver (P. 21 to P. 5) and 2nd race – T. Schlundt ((P. 17 to P. 12); (SWT Trucks) – Tony Curtis, an Outlaw Figure 8 veteran in his second truck race, (P. 13 to P. 9); (VPSS) – Legends veteran Brandon Toy in his first super stock race (seventh place) , and (KT Super Trucks) – Joe Anderson (P. 12 to P. 7). The fastest qualifiers in the four divisions were: (ACLM) – L 1 – Irving, 19.037 (94.553 mph) and L 2 – Motley, 19.089; (KTST) – R. Johnson, Jr., 19.921 (90.357 mph); (SWTT) – Kuhn, 20.278 (88.766 mph), and (VPSS) – Sunness, 21.008 (85.682 mph).