IRWINDALE, Calif — The second annual Lucas Oil--Candidae Natural Pet Food California Classic presented by Master-Craft Safety closed the 13th Toyota Speedway at Irwindale racing season Saturday with temperatures in the low 60s. Winners of the three long-distance races on the half-mile were Rod Johnson, Jr. in a 100-lap Lucas Oil Slick Mist Super Late Model final point race, Brandon Davis, in a 75-lap open comp late models non-point race, and Ryan Partridge, in a 75-lap super trucks non-point race that opened the evening in front of about 2,000 spectators. RJ, 22, increased his Irwindale career feature victory total to 26 and Partridge, 23, upped his track main event victory total to 27. Both drivers have scored feature triumphs in at least four series. A six-car Drive Tech Racing School late model 20-lap race went to Steve Osborn.
SLM: The final race was a coronation for second generation driver Johnson, from Canyon Country. He won his eighth SLM main in the ten race season and joined his father as an Irwindale SLM champion. Rod, Sr. won the track's first season SLM championship in 1999. Rod, Jr won two SLM features late last year before he started his full season SLM campaign this season. Rod, Jr. accomplished an amazing driving “trifecta” by winning his third consecutive driving championship in the track's three most competitive series. He was the 2009 King Taco Super Truck champion and the 2010 Auto Club Late Model champion as a late model rookie. RJ., Jr. has led the SLM series all year and led September 10 SLM winner Partridge by 24 points (428-404) entering the final race Saturday. With 16 starters all he had to do was finish in P. 13 to win the 2011 SLM championship even if consistent top finisher Partridge won the race and scored 50 points. RJ had the tie-breaker—total victories.
Johnson's car owner is Luis Martinez, Sr., owner of Position One Motorsports and the 22-store King Taco Restaurant chain in Los Angeles and neighboring cities. Martinez said both his race-winning No. 03 Chevy Monte Carlo and the third place No. 30 Monte Carlo driven Saturday by his son Luis, Jr. are now for sale. He is asking $30,000 for the 03 car and $20,000 for the 30 car. Martinez said he bought two new late models from Racecar Factory for 2012 racing at Irwindale. He also said his son Luis, Jr., a K & N Pro Series-West veteran who finished fourth in 2011 final points, is returning to local racing in 2012 for a full-season of Auto Club Late Model competition. The driver of the second Position One ACLM ride will be determined later.
SLM 100 – The 16-car field used a straight-up start with fastest qualifier/point leader Johnson on the pole and SLM title-contender Partridge alongside. RJ led the first 75 laps. At lap 25 Martinez, Jr. engaged Partridge in a battle for second 30-yards in back of fleeing leader RJ. On lap 29 Martinez got loose in turn 2 and pushed up into Partridge, taking second in the process. Partridge came back a lap later and duplicated the bump and run pass for P. 2. At lap 50 crossed flags from the starter the running order was: RJ, Martinez, ninth starter Kevin Thompson, from Conroe, TX, Partridge, past Irwindale ACLM and SLM champion Nick Joanides, driving the Kevin Furden No. 43 for the first time. P 6-10 were: Race Liberante, Corey Neveau, Roseville's Eric Schmitt, Kyle Neveau and Jason Patison. The first eight cars were on the lead lap.
By lap 70 Thompson had dropped Martinez to third position and the Texan passed leader Johnson on lap 76 with an inside move through turns 1 and 2. Johnson kept applying pressure and remained a few lengths back until lap 96 when RJ recaptured the lead with an inside fourth turn move. He pulled away from Thompson gradually during the final four laps and won by ten yards (0.724) over 6' 7” Thompson, the winner of one 2011 feature—the 75-lap race May 7. Thompson held on despite a handling problem and he barely edged a resurgent Martinez for P. 2 by 0.174. Partridge finished fourth, 15 seconds back and the last driver on the lead lap.
Joanides, C. Neveau, Schmitt and Liberante finished in P. 5-8 and all ran 99 laps. K. Neveau was down two laps in P. 10. David Ross was four laps back in Rob Kiemele's No. 48. Other finishers in order were: Billy Mitchell, Gail Chase, Jason Bradshaw and rookie Griffin Steinfeld, 17-year old brother of “True Grit” actress Hailee Steinfeld. He logged 95 laps. Retirees were: Patison (69 laps) and Kenny (Bakersfield) Smith (23 laps). The all-green flag race started at 8:52 pm and concluded racing at 9:24 pm for a possible new track record time of 31:23.053. RJ ran the fastest race lap of 18.288 (98.425 mph) on lap 2. Six other drivers ran fastest laps between 18.305 and 18.406 in the close, competitive field.
TOP 3 QUOTES: Winner RJ stated, “I told these guys even though he got by me I wasn't going to give up. Something must have happened to his car. He slowed down a lot at the end. I turned off all the fans to keep up with him. This was an incredible season. Thanks to all the crew, my family and my beautiful girl friend. Thanks to the race track, Lucas Oil, King Taco and Eibach Springs and all the fans.” ... Runner-up Thompson said, “Something had to break. I though I had the car to win. Congratulations to Rod Johnson on his win and championship.” ... P. 3 Martinez said, “I thought we'd have a better long run car than short run car. But it was fourth in qualifying. My car was tight when I got into the 88 car (Partridge) not on purpose. He came back the next lap and hit my car harder.” Winner Johnson received $4,000. P.2 paid $2,000, with succeeding positions awarding $1,250, $1,000, $750, $500, $450, $400, $350 and $325 to the top ten. Following finishers each received $300.
FINAL SLM POINTS (Top 10) - 1 – Rod Johnson, Jr – 478, 2 – Ryan Partridge – 448, 3 – Race Liberante – 416, 4 – Kevin Thompson – 410, 5 – Kyle Neveau – 334, 6 – Dennis Furden – 328, 7 – Jason Patison – 306, 8 – Jack Madrid – 276, 9 – Andre Prescott – 274, 10 – Jason Bradshaw – 220.
LATE MODEL 75 – A 15-car field used a five-car inverted start based on afternoon qualifying times. FQ Mike Johnson, of Covina, started fifth in his brand new RCF Chevy Monte Carlo. Kyle McGrady, the fifth quickest qualifier, started from the pole and led the first two laps before fourth starter Brandon Davis, the 2011 ACLM track champion, took command for good in the No. 55 High Point Racing ACS Chevy. M. Johnson took P. 2 from McGrady on lap 8. A debris caution took laps 11-14 to clear a body piece off the P. 4 No. 86 Eshleman Racing car driven by Partridge, who raced in all three of the long-distance races. He pitted briefly under caution and returned on the lead lap but in last position. By lap 40, Davis led Johnson by ten yards with P. 3 McGrady half a straightaway back and engaged in a close duel with late model rookie Austin Dyne in the HPR No. 59. Tenth starter Toni Marie McCray was fifth with Partridge, and K. Smith in a three-way battle 20-yards behind them. Dyne took P. 3 on lap 47. McCray and Partridge also passed McGrady a lap later. Partridge took P. 4 on lap 54. A one-car spin on lap 66 caused the third caution flag.
At the lap 67 green, Partridge took third and engaged M. Johnson for second to the lap 75 checkers. Davis beat Johnson by 25 yards (1.532 seconds) for his 11th late model victory in 20 features this season. Partridge was 1.746 in back of the winner. McCray, McGrady, Tim Smith and his brother Kenny followed. K & N-West veteran Michael Self, from Utah, and teenager Andrew Murray (-7.182 seconds) finished in P. 8-9 and were the final drivers on the lead lap. SWT truck champion Jeff Williams and Rodney Peacher ran 74 laps. On lap 71 fifth place Dyne dropped out with a flat tire and earned P. 12. Thirteen of 15 starters finished the 34 minute race. Mike Johnson ran the fastest race lap on lap 4 at 19.045 (94.513 mph) Winner Davis, 26, ran his fastest lap of 19.055 on lap 17. Champion Davis revealed he is moving to North Carolina in 2012 to pursue possible stock car rides in ARCA or the NASCAR K & N Pro Series-East.
TOP 3 QUOTES: Winner Davis addressed the crowd and said, “It was a great year and a lot of fun. First, thanks to my family and my fiancee. Jeff Schrader's Racecar Factory does a great job building these cars.” P. 2 M. Johnson said “This was my first race in my new car and it was fast.” Third finisher Partridge thanked his Dave Eshleman Racing crew for providing his SLM and late mode rides. Partridge finished his three main events first (trucks), third (late models) and fourth (SLM) for a total payoff of $4,500 for his night's work. Winner Davis received $3,000. P. 2 paid $1,000, and succeeding positions paid $600, $500, $400, $350, $300, $250, $225 and $200 went to each driver in positions 10-15.
SUPER TRUCKS 75: With 21 super trucks present, 20 trucks started the first race of the night in the longest super truck race of the year for the most lucrative payoff. The five position inversion put fastest qualifier Connor Cantrell, 21, inside row three. Fifth FQ Ken Michaelian, a truck rookie and 2009-10 classic stock champion, on the pole with veteran Matt Kimball alongside. SLM title-contenders R. J. Johnson, Jr. (in his dad's No. 15 truck) and Ryan Partridge occupied row two. Kimball led the first two laps over Partridge, Michaelian and Cantrell. Partridge took the lead on lap 3 and held it to the end. His No. 48 Steve Latina-owned LA Racing sponsored truck won for the ninth time in 15 races this year. He won by 3.226 seconds in an all green light race with a likely NTR time of 25:26.151. Kimball ran second from laps 3-75 in his final race. His No. 90 truck is for sale for $14,000 and he plans to attend future races as a crew chief/mechanic. R. Johnson took P. 3 from Cantrell by lap 60 and finished third (-3.530 seconds). Michaelian, 22, passed 2011 KTST champion Cantrell for fourth on lap 64 and held it to the end for his best truck finish to date. He was only six seconds off the lead. Cantrell, Todd Cameron, Trick Mintey III, Lucas McNeil, rookie Jason Curtis, and Kenny (Quick Pick Motor-sports) Smith completed the top ten. The first nine finishers completed all 75 laps and 16 of 20 trucks finished. Fastest lap of the race honors went to Partridge on lap 2 at 19.738 (91.195 mph).
QUOTES: Winner Partridge said, “That was a lot of fun. I couldn't believe it was 75 green flag laps. Thanks to my lord and savior Jesus Christ and the entire crew. It was getting warm. It was up to 250 degrees, but I had enough lead so I chilled a bit. Now we have two more races to run.” Runner-up Kimball said it was his final race and he is selling his truck. Winner Partridge received $3,000. P. 2 paid $1,000, and following drivers received $500, $300, $250, $230, $210, $190, $170, and $150 each to all other drivers. Partridge received $4,600 for his busy night's work--$1,000 (SLM P. 4), $600 (LM P. 3), and $3,000 (super truck P. 1).
An added event for Drive Tech Racing School late model students started six cars straight-up by their afternoon qualifying times. Steve Osborn, from Buckeye, AZ, drove the bright green No. 11 Chevy Monte Carlo to the 20-lap triumph, his first. He led all 20 laps and edged second fastest qualifier David Sear, the last Drive Tech race winner at Irwindale on September 24, by 10-yards (0.257). Michael Welch, Eric Reed and Richard Smith followed and all ran 20 laps in a nine-minute event that had one caution flag on lap 17 for a solo spin by Smith. Sear ran the fastest race lap of 20.267 (88.814 mph) on lap 3. Leader Osborn also ran his best lap of 20.341 on lap 3. Current plans call for the 2011 track championship awards dinner and ceremonies to be held at the track on Saturday, December 17 with similar arrangements to the 2010 ceremonies.