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Gone Racin' To the Irwindale Dragstrip - 2005

Gone Racin' To the Irwindale Dragstrip - 2005


Gone Racin' To the Irwindale Dragstrip
Irwindale Speedway has recently opened an eighth mile dragstrip. I wasn't certain that an eighth mile race would stand up to the standard quarter mile drag race that I had become accustomed to, but it was worth a trip out there to see. What I found changed my biases, for Irwindale has brought back the racing that I remembered as a youth. The prices are reasonable, with admission being $10 for adults, half that for children, and $20 to register a driver and car to race. The racers said that they get at least six trips down the track at each event, and sometimes twice that, in comparison to some strips where they are lucky to get in only one or two runs down the track. The facility has the feel of an old track, with the excitement of yesteryear, though the concrete launchpad is fresh, the aluminum stands are brand new, and the whole area is well designed. The restrooms are permanent, clean and spacious. The layout of the track runs East to West, though I didn't notice any problem with the sun affecting the drivers. The concrete barriers and chainlink fencing provided security but did not seem overly intrusive. There wasn't a bad seat in the place and you felt that you were close enough to see everything without getting in the way.
There is a snack bar trailer that appeared to be rather small, but as I looked closer I could see that it was more than adequate. I spoke to the manager, Kristine Perez, who told me that she has five people on duty and that they can serve over a thousand customers from their location. Bill Weslanski and Jesse Pinon, longtime customers suggested I try the food, which I did, and it is very good. Burgers, fries and drinks run around six dollars. There are concrete tables and chairs to eat at and a lawn nearby to let small children sit or play. The parking area and the pits are close to the track, situated between the eating area and the stands. Lighting areas in the pits and along the track allow for some great night racing. The staging lanes are constantly full of long lines of cars, trucks, motorcycles and Junior Dragsters, but the officials keep the cars moving at a steady clip. The Race officials in the tower keep track of various problems and show a professionalism that you usually see at the Nationals. Listening to Jim and John Partridge announce the race brings back memories of the days when their father, Bernie, used to announce the races for NHRA. J.D. and Dale Partridge, 3rd generation of the Partridge family, also work at the track.

On Thursdays, Arnie Spanier broadcasts his show live from the tower on 1150AM Talk Radio, with Melanie Neece producing for Fox Sports. The Junior Dragsters were represented by Jack Belli, age 11, who has been driving his car for three years and won the inaugural race at Irwindale in his division. Ricky Weston won the Jr Dragster championship at Pomona in 2000, and went 71mph at Irwindale. Bobby Mirizio was driving Lisa Tuttle's "Extreme Madness." The Verlingo family was represented by Nicholas in "Who's next" at 8.90/75mph, Kendra in "Hottie" at 7.90/84mph, Matthew in "Alien Invasion" at 12.90/51mph and Anthony in "The Verlingo Special" at 12.90/51mph. Angelo, the father of the clan races a '68 Nova. Howard King went 8.18/82mph in his Chevy truck, while his father, Don drove the Buick Skylark to a 9.20/77mph clocking. Don watched all his family drive the Skylark and now, he says, it's his turn. The motorcycles had their contingent as well. Jason MacDonald ran his Honda CBR900RR to a time of 7.60/99mph, Alex Morales ran a 7.47/100mph in his'99 Honda 929RR, and Scott Rousseau did 7.90/81.78mph in an experimental Silver toned 2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Inaugural Bike.

I spoke to Bob Defazio, Manager for Irwindale Speedway, and he says that he is quite pleased with the new Dragstrip. They are attracting about 180 entries and up to 800 spectators at the races, and the growth is steady. Complaints from the surrounding communities, intense at first, has quieted down as residents have found that their fears were unfounded. Defazio went on to say that the state of the art facility, near the junction of the 210 and 605 Freeways, makes for an ideal location for drag racing. Jim Partridge, the Dragstrip manager, along with Doug Stokes, the Media Director, pointed out the programs that they have developed with the local Police Departments to encourage young people to use the dragstrip and not the streets for racing. Jim also allows people to be creative, though in a safe environment. I saw passengers belted up and going down the course with the driver. Some had dummies strapped in the seats, while others had photos of their heroes taped to the windows. This is drag racing the way I remembered it, and I was more than surprised by how much fun everyone was having. Irwindale runs the Dragstrip nearly every Thursday and Sunday. See you there.

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