IRWINDALE, California — Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale presented six racing series in five main events Saturday in front of 3,500 fans and crowned four first-time track champions. All of the new champions validated their championships in style by winning their features. Two of the four champions are sons of past track champions at Irwindale. Rod Johnson, Jr., 20, and Dalton Kuhn, 18-year old son of Dean Kuhn, won their respective truck series championships in a combined truck series 100-lap race on the banked half-mile in the final race of the night. Johnson, the 2008 King Taco Super Truck rookie of the year, started second in a 32-truck field (23 KTST and nine Southwest Tour Trucks) and led all 100 laps. He captured his first KTST championship by two points (676-674) over Pat Mintey, Jr., runner-up in the 100-lap race. They entered the race tied at 626 points. Kuhn, the second fastest qualifier in the SWTT division, started 15th overall and finished ninth overall to capture the SWTT title by 24 points over Christian Copley.
Other main event winners on the half-mile included new Vista Paint Super Stock champion/fastest qualifier Larry Cerquettini, who started last in the fully-inverted ten-car field. He led from lap 13 through 35. Fastest qualifier Michael Zschoche, started fifth in a Drive Train Racing School 25-lap race for students of the school. All drove 1999 Chevy Monte Carlos. He led the first 13 laps and laps 16-25 after yielding the lead for two laps to school instructor Richie Altman. Action on the third-mile saw Daryl Scoggins, a 37-year old LAPD police officer at the West San Fernando Valley Division, started seventh in a season-high 16 car field and won a 35-lap Justice Brothers Mini Stock main. He won his first championship in his fourth season driving a 1978 Ford Pinto he bought from Sean Bennett. It was a past Orange Show Speedway championship car. Classic Stocks ran the first race of the night in a 30-lap event with nine starters. The race had four leaders and five lead changes. Twenty-yea r old Ken Michaelian, the series 2009 first-time champion, started eighth and led laps 21-30. He won by 25-yards in his No. 43 Petty-blue 1975 Dodge Dart.
TRUCK MAIN: The combined KTST and SWTT race was a first time event—two divisions in the same race awarding separate points. The straight-up start interspersed trucks from both series based upon fastest qualifying laps. KTST quickest qualifier Ryan Partridge earned the pole position; SWTT fastest qualifier Jeff Williams had the ninth best time and started inside row five of 16 rows. Johnson and 2007-08 KTST champion Mintey set second and third quickest times and started second and third in their championship battle. They entered the race tied at 626 points and the driver who finished ahead of the other would be the champion. If third place point driver Jeff Peterson won, the two point leaders would have to finish tenth or better to outpoint him. Four drivers had a mathematical chance at the title. Johnson led all 100 laps and Mintey, 42, ran fourth to lap 76 when he took third spot. Mintey took second place on lap 91 with an inside move exiting turn four and was 35-yards in back of fleeing Johnson. A front bumper off Kenny Smith's truck in the first turn caused the eighth yellow flag of the race on lap 97. It allowed Mintey to close to the back bumper of leader Johnson for a green, white, checkered flag finish. Johnson, who ran the fastest lap of the race at 19.920 (the only sub-20 second lap), won by 20-yards (1.158 seconds) over Mintey. J. Peterson took third position from Partridge on the final lap and trailed the winner by 1.506. Partridge was fourth, 1.805 back. The top four drivers finished in the same order in final KTST point standings.
Johnson said he was happy to win a 2009 Irwindale championship because his dad won a 1999 Irwindale track championship and the 2009 awards banquet will be held Sunday, December 6 at the same site—the Hilton Hotel in Glendale—where his dad received his 1999 championship awards. Dennis Arena came from eighth slot to finish fifth. Joe Anderson, 23, made his third start this year and drove the No. 81 truck (which Rod Johnson, Sr. also raced once this year) and finished sixth. Andrew Anderson, driving in his fifth truck race, came from 13th and finished seventh. Ryan Fortier, first-place SWTT driver Kuhn, in a Dodge bodied Chevy-powered truck, and Todd Cameron rounded out the top ten. Cameron jumped from eighth to sixth in final points. Twenty-two of 32 starters finished the one hour and 13 minutes race, slowed by eight caution flags that consumed 25 laps. The top three finishers in both divisions came to victory ceremonies at the starting line. Kuhn (P. 9) was joined by Neil Conrad (P. 13), and C. Copley (P. 16). Kuhn entered the race with a 20-point lead. If second ranked point driver Copley won the SWTT class race within a race Kuhn needed P. 11 (32-points) to become the champion. With only nine SWT trucks in the race he started the race as the SWTT champion. Johnson, in a Chevy S-10, won eight of 15 (53%) of the KTST mains this year and Mintey won four features. Kuhn won seven of eight (87.5%) of the 2009 SWTT features at Irwindale.
A serious-looking incident occurred on lap 25 when Matt Kimball, the second ranked KTST rookie, got hit at the starting line and spun to the inside, just missing the first turn tire attenuator at the third-mile track. On lap 59, trucks made contact at start/finish and Cody Fisher, celebrating his 19th birthday, spun wildly to the first turn and struck the outer wall hard just past the pit entrance attenuator. Robbie Ragains also spun into the same wall with Fisher. Both drivers escaped injury. At that caution flag Kuhn was in 12th position overall and second in SWTT running order. He pitted and his crew quickly rotated two tires (RF to LR and LR to RF) to improve stagger. He returned to the track before yellow laps started counting. On lap 67, fifth place Ron Peterson received contact and spun across the starting line as trucks scattered high and low. Peterson continued slowly; the 17th place truck braked hard and tapped the back of his truck lightly. All drivers continued. On lap 78 the starting line again was the site for an incident. Tenth place Jeff Williams, in the leading SWT truck, broke his crankshaft and dropped oil on the front straight. Derek DiSarro, in 11th, ran over oil and spun across the starting line as all trucks scattered and avoided contact.
Happy winner Johnson told fans, “I'm not the champion, my whole crew is the champion.” When pressed, Johnson, Jr. admitted he was proud to be the the first father/son champions at the 11-year old speedway. Rod, Sr. was the first super late model division track champion in the 1999 inaugural season. At mid-season Rod, Jr switched his truck number from 88 to 15, his dad's long-time number. Kuhn, who turned 18 on July 23, drove for his dad Dean, the 2001 Irwindale Grand American Modified champion. The two second generation track champions will be joined by paraplegic teenager Ricky James as Auto Club Late Model rookies for the TS@I 2010 season according to proud father Dean, a renowned chassis expert. He said, “balancing a car is the key” and his son has to learn that in a few years because he will be on his own for car set-ups. He added, “Dalton is very mature for his age.” Ironically, another father/son duo—the Petersons, Ron, 50, and Jeff, 19—tied for third place in KTST final points with 638, only 38 points in back of champion Johnson. Son Jeff will be listed third, based upon his one feature victory in race five to no main event wins by his dad.
VPSS: A fully-inverted Vista Paint Super Stock race had one caution (on lap 15 for debris) and took 15 minutes to complete. Point leader Cerquettini, 42, entered the race with a 34-point lead over Kenny Brown, with Rich DeLong III another two points back. With ten cars in the race and P.10 worth 32 points, all Cerquettini had to do was start the race to be a first-time VPSS champion. DeLong led the first 12 laps, with Cerquettini up to second on lap 3. The point leader took the lead on lap 13 with an inside pass through the third and fourth turns. He opened half a straight-away margin (3.884 seconds) by the lap 35 checkers. DeLong finished second and Brown fifth. Gary Read finished third and Eric Sunness fourth. DeLong jumped one position and took second in final points by four over Brown. Their totals (548-544) surpassed Cerquettini's 536 points before the race, so Cerquettini had to start or he would have dropped from first to third place. His 50 points gave him 586 points in the final run-down and a 38-point edge over DeLong. It was their career-best results. Cerquettini, in his third year of super stock racing at Irwindale, won his first feature this year in the first race on March 28. He won seven consecutive main events and nine of 12 (75%) in the series. The new champion told the crowd, “I promised at the Toyota All-Star Showdown (in January) that I was going to win the championship this year and it was hard to do.” He had a new Five Star Bodies Chevy Impala SS body mounted on his Camaro frame.
DRIVE TECH: Fastest qualifier Michael. Zschoche won his first TS@I race. Brady Lloyd placed second after starting fourth. David Arnold was third with driving school instructor/track veteran Richie Altman the lap 14-15 leader, fourth and the last driver with 25 laps. The 8:32.093 race was free of caution flags. Altman was second on the final lap when he pulled to the infield on the backstretch and dropped two positions. Ted Storeburger was fifth, Tim Perkins sixth, and Jeff Smith seventh as all cars finished.
MINIS: The Justice Brothers Mini Stock 35-lap straight-up start event (based upon qualifying times) offered double points for the series season finale. It attracted a season-high 16 cars. Point leader Scoggins had a 58-point lead over second place Tyler Rogers and needed only a 14th place or better finish to win his first championship in his fourth season. FQ/pole starter Rod Schmitt led the first ten laps in his Ford Pinto. Tom Dye, from third grid slot, led laps 11-23 in a Toyota Celica. Two cars were sidelined by lap 10. Scoggins' Ford Pinto came from seventh starting to occupy third place on lap 8 and second on lap 14 using his outside groove. The first six cars were virtually nose-to-tail from lap 18-24 when Scoggins passed Dye for the lead that he retained to the lap 35 finish. He won by 1.199 seconds over Rod Schmitt, who took second from Dye on lap 26. Pinto drivers Kevin Bernhardt and Tyler Rogers were followed by Dye and leading rookie Ryan Bragdon. The 18-minute race had two caution flags and 12 finishers, ten on the lead lap. Scoggins, whose son races a Bandolero, won the title by 70 points (636-566) over T. Rogers, the 2006-07 track champion. Scoggins won seven of 12 (58%) of the 2009 JBMS features. He said he will try to repeat as JBMS champion in 2010.
CLASSIC STOCKS: The fully-inverted Classic Stock field of nine ran 30 laps without incident in 8:58.295 in an all-green race. The four leaders were pole-man Tommy Mason (L 1), Tommy Agosta (L 2-5 and 18-20), FQ/seventh starter Mike Coleto, Jr. (L 6-17) and eighth starter Ken Michaelian (L 21-30). He won by 25-yards (1.430 seconds) over Agosta. Harry Michaelian, father of the winner, took third with Curtis Drye and Dave Foster completing the top five. Six drivers finished and five ran all 30 laps. First-time champion Michaelian entered the race with a 54-point lead. With 50 points available for a victory, he had clinched his 2009 series title after the last race on October 10. Michaelian, an El Camino Junior College student who does his own mechanical work, won 11 of 13 (85%) lassic stock mains this year. He said he would like to race a truck or a Langers Juice S2 car next season if an owner offered him such a ride.
Hard Charger Award ($50) winners were: (Classic Stocks) – Drye, (JBMS) – Dustin Morgan, (VPSS) – Sunness, ((KTST) – Ken Maler, Jr., a Legends veteran in his first truck race, and (SWTT) – Ed Cutler. Fastest Qualifiers: On third-mile – (Classic Stocks) - Colato, 17.315 (69.235 mph); (JBMS) – Rod Schmitt, 17.012 (70.468 mph); On half-mile – (VPSS) – Cerquettini, 20.481 (87.887 mph) – a new track record that beat his own 20.511 (87.758 mph) on 4/11/09; (Drive Tech) – Zschoche, 20.130 (89.419 mph); (SWTT) – Jeff Williams, 19.920 (90.361 mph), and (KTST) – Ryan Partridge, 19.684 (91.445 mph).