On a five main event evening for five racing divisions, Jeff Green accomplished a feat attained by no other driver in three years of racing at Irwindale Speedway. There were 6,107 spectators present Saturday to witness his achievement on the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group's "Back to School Night".
The 39-year old NASCAR Super Stock driver from Long Beach won his second track championship in the competitive division aboard his own Camaro. His second consecutive title at the track made Green the only driver in any division with two Irwindale Speedway titles. Super Stock rookie Andrew Phipps came from fourth starting spot in his Camaro to capture his ninth 40-lap main event by 3.410 seconds.
Tim Huddleston won the featured 50-lap main event for NASCAR Automobile of Club Southern California Late Models. As the fastest qualifier, Huddleston drew the number eight pill and came from eighth starting slot to pass second starter Mike Price during lap 17 on the inside in turn two. Huddleston led the final 33 circuits for his second triumph of the season in his LADCO-sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix. Price trailed by 0.506 seconds. Point leader Deryk Ward completed the close-running top three and was 0.717 seconds behind the winner.
Aaron Staudinger started fourth in the 17-truck American Race Trucks 40-lap feature on the half-mile and won his second ART main of the season. He passed early leader Robbie Brand on lap nine and withstood intense pressure from Deyon Young for the final 31 laps. Young, the ART Southwest Region champion for 2001, trailed by 0.676 seconds at the finish.
Terry Limberopoulos started second and led the initial three laps of the Mod 4s main in his Renault. He relinquished the lead to title-hopeful Guy Tripp for the next seven laps before returning to the point for good on lap 11 in a 35-lapper on the third-mile. It was his fifth triumph in the division this year. He defeated Richard Bokar's Ford Pinto by 1.822 seconds with Tripp third. A division track record 26 Mod 4s started the race.
The fifth and final feature of the night-the Pick Your Part Figure 8's-ran 15 zany laps on the shortened Figure 8 course in the infield. A track record of 17 cars started the nine minute event that had one red flag to clear a stalled car from the track. The field included six specially-built winged Figure 8 cars. Long-time Figure 8 star Rusty Stewart led the first two laps before yielding to "Barefoot" Billy Ziemann for the next four laps. Stewart made his winning pass at the X and led the final nine wild laps to collect his third consecutive $1,000 first place award. Tom Smith took second place from Ziemann on lap 11 and finished 15 yards behind Stewart to earn $650. Ziemann was 25 yards behind Smith and he collected $450. The top three finishers all drove home-built winged Figure 8 cars.
Henry Miles, in a Super Stock, Robert Rice, in a Figure 8 winged special, and Chris Williamson, in another winged Figure 8 special, finished fourth through sixth respectively. Only the top six finishers ran all 15 laps. Twelve of the 17 starters were still racing at the conclusion. Unlike last month, drivers avoided collisions at the X.
Super Stock champion-Green crossed the finish line third, behind runner-up Darren Cheek in the 32-car field. Racing Director Chris Morgan penalized Green nine positions in the official order for rough driving on the final lap. As the field exited the final turn on the last lap, Green's car tapped the back of third place Dan Fitzgerald's car, causing Fitzgerald to spin out. He restarted and finished 11th. Officials positioned Green 12th, right behind Fitzgerald. Green apologized for the incident during interviews of the top three drivers on the track immediately following the race. He said Fitzgerald's car was slowing in the final turn and he couldn't avoid contact.
Even with his penalty, Green finished 22 points ahead of Will Cottrell, the only driver with a mathematical chance to beat Green for the 2001 championship. Seventh starter Green had to finish at least 20th if tenth starter Cottrell won the race. Cottrell finished third officially. Green won the title with 582 points to Cottrell's 560.
Green and his team members ran across the front straight and leaped onto the crash-wall. Then they all climbed the catch fence in Helio Castroneves fashion to wave to fans and celebrate their second championship. They also knelt and kissed the start/finish line as Brickyard 400 winners do. Then Green climbed back in his Camaro and executed several one-handed, smoke-generating donuts to salute the crowd.
Green said he has already sold his S/S Camaro. He is planning to step up a notch and race next year in Irwindale's Late Model Division where he has three offers of rides. He said he also has an offer to race a USAC Silver Bullet open-wheel car this season at Indianapolis Raceway Park and next year for owner Preston Woods of Oceanside. "I'll take whatever opportunity I can," the ambitious Green told the media.
The 22-car Late Model feature had 19 cars running at the finish with 15 cars on the lead lap. When officials added points from the penultimate race third finisher Ward had extended his point lead from eight to 12 points (692-680) over Dave Hessing, who finished fifth. Brian Kelley is third with 668 points and 50 points go to the winner of the series final race next Saturday. Hessing was celebrating his birthday and had painted an American flag on the roof of his Chevy Monte Carlo to show his patriotic spirit.
The only serious mishap of the evening occurred during the 18-car Super Stock 12-lap B Main won by Don Zoll. Craig Yeaton got out of shape on lap 11 leaving the fourth turn, overcorrected and hit the crash-wall head-on. His car spun to the infield trailing water from a smashed radiator. He climbed from the car shaken, but he said medical attention wasn't necessary. Interestingly, three of the four fastest qualifiers-Huddleston, Phipps and Staudinger-won their main events. Limberopoulos was the third quickest qualifier in the Mod 4s. Winners of the six lap trophy dashes were Steve Rogers (Mod 4s), Cheek (S/S) and John Lathrop (Late Models).
Sportswriter Tim Kennedy has covered motorsports since 1968, when he was elected Publicity Director of the California Racing Association by the CRA Board of Directors. He performed those duties for 11 consecutive years and edited six yearbooks for the sprint car sanctioning body. Additionally, Tim did pre-race CRA publicity for race promoters and post race CRA stories and columns that appeared in numerous racing newspapers.
Since 1979 Tim has done freelance work in motorsports and has assisted several race tracks on special events. His racing results stories and Racing Scene column appear every week in RACING WHEELS--an all-motor racing newspaper based in Vancouver, Washington. His column and racing results stories currently appear in MOTORACING, a monthly racing newspaper based in Northern California. He also covers racing events such as the annual Thanksgiving USAC Midget Grand Prix at Irwindale Speedway for NATIONAL SPEED SPORT NEWS, which is based in North Carolina.