IRWINDALE, California — Point leader Justin Johnson, a 24-year old Las Vegas resident, won both 40-lap features Saturday at the half-mile Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. He increased his NASCAR Pepsi One Super Late Model point lead from 18 to 26 points after nine of 20 scheduled races. The fastest qualifier on both of his afternoon qualifying laps started fifth in the 16-car first 40 and first in the 14-car second 40 aboard the No. 98 Vision Airlines Ford. Johnson won his fourth SLM main event in nine races this season as he hopes to win his first SLM track championship at Irwindale. He also won the only Thunder Roadster Series race ever held on the TS@I half-mile on July 12, 2008.
Two other features used the half-mile track on a busy seven main event evening for six divisions. A 35-lap Southwest Tour Truck Series event was the final race on the annual Student/Teacher Appreciation Night with about 1,100 in attendance. Neil Conrad, a retired fire department captain in nearby Arcadia, won his second career truck main at Irwindale and his second in a row. Twelve trucks started and there were three leaders. Pole starter Tom Mikla paced the first three circuits. FQ/fifth starter Jeff Williams led laps 4-7. Conrad, after starting fourth, took second on lap 5 and made an inside pass of Williams from turn four to the starting line on lap 8 for the lead he would not relinquish despite pressure from Williams.
Newcomer Nick Johnston, of Reseda, competed for the first time at the TS@I half-mile. The go-kart champion racer set third quickest qualifying time in an eight-car Langers Juice S2 field and started third in a five-car inverted lineup. While running third on the opening lap he spun his Position One Motor-sports No. 03 low in the fourth turn, causing a complete restart. After starting third again, Johnston grabbed an early lead with inside passes and led all 25 laps for his initial TS@I victory in his S2 debut.
Three other divisions raced on the four-degree banked third-mile inner track. Reigning Justice Brothers Mini Stock track champion Daryl Scoggins started seventh in a fully-inverted eight-car field. He led from lap 8 to the lap 35 checkers. Then Darren Amidon, started from pole position as the fastest qualifier in a 22-car Echo Equipment Legends field. He led all 35 laps. Series 2010 point leader Mark Iungerich was the first dropout on lap 22 and finished 22nd, dropping him to P. 4 in points (30 points back) and returning Brent Scheidemantle to the point lead. A 16-car Jan's Towing Bandolero field ran 20-laps and Amanda Poertner, 13, became a first-time Bando winner. She started second as the second fastest qualifier and took the lead on lap 5. Fastest qualifier/pole starter Ryan Cansdale was the early leader. His car broke on the fifth lap, ending his run..
PEPSI SLM: The first 40 had 18 cars slated to start, including late model front runner Mike Johnson in his No. 17 Chevy. Kevin Thompson, the sixth fastest qualifier in his No. 70, received word that his father had suffered a stroke; he left the track immediately and did not race. Past TS@I multi-series champion Rip Michels, now a Vision Airlines Motor-sports coach for J. Johnson and Dusty Davis, did not start in the No. 90 Vision A/L Ford. Pole starter Travis Thirkettle led the first 15 laps and then fell back to fifth at the end with a suspected oiling problem. FQ J. Johnson led laps 16-40 and won by 1.791 seconds over his Vision A/L teammate Davis, who started second in the No. 94 Vision Ford. Randel King finished third, 3.278 back. Scott Dodd was fourth (-6.991) and Thirkettle trailed the winner by 7.067. Brian Wong, Gary Jenkins, David Beat (in the No. 38 car), former truck racer and SLM rookie John Sereika and first-time SLM driver Danny Bopp, down a lap in one of three Eshleman Racing cars,completed the top ten. Bopp, a 26-year old from Charlotte, N.C, now lives in Hollywood, and works at L.A. Racing, the driving school at TS@I. Wrecks claimed two of the Eshleman cars. Mike Eshleman caught the wall on lap 17, ending the night for his No. 00. On the restart Randel and Ryan Partidge got together on the backstretch and Partridge's Eshleman No. 11 was sidelined for the night after contact with the backstretch wall. The race took 32 minutes.
The second SLM 40 was a cleaner run for the 14 survivors of the first race. The second 40 was a 14:33.142 all-green flag race after a first lap restart. In close racing, second starter Dodd spun on the initial lap to the inside on the backstretch near turn three. He returned to second for the complete restart. Pole-man Johnson led all 40-laps and won by a straightaway (6.321 seconds). Thirkettle solved his first 40 problem and started third. A close, three-way dogfight for second position involved Dodd, Thirkettle and Davis and lasted from laps 5-15. Thirkettle took second on lap 15 and retained it for his best result this season. Davis finished third (-6.616) and King was fourth (-6.827). Dodd came home fifth in his No. 25 and trailed the winner by 11.360 seconds. Wong, Jenkins, Beat, Partridge (sub-driving the Eshleman No. 55 raced by Bopp in the first 40), and Sereika completed the top ten. Eleven cars finished and eight drivers ran all 40 laps. Reigning SLM track champion Nick Joanides was absent because his Loyd Meek Chevy engine was down. So Joanides raced a Las Vegas car Saturday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway “Bullring” track and finished eighth.
SWT TRUCKS: Conrad, the third leader from laps 8-35, waged a stirring battle with two-time series champion Williams, the lap 4-7 leader and winner of the first three features this year. The SWT trucks have been known as American Race Trucks and West Coast Pro Trucks over the years. In a 12 truck field, ten drivers finished with six on the lead lap. The 24-minute event averaged only 42-mph because of two cautions for solo spin-outs. Conrad ran the fastest lap of the race at 87.681 mph and beat his rival Williams by 0.784. T. Mikla, from Arizona, Mike Zimmerman, Brady Helm and Outlaw Figure 8 driver Tony Curtis completed the top six on the lead lap. Conrad now trails Williams by four points (246-242) after five of ten TS@I events for the truck series.
LANGERS S2: The fifth feature of the night was for eight cars of the year-old Langers Juice S2 series. Unheralded first-time half-mile track racer Nick Johnston left his championship go-kart and tried his first S2 car competition. His initial spin low in the turn four resulted in a complete restart. He proved that he is a quick learner by going to the inside again on the restart and then led all 25 laps for his first victory in his first attempt. His winning No. 03 ride won six of the seven S2 features last year in the TS@I debut for the series. Luis Martinez, Jr won the first ever S2 race on July 4. Then teen Randel King won five of six mains (86%) that he drove the No. 03 for the Luis Martinez, Sr-owned team. King won the initial S2 series championship. This year Luis Martinez, Jr, 20, won the April 10 S2 main in No. 03. The car has now won eight of 13 races run in the two seasons of S2 spec series competition. The 12-minute race had one caution on lap 20 when second place Roman Lagudi spun in turn two. He restarted and placed sixth with all eight drivers on the lead lap. Runner-up David Busby trailed by 0.736 for his best result to date. Andrew Porter, point leader Dylan Lupton, Kendell Lopez, Lagudi, fastest qualifier Joe Anderson and Gary Walters followed.
JUSTICE BROS. MINI STOCK: The first of three main events on the third-mile was the mini stockers. The full-inversion of the eight car field had series point leader Scoggins and FQ Richie Altman in the back row of the four-cylinder, mostly Ford Pinto field. When the lap 35 checkered flag flew after a 10:15.436 race, Scoggins Pinto beat Altman's Pinto by 3.791 seconds. Rod Schmitt ran the fastest lap of the race at 17.134 (compared to Scoggins' 17.253) and finished third, 4.795 back. Jacob Rogers, Kevin Bernhardt, Seth Wilson, Larry Haw and Steve Patterson followed. Six drivers logged every lap.
ECHO EQUIPMENT LEGENDS: FQ/pole starter Darren Amidon, the 2007 Legends track champion, dominated the 22-car field. It was the second consecutive TS@I feature win in his No. 33 sedan for the 24-year old driver from Santee. Two-time 2010 Irwindale series winner Brent Scheidemantle, 17, started fifth and finished second, 0.555 in back of Amidon. Cale Kanke, 18, came from fourth to earn his first podium result of third, 1.153 behind the winner. Six-time track champion Tom Landreth started second and placed fourth, 1.848 back. Chad Schug, a one-time 2010 Irwindale feature winner, was fifth. Seventeen of 20 finishers completed all 35 laps.
JAN'S TOWING BANDOLEROS: Following races on Friday and Saturday nights second-season driver Trevor Huddleston, 13, and rookie R. J. Stearns, 8, are tied atop the point standings at 286. The fourth race Saturday was the third and final series to race on the third-mile. Sixteen of the small cars, driven by 13 male and three female youngsters from ages 8-14, started in a straight-up lineup for 20-green flag laps. Fastest qualifier/2009 track champion/rookie of the year Ryan Cansdale, 11, had the pole and used it to launch into the lead until a problem on lap 5 made him the first retiree. Amanda Poertner inherited the lead and kept it to the finish despite several caution flags and restarts with Stearns at her back bumper. She earned her first victory by 0.420 over Stearns. Ricky Schlick, 12, Lexi Moore, 11, and Danny Nikolai, from 16th grid position, rounded out the top five. Nikolai arrived too late to qualify because he was playing first base for his baseball team. Twelve of 14 finishers raced every lap. The infield announcer reminded Poertner that during the autograph session for fans she had promised a victory from the front row. Amanda replied, “I did. It worked. Fans signed my hood and guaranteed a female winner.” She dedicated her first victory to a friend who passed away this year. She thanked series sponsor Jan's Towing, which operates the TS@I fleet of tow trucks each Saturday, and also thanked her parents.
The 20-lap Friday Bandolero main event ran at 8:10 pm during the weekly 5:00-9:15 pm open practice session for all divisions, Twelve Bandoleros raced. Fastest qualifier Danny Nikolai, 13, started and finished first. It was his initial Bandolero main event triumph. “My only other win was a trophy dash at Orange Show Speedway,” he said. He uses No. 33 on his car because his father owned the NASCAR Southwest Series No. 33 Chevy raced for years by perennial winner M. K. Kanke. The happy youngster from Granada Hills led all 20 laps and and won by 0.109 over Poertner. R.Schlick, point leader Huddleston and Mikael Lovas, 12, completed the top five as ten drivers ran all 20 laps.