A turn away crowd of some 7,000 excited racing fans were on hand to celebrate Opening Night of the 2000 season at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night, March 25. And they surely got their money's worth of what they came for ... Spectacle and ...
A turn away crowd of some 7,000 excited racing fans were on hand to celebrate Opening Night of the 2000 season at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night, March 25. And they surely got their money's worth of what they came for ... Spectacle and super-competitive driving.
Beginning with a pre-race show that included radio station KZLA's own house rock band, a Road Kings club street rod car exhibition, a high speed precision driving demonstration by California Highway Patrol officers, the massing of all 134 racing cars (a new car count record) in the infield, a stirring trumpet solo version of the National Anthem, spectacular fireworks, a wild laser light and music show, and capping off with a very special appearance of the Goodyear Blimp welcoming fans to Irwindale Speedway's second season of racing ... The crisp-cool night was exceedingly well started.
Popular local TV weatherman (KABC7) Dallas Raines drove the Advantage Ford Mustang Official Pace Car with his son Austin riding shotgun in the back seat. Raines, as "promised" held off the threatened late afternoon/evening showers and substituted a cool, virtually-cloudless night; perfect for fireworks, lasers, and the illustrious Blimp's circling of the Speedway. An accomplished competition driver, Raines' next on track appearance will be at the Long Beach GP driving the Toyota Pro/Celeb race in April.
On the racing side, there were no disappointments and plenty of the high-speed, three-wide, doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing that NASCAR at Irwindale always provides.
In the Super Stocks it was last year's runner-up in the points championship asserting himself early in the 2000 season with a perfect night of racing. T.K. Karvasek, from North Hills, qualified number one, won his 8-lap trophy dash, and triumphed in the 20-lap main. Jeff Green, Long Beach; Yagel Berkovitz, Burbank; Steve Gilmore, Granada Hills; and Kevin Wood, Saugus; rounded out the top-5 in a hotly contested race.
Oceanside's Dean Kuhn was declared the winner of the red flag-shortened (18 laps) Grand American Modified race after race leader Rip Michels apparently won going across the line with a blown motor. Officials ruled that you can't cause the red flag and benefit from it at the same time moving Michels back to 9th place in the final standings. Robert Rice, Hawthorne; Bruce Gallion, Lancaster; David Andrews, Frazier Park, and Henry Ford, Jr., of Alta Loma finished 2nd through 5th respectively.
Todd Burns had himself the same kind of night that "T.K." had. Fastest qualifier, trophy dash winner, and main event winner. What else could the young Riverside rocket do? How about qualifying 1999 Winston West champion Sean Woodside's Super Late Model Chevy in the top 10 for the featured Home Depot 100 while Woodside was busy qualifying a NASCAR Craftsman Truck at Bakersfield? Burns led a crash-free 20 lap Late Model main that was six minutes and forty-one seconds of pure racing excitement. James Weston, Goleta; Tony Green, Oak Hills; Guy Goldstein, Cathedral City; and Rick Miller, Palm Desert; followed Burns home 2-3-4-5 on Saturday night.
The Home Depot 100 for NASCAR Super Late Models attracted 48 machines to fill the 30 starting slots. Fastest-qualifier Dan Holtz of Bakersfield (and everyone else in the line up) had his eye on the $3000 first place money offered for winning the season-opener. Holtz also won the Dash and had all intentions of going "three-for-three" like Karvasek and Burns before him.
Alas, it was not to be. Holtz lead the first 23 laps only to have Goleta's Greg Voigt slip past Holtz and hold on for the win. Due to time constraints the scheduled 100 laps were shortened to 75 but the full $15,000 purse was paid. Ben Walker from North Hills finished a "closing-in" second and was surely praying for more laps at the end. Holtz got a podium finish with third, Terry Henry, Bakersfield, was fourth; and Craig Rayburn from Simi Valley got fifth in what was noted in the press as: "one of the best Super Late Model races (ever) run at the track."
NEXT UP: Saturday April 1, 2000; USAC Sprint Cars and Midgets, Supermodified Racing League Supermodifieds, and NASCAR Super Late Models.