Four racing divisions and five main events for 220 laps of feature action Saturday attracted 99 racing cars and 5,101 spectators to Irwindale Speedway. Tommy Fry and Rip Michels won a pair of NASCAR Food 4 Less Super Late Model 50-lap main events in the premier division. Dave Hessing led the final five laps of a 50-lap NASCAR Auto Club of Southern California Late Model feature that also used the banked half-mile.
The touring MSRA Pro 4 cars competed on the third-mile for the first time instead of the half-mile. The result was closer competition and a higher car count. Mike Wright became the fifth race leader of the 35-lap main event on lap 20. He won by three seconds over Kenny Smith who tangled with a lapped car near the finish line and spun across the stripe with the checkered flag waving.
The first feature of the evening for Mod 4s (formerly known as Mini Stocks) went 35-laps, also on the third-mile. Rod Hicks captured his first career feature at Irwindale in a 20-minute event that had four caution periods. Point leader Terry Limberopoulos was struck by second place Greg Tucker on lap 14 and spun out of the lead. Lee Ladd then took the point and paced the next six laps before a cloud of heavy white smoke from a broken rod sent him to the pits and left Hicks in charge.
The first 50-lap SLM feature was round eight of the Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge Series. Winner Fry started second and led the first two laps before third starter David Gilliland passed him and led through lap 28. After ten laps of a side-by-side duel, Fry used the inside groove through the third and fourth corners to recapture the point on lap 29. He kept his Chevrolet in front for the final 22 circuits.
Fry's winning time in the all green flag race was 15:52.871. He had seven lapped cars between his Monte Carlo and the Chevy of runner-up Gilliland, who trailed by 4.844 seconds. Sean Woodside was third, 4.865 seconds behind the winner. Brandon Whitt finished fourth for his career best finish at Irwindale. Rip Michels earned fifth spot. Fastest qualifier Tony Bruncati, Nathan Wulff, Brent Reynolds, Kazuto Yanagawa and Nick DeFazio completed the top ten. Thirty of 33 starters were racing at the finish, with 16 cars on the lead lap.
The second 50-lap SLM feature lineup was based on the finishing order of the first 50, with the first six starters inverted. Rip Michels, the 2000 Grand American Modified champion at Irwindale, started second and led all the way. It was the first SLM career victory for Michels, a rookie in the SLM division.
Michels drove his self-built Pick-Your-Part, LADCO-sponsored Chevy Monte Carlo. It was his 17th main event triumph at the three-year old track. The victory broke his tie with 16-time winner Todd Burns (Late Model Division). Super Stock driver T. K. Karvasek ranks third in career main event victories at Irwindale with 15. Woodside, the 1999 Winston West Champion, finished second in the second 50-lapper and reclaimed the SLM point lead by two over Brent Reynolds. Woodside also is the current Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge point leader with two races remaining in the series within a series. Rounding out the top ten were Guilliland, Fry, Whitt, Yanagawa, Reynolds, Keith Spangler, Bruncati and David Beat. Twenty-three of the 29 starters were running at the finish and 11 drivers completed all 50 laps. An 11-car crash on the front straight at the start of lap two sidelined five cars. No drivers were injured.
Michels told the media, "You have to think of racing to the end and not about something going wrong when you have a lead like I had. I wanted to make up for the wins I didn't get earlier this year. I cut tires twice and had a broken rear end once that cost me Super Late Model victories. In the first main event my temperature gauge got too high and I had to back off early entering the turns. A radiator hose cramped up and we fixed it between the two races. My car was too tight in the first 50 and we loosened it up for the second 50. It felt freer in warm-up laps for the second 50."
Point leader Deryk Ward started on the pole in the 50-lap Late Model feature and led the first 38 laps. Fastest qualifier Todd Burns came from tenth starting position for the second consecutive race and took the lead on lap 39 with an inside pass in turn four. Ward reassumed the point on lap 40 with an outside pass. He was still in front of the pressing Burns on lap 45 when Burns shot under Ward's car in the first turn and drifted up the track into the left side of leader Ward, who spun out. Officials sent Burns to the back of the remaining 23 cars from a 24 car starting field.
Dave Hessing assumed the lead with Burns' penalty and he won his fourth feature of the season in his California Public Recycling Chevy. Tim Huddleston excited fans during the final two laps by diving under Hessing in the fourth corner and getting sideways in an effort to take command. He trailed Hessing by 0.130 seconds. Brian Kelley finished third for the second consecutive race. Kevin Wood and Shaun Estes were fourth and fifth respectively. Twenty-three of 24 starters finished and 19 ran all 50 laps.
Trophy dash victories went to Lee Ladd (Mod 4s), Wright (MSRA), Gilliland (SLM) and Doug McComb (L/M). Fastest qualifiers were Bruncati (SLM), Burns (L/M), Guy Tripp (Mod 4s) and Eddie Secord (MSRA) with an automatic third-mile new track record of 14.991.
Fast Time: Guy Tripp, 17.363.
Dash: Lee Ladd, Greg Tucker, Rod Hicks, Terry Limberopoulos, Tripp, Steve Rogers.
Main: Hicks, Tripp, Dustin Morgan, Eric Reed, Tim Ross, Rick LeMaster, Howard Brown, Tommy Fowler, Scott Corrigan, Greg Didoha, Steve Rogers, Pat Ackley, Jim Tucker, Danny Rowe, Robert Lovas, John Brombeck, Gene Lockhart, John Reed, Fred Adams, Ladd, Limberopoulos, Tucker, R. C. Zimmerman.
MSRA PRO 4:
Fast Time: Eddie Secord, 14.991 - NTR.
Dash: Mike Wright, Secord, Kenny Smith, Ed Reed.
Main: Wright, Smith, Steve Schober, Rod Hedrick, Secord, Scott Porter, Don Minut, Marty Elzig, Sam Newcomer, Tommy Fowler, Danny Rowe, Gene Symonds, John Johnson, Ed Reed.
Fast Time: Todd Burns, 19.009.
Dash: Doug McComb, Rick Miller, Mike Price, Dave Hessing, Burns. -DNS Tim Huddleston.
Main: Dave Hessing, Tim Huddleston, Brian Kelley, Kevin Wood, Shaun Estes, Price, John Jones, John Ahrendt, Jeff Saelid, Rob Chaney, Barry Karr, Mike Johnson, Todd Conrad, Dan DiGammarino, Richard Hooper, McComb, Deryk Ward, Burns, George Ruark, Joe Meehan, Steve Floyd, Chuck Kevwitch, Chris Pasdan, Miller.
SUPER LATE MODELS:
Fast Time: Tony Bruncati, 18.194.
Dash: David Gilliland, Nick DeFazio, Tommy Fry, Brandon Whitt, Bruncati, Brent Reynolds.
1st Main: Fry, Gilliland, Sean Woodside, Brandon Whitt, Rip Michels, Bruncati, Nathan Wulff, Brent Reynolds, Kazuto Yanagawa, DeFazio, Kevin Thompson, Sammy Potashnick, Keith Spangler, Brandon Loverock, David Beat, Jason Small, Jeff Seifert, David Quartaro, Tim Woods III, Dan Holtz, John Bojorquez, A. J. DiMarzo, Dusty McDonald, Mike Hahn, Bobby James, Dennis Arena, Dave Eshleman, Scott Conaway, Brian Dryer, Roger Brown, Mike Walker, Curtis Brown, Todd Burns.
2nd Main: Michels, Woodside, Gilliland, Fry, Whitt, Yanagawa, Reynolds, Spangler, Bruncati, Beat, Wulff, Holtz, Woods, Bojorquez, DiMarzo, Seifert, Hahn, Arena, Conaway, Dryer, R. Brown, C. Brown, Eshleman, Loverock, DeFazio, Thompson, Potashnick, Small, Quartaro.