IRWINDALE, Ca — Sept. 11 – It was the Johnson & Johnson show in the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale featured Auto Club Late Model 40-lap main event, the fifth of six events Saturday night. Action took place in front of about 2,000 spectators on “Back to School Night” honoring students and teachers. The unrelated Johnson duo continued their recent lead-pack dueling and traded the lead twice. Canyon Country resident Rod, Jr., who celebrated his 21st birthday September 3, won in his Sunrise Ford-sponsored High Point Racing ride by 1.093 over Covina's Mike Johnson, 53. The 18-car, all-green light race took 13:03.571 and every starter finished, with 16 drivers on the lead lap.
The other event on the progressively-banked half-mile was the first race of the evening at 7:25. The 30-lap Vista Paint Super Stock race started 11 cars and took 21-minutes because of two cautions. Point leader Rich DeLong III, from third spot, took the lead on lap 8 and won by 0.644 for his sixth feature triumph in 12 races this season. Winners on the third-mile were: Justice Brothers Mini Stock point leader Daryl Scoggins in an exciting lead-swapping duel with fastest qualifier/pole starter Ryan Bragdon. It was his seventh JBMS victory this season in 11 of the 35-lap races for the 2009 series track champion. FQ Darren Amidon started third in a 21-car Echo Equipment Legend Cars 35-lap main. He took the lead on lap 14 and won by ten yards (0.740). Three yellow flags slowed the race to 17:39.025. After being absent for three of the first four events this season, Amidon has won eight of the last ten mains. The 2007 Legends track champion is third in current points, 58 digits off the lead.
The always entertaining skid plate cars race was event four on the program and the sixth skid plate race this year. Main event distances have been 10, 15 and 20 laps for the front-wheel drive cars. This week it was 12 laps. A new track record of 33 cars came to the third-mile to race in a counter-clockwise direction from a standing start. Mini stock veteran Steve Rogers, from Riverside, won in a dominant display of power-sliding through the turns. Two-time 2010 skid plate race winner Daryl Scoggins was in the infield unable to start his No. 10 Ford Festiva, his June 26 winning car. A field of 32 cars actually took the green flag and every driver ran at least two laps during the spin and crash-filled race. There were four leaders and four lead changes in the seven minute event. Twenty-four (75%) of the 32 starters were still running at the finish.
The final event, a six-car demolition derby lasted 11-minutes and concluded at 9:55 pm. With three cars still moving near the conclusion, versatile Robert Rice drove an orange station wagon to the $1,000 victory. He has competed in a late model on the half-mile, plus varied events such as trailer races, Figure 8, train races and demo derbies. He is the TS@I “father of skid plate car racing.” He builds the spark-producing skid plates used by all teams instead of back tires and rents them or sells skid plate cars to others. It is the fastest growing class at Irwindale. Drivers from nearly all series have come to play “skid plate racer” and all said the experience is “fun”.
ACLM 40: The 18-car field included two teenagers—both 2010 open competition feature winners in their late models on the third-mile-- making their first ACLM starts. Austin Murphy, 18, and Benjamin Mahan, who turned 16 on August 28, started 16th and 18th respectively. Both teens raced impressively in their ACLM debuts. Rod Johnson, led the first lap by a length. Mike Johnson led the next two laps. Rod made an outside pass in turn four on the fourth lap and gradually opened his 20-yard winning margin over Mike. Rod, an ACLM series rookie, extended his point lead from 24 to 30 points with three races remaining. Bakersfield's Chris Holloway, 22, started fourth in his No. 44 Chevy Monte Carlo and passed third-starter Nick Joanides, the 2009 series track champion, on lap 10. They finished in that order. It was Holloway's fifth top three finish in 13 races. Darren Cheek (from P. 7) finished fifth. George Atkinson started and finished sixth. Toyota Camry driver Travis Irving, Tim Huddleston, driving the yellow and red wrapped No. 95 Lightning McQueen car from the movie “Cars”, 11th starter Kyle McGrady, 17, and Christian Copley followed. Only two of the 18 finishers were lapped during the final third of the rapid race.
VPSS: Gerrit Cromsigt turned in the fastest qualifying time and crashed during the afternoon. Significant damaged caused him to load up his Camaro. Second FQ DeLong started third in his Chevy Impala SS-bodied No. 84. Bryan Harrell started from pole position and led the initial seven laps in a close duel with DeLong. On lap 8 DeLong passed Harrell's Camaro on the inside from turn four to the starting line and opened a 20-yard lead by lap 15 of 30. He increased his point lead from 48 to 52 with three races to go. Third place Gary Read spun out entering the first turn on lap 3. Fifth place Curtis White spun his Camaro broadside into the side of Read's Camaro. Both cars were sidelined. White went to a hospital for evaluation and learned he had received a broken rib and internal injuries. The next significant crash of the night came with the checkered flag waving. Gary Frankovich pressed Harrell closely for second during the final ten laps. On the final lap inside runner Frankovich nosed in front of Harrell by 0.012 as they crossed the finish line for his best-career finish. The P. 2-3 cars bumped side-to-side as they crossed the finish line. Harrell's No. 55 Camaro veered nose first into the turn one pit entrance protective attenuator and stopped quickly with heavy front end damage. Frankovich's No. 66 Impala SS spun up the track into the crash-wall just past the attenuator and stopped. Neither driver was injured, but Harrell clearly was angry. Brad Keegan came from tenth starting in the 11-car field to tie his best finish--fourth. Newcomer Aaron Coonfield, from Riverbank, was fifth. Eight drivers finished. Sixth place Steve Smith, from San Bernardino, also ran 30 laps.
JBMS: Event two had a seven-car mini stock field. FQ/pole-man Ryan Bragdon is a second year mini stock driver and the 2009 JBMS rookie of the year. He led the first 17 laps before 2009 JBMS champion Scoggins put his Ford Pinto in front with an inside pass on lap 18 at turn four. Bragdon ran side-by-side with the more experienced Scoggins every lap and then put his 1979 Ford Mustang II-bodied car on a Ford Pinto frame back into first position. He used his own inside move from turn four to the starting line. Scoggins used another inside move on lap 28 to retake the point. He extended his lead to a length before winning by a slim 0.226 margin. He increased his point lead from 16 to 20 with two races remaining. Scoggins, a LAPD police officer, won his first main event in 2008. He now has 17 JBMS victories plus two in skid plate cars for 19 at the track. Bragdon was a Bandolero driver at Irwindale four years ago on Friday nights and is a second generation driver from Beaumont. He now has placed second four times (including the last three races) in pursuit of his first JBMS victory. He uses No. 86 on his Downtown Auto Center of Beaumont-sponsored car in tribute to his dad's car. His crew chief father raced at Orange Show Speedway a decade ago against Ron Peterson and other Inland Empire stars. Jacob Rogers, 21, hard charger award-winner Martin Timm, Rod Schmitt and Seth Wilson all ran the full 35-lap distance. The all green light race took 10:07.124.
EELC: Third fastest qualifier Tony Green, an ACLM front runner/winner at Irwindale a decade ago, led the first 13 laps from pole position. Winner Amidon took second from Matthew Hicks on lap 11 and then drove by Green on lap 14 for a lead he would not relinquish. Green finished a season-best second, 0.740 back in his fourth outing. Chad Schug was third, 1.113 seconds behind Amidon. Past Irwindale Legends feature winner Eric Gunderson returned to California after racing USAC Ford Focus midgets in eastern states. The teen raced his No. 97 coupe from sixth to fourth. Michael Smith, 20, placed fifth. Mark Borchetta, Mark Iungerich, Cale Kanke, Gary Scheuerell and hard charger winner Josh Geer (from 20th) rounded out the top ten. Nineteen of 21 starters finished with 18 drivers on the lead serial. Point leader Brent Scheidemantle, 17, was in P. 7 on lap 21 when he retired his No 98 coupe to the pits and finished last. His ten points earned gave him 586. He slipped to second in the standings, eight points in back of new series leader Schug with two races remaining.
SKID PLATE RACE: The growing field of skid plate racers included drivers from super late models, late models, super stocks, and mini stocks, plus car builder Tony Jackson, family members of racers, and raw rookies who rented rides for $250. The race had four leaders and four lead changes. It took almost eight minutes, including a brief red flag to remove a car stalled horizontally on the front straight. The race had three leaders after the first three laps. Twelfth starter/skid plate neophyte Steve Rogers charged between spinning cars to lead lap 1. Adam Ditto, from third, paced lap 2. James Altman came from 19th grid position with a large sprint car wing mounted on the roof of his Mitsubishi Eclipse. He led through lap 5. On the lap 6 Rogers shot past Altman to the lead. On lap 11 he lapped the field, including second place Altman, who said “I got taken out” in the fourth turn. He lost two laps before he finished ninth. Rogers is the patriarch of the Ford Pinto No. 1, 2 and 3 JBMS team that includes his 25 and 21-year old sons. The average speed for the race was 30.555 mph. Heather Abbey (No. 08) ran the fastest lap of the race at 17.243 (69.522 mph).
Twenty-four of 32 starters were running at the conclusion. Second through tenth (with starting positions) were: Jimmy Altman (26th), Adam Ditto (3rd), Jim Smith (17th), past skid plate winner John Zimmerman (1st), Robert Rice (23rd),18-year old Gabriella Hansen (21st), SLM veteran Scott Dodd (9th), winged James Altman (19th) and Tony Jackson (10th). Six drivers were down a lap, six were two laps back, two were down three laps, three were down four laps, four down five laps, with two down six laps. Mini stock vet Jacob Rogers made his skid plate debut and came from 32nd to earn 17th, down four laps. Winner Rogers is a former CRA sprint car driver at Ascot Park in Gardena. His winning car No. 46 is a 1998 Toyota Camry LE sponsored by S & J Towing. It is the same car that Daryl Scoggins drove to the 15-lap August 14 skid plate victory. The car counts this season in order have been 20, 22, 28, 23, 27 and 33. Last year skid plate car counts were seven for the inaugural race, followed by six and then 16 on October 31.
DEMO DERBY: Pick Your Part driver Robert Rice outlasted five other drivers to earn the $1,000 check from the $2,000 DD purse. The 11-minute event quickly became a three-man contest as they weaved their way around and between damaged cars on the soaped and watered infield area used for the motorized mayhem. Adam Ditto, fresh from the skid plate race, and Bill Thiebert finished second and third respectively. Thiebert's No. 48 won the first of three DD events this season. Rice has won the last two events driving two different cars. There were four different DD winners in the four demos last year.