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IRWINDALE 2020 CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT

IRWINDALE 2020 CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT
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IRWINDALE, Calif., Oct. 17 – Seven series raced eight main events totaling 285 laps Saturday at Irwindale Speedway during LKQ-Pick Your Part Championship Night. Five divisions raced with IS track championships on the line. Drivers from four states—California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah—competed. Only competitors were present because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, numerous fans at home watched on SPEEDSPORTNEWS affiliate Irwindale Speedwaytv.com.

NASCAR late models opened and closed the 5:30 to 9:50 pm program. Enduro four-cylinder sedans also raced a pair of 30-lap mains with stock and sport class cars in the same event. One race used a five-turn r-oval and the next used a six-turn r-oval that veered into the backstretch infield. Super late models ran 50-laps on the half-mile.

The penultimate race for touring Southwest Tour Trucks used the half-mile and raced 30-laps. Double points races were run in two local divisions that ran single races. Spec Racers Division for YouRaceLA spec late models and Lucas Oil race trucks in the same event raced on the half-mile. Super stocks also had double points for a 25-lap race on the third-mile.

Following the final checkered flag the track had first-time champions in four of the five divisions. They were:

  > Late models: Dean Thompson, 18, a second year series driver from Anaheim Hills, won aboard the No. 51 HPR Chevy by 38 points over Dylan Garner.

   > Spec Racers: Rookie Jake Drew, 20, a karting racer/instructor from Fullerton, triumphed in the No. 56 HPR Chevy by six points over Andy Partridge.

Andrew Porter, 26, from La Verne, captured his first truck championship in his No. 7 by 28 points over rookie Will Browne, 17.

   > Super Stocks: Robby Harryman, 28, from Anaheim, won by 14 points aboard his No. 11 Camaro.

Those four first-time IS champions joined INEX Legends veteran Tyler Hicks, 25, who won his initial track title last Saturday.

Enduro sedans crowned repeat champions in both classes of the popular entry-level division that awarded track points for the second year.

  > Sport class (double cams) – Bobby Ozman (Acura Integra No. 18) repeated his 2019 title.
  > Stock class (single cam) – Robert Rice (Honda Accord No. 7) won his second track championship.

Two divisions did not decide championships. Super late models raced at IS for only the third time during this abbreviated season. Six SLM drivers did not race for track points. They logged 50 all-green laps in 15-minutes as the seventh of eight features. Fastest qualifier Jimmy Parker, 34, stated last and led the final 40 laps in the Senneker chassis, Tom Clift-owned No. 92 from Las Vegas. It was only his fourth race at IS and second since 2010. The winner averaged 97.830 mph. Christian McGhee recorded the fastest lap--99.839 mph.

Parker, the 2018 LVMS Bullring SLM champion, who finished a close second to Dylan Lupton in the IS SLM 50-lapper a month ago, won by half a straight (2.916 seconds) over second fastest qualifier McGhee. Lupton was absent because he raced a NASCAR truck earlier Saturday in the Kansas Speedway 200 and finished fourth. Andy Allen and 16-time IS feature winner Rod Johnson, Sr. also completed 50 laps.

Johnson won the inaugural IS season SLM championship in 1999. He said he had not raced a SLM since 2007 and last raced in a modified during 2010. He drove the No. 15 Clay Wooster Chevy that his son Rod, Jr. last raced at IS this summer. Rod, Jr. said he wanted to be the crew chief for his dad this week. Despite finishing only 16-seconds behind the rapid winner, Rod, Sr. said Rod, Jr. will drive it next time.

So Cal based SWT Trucks, led by owner/driver Jeff Williams, also did not race for track points. Point leader Ron Davis, Jr. started last in his No. 78 Chevy Silverado and became the fourth leader on lap 5. The 41-year old from Whittier beat Steve Reeves to the checkers by 1.740-seconds. Las Vegan Eric Darenburg, Arizonan Curtis Burns and Utah's Parker Jones, 17, also completed all 30 laps.

The SWTT race was red flagged for 12-minutes on lap 6. A collision involving teenager Jones and Bakersfield's Dallas Leininger sent the latter's No. 8 Mike Kelperis Chevy into the third turn crash-wall. He exited without injury. The heavily damaged truck was towed to the pits. Davis will take a large point- lead into the series final race this season on November 14 at Havasu 95 Speedway in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

LATE MODELS 1st 35: Trevor Huddleston, 24, set quick time during 3:30 single car qualifying for 11 cars and earned pole position. He led all 35 laps and beat past series track champiop Nick Joanides by 15-yards. Point leader Thompson was third. Lucas McNeil and Dylan Garner completed the top five. Eight of 11 starters completed all 35 laps.

LATE MODELS 2nd 35: The first five finishers from race one were inverted for race two. McNeil led the first five laps. On lap 6 Huddleston shot to the inside in turn four and took command for good. It was his 61st feature victory at IS, second most in the track's 20 years. Runner-up Joanides trailed by ten yards in the No. 26 Alec Martinez Chevy. Thompson started and finished third after winning the championship by just starting the second main. Garner and McNeil followed.

Dustin Vandermooren and a lapped car tangled side-by-side at the starting line on lap 26. A deflating RF tire sent his No. 71 Chevy into the first turn crash-wall. He escaped injury, but his car was towed to the pits. Thompson, a two-year teammate of Huddleston, won his first title by 38-points (650-612) over Garner, 21. from Yorba Linda. In the three-driver battle for the 2020 crown, Joanides' 596 points gave him third place.

Huddleston won eight of the 14 IS features this season. With two mains at each of the seven race dates, he missed two race dates (four mains) on August 8 and 22. He was in Oregon and Colorado racing the No. 6 Bob Bruncati Sunrise Ford in NASCAR ARCA West events on those dates. As a result, his 486 points gave him sixth place among 24 drivers with IS points.

SPEC RACERS 50: The race started nine trucks and eight spec late models. The fastest car qualified at 20.227 and the quickest trucker was 20.282. Truck veteran Ken Michaelian led the first six laps from the pole. Fastest trucker/sixth starter Lucas McNeil paced laps 7-16. Fastest spec LM qualifier Drew started seventh and was second by lap 16. A four vehicle minor crash near turn one caused a yellow flag and two-by-two restart. Drew took the lead immediately and led laps 17-50. He extended his lead to half a straightaway by the lap 50 checkers.

Fifth starter/runner-up Andy Partridge, who would win the title (four-points per position) if he could pass Drew, trailed by 2.943 seconds. Partridge, who trailed Drew 288-290 before the race, finished second in points with 384 to 390 for Drew. Partridge and Drew both won three of the seven series races. Reigning champion Kenny Smith, 74, won the season opener on June 13. He finished fourth Saturday and third with 360 points. Andersen's 358 gave him fourth in final points. Enduro grad/spec LM rookie Bory Molina was fifth with 334 points.

Troy Andersen, an enduro sedans grad and second year Spec LM driver of the Jan's Towing No. 99, drove his best race to date. His gas cap came off during qualifying so he started last (17th). Andersen passed Partridge for second position on lap 49, but Partridge retook P. 2 on the final lap. Andersen was third, 3.008 in back of Drew and fourth in final points.

Lucas McNeil, the 2018-19 Irwindale truck champion, brought out his No. 78 truck for the first time in 2020. He set quick time during time trials, started sixth and led laps 7-26 before yielding the point to Drew. McNeil finished fourth in the race and first among truckers. He ended champion Porter's streak of six consecutive feature triumphs in 2020. Porter placed fifth overall and second in trucks. His grandfather, Kenny Smith's No. 43 car followed him across the finish line sixth.

Sixteen of 17 Spec Racer starters finished and 14 completed all 50 laps. Four teenage rookies completed impressive 50-lap runs. Will Browne, 17, started third and raced with the leaders most of the race before settling for P. 8, 10.383 seconds off the lead. He had the third best trucker finish behind P. 4-5 overall McNeil and Porter. Stephen Brucker, 15, started 11th and finished ninth in the No.2 family-owned truck. He placed fourth in truck points. It was only the fourth race in the ex-No. 9 Connor Cantrell No. 9 Chevy for the Legends graduate from Alpine.

A pair of 17-year rookies also deserve kudos. Noah Youngren, from Fallbrook, started his first-ever IS race 16th in Robert Arevalo's No. 19 spec LM and finished tenth (11 seconds from the lead) in his debut. His father--retired late model driver Scott Youngren--advised him in the pits. Dylan Interlicchia, from Oak Hills, drove the No. 5 spec LM that his dad bought from Arevalo last month. He started 14th and finished 13th, 18 seconds in back of the winner in just his second race.

ENDURO 1st 30: A season-high 21 cars (ten stock and 11 sport sedans) started. Rice led ten laps and ex-410 sprint car racer Rodney Argo led laps 11-30 in his 1999 Honda Prelude. He won by a straightaway, 5.536 seconds. Sport class point leader Ozman placed second. Rice finished sixth overall and first in the stock class. Twenty of 21 starters finished with 13 on the lead lap.

ENDURO 2nd 30: Robbie Salcido led laps 1-5 from pole and finished fourth in his stock Honda Accord for 50 P. 1 stock class points. Ian Rotundo started 11th and led laps 6-26 and 28-30 for his second sport class victory aboard his Acura Integra. Sport class drivers Molina and Ozman placed second and third. Argo led lap 27 but slipped to fifth place. The 12-minute, all-green race averaged 71.760 mph with 19 of 21 starters on the track and seven on the lead lap.

Ozman won two of 14 races during the seven race dates. He tallied 644 points and beat sport class runner-up Rick Conti by 58 points. Argo placed third with 580 points. He had a mechanical problem and did not start the second main on July 11. Rice, from Hawthorne, won six of the 14 stock class races and scored 668 points to win by 74 points over John Beard, from Chatsworth. Salcido missed one race date and ran 12 races. He won three times and was third with 558 points.

SUPER STOCKS: Entering the double-points finale three drivers were title-contenders. Two-time series champion Bryan Harrell had 284 points, Harryman had 276 and three-time SS champion DeLong III had 274. The race was scheduled for 35 laps but officials shortened it to 25 laps after a 21-minute red flag for a two-car crash on lap 20. Eleven cars started and eight finished every lap.

Two of the retirees were title-contenders Harrell and De Long III, who crashed hard together into the turn one crashwall on lap 20. Both cars were sidelined but the drivers were uninjured. On lap 5 Rich DeLong (father of Rich III) No. 57 Chevy SS hit Harrell's No. 94 Camaro and spun out with him to the infield. Harrell drove to the pits for suspension repairs and returned to the race six laps down. He ran slower laps at the back of the field and tried to earn as many points as possible.

On lap 20 a three car lead pack--Craig Rayburn, DeLong III, and Jim Vermillion--were virtually nose-to-tail. Title contenders DeLong III and Harryman were second and fourth and whoever finished in front would win the championship. Rayburn lapped Harrell starting lap 20. DeLong III went to the outside to pass Harrell entering turn one, Harrell's damaged car turned right and hit DeLong's No. 84 Chevy SS. The impact sent both cars hard into the crash-wall, lifting the wheels of both cars off the pavement briefly.

DeLong III exited his car and angrily confronted Harrell. Eventually both heavily damaged cars were towed to the pits as track workers cleared debris. Younger brother Jason DeLong, in the No. 64 Chevy SS team car, finished sixth. In a precautionary move Irwindale Police were called to maintain order in the pits. Soon several patrol cars with red lights entered the pits and maintained order. DeLong family team members were asked to leave the premises and they complied.

IS Racing Director Mike Atkinson announced on October 21 that the three DeLong drivers and Harrell received no points for the race. Additionally, all four drivers were suspended indefinitely for unsportsmanlike conduct during the October 17 race.

The SS race had four leaders. Rayburn (Camaro) led the final nine laps for his first victory in his three races this season. The 56-year old former late model driver had six prior IS feature victories. Vermillion, in his best IS result, and new champion Harryman followed. Jay Verduzco and Jerry Toporek finished fourth and fifth. Harryman's 368 points gave him the crown. Vermillion (354) placed second.