IRWINDALE, California — A wild finish in which the first five cars crashed together across the finish line at the checkered flag ... a track record ninth consecutive feature victory at the start of a season ... season-high car counts in three of five divisions ... a first-time super late model feature winner ... four point leaders prevail ... and a high-scoring auto soccer match. All of those things occurred Saturday night as almost 3,000 spectators witnessed a wild and entertaining night of Toyota Speedway at Irwindale action on the half and third mile ovals and in the infield.
Feature winners on the half-mile were: Andy Allen, 39, and Justin Johnson, 24, in NASCAR Pepsi One Super Late Model twin-40-lap races; Ryan Partridge, in a King Taco Super Truck 50-lap event; Rich DeLong III in a Vista Paint Super Stock contest, and Dylan Lupton in a 25-lap Langers Juice S2 main that concluded officially after 24 laps because of a shocking five-car crash involving every car in the top five. The third-mile track was the setting for a combined Ken Porter Auctions Classic Stock/open competition race that had two winners--overall and classic stock class. Joe Anderson (overall) and Ken Michaelian (classic stock) were the winners. The final event, an auto soccer match involving the new three-car TS@I officials squad and a veteran three-car Jan's Towing team, went to the track officials by a 3-2 final score at the 10:00 pm checkers.
Season-high car counts participated in SLM (23 cars), super stocks (14) and in the fourth ever TS@I open competition event, which equaled the first race count of 22. “Perfect” Partridge again set the fastest qualifying time (by 0.027) over Matt Kimball and then won his track record ninth main event in a row at the start of a season. He broke a three-way tie at eight single-season feature victories with three other drivers—Todd Burns (2003 late models), Ron Peterson (2006 super trucks), and Rick Crow (2006 classic stocks). Next on his record-breaking spree is the consecutive feature victory multi-year streak of ten by classic stock driver Crow in late 2006 and the first three races of 2007, and 11 by super truck champion R. Peterson in 2005-06. Burns (No. 4 Chevy) won nine consecutive late model mains in 1999-2000. However, Partridge holds a distinction that none of the other drivers has accomplished because he set nine consecutive (and counting) fastest qualifying times. Four series point leaders (all but S2) added to their point leads by winning their main events.
SLM – 1ST 40 – All 23 cars in the SLM field took the green flag at 7:10 pm for the first of 40 all green flag laps. Fastest qualifier Dusty Davis had the pole in a backup car (the spare No. 90 Vision Airlines car renumbered 94). He wrecked his usual 94 car during Friday night practice. Outside front row starter Andy Allen, from Garden Grove, shot into the lead and led by ten yards for most of the 40 laps over second place Luis Martinez, Jr. Allen won the 12:31.876 race by 0.666 over Martinez. Point leader Justin Johnson (Vision Airlines No. 98) came from sixth starting spot to earn third, 0.026 in back of Martinez. Davis placed fourth, 1.146 seconds back, with Randel King fifth in a Position One Motor-sports team car of Martinez. David Beat, Travis Thirkettle, Partridge, newcomer Rick Chavez and Dennis Schlarbaum completed the top ten. Twelve drivers finished and eight ran all 40 laps. Winner Allen enjoyed his first ever SLM victory in his No. 22 Mills Ford of Anaheim Fusion. The car had to have a new rear clip installed by Steve Teedt of San Diego after the car was wrecked on lap 62 of 100 in a seven-car crash during the March 27 season-opener. He had not raced since then. Allen won an ASA Speed Truck main event and TS@I victory plaque years ago before he switched three years ago to the track's top of the line SLM division. Allen said his crew worked hard to get back on track and “tonight it paid off.” He earned $1,250.
SLM – 2ND 40 – Following four other main events, 21 cars returned for the second SLM main with a six-car inversion by qualifying times. Travis Thirkettle and J. Johnson started 1-2 with rapid Allen starting third. Johnson grabbed the lead immediately over King, Allen, Thirkettle and Martinez. Allen took second on lap 3 and by lap 12 trailed Johnson by 35-yards. A pair of yellow flags flew on lap 13 and Johnson chose the outside for both double-file restarts. Fourth place King dropped out with engine vibrations and loss of power under caution. At the lap 13 green, Allen out-dragged Johnson leaving the fourth turn and led laps 13-22. They ran side-by-side with Allen high and Johnson low with half a length between them at the end of several laps. On lap 23 Johnson executed an inside pass in turn two and then opened half a straight advantage by the white flag lap when he slowed a bit leaving turn four with victory assured. He won his seventh SLM main this season in 14 races by 1.927 over Allen's Ford for a 1-2 sweep by the blue oval logo. Winner Johnson told spectators, “I thought I got jumped there on a restart, but Chuck Wahl (crew chief) gave me a good car and I got back by him.”
Beat charged from eighth starting to third place, 6.252 seconds in back of the winner. Partridge, in his third 40-lap race of the night, came from ninth to earn fourth position. Martinez and Kevin Thompson were in a tight, four-car battle for P. 3 and finished in that order. The third through sixth finishers were within 0.698 at the finish line. Davis came home seventh after starting sixth as the FQ (on both of his qualifying laps). Rob Kiemele, from San Bernardino, charged from 20th to a TS@I personal best eighth position. Chavez was ninth and the last driver with 40 laps. Christopher Evans led the two finishers with 39 laps. The 25-minute race had three cautions for spins.
KTST – Partridge, a 22-year old from Rancho Cucamonga, drove his No. 48 Steve Latina-owned Dodge Dakota to fastest qualifying time and sixth starting spot for the 40-lap race with 19 starters. With new sponsorship from Brockrentals.com, he fell back to eighth place during the hectic opening laps with two and three-wide racing the norm. As the running order stabilized, Partridge began picking off trucks. He moved from eighth to sixth on lap 5, to P. 5 on lap 7, P. 4 on lap 8, P. 3 on lap 9, and P. 2 on lap 18. The first three drivers—fourth starter Pat Mintey, Jr., Kimball and Partridge ran nose-to-tail lap after lap. Partridge used an inside pass in turn three to pass Kimball on lap 18 and chased race-long leader Mintey to a lap 20 caution for a solo spin. On the lap 20 green, Partridge took the lead with an outside pass in the second turn and was long gone. Despite yellow flags on laps 27 and 32, Partridge won by 20-yards (1.180 seconds) over two-time series champion Mintey. Todd Cameron was third, 1.487 seconds back. Ken Maler, Jr., Jameson Spies, Dennis Arena, last starter Jeff Peterson, Ryan Fortier, Lucas McNeil and Andrew Anderson completed the top ten. Fifteen of 21 drivers ran all 40 laps in a 26-minute race with four yellow flags. Partridge told the crowd, “They made me work for it tonight. I had to earn it. But it was fun, especially running three races.”
LANGERS S2 – Eight starters for the unique to TS@I class now in its second season produced the wildest finish in track history. Cars in the first five positions charged out of turn four on lap 25 of 25. Point leader/second place Roman Lagudi tried to take the lead from his championship challenger Dylan Lupton exiting the final turn. Lagudi's HPR No. 50 tapped race-long leader Lupton's outside-running HPR No. 56 and both cars spun across the finish line. With the top four cars only a few lengths apart, third place Joe Anderson (HPR No. 59) spun to miss his two spinning teammates. Fourth place Andrew Porter spun and backed hard into Anderson's car as they both crossed the finish line. Fifth place Kendall Lopez, about 15-yards back, then ran into the No. 50 car left side as it sat next to the outer wall just past the finish line. Her 97 car veered to the inside and stopped near the third mile first turn attenuator. No injuries resulted. Lagudi's 50 car actually spun across the finish line before Lupton's 56 did. Racecar Factory in Irwindale (builder of all S2 cars) will be busy in coming days repairing all five cars. The starter switched from waving the checkered flag to the yellow flag for the other three cars that were at least a straightaway in back of the fifth place car to warn them about the almost blocked front straight just past the finish line. Because of that yellow, the official finish order reverted to the completion of lap 24. So Lupton, 16, won his second consecutive S2 feature with one-time winner Lagudi, 15, second. Anderson, Porter, Lopez, Dave Busby, and brothers Gary and Bill Waters followed in the official finish.
CLASSIC STX/OPEN COMP – The 22-car field reduced by one became a 35-lap, 12-minute race on the third-mile with one yellow. It was the fourth ever open comp race (the idea of Rick Crow to get more cars out to the track). Fastest qualifier Benjamin Mahan, 14, started sixth in a late model. He won the second and third open comp features in his first two TS@I races. This time the mixed bag, competitive field included vehicles from the ranks of classic stock, super stock, S2, Figure 8, modified and super truck. Remarkably, the top five finishers came from five of six divisions in the race. Second quickest qualifier Joe Anderson started fifth and became the third and final race leader on lap 3 in his S2 car. Rick Crow (modified), Orange Show Speedway driver Adrianne Murlin (SLM), Mahan (late model) and Jeff Williams (super truck) completed the top five. Last starter Jeff Peterson (super truck) and Jerry Toporek (Figure 8) were the only other finishers on the lead lap. Porter (S2), Cody Fisher (super stock) and Gerrit Cromsigt (S/S) completed the top ten, a lap down. Eighteen of 21 starters finished the entertaining race. The five KPA Classic Stocks were more than a second slower than other classes and started from rows four through six. They had their own race within a race. Point leader Ken Michaelian (overall P. 14 finish) won the 50 P. 1 points for classic stocks over 20th starter Tom Whitson (P. 15 overall) and his dad Harry Michaelian (P. 17 overall). Five classic stocks started.
VPSS – The second race of the night had a season-high 14 car field of super stocks. Point leader/FQ Rich DeLong III (No. 84 Chevy Impala SS) had pole position. He led all 30 laps and edged fellow front row starter Eric Sunness (Camaro) by ten yards (0.643). Gary Read took second from Sunness on lap 27 with an inside pass in the third turn. He tried the same move on leader DeLong in turn four on the final lap to attain his first ever feature victory. However, Read's Camaro got loose and he watched Sunness retake second on the outside at the turn four exit. Read placed third, 0.057 behind Sunness. Camaro drivers Cody Fisher and Curtis White followed in P. 4-5. Gerrit Cromsigt, Steve Smith, Bryan Harrell, Mark Brinksma and Brad Keegan rounded out the top ten. All 14 starters finished and 11 drivers completed 30 laps in a 10:52.833 all green flag race.
AUTO SOCCER – The concluding (seventh) event of the night was the ninth ever auto soccer match with two three-car teams pushing a 400-pound round propane tank “ball” into tire-marked goals at the east and west ends of the infield. It pitted Jan's Towing (Steve Keller, Tom Tucker and Ken Palmer) against the new team of TS@I track officials (Flipper Walker, Mike Atkinson and Adam Ditto). The nine-minute match from 9:51 to 10:00 pm was accompanied by sounds of goooaaalll from the announcer and recorded vuvuzela horns. The see-saw offensive game recap was 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 3-1 and 3-2 in favor of the track officials. The soccer cars included two ex-police Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers acquired from Jan's Towing. Other soccer cars had been used in TS@I trailer races and in skid plate races.