Irwindale race report 2002-09-28

Tim Huddleston won a rain-shortened Auto Club of Southern California NASCAR Late Model feature Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. His title-rival, Todd Burns, secured his first track championship in the 18-race series. Light rain started on lap 33 of...

Tim Huddleston won a rain-shortened Auto Club of Southern California NASCAR Late Model feature Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. His title-rival, Todd Burns, secured his first track championship in the 18-race series. Light rain started on lap 33 of the scheduled 50-lap main. Officials displayed the red flag after two laps under the caution flag as a brief downpour made the track unsafe. They directed cars to the infield for five minutes and then called the race complete at 8:20.

A scheduled Jani-King NASCAR Super Late Model 75-lap main event was postponed one week to next Saturday. It will be round ten of the ten-race Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge Series. The SLM division earlier had run qualifying laps for 25 cars and completed a six-car, six-lap trophy dash, won by Brandon Miller. The SLM cars have been added to a five-class show already on the October 5 schedule.

The King Taco Legend Cars completed the first of five scheduled features Saturday on the third-mile. Ricky Wildman, a 17-year old high school student, passed fellow front row starter Art Nevill on lap 22 and won his sixth main event of the season. Wildman made up an eight-point deficit and tied defending track champion Tom Landreth, a three-time feature winner, for the point lead at 490 points. Landreth was running second on lap 14 when he spun on the backstretch and dropped to 13th position. He then raced back to fifth place at the checkered flag. The 12th and final point race will be run October 5.

When rain stopped after the storm cell passed, track officials decided to dry the half-mile using track service vehicles-tow trucks, track sweeper, ambulance, pace car and a "vintage" SHO Taurus driven by noted program publisher Harold "Leadfoot" Osmer. Eight black and white patrol cars from the California Highway Patrol precision driving team performed their routines as they helped dry the track. On law enforcement appreciation day, a 19-member LAPD motorcycle precision drill team entertained spectators with exacting riding drills and maneuvers in the track infield before the late model main.

About half of the 4,980 crowd waited through the long one-hour, 51-minute rain-delay for the two truck main events. Ten truck racers had come from other states-Arizona, Idaho and Nevada-to compete. Mechanix Wear Speed Trucks TV race took the green flag at 10:11 for a 50-lap main with 23 trucks. Pole-starter Dan DiGiacomo led all the way in his Ford Ranger for a repeat triumph this year at IS. Fastest qualifier/fourth starter Randy Brown drove his Chevy S10 to second, half a straight behind the winner. Brown claimed the series track championship. The touring mid-size pickup truck series has three races remaining in 2002 at El Cajon, Blythe and Las Vegas.

The West Coast Pro Truck Series (formerly known as American Race Trucks) started 27 trucks at 10:42 for a scheduled 30-lap main. Fastest qualifier Dean Kuhn, Irwindale's 2001 Grand American Modified champion, started second and took command on lap nine. He won in only his third truck race in the No. 00 Chevy Silverado formerly raced by fellow Oceanside resident Mark Schilling.

The WCPT main completed only 18 of the 30 laps. A red flag on lap 19 stopped the race after third-running Tony Forfa blew his engine entering the first turn and set off a five truck crash. Trucks in positions four, five and six spun in oil deposited by Forfa's truck. Officials called the race at that point because the 11 p.m maximum curfew had arrived, extensive oil cleanup was necessary and a light drizzle had returned.

Dan Pehrson, from Idaho, was running seventh and he drove between two of the crashing trucks to finish third. He had a 750-mile, 13-hour tow home to Idaho Sunday and was happy the race was run at all. The five-division event attracted 134 racing vehicles and 109 of the cars/trucks were able to race in four of the five features.

Pole starter Michael May led the first eight laps, but he voluntarily relinquished the lead to Kuhn when officials informed him by radio via his spotter that he would be penalized after the race if he didn't do so. May, in the Yaeger Motorsports 2000 Ford, had moved into Kuhn's path at the green flag for the first lap. The 19-year old student at Orange Coast College, finished 0.313 seconds in back of Kuhn. May clinched his first track championship by 62-points over Val Cummings after 13 of 13 races at Irwindale.

The race postponement was the second time at IS that part of the schedule was affected by rain. The first rain postponed race occurred on 6/2/01. In four years of racing at IS four races have been rained out without a lap of competition. Rick Lalor, of the Auto Club, told Late Model champion Burns he would receive the trip to Hawaii for two at the track championship awards banquet in a practice started by the series sponsor last year. Burns, 29, said he and girlfriend Renee Valk appreciate the award from the Auto Club.

Burns, a Riverside resident and co-holder with SLM driver Rip Michels of the most IS feature victories record (26), said his plans for 2003 are uncertain. He would like to race for someone in a NASCAR touring division such as Winston West or the Southwest Series. He thanked Villa Roma Sausage for sponsoring him all four years at IS and Brian Kelley for use of his Monte Carlo chassis during the final two races of the 18-race season. Burns and his Chevrolet chassis owner, Jeff Schrader, ended their employment and racing partnership suddenly several weeks ago. Burns, the engine-owner, joined forces with owner/driver Kelley and repainted Kelley's No. 22 as the Villa Roma No. 4 to attain Burns' first track title.

Burns said, "I planned to race as hard as I could and finish the race. I had to keep my nose clean and not get into any sticky situation." He entered the season finale 34 points ahead of Huddleston, with 50 points awarded to the race winner. Burns finished sixth and won by 24 points. Huddleston, the winner of seven of the 18 mains and fastest qualifier at 16 races-- including the final 12 in a row, said it was an honor to finish second to Burns. Huddleston, 32, said he will return to IS next year and try to win the L/M title in his Ladco Leasing Pontiac Grand Prix.

Huddleston started ninth and fell to tenth at lap five as "I listened to my crew and let traffic thin out a bit". He picked off cars quickly from laps nine to 14 and was in second place by lap 17. Huddleston went to the inside in the second turn on lap 21 and passed race-long leader Tom Eurton, who finished a career best fourth at IS. Doug McComb came from seventh starting spot to finish second. Rookie Scott Youngren secured rookie of the year honors with third position, which enabled him to rank fifth in final points. Craig Rayburn took his Chevy from 12th starting position to finish fifth with 24 of the 26 cars still on the track at the soggy finish.

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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Michael May , Brandon Miller , Rip Michels , Scott Young