Irwindale, Calif. - - Nick Lynch from Burley, Idaho, who drove his American Race Truck to victory in the 50-lap West Coast National Finals feature event at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night, has to be a firm believer in the old racing dictum: "In order to finish first, first one must finish." And all 4,988 fans on hand would very much agree.
They came from all over the western United States, towing from as far as Anchorage, Alaska and as near as Huntington Beach. Forty-one American Race Trucks teams, the absolute cream of the crop, with each pilot and crew planning on driving away from Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night with the title of "West Coast Nationals Champion" and a nice fat winner's check for $2,500.
The ART guys put on a super set of five 15-lap qualifying races on Friday night in front of a small, but enthusiastic crowd of fans who were taking in the action at no charge compliments of the house, and followed up on Saturday night with a great B-main and a spectacular 50-lap main event marked by clean, competitive driving, and a late laps let-down for one very good driver. The regionally-mixed main event podium included ART drivers from Idaho, Las Vegas, and right around the corner in West Covina.
All in all it was a fine weekend of action-packed racing for the highly cost-effective national spec-type truck class; one enjoyed by just over 5,000 fans over the two-day run of racing.
The feature event 50-lap American Race Truck West Coast Nationals started off looking like a (very) fast three-abreast pace lap (but with no pace car!) as all 30 of the colorful pickup-based racing machines roared around the Irwindale ½-mile in tight formation.
Nick Lynch led the first ten laps with Matt Mecum (Katy, Texas), Jim McCoy (Keller, Texas) and Huntington Beach's Steve Shaw in a knot right behind him. But it was the Twin Falls, Idaho-based John Newhouse, who had started the main way back in the tenth position, who really caught everyone's attention as he blasted his way to the front of the pack on lap eleven and then proceeded to pull steadily away for the next thirty-two laps.
The star-crossed Newhouse was well within scent of the victory laurels when his transmission started sending out tiny wisps of tell-tale smoke on the back straight. Almost imperceptible at first and then unmistakable, the growing plume of ugly white smoke put paid to the young Idahoan's dream of National glory.
And so it fell to Nick Lynch, the 18-year old from the southern Idaho city of Burley, who had never ran worse than second all race long, to motor his ART truck six more laps and into Irwindale's illustrious victory square for all the accolades. As we said earlier, this was one of the best, hardest-fought, and cleanest truck races (of any kind) that fans saw all year. With 16 trucks all on the lead lap at the end, racers' and fans' plans are already being made for next year's third edition at the Speedway.
Earlier, on Friday night Robbie Brand put up the fastest qualifying lap (20.712) of all the ART drivers and handily won his 15-lap qualifying heat. But on Saturday the unlucky Brand suffered a catastrophic engine failure in practice and was unable to take his well-earned pole starting position for the all-important main. A true sportsman, Brand didn't just pack it in and get a jump on traffic heading home. The Barstow-based driver stayed on to appear (as advertised) at the pre-race Alta Dena Milk Chugs Autograph Session, meeting the fans and telling one and all that he'd be back (to win) another day.
Lynch won his Friday qualifying race, as did McCoy, Billy Adams of Southlake, Texas, and Steve Shaw. On Saturday night, Lomita's Steve Dyer won the American Race Trucks B-Main event, and Billy Adams won the hotly-contested 6-lap trophy dash.
In the Legends Car main event, it was Jim Smith of Orange, holding off some strong challenges and skillfully driving around some mighty weird backmarker shenanigans to win his division's 30-lapper on the third mile oval.
The Mini-Stockars made their last 2000 season visit to Irwindale staging a rousing race that saw Moreno Valley's perennial champion Troy Decuir victorious once again at the Speedway.
Mitch Wright, from Joshua Tree, went four-for-the-last-four in the Modified Stock Racing Association (MSRA) Pro4 main event, lifting him into the series points lead with only one race (November 18 at: yes-you-guessed-it) to go on the year.
… In a special (highly publicized -highly anticipated) 6-lap match race, ("motor maniacal") magazine publisher (Miss Information's Automotive Calendar of Events) Rick Denver bested his ("speed crazed") columnist Harold Osmer by the barest of margins, a mere 0.098 seconds. The two racers stayed in full uniform the rest of the night offering to sign autographs for the unwary and generally swaggering around like two veterans of back-to-back Indy 500's, LeMans 24's, and a World 600 all run (and won) on the same day. Tapes will be available in the lobby, watch for the special collector's edition CD and TV mini-series.
An early conclusion to the night's action (due to the relatively incident-free nature of the over 140 laps of main event racing) allowed most of the fans in attendance to make a personal visit to the teaming pit area after the races. Many autographs were signed, photos where shot, and tons of special (to some one) "souvenir" items (worn out racing tires, ripped off fenders, and other used up racing stuff) were taken home for display as mementos of a neat night of racing fun. <pre>
FEATURE EVENT: AMERICAN RACE TRUCKS 50 LAPS
1 NICK LYNCH FORD BURLEY, IDAHO 2 DEYON YOUNG CHEVY LAS VEGAS, NV 3 DAVID LYON CHEVY WEST COVINA 4 COLT JAMES CHEVY MANCHACA, TX 5 STEVE SHAW CHEVY HUNTINGTON BEACH
MSRA PRO4 MODIFIEDS 30 LAPS
1 MIKE WRIGHT FORD JOSHUA TREE 2 SCOTT PORTER BUICK EL MONTE 3 WAYNE TARRY CHEVY RIVERSIDE
LEGENDS CARS 30 LAPS
1 JIM SMITH LEGEND ORANGE 2 HAROLD GRAFTON LEGEND JAMUL 3 DON PINKUS LEGEND VICTORVILLE
MINI-STOCKARS 30 LAPS
1 TROY DECUIR FORD MORENO VALLEY 2 LYNDON DYSINGER FORD CORONA 3 DAVE UPMAN CHEVY HAWAIIAN GARDENS
MISS INFORMATION/ACE TWO-MAN LEGENDS CAR SHOOT-OUT 6 LAPS
1 RICK DENVER 2 HAROLD OSMER
NEXT RACE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11 HOME DEPOT 300 FOR NASCAR WINSTON WEST (WW Series Finale / TV race) + Mechanix Wear Speed Trucks