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NASCAR NIGHT, SURPRISES & RECORDS at IRWINDALE

NASCAR NIGHT, SURPRISES & RECORDS at IRWINDALE
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Irwindale, CA., Jul. 10 – It was a regular second Saturday of the month NASCAR Night at Irwindale Speedway. However, the July 10 event (second of three consecutive Saturday races) had surprises and records in store for about 2,000 spectators in the house on a mid-80s evening. The seven division program used both the half and third-mile ovals and the six-turn “r-oval” for a pair of enduro mains.

There were two late model and two enduro features, plus one feature each mini stocks, INEX Legends, street stocks, and a combined spec late models and trucks 40-lap main with six cars and six trucks competing for separate victories. Two preliminary main events raced between 5:00 and 5:40 pm. INEX Bandolero cars, which last raced at IS in 2017, had a nine-car field and raced 20-lap mains Friday at 8:00 pm during the open practice session and shortly after 5:00 Saturday.

The first enduro main concluded at 5:35 and allowed fans to come onto the front straight for a 45-minute autograph session with all drivers and racing vehicles parked on the frontstretch. It was the second on-track autograph session since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, 2020. All 80 racers present participated. Opening ceremonies started at 6:45 and the first late model main followed at 7:00.

Trevor Huddleston, a three-time (2015-17) Irwindale and NASCAR California State Champion and current ARCA Menards West driver, won both 35-lap LKQ Pick Your Part late model features . The twin triumphs moved the 25-year old third generation racer from second to first on the list of all-time IS main event victories. He now has 68 to 67 for long-time wins leader Rip Michels, a five-time IS champion (2000 modifieds) and super late models (2002-03,07 and 13). Michels sold his car and became a crew chief for other teams.

Huddleston, the fastest qualifier in an 11-car field, started on the pole and led all 35 laps in the first race at 7:10. He started seventh in the second 35 after the first eight cars were inverted by finishing positions and the pole driver elected to start last. He led the final 25 laps in the second race, which had a red flag delay of 17-minutes to clean oil from the first and second turns after second-running Ryan Schartau blew a hole in the block of his contending Kevin Bowles Chevy. As a result, the final race concluded at 10:14. Huddleston, in his post race interview, thanked his entire family.

LM RECAP: The first 35 finish was: Huddleston, Jake Drew, Schartau, Nick Joanides, and Cassidy Hinds, 17, from Arvada, CO, a recent late model winner at Roseville. Ten drivers completed all 35 laps. Huddleston's 92.942 mph was the fastest lap. The second 35 finish was: Huddleston, Cody Kiemele, 15, Drew, female driver Hinds, and point leader Dean Thompson, a HPR Chevy teammate of Huddleston and Drew. Ten of 11 starters finished on the lead lap. Huddleston's 91.496 mph was the quickest lap.

The big surprise of the evening was the unexpected return behind the wheel of Ryan Partridge, a four-tine IS champion (two in trucks and two in late models from 2010-14). Partridge, 33, last raced for points during 2019 in the NASCAR K & N West Series when he drove Bob Bruncati's No. 9 Ford to a victory in Tucson. It was his fifth triumph in that touring series. He got married, put his own modified for sale, and became the crew chief/spotter for Dean Thompson's No. 51 HPR Chevy team at IS and in the ARCA Menards West touring series.

Spec late model owner/driver Kenny Smith contacted Partridge in the pits Saturday saying his No. 43 (wrecked two months ago) was repaired and ready to race. Smith, injured driving the Joe Nava's No. 77 spec late model last month, did not have written medical clearance to race so he offered his car to Partridge. That meant he would be competing against his 31-year old brother Andy, the spec late model point leader after winning three of the four 2021 features. Ryan set the fastest qualifying time in his new ride just beating Andy. Will Browne, 17, was the fastest truck qualifier. They started in rows two through four along with truck point leader Andrew Porter. Dean Thompson served as Ryan's spotter in a switch of roles.

With six trucks and six spec late models going 40-laps on the half-mile, pole starter Jacob McNeil, 24, led the first six laps. Ryan moved from his seventh starting slot to second by lap 5. He executed an inside pass leaving turn four on lap 7 and led the final 34 laps. Brother Andy took second from McNeil on lap 19 and closed to within five yards of Ryan on lap 35, but Ryan pulled away and won by ten yards (1.129 seconds). It was Ryan's 61st feature victory at IS in various truck and car divisions. He currently ranks fourth on the list of IS most productive feature winners.

Runner-up Andy P edged McNeil by 0.852. Truck point leader Porter was on McNeil's bumper from lap 19 to the finish, but third place McNeil held on for his first career feature victory and joined the ranks of new IS winners. He added 50 points to his 2021 total. Porter, who won all four prior truck mains this season, beat veteran trucker Dennis Arena for fourth. Eleven of 12 starters finished with nine on the lead serial. Ryan P turned the fastest lap of 87.694 mph.

Following the truck/spec late model race the finish line interview area was crowded with celebrants. Both Partridge brothers spoke as did winning car owner Smith who was joined by his grandson A. Porter. Emotional truck winner J. McNeil (P. 3 overall) was almost overcome by the realization he had won his first main event. The McNeil clan, including his late model racer/older brother Lucas, celebrated with him. Infield announcer / promoter Tim Huddleston interviewed them on the pit mic and gave each a chance to address fans.

The INEX Bandolero field of nine had eight cars start both Friday and Saturday and they ran 20-laps on the third-mile. Ages of drivers ranged from 11 to 22. Drivers drew for their Friday starting positions. Chase Burgeson, 14, led laps 4-20 Friday and edged Matthew Davey, 22, from Cornelius, N.C, by 0.978 in a 9:56.363 event.

Saturday had fastest qualifier Davey, a former So Cal resident who raced Bandos at IS from 2009-11, led all 20 laps after starting on pole as quickest qualifier. Rookie Joe Kenley, 12, from Madera, started last in the No. 23 ex-Ryan Vargas 2014 IS championship car, that the Vargas family just sold this week.The 11-minute Bando race had two caution flags for a pair of two-car spinouts Konner Karston, 15, Stephen Bazen, 11, and Burgeson completed the top five with all eight starters on the lead lap.

(Note: Vargas has been racing the No. 6 Camaro for Johnny Davis in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for two years. On Saturday afternoon at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Speedway the popular driver, who raced from Bandoleros to late models at IS and has 19 IS feature victories, had a strong run in the Atlanta 250. He started 32nd in a 40-car field and finished 14th, with 30 cars on the lead lap – L 164. Vargas, only 20, has started 16 of 18 races and ranks 24th among all NXS drivers with 185 points. He ranks third in rookie points with 15 races remaining.)

In the one-lap new track record department, former non-wing 410 cu. in sprint car driver Rodney Argo, from Gardena, set a NTR in his No. 9 Honda Prelude. His 22.814 (78.899 mph) eclipsed the 23.190 (77.620 mph) circuit best on the six-turn r-oval by Bobby Ozman on May 8, 2021. Ozman drove his No. 18 Acura Integra to the sport class (OHC) victory in the first enduro main. John Beard started his Honda Accord fourth, passed early leader Robert Rice on lap 9 and led through the lap 20 checkers for his fourth stock class win this year. Ozman won his fourth main this season in the second enduro, a 30-lapper. Rice started his Honda Accord on pole and led every lap for the stock class victory. It was his 63rd feature victory at IS, third most since the speedway opened in March 1999.

THIRD-MILE MAINS:

Mini Stocks: Ten minis (nine Ford Pintos and one Toyota mini truck) raced 25 laps. Owner/driver Jim Mardis started last in his No. 51 Pinto and became the third race leader on lap 20. He won by 1.084 over Joe Perez (the lap 7-19 leader) with fast timer David Heustesberg third, 2.128 back. Brandon Snow led six laps but was one of two non-finishers. The all-green race took 7:30.967 and averaged 66.457 mph. The No. 51 has won all three mini stock mains at IS this season with three different drivers. James Teeten, 19, and Austin Edwards, 16, won the first two races.

Legends: A season-high 16 cars raced 35 laps with an eight-car inverted starting lineup based on qualifying times. Fourth starter Christian Bazen, 16, became the third leader on lap 10 and won by 1.213 over laps 2-9 leaderTyler Hicks. It was his third win in five 2021 races. Chad Schug, Las Vegan Jovan Fox, and first lap leader Mike Vanderlip completed the top five. Jimmy Smith and 14-year old rookie Gavin Ray, from Las Vegas, also completed 35 laps in P. 6-7 with 14 cars still on track. Ray Casey, 65, from Delhi (north of Modesto), made his first visit to IS, started 15th and finished ninth.

Street Stocks: Six street stocks used a fully inverted starting lineup based on qualifying speeds. Fast timer Craig Rayburn drove his No. 18 Camaro into the lead on lap 9 and led the final 22 laps. It was his fourth win in five IS races this season. A DQ for jumping a restart cost him one victory. Tyler Gallup's Camaro and Jim Vermillion's 1988 Chevy Monte Carlo completed the top three. Robbie Harryman and Jay Verduzco followed. Kevin James' Camaro crossed the finish line third but he was placed last in the official finish because of a mechanical infraction found during routine post-race tech inspection.

Saturday, July 17 will be the next touring Spears Mfg tripleheader with super late models, modifieds and pro late models. Another mini-van destruction derby and aerial fireworks show will make the event a must-see race date for fans of stock car racing and Night of Destruction mayhem.