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Source — Tim Kennedy
Date Posted — March 29, 2010
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IRWINDALE, California -- Eleven years ago to this exact date Irwindale Speedway opened with a night of USAC open-wheel competition in front of a sell-out crowd of 6,500+. The track, now known as Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale, began season 12 of NASCAR series point racing Saturday with seven classes and 101 racing vehicles in action. After a mid-80s afternoon, about 5,000 spectators attended the first of 30 weekly races with a 100-lap NASCAR AC Delco Super Late Model race on the progressively banked half-mile the featured attraction. Nick Joanides, a 17-time main event winner at Irwindale last year and 2009 double track champion in the SLM and Auto Club Late Model series, started ninth and became the fifth race leader on lap 84. He won the 100-lap, 49 minute contest that had one red flag and six yellows. It was the 35th feature triumph at the track for the personable 39-year old Woodland Hills resident. He now ranks fifth among all-time feature winners at the track. Three other feature winners ran on the progressively banked half-mile. Rod Johnson, Jr., who came from eighth starting position won a 25-lap Langers Juice S2 race. Gerrit Cromsigt led all the way in the scheduled 30-lap Vista Paint Super Stock event that was shortened to 15 laps because it started after 10 pm. His Camaro was disqualified during a post-race technical inspection for using unapproved shocks, handing the victory to runner-up Rich DeLong III in a Chevy Impala SS. Jeff Williams dominated the scheduled 30-lap Southwest Tour Truck race that ended after 20 laps at 10:44 pm. Three winners used the four-degree banked third-mile track. Brent Scheidemantle, 17, won a 35-lap Legend Cars main that kicked-off the seven features at 7:25. Ricky Schlick, 12, crossed the finish line first in a 20-lap Jan's Towing Bandolero race. However, his car was disqualified for using an illegal carburetor restrictor- plate gasket. Runner-up Trevor Huddleston inherited his first career Bando feature victory as a second year driver for his dad's four-car Bandolero team. John Zimmerman, won a 20-car, 10-lap Skid Plate race in which all cars had the rear wheels removed and metal skid plates installed to provide spark-producing contact with the track. SLM: Twenty SLM cars took the green flag at 8:27 in the third of seven main events. The six fastest qualifiers occupied the first three rows in the order they finished a six-lap “King Taco Six Pack Trophy Dash”, a race won from the pole by sixth quickest qualifier Ryan Reed. The 16-year old Bakersfield resident and 2009 TS@I Legends champion was competing in the first SLM point race of his rookie SLM season in the premier TS@I weekly series. Starting from pole position, Reed led into turn one, but outside front row starter Scott Dodd, 22, led the first two laps. Tim Huddleston, the 39-year old three-time Auto Club Late Model track champion, took command in his first SLM start aboard the Racecar Factory-2009-built Speed Wong Racing No. 89 Chevy. Huddleston led through lap 15 when fastest qualifier Ryan Partridge, 21, charged from fifth grid position into the lead on lap 16 via an inside move through the third and fourth turns. Huddleston, driving in his first SLM race and for a team he didn't own, was in fifth place on lap 43 when he pulled to the infield with a flat RF tire after the valve stem broke. ACLM, Legends and Bandoleros team owner Huddleston helped develop the new SLM for Racecar Factory which has built more than 50 late models, including all of Huddleston's High Point Racing cars.. The yellow flag flew on lap 24 for a single car spin. Shockingly, leader Partridge's Eshleman Racing No. 88 Chevy lost its left rear wheel leaving the fourth turn under caution. The wheel rolled into the infield and Partridge stopped in the low groove at the fourth turn exit. A wrecker towed his car to the pits and he returned after missing four yellow flag laps. The potential winner regained two laps via the “lucky dog” free pass around the 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid pace car; he finished 11th with 98 laps. With Partridge in the pits, third starter Justin Johnson, 24, inherited the lead. The Las Vegas resident, in one of three Vision Airlines entries, enjoyed his first SLM lead at Irwindale so much he held it through lap 83, despite intense pressure from Dodd, Andy Allen, Rip Michels and Joanides. At lap 50 crossed flags, Johnson's No. 90 led Allen, Michels, Randel King, 18, Joanides, Dodd, Reed, David Beat, Kevin Thompson and teammate Jimmy Parker, Jr., 23, of Las Vegas, in his first race at Irwindale aboard the Vision Airlines No. 92. A seven-car crash on lap 59 in the second turn involved third and fourth place Allen and King. Beat, Parker, Dusty Davis, Dennis Schlarbaum and Ron Esau also were involved and stopped. Only six cars escaped the wreck unscathed. Joanides drove between the Allen and King cars and stopped at turn four under the red flag. The green flag waved on lap 62 for the 13 remaining cars. Michels, the all-time Irwindale main event winner (61), pressed Johnson intensely from the inside groove from lap 65-77 and even bumped the back of Johnson's No. 90 at the starting line on lap 68. Joanides soon made it a three-way duel with Johnson and Joanides in the outside groove and Michels attacking from the inside . On lap 78 Joanides took second from Michels. On lap 84, with 12 cars on the track, ninth place Reed spun low in the fourth turn, causing a caution. With double file restarts after cautions, Joanides started outside of leader Johnson and shot into the lead at the lap 84 green flag. King passed Michels for third on lap 86 and as Joanides opened a 40-yard lead the second through fourth place battle intensified. Michels retook third from King on lap 96 and a lap later Michels passed Johnson on the inside entering the first turn. Joanides won by 2.150 seconds over long-time rival Michels. “That Nick is something,” Michels said when interviewed at the finish line. “He was playing possum 'with everybody. He just hit the switch and drove by everybody.” Joanides, the 2009 SLM track and California State champion, and third in NASCAR Whelen Weekly Racing Series National standings, admitted he was saving his tires for the closing laps. He praised the level of competition. Johnson withheld King's closing attempts to take third and finished 3.165 seconds behind Joanides, with King fourth, 3.414 back. Newcomer Parker, who started 16th in his Irwindale debut, charged into fifth by lap 80 and finished fifth, 4.251 seconds in back of Joanides. Dennis Schlarbaum, Dodd, Esau, Reed and 18-year old Christian Copley, a truck and modified veteran, rounded out the top ten. The top eight drivers completed 100 laps. SUPER STOCKS: The eight-car Vista Paint Super Stock race was the sixth main and had the distance cut from 30 to 15 laps after a first lap, one-car crash caused a 21 minute red flag. Cheyanne Izsak started at the back in her first TS@I race. As cars ran four wide leaving turn two her car suddenly darted right and hit the crash-wall at a 45-degree angle and ground to a halt about mid-backstretch against the wall. Rescuers had to cut off the roof of her Camaro to remove the injured driver. She sat up and was placed on a gurney and taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for medical evaluation. The restart saw Gerrit Cromsigt, in a Camaro, come from the back to the front and he led all 15 laps. He defeated the Chevy Impala SS of Rich DeLong III by 2.341 but lost the victory via a mechanical DQ. Bryan Harrell, the 2008 series champion, returned after a one year absence and finished second officially in his Camaro. Gary Read and Curtis White followed in Camaros and ran all 15 laps. Six drivers finished the six-minute, all green flag restarted race. LANGERS JUICE S2: The Langers Juice S2 second season had nine cars in the pits. One car received extensive RF damage in a practice crash and did not race. The event used a fully inverted starting lineup with fastest qualifier Rod Johnson, Jr., 20, coming from eighth. With five rookies in the field, third starter Andrew Porter, a 16-year old Bandolero graduate, led the first four laps and laps 6-7. King Taco Super Truck 2009 champion Rod Johnson, Jr. led laps 5 and 8-25 and won by 1.464 seconds over seventh starter Travis Thirkettle. With his own SLM still not reassembled after his 2010 Toyota All-Star Showdown crash, he sub-drove Tony Porto's No. 97 S2 car and ran second from lap 9 to the checkered flag. Kendell Lopez, a second year S2 driver from Independence, MO., came from fifth to finish third, her best result to date. Rookies Roman Lagundi, 15, Dylan Lupton, 16, Porter and brothers Gary and Bill Waters followed. SWT TRUCKS: With an inversion of six, fastest qualifier and past champion Jeff Williams started sixth and dominated the Southwest Tour Trucks opener. He led all 20 laps in his Ford and defeated runner-up Neil Conrad by a straightaway (5.329 seconds). Michael Zimmerman was third, (9.715 back). Pole starter Gus Nanos, Tom Mikla and Brady Helm finished fourth through sixth and all ran 20 laps. Clark Farrar, Cecil Phelps, Ed Cutler and Dan Coburn completed the top ten and ran 19 laps in a 6:50.141 all-green flag race. During afternoon time trials, Williams set a new track record of 19.845 (90.703 mph) that beat the TR of 19.862 (90.626 mph) set by Dean Kuhn on 5/20/04. LEGENDS: Scheidemantle, the fourth fastest qualifier in a 19-car field, started fourth and took command of the 35-lap main on lap 20 from FQ/early leader/pole starter Mark Iungerich. Michael Smith took second from Iungerich on lap 22 and pressed the winner closely to the end. Rick Clark, Gary Scheuerell and rookie Nic Hammers completed the top six finishers as 16 of 19 drivers finished, with 13 on the lead lap. The 19-minute race had four cautions. Andrew Phipps, a rideless SLM and late model veteran, accepted a ride in one of three HPR Legend cars and was in sixth place on lap 33 when he lost his muffler and pulled to the infield. BANDOLEROS: The 15-car field had eight rookies and seven veterans in the Briggs & Stratton-powered small cars. Driver ages ranged from 8 to 14. Fastest qualifier/rookie Brandon “Shorty” Weaver, 9, started first and yielded the lead on lap 1 to outside front row starter Ricky Schlick, 12. Weaver, from Bakersfield, led laps 2-9 in his first Bando race. Schlick retook the lead on lap 10 following a brief caution. Trevor Huddleston, 13, took the lead on lap 15 as the leaders lapped the 12th place driver. Schlick made his apparent “winning pass” on lap 18 on the outside through the third and fourth turns. He arrived at the finish line 1.212 seconds in front of Huddleston, son of the ACLM champion. Ryan Cansdale, the 11-year old 2009 track champion,crossed the line right after Huddleston, with Christian McGhee, 11, and rookie Evan Garvy, 9, next across the finish line. Rookies Brandon Schulhof, 14, Weaver, R. J. Stearns, 8, veteran Graydon Smith, 11, and rookie Nic Fusco, 8, followed. All 15 drivers finished the 13-minute race that had three cautions. SKID PLATE RACE: The fifth of seven main events was the third ever TS@I skid plate race. All 20 cars present competed on the third-mile. The car count topped the previous high of 16 last October. The 10-lap race had three leaders with Garrett Yamada and Jimmy Altman leading the first two laps. John Zimmerman started fourth and led laps 3-10 for his first victory in the fan-pleasing, novel event. The top four drivers split the purse and others received their pit pass money back. Altman finished second. Jonathan DeStefano and Adam Ditto were third and fourth officially. Past NASCAR Southwest Tour and SLM track champion Rip Michels put his No. 12 on one of the four-cylinder, front-wheel drive older Toyota Celicas or Camrys/Honda Accords/Ford Festivas prepared by Robert Rice. Michels started 18th and mastered the front wheel only steering/drifting style as he came forward for a top five finish, even though he did not have an electronic transponder for scoring purposes. Fifteen of 20 starters finished the 6:25.931-timed, all-green flag race. Fastest Qualifiers: On half-mile - (SLM) – Ryan Partridge, 17.967; (SWT Trucks) – Jeff Williams, 19.845 (90.703 mph) – NTR (old TR 19.862 by Dean Kuhn on 5/20/04; (S2) – Rod Johnson, Jr., 20.259; (VPSS) – Bryan Harrell, 21.074; On third-mile – (Legends) – Mark Iungerich, 16.843; (Bandoleros) – Brandon Weaver, 18.655.####

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Article posted by staff on March 29, 2010.