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RACING SCENE: Irwindale New LM Champ and Two Amazing Feature Winners

RACING SCENE: Irwindale New LM Champ and Two Amazing Feature Winners
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Irwindale Speedway presented its 15th racing program of 2019 September 14 with an eight-event night on the half and third-miles. Two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model 35-lap features resulted in victories for three-time (2015-17) Irwindale and California champion Trevor Huddleston, 23, who won seven of the 18 features. He was not present three nights (six races) because of race date conflicts with the NASCAR K & N West Series. He ranks second in points after 11 of 14 scheduled K & N West races.


Blaine Perkins, 19, won his first NASCAR late model track championship by 36-points after winning four of 18 main events. The Bakersfield resident also claimed the Whelen California championship. He drove last season's championship car, a Victory Circle chassis Four Star Fruit / Auto Park It No. 21 Chevy. Car owner Christopher Alan is the father of Irwindale's 2018 late model champion, Lawless Alan., also 19. This season Lawless attended the University of Alabama and raced as a rookie in the SCCA Trans Am TA2 series.


Lawless drove the Auto Park It No. 52 Ford Mustang owned by Mike Cope and sponsored by his father. He raced ten races at famous courses - Sebring, Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, Detroit Belle Isle street circuit, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Mid-Ohio, Elkhart Lake, Wis. Watkins Glen, and Virginia International Raceway. His final two races will be at Circuit of the Americas--Austin, Texas and Daytona Beach.


Lawless usually qualified and finished in the top ten on the lead lap with SCCA TA2 fields in the mid-20s. His best finish (4th) came in August at IMS. He currently is the leading TA2 rookie and ranks fifth in overall point standings. He was in the Irwindale pits to watch Perkins win his 2019 title in the Alan car that he raced as No. 25 to the IS 2018 championship.


Irwindale's late model points runner-up is series rookie Jace Jones, son of versatile racer P. J. and grandson of 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones. He won his first series 35-lap main August 31 in a 12-car field. At 14 years, six months, Jones became the youngest late model winner in IS history and won rookie of the year honors. He drove the same Racecar Factory-built HPR No. 55 Chevy that his brother, Jagger, drove as a rookie two years ago.


FINAL POINTS: Late model final points showed the top seven (with points in parenthesis) as: 1-Perkins (828), 2-Jones (792), 3-Nick Joanides (762), 4-Ryan Vargas (746), 5-Dean Thompson (714), 6-Lucas McNeil (708), and 7-Huddleston (646). Eight drivers won the 18 main events this year. Huddleston and Perkins led with seven and four respectively. Vargas won twice. Joanides,Thompson, Jones, Ryan Schartau and Christian McGhee each won one feature.


Irwindale presented a combined spec late model / race truck 40-lap feature on the half-mile and an INEX Legend Car feature on the third-mile. Both races produced surprise, first-time winners. Other mains were for four-cylinder enduro cars, and super stocks on the third-mile. An auto soccer 18-minute match in the infield with two four-car teams had a final score of 5-0.


Amazing first-time winners came first in a 35-lap legends main. Rookie Jake Bollman, 12, won his first legends feature in a replica 1934 Ford coupe (with a neon-green No. 71). He became the youngest legend car winner in track history in a car owned by his parents. It was just his fifth race at IS in the five-eighths scale, tube frame, 120 HP, motorcycle engine powered race car.


Bollman started racing nine years ago in a go-kart and was a 2018 J-1 and J-2 karting champion. He also was a Bandolero cars champion at Orange Show Speedway (San Bernardino). He raced in the Lucas Oil road racing series in 2016. This year he has raced at the third-mile paved Madera Speedway in the MAVTV nationally-televised Junior Late Model Series for drivers ages 12-16. His goal is to become a professional racing driver.


In a nine-car field, Bollman, from Huntington Beach, was the third fastest qualifier. He started fifth and was the third and final leader on lap 31 of 35. He passed leader Jaron Giannini, from Las Vegas, on lap 29, but a caution flag negated that pass. He beat Giannini, 14, and three-time track legends champion Chad Schug. Bollman now ranks fifth in IS series points despite missing the first two of seven 2019 races because he did not reach the minimum age (12) until April 22.


The second amazing feature winner was Giovanni Scelzi, 17, from Fresno. The brother of Dominic and younger son of four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi made his first paved track and first stock car start a main event winning effort. He raced a spec late model in a 40-lap feature on Irwindale's half-mile. The 410 and 360 ci Chevy winged sprint car dirt track driver competes nationally with the World of Outlaws, All-Stars Circuit of Champions and others.


Last year Gio became the youngest ever WoO sprint car feature winner at 16 years and ten months. On Friday, September 28, 2018 Gio drove his No. 71 sprinter to that historic victory at the half-mile Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA. His brother Dominic won a WoO sprint car feature in his No. 41 at the half-mile in Knoxville, IA on Friday, August 10, 2018.


Gio competed at IS in a 15-vehicle field (nine cars and six trucks) on the progressively-banked half-mile. Both series use the same crate GM spec 602 engine and have similar lap times. In April 2019 track officials merged them into one competitive race with separate points. Gio practiced Thursday and Friday nights during regular open-practice sessions. He logged about 150 laps and learned to adjust his driving techniques from dirt to asphalt. It also was his first experience with a spotter in his ear.


Gio started seventh and was tenth on lap 5. He was eighth two laps later, seventh on lap 10, fifth on lap 13, and fourth after a lap 14 caution flag. He was the leading car behind three trucks driven by veteran drivers. On lap 20 Gio passed two trucks on the same lap and moved to second overall, only ten yards in back of race leader Andrew Porter, 25. Porter and Scelzi battled evenly for six laps with Porter outside and challenger Scelzi inside.


On lap 27, Szelzi took the lead from Porter after truck series point leader Lucas McNeil made the race a three-way battle. Scelzi (aboard the No. 50 RCF-built HPR team Chevy owned by IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston) opened a ten-yard advantage over P. 2 McNeil by the lap 40 checkers and won by .830. Jagger Jones, 17, took third from Porter on lap 38. The top three cars were: Scelzi, Jones and reigning series champion Kenny Smith, 72. The top three truckers were L. McNeil, Porter and Jacob McNeil; 14 of 15 starters finished.


Gio called stock car team owner, IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston two weeks earlier and said he would like to become a NASCAR driver. They worked out a deal for Gio to drive his spec late model (formerly called S2 cars). During his post-race, on-track interview, Gio told the estimated 2,000 spectators, “Thanks to my spotter. He walked me through it. I'd like to come back here and race more.” He will have one more opportunity to race a spec late model this season on October 12—the season finale for the class.ti


Track management recently revised the 2019 season schedule to allow the use of Irwindale Speedway as a site for a new Universal Pictures action movie--Fast and Furious 9 starring Vin Diesel. Release date is May 22, 2020. Filming is currently underway in Edinburgh, Scotland. Filming dates at IS will be October 22 through November 2. Older race cars, including Charlie Utts No. 66, have been purchased by the film producer. Current IS racers have been hired as extras for the movie and some for speaking roles.