Irwindale, CA, - - The most prolific winners during five years of racing at Irwindale Speedway continued their personal duel Saturday night for the title "winningest main event driver" at the track. The five division racing attraction drew 4,649...
Irwindale, CA, - - The most prolific winners during five years of racing at Irwindale Speedway continued their personal duel Saturday night for the title "winningest main event driver" at the track. The five division racing attraction drew 4,649 spectators and had five veteran feature winners after 255 laps of main event racing. Todd Burns, the track's NASCAR Late Model 2002 Champion, won the 75-lap Auto Club of Southern California feature. It was his 27th Irwindale main event triumph-all in his Villa Roma Sausage Chevy Monte Carlo, his winning mount since 1999. His victory moved Burns into a tie for most feature victories at the track.
In the final and co-featured race of the evening, Rip Michels raced his Ladco, Pick Your Part Chevy Monte Carlo to an impressive 75-lap Jani-King Super Late Model feature triumph. It was round two of the ten-race Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge Series. Michels, the defending SLM champion and 2001 Grand American Modified champion, broke the tie with Burns. Michels now owns 28 Irwindale feature trophies, with SLM and GAM victories.
Other winners on Saturday night included Lee Ladd, the 1999 Mini Stock champion and 2002 Super Stock rookie of the year, in a 35-lap Vista Paint Super Stock race. He drove his Ladco, M & R Engines, Vista Paint Camaro. Rod Johnson, Irwindale's SLM 1999 champion, won a 35-lap Grand American Modified main in his new Chevy GAM. Tom Landreth won the 35-lap King Taco Legend Cars main in his 1934 Ford replica. Legends raced on the third-mile track, while the other four divisions used the half-mile.
For the first time at Irwindale, Legend Cars allowed drivers as young as 14 to race with parental consent. Four 14-year old drivers from Southern California raced at IS in a Legends event for the first time. Austin Grabowski, of Upland, was tenth fastest qualifier of 30 qualifiers. Ryan Partridge, of Rancho Cucamonga, was 15th quickest during qualifying. David Ross, of Colton, was 20th fastest, and Andrew Murphy, of Lancaster timed 23rd best. Jimmy Woods, a 15-year old newcomer from Tracy in Northern California, was 13th fastest in his Irwindale debut. All of the youngsters have raced quarter midgets, go-karts and/or Bandolero Cars. They all loved the chance to race Legend Cars at Irwindale before reaching their 16th birthdays. INEX, the Legend Cars sponsor, recently underwrote participation of 14 and 15-year old drivers in Legends races only.
Burns started his new 2003 Collins chassis fifth in a 27-car L/M field and chased early leader Scott Youngren to lap 27. Burns ducked to the inside and out-dragged Youngren to the line. He won by 0.331 seconds over Youngren, with Jess Flores third in a 48-minute race with five cautions. Mike Price received the "hard charger award" for racing from 15th at the start to a close fourth-place. The first four drivers were in a tight, four-car pack for the final two laps following a laps 71-73 caution. Rookie Andrew Myers was fifth in another impressive showing. Nineteen cars finished and 16 completed 75 laps.
Greg Pursley led the 24-car SLM main from the front row for the initial 47 laps before Michels passed him on the inside in turn four and led to the finish. The two drivers collided and were angry at each other during the last SLM feature. However, they met the press together in the press box in a friendly mood Saturday after racing cleanly.
Both drivers and third place finisher Mike Duncan agreed Michels had the best car Saturday. The top three finishers all drove Monte Carlos but they used three different chassis builders. Michels used a Jackson Race Car, Pursley drove a Victory Circle car, while Duncan wheeled a Port City chassis.
The 43-minute SLM contest had four cautions. The first five cars raced in a tight pack from laps 26-43 with Pursley leading a pressing Ben Walker, opening night winner Russell White, Brandon Loverock and Michels. On lap 43 Walker drove deep into the first turn and his right front fender tapped Pursley's left rear, causing Walker to spin. White's car spun and hit the outer wall on the driver's side, scattering debris. It was taken from the scene on a roll-back from Haddick's Towing. No driver injuries resulted.
Loverock ran over some debris cutting a brake line. He pitted and returned later to run low and slow without brakes to tally as many points as possible. Seventh place Tim Woods III also received heavy damage and retired his car after driving away from the crash (for a lap and a half! - ed.) trailing sparks from his bent Ford Taurus. Fifth-place Michels avoided the mayhem; he inherited second position. On lap 55 ninth-place Chris Oddo and tenth-place Terry Limberopoulos, the track Mini Stock 2002 champion, got together entering the third turn and Oddo spun out in mid-track.
Dueling SLM rookies Kevin O'Neil, in 11th, and 12th-place Michael May, the West Coast Pro Trucks 2002 champion, veered to the outside for an opening between Oddo's spinning car and the wall. However, they collected each other and the wall, sidelining both cars with major damage. Only 16 cars finished, with 11 on the lead lap.
Brent Jones trailed Landreth, the fourth leader of the Legends race, by 0.231 seconds at the finish. Twenty-two of 28 starters ran all 35 circuits. Johnson started third and led all the way in an all-green flag, 11-minute GAM event. GAM rookie Andrew Phipps, a S/S multi-main event winner, pressured the winner all 35 laps and finished 0.081 seconds (about one foot!) back at the conclusion. Only one of the 13 starters failed to finish; seven drivers completed the full distance.
The opening main event also was caution-free and lasted a quick 13 minutes. Ladd, like GAM winner Johnson, started third and led all 35 laps. He defeated runner-up Steve Gilmore by 1.107 seconds as 27 of the 30 starters finished, with 18 on the lead lap. (Due to the tight five-division FOX Sports TV schedule no trophy dashes were run.