IRWINDALE, California — It was Toyota Speedway at Irwindale “Fan Appreciation and Night of Champions” Saturday during the regular season finale. Five of ten track championship divisions crowned 2011 champions in a six-main event program in front of an estimated 3,500 spectators. In order of features run, the champions crowned were: Curtis White (Vista Paint Super Stocks), Christian McGhee, 13, (Jan's Towing Bandoleros), Andrew Anderson, 19, (Langers Juice S2 Cars), Chad Schug, 24, (Echo Equipment Legend Cars), and Connor Cantrell, 21 (King Taco Super Trucks). Schug won his second consecutive EELC championship officially after securing enough points during the last race on October 1 to earn his title. The other four champions are first-time TS@I title-holders. Jeff Williams (Southwest Tour Trucks), Brandon Davis (Auto Club Late Models), Daryl Scoggins (Justice Brothers Mini Stocks), and Jay Henson (Pick Your Part Figure 8s) won their championships earlier.
Only the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Super Late Model track title remains unclaimed. The tenth and final SLM point race is scheduled for Saturday, November 26 during the second annual Canidae Natural Pet Food California Classic for SLM and late model divisions. Rod Johnson, Jr., 22, and Ryan Partridge, 23, are currently one-two in point standings (428-404) with 50 points available for the winner of the final race. SLM series rookie Johnson, the son of the first SLM track champion in 1999, has won seven of nine SLM features this year. He won the 2009 KTST and 2010 ACLM track championships; no driver has won three championships in a row in three different divisions at the track. Consistent Partridge has one SLM feature victory this season and 26 main event wins in five series (EELC, KTST, SLM, ACLM and S2). His rival Johnson has 25 career victories at TS@I in four divisions (KTST, ACLM, S2 and SLM).
The six main events Saturday used both the half and third mile ovals. Super stocks, S2s and super trucks raced on the half-mile. Bandoleros, legends and the Seidner's Collision Centers Skid Plate Cars raced on the third-mile. Feature winners in order were:
> Curtis White (VPSS) – the race-long leader took the 25-lap opener.
> Christian McGhee (Bandos) – led all 20 laps.
> Andrew Anderson (S2) – was in front all 25 laps.
> Brent Scheidemantle (Legends) – was the third leader from lap 9-40.
> Ryan Partridge (KTST) – led all 40 laps.
> Steve Dien (Skid Plate) – The first-time winner from Tujunga started 15th in a season-high 34 car field (three cars ran without transponders). He led laps 3-5, 8-9 and 17-20 in a close duel with Angela DeFazio, the laps 1-2, 6-7 and 10-16 race leader.
KTST 40: Outside front row starter Partridge out-dragged pole starter Cantrell on the opening lap and gradually opened a five yard advantage before a lap 17 caution flag for a contact-related single truck spin. Cantrell (No. 9) gradually fell back 25 yards from Partridge's No. 48 in the closing laps and finished 1.256 back, secure in the knowledge that the championship was his. The former Legends feature winner finished a close second to Pat Mintey, Jr. in the 2008 KTST championship battle. Lack of sufficient sponsorship has kept his team out of action until this season. The new champ credited consistency and hard work all year by his team. Third fastest qualifier Todd Cameron, a two-time feature winner this year, lost P. 3 to fourth starter Matt Kimball on lap 2 and regained it on the lap 17 restart. Cameron finished third (-1.927) in the race and in final points. Kimball finished in P. 4, 6.541 seconds behind the winner. Kenny Brown, Dennis Arena, Lucas McNeil, leading rookie Kenny Michaelian, a two-time classic stocks track champion, rookie Patrick “Trick” Mintey III, and rookie Jason Curtis, in his second KTST race aboard the ex-No. 18 Mason Britton truck, completed the top ten. All 14 finishers ran 40 laps in a 17-minute event. Andrew Porter drove his grandfather Kenny Smith's No. 43 truck. Partridge's best lap of the race (19.697-91.384 mph) came on lap 4. Cantrell ran his best lap (19.721) on lap 3. Partridge won seven of the 14 KTST features this season after winning 10 of 15 last year. Cantrell won four features in a row prior to Saturday and won his first TS@I championship by 38 points (662-624) over Partridge.
VPSS 25: Ten super stocks started with a five car inversion based on afternoon qualifying times. Pole starter White's Camaro led every lap, but on the first lap fastest qualifier Eric Sunness' Camaro caught the backstretch wall and stopped in a two-car incident. Gary Read's Camaro also was eliminated. The restarted race ran green all 25 laps in a 17-minute contest. The key battle was Gary Frankovich holding off 2010 series champion Rich De Long III for P. 2 in a pair of Impala SS cars. De Long needed the 48 points to tie White for the point lead, but finished third and earned 46 points. Grandfather White won by 1.103 over Frankovich, who had his career best result. De Long was 3.033 seconds in back of White. Top rookie Zack Green, 21, placed fourth in his Camaro. Brad Keegan was fifth in the ex-No. 48 Steve Gilmore Camaro. Seven cars finished and six ran all 25 laps. In his winner's interview over the track PA, White said, “This is what I dreamed of for so long since I was in junior high school in North Carolina and Richard Petty came to our school.” He thanked his sponsors, wife, grandchildren and mother-in-law. White logged the fastest race lap at 20.914 (86.067 mph) on lap 2. He won his first track championship by two points (494-492) over De Long, who entered the final race with a two point lead.
S2 25: Title-contenders Andrew Anderson, 19, and Andrew Porter, 17, started at the front in a field of ten reduced by one car after pole-man Travis Thirkettle's No. 97 ride did not make the grid. With Anderson using the outside and Porter the inside groove, Anderson led all 25 circuits despite a lap 24 caution for a solo spinner as Anderson held a 20-yard lead. A double file restart of lap 24 gave Porter another chance during the green, white, checkered finish. Anderson got the jump and won by ten yards (0.602) over Porter. Jessica Clark, 17, earned her S2 career-best finish (third) in the HPR No. 56 Chevy. She edged Trevor Huddleston (in the HPR ex-No. 15 S2 renumbered 50) by 0.291. Three-time mini stock track champion Daryl Scoggins bought the HPR ex-No. 50 and put his familiar No. 46 on it for his S2 debut. He started and finished fifth after racing fourth for 21 laps. He also finished all 25 laps. Brothers Bill and Gary Waters and rookie Anthony Giannone were down a lap. Austin Dyne dropped out on lap 3. Anderson ran the fastest race lap of 20.195 (89.131 mph) on lap 4. Porter's best lap was 20.273 on lap 6. Thrilled Anderson said. “We started the year without enough funds to do it.” He won four of the 11 S2 features in the HPR No. 44 to three for Porter, who drove Kenny Smith's Quik Pick Motor-sports No. 43. Anderson's title-winning margin over runner-up Porter was 20 points (532-512).
LEGENDS 40: Twenty legend cars took the green flag with a four-car inverted lineup. Mark Borchetta led lap 1 and Eric Gunderson paced the next seven laps. FQ/fourth starter Scheidemantle took command for good on lap 9. The race had one red flag on lap 30 when P. 5 Borchetta's engine erupted into flames entering the third turn. He pulled to a stop on the front straight of the half-mile and exited quickly without injury. The top three, including Chad Schug, were close all the way and P.2-3 changed hands three times. Schug settled for third in his replica 1934 Ford coupe. Jordan Hyland finished fourth, three seconds back. Impressive newcomer Zane Smith, 12, from Huntington Beach, started seventh in his second-ever legends race and finished a close fifth. Aaron Wells, Gary Scheuerell and Mark Iungerich finished in P. 6-8 respectively. First-time Legends drivers Jack Grabowski, 13, and his brother Dustin, 14, raced impressively to P. 9-10 and were six seconds off the lead. They are first cousins of past TS@I winner Austin Grabowski, 22, who is attending college in the Midwest. Jack drove the ex-No. 30 Tom Landreth car and Dustin drove the ex-No. 17 J. D. Hendley coupe. The EELC race distance is 35 laps normally, but officials granted five extra laps for the season finale. It was Scheidemantle's fourth victory in the 18 races this year. He ran the quickest race lap of 16.352 (73.312 mph) on the lap 30 restart. Schug won eight of the 18 features this season and won his second consecutive title by 48 points (784-736) over Scheidemantle.
BANDOLEROS 20: Fifteen drivers used a straight-up starting lineup based on qualifying times. Third FQ McGhee shot to the inside and led lap 1 over front row starters R. J. Stearns, the FQ, and Mikael Lovas, the October 1 feature winner. Danny Nikolai, 14, ranked second in points, started fourth and took second on lap 2. He battled fellow title contender McGhee closely all the way and finished half a length back (-0.050). Third-ranked point driver Lovas finished third. Rookie Troy (No. 84) Wesolowski started seventh and on lap 17 passed his fifth-starting brother Ian in the family-owned No. 14. Troy, 11, finished fourth (-(0,783) and Ian, 12, fifth (-1.579 from the winner). Ricky Schlick, rookie Ricky Lewis, 12-year old female drivers Alexis Mann and Mckenzie Eshleman, finished in P. 8-9, with Kendall McCulty tenth. All 15 drivers completed 20 laps in a 12:06.406-timed race that included three brief cautions. Lewis ran the fastest lap of 18.101 (66.228 mph) on lap 11. McGhee later spoke to the media and said, “It was a great season.” He won 12 of 27 main events in the Friday/Saturday night series, including the first three 2011 races and three of the last four features. Series runner-up Nikolai won nine features and trailed McGhee by only six points (1,216-1,210) in their two-way championship duel.
SKID PLATE 20: The season-high car count of 4-cylinder FWD cars had ten first-time skid platers and all drivers drew for starting positions. The field included five female drivers. All cars had spark-producing metal skid plates for contact with the track on the rear wheels instead of rubber tires. Cars ran counter-clockwise on the third mile. The race had three red flags on laps 2, 9 and 13 to remove cars stalled on the track. Veteran skid plate driver Angela DeFazio, daughter of track GM/COO Bob DeFazio, led the first two laps after starting near the back and avoiding multiple first lap spins and crashes in her No. 77 Honda Accord. Eventual race winner Steve Dien, of Tujunga, came from 15th starting slot in a Mazda 626 to lead laps 3-5 in a close duel with DeFazio. She reclaimed the lead on lap 6, but Dien's No. 46 led laps 7-8. The DeFazio led laps 10-16. She spun on lap 17 and Dien took command for good. James Altman, winner of four of the seven skid plate races this year, started 14th and ran third from laps 10-16. Jeff Peterson started in row 17 aboard the red & yellow No. 95 Nissan 200SX that had see-through eyes on the front windshield in tribute to “No. 95 Lightning McQueen” car in the movie “Cars”. He took P. 2 from DeFazio on lap 18 and closed rapidly on leader Dien as they lapped slower and disabled cars. A last lap mishap blunted Peterson's charge and he finished second, 4.976 seconds or half a straightaway behind the winner in a 14-minute contest. Robert Rice (1989 Honda Accord) finished third, six seconds off the lead, with DeFazio fourth, 13 seconds back. Gabriella Hansen was fifth, 32-seconds from the lead. Jonathan DeStefano was sixth (-43 seconds) and the last driver on the lead lap with 23 of 34 cars still racing at the 9:39 pm checkered flag.
Altman, Rick Diaz, Bandolero driver Ricky Schlick, 14, and first timer racer Sean Brennan, 22-year old son of ex-KTST one-time feature winner Paul Brennan, completed the top ten; P. 7-10 were a lap down. Brennan's gold 1998 Toyota Camry had 311,800 miles on the odometer. He said he bought it for $100 from a wrecking yard after it had received some minor front end damage in an accident recently. Drivers came from the ranks of super truck, mini stock, Figure 8, Bandolero and demolition derbies. Others came out of the grandstand to have some low-cost racing fun. Some drivers even had sponsorships on their skid plate rides. No experience was required and 18 of the 34 drivers participated in a 4:15 pm practice session of eight laps. Cars are available to rent from TS@I skid plate originator Robert Rice and from S & J Towing. Participating makes/models included: Kia Spectra, Acura, Nissan 200SX, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Buick Century, Saturn, Chrysler Sirius, Ford Escort and Ford Tempo. Low Budget TV announcers Tommy Mason and Jeffrey Best (the track infield PA announcer) participated but finished out of the top 20. Top ten positions on the scoring pylon changed every lap throughout the race. Winner Dien, a skid plate veteran, was overjoyed with his first victory. He climbed onto his car and saluted fans enthusiastically. Runner-up Peterson ran the fastest lap of the race at 33.095 (36.223 mph) on lap 16. Dien set the next fastest race lap of 33.353 (35.943 mph) on lap 15. De Fazio ran the third quickest lap of 33.408 (35.884mph) on lap 11 while leading by one length over Dien.
The next TS@I races will occur on the Thanksgiving weekend. The USAC Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix on Thursday, November 24 with USAC Sprints and Ford Focus Midgets also on the card. The second annual Canidae California Classic for SLM and late models will be held Saturday, November 26.