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IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY NASCAR NIGHT

IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY NASCAR NIGHT
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Irwindale Speedway's NASCAR night Saturday offered the usual LKQ Pick Your Part NASCAR late model twin-35-lap features. They opened and closed the six main event program in front of about 3,000 spectators. Winners were Bakersfield resident Blaine Perkins, 19, in the 16-car opening late model race. Trevor Huddleston, 22, took the closer in a 15-car field.

It was the third IS late model feature victory for Perkins, who remains the youngest driver to ever win a main event on Irwindale's half-mile. At age 14 during his rookie season, Perkins drove a HPR No. 55 late model to victory in one of two 30-lap mains on September 27, 2014. He took the youngest winner honor from teammate Ryan Cansdale, who won a main a month earlier in a HPR Chevy.

Perkins won his second Irwindale feature on March 24, 2018 in a HPR No. 51 Chevy. The ambitious teen has taken his talent on the road for the last three years and raced in every 2016 and 2017 NASCAR K & N West Series event. Last year he raced the Midwest-based No. 78 stock car in the ARCA Series to advance his career. At IS he now drives a second Lawless Alan family car sponsored by their “AutoYouLockIt” parking business.

Huddleston's third victory this season was his second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series. He drove the HPR No. 50 Chevy owned by his father Tim, an IS co-promoter. His other victory on March 30 came aboard the K & N West touring series No. 9 Ford owned by Bob Bruncati, also a co-promoter at IS. Huddleston's 46th feature victory at IS moved him into sole possession of fourth place on the list of all-time main event winners at the 20-year old speedway. Active driver Nick Joanides, with 54 triumphs, lies ahead in third place.

New this week was the first combining of two divisions into one main event with winners in each class. Separate points are awarded in both divisions. The You Race LA Spec Late Models (former S2 cars) had six cars present. Lucas Oil Irwindale Race Trucks had five trucks. Both racing divisions had comparable qualifying times (20.193 cars and 20.317 trucks). Officials merged the two fields into one race and lengthened the distance to 40-laps from 20 laps for cars and 35 laps for trucks. The result was a fan-pleasing, competitive race all 40 laps with vehicles from both divisions in the mix for victory.

Fastest qualifiers in both divisions started in the front row and waged a stirring duel with three trucks and two cars in a tight pack most of the race. Lucas McNeil, the 2018 IRT champion, led all 40 laps. Andrew Porter took second from fellow truck racer Dennis Arena on lap 27 and they finished in that order. Porter trailed winner McNeil by 0.330.

Reigning Spec Late Model champion Kenny Smith,72, ran a close fourth for the final 39 laps and finished in a tight P. 3-4-5 pack that was separated by only 0.421. Smith's wife of 54 years (Mary Lou) was re-admitted earlier in the week to the City of Hope in nearby Duarte for cancer treatment. He followed her wishes and competed. Smith raced closely with his grandson Porter, 24, and earned 50-points in the Spec Late Model division. McNeil scored 50-points in his truck.

“Awesome” Andy Partridge, younger brother of 60-time Irwindale feature winner “Flyin” Ryan Partridge, raced for the first time on the half-mile. He had Ryan, the chief driving instructor at the track's You Race LA school, as his spotter on the roof. Andy, a former third-mile enduro car driver, was most impressive. He started sixth and ran fifth in a five-car lead pack all the way. Last summer Andy stopped breathing in the pits after receiving an electrical shock in a race car hauler. Brother Ryan used CPR and revived him quickly, saving his life.

On lap 37 rookie Andy, driving the No. 21 Racecar Factory-built car, made a three-wide pass of Smith and Arena in turn two and briefly moved into third place. He earned fifth position overall and second in the Spec Late Model class. “That was way too much fun. I didn't know I'd be that fast,” he told the crowd over the mic during a PA interview. He said he has been around IS since 2004 and has worked on the IS racing school cars for ten years alongside his brother Ryan, the runner-up for the 2018 NASCAR K & N West driving championship.

The combined car/truck main event was the most entertaining race of the night. It had 11 starters and ten finishers, all on the lead lap. The all-green flag race took 13:55.215 and averaged 86.205 mph. Winner McNeil ran the fastest lap of 88.274 mph.

FIRST LM 35: Fastest qualifier Lawless Alan, the 2018 series Irwindale and California champion, returned home from his engineering studies at the University of Alabama, and started from pole position. The 19-year old from Sherman Oaks led the first 13 laps over his Alan Racing teammate/third starter Perkins. On a two-by-two lap 14 restart, Perkins made an outside pass exiting turn four, led the final 22 laps and won by 1.603.

NASCAR K & N East 2018 driver Ryan Vargas, an IS feature winner last month, started fourth. He passed Alan on lap 21 and kept P. 2 to the finish line. Rookie Jace Jones, from Scottsdale, AZ, blew the engine of his HPR No. 55 and did not get to qualify. He started last (16th) with a replacement engine and raced into third place on lap 26 by passing Alan inside in the fourth turn. He trailed the winner by 1.853. Alan (-4.348) and Nick Joanides (-4.395) completed the top five.

Huddleston started fifth and finished sixth (-4.849) with 13 of 16 starters racing at the finish. Twelve drivers completed all 35 laps. Dylan Garner, Andy Allen, P. J. Hernandez and Rodney Peacher, 70, completed the top ten. The race had one yellow flag and one lengthy red flag after the HPR No. 51 driven by Dean Thompson, 19, spun into the third turn wall on lap 19. The Anaheim Hills resident (not related to the late CRA multi-champion sprint car driver with the same name) was unhurt. He raced a backup car in the second feature. Vargas ran the fastest lap of 92.336 mph.

SECOND LM 35: Fifteen cars started the second late model 35 at 9:18 pm with the first ten starters inverted by their finishing positions in the first 35. On the second lap, cars in P. 2-4 entered the third turn three-wide with P. 2 Peacher in the middle, with Hernandez and Alan alongside. Contact sent the cars of Hernandez and Alan hard into the crashwall. Hernandez, 32, received a back injury and was taken by ambulance to LA County-USC Hospital in Los Angeles for medical evaluation.

An examining doctor told the military veteran that his safety equipment helped him avoid serious injury, but he will be sore indefinitely. His Facebook page said his car, which is dedicated to two military support organizations, was destroyed. A 27-minute red flag was necessary to remove Hernandez cautiously from his car and for track cleanup.

Huddleston had shot from inside row three on lap 1 and led all 35 laps in his HPR No. 50 RCF-built Chevy. Vargas, 18, came from ninth sltarting slot, chased the winner all 35 laps and trailed by 15-yards (-0.936). Rookie Jace Jones, grandson of Parnelli Jones and son of P. J. Jones, started eighth and took third on the lap 2 side-by-side restart. His HPR No. 55 Chevy trailed the winner by 2.352 seconds.

Tenth starter Perkins ran fourth from lap 5 to the finish. Joanides, Spears SRL driver A. Allen, truck champion McNeil and Garner also completed all 35 laps in P. 5-8 at the 9:57 pm checkered flag. Huddleston's 91.940 mph was the quickest lap. Huddleston expects to miss three IS 2019 race dates (six main events) because of race date conflicts with his NASCAR K & N West primary racing duties.

The other three main events Saturday for legend cars, super stocks and four-cylinder enduro sedans took place on the third-mile oval.

LEGENDS 35: Ten INEX Legend Cars raced 35 laps with five-time track champion Darren Amidon starting fifth and leading laps 24-35. It was his 38th Irwindale feature triumph--eighth most on the list of IS winners. Ricky Schlick led the first 23 laps. Fastest qualifier Christian McGhee, a Spears SWT super late model driver in recent seasons, passed Schlick near the conclusion for second position. He trailed Amidon by five yards (-0.693). Schlick followed, 2.638 seconds back. Tyler Hicks and Chad Schug followed with all ten cars racing at the finish of a 9:39.185 all green-flag race. McGhee ran the fastest lap of 73.700 mph.

Progressive Paint Super Stocks 25: Fast timer Rich DeLong III started fifth and led all but the first lap. He beat his brother Jason DeLong, also in a Chevy SS, by 6.211 seconds. Jerry Toporek was the only other lead lap driver at the conclusion. Mark Whitson and lap 1 leader Harry Michaelian ran 34 laps for P. 4-5. The all-green race took 7:04.843. The winner ran the quickest lap of 72.906 mph.

Tucker Tire Enduro 25: Seventeen four-cylinder enduro sedans lined up on the grid of a five-turn “roval” that had a cone-marked jog onto the half-mile at the start/finish line. The first five rows had lower power sedans and the back rows contained all of the more powerful “sport” class enduros. This year there are race winners from each class and separate points are compiled for enduros and sport enduros.

Eddie Howell, of Carson, started from pole position in the No. 19 ex-Rodney Argo Honda Accord and led all 25 laps. Robert Rice, Jr. and Dewitt Jones Honda Accords followed. The first sport class finisher was Bory Molina, who came from 15th starting spot to fourth overall in his Toyota Celica. Rodney Argo came from last in his sport class Honda Prelude to earn fifth overall and second in the sport class points. Bobby Ozman started tenth and finished sixth overall and third in the sport class. The all-green light enduro race took 8:15.743. Fourteen of 16 starters were racing at the finish with 12 cars on the lead lap.

Racing at the Irwindale Speedway oval track will be on hiatus until Saturday, May 11 when another second Saturday of the month NASCAR race night will be the attraction. The eighth-mile NASCAR Dragstrip 2019 schedule shows race dates of May 4, 5 and 18.