Rip Michels made his second start in his new Victory Circle chassis, Ladco, Stock Building Supply Chevy Monte Carlo and won his first 2004 feature Saturday in a 75-lap Lucas Oil Super Late Model race at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway. On...
Rip Michels made his second start in his new Victory Circle chassis, Ladco, Stock Building Supply Chevy Monte Carlo and won his first 2004 feature Saturday in a 75-lap Lucas Oil Super Late Model race at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway. On "Hot Tamales Night" Greg Pursley won his first Irwindale SLM track championship with two races remaining by finishing tenth.
Michels, a 39-year old 2002-03 SLM track champion at IS and 2003 Sunbelt Region champion, has been racing a Stock Building Supply Monte Carlo full-time this season in NASCAR's Elite Division Southwest Series. He currently ranks tenth in SW points and is the leading SW Series rookie. Michels increased his track-leading main event victory total to 38. The Mission Hills driver and his team donated a portion of their winnings to the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Orange County.
Pursley, the leader in NASCAR national, regional and track standings entering the race, experienced his most difficult, yet rewarding race of his sensational season. The fastest qualifier started fourth and was running fourth on lap six when he became involved in a front straight 11-car crash, including the first four cars and cars back to 23rd position. The collision caused a 33-minute red flag to clear badly damaged cars and debris. Five cars in the 26-car field were unable to continue, but all drivers escaped injury.
Pursley's King Taco Monte Carlo returned for the restart minus front body-work as one of the wounded cars able to continue. Still on the lead lap, Pursley came from 19th position to finish tenth, on the lead lap. His 32-points gave him a 112-point advantage over second place and clinched his first IS division championship, and the first for car owner David Hays, with only twin main events on September 18 and 100-points maximum remaining.
During laps following the crash, Pursley reported by radio that extreme vibrations caused him to have double vision. He also became nauseous from inhaling exhaust fumes from the sixth lap to the lap 75 checkered flag. The determined driver required 20-minutes of oxygen from track ambulance paramedics to recover.
Pursley was able to watch track technical staff tear down and inspect the engine of his championship car in the tech bay. They found it legal. "I think I have enough finishes to stay in first place in national and regional points," the new SLM track champion said as his proud family surrounded him.
The closest finish of the night came in the fourth and final race-a NAPA Super Truck 50-lap main. Joe Herold, the second fastest qualifier, used his pole starting spot to lead all the way by as much as 40-yards at lap 40. However, a late caution flag (lap 45-48) produced a green, white, checkered flag two-lap dash. Herold, on the outside, and Pat Mintey, Jr, on the inside, were almost even as they received the white flag and started the last lap with Herold ahead by a foot, 0.006 seconds according to AMB electronic scoring. The duo raced evenly throughout the final lap, but high-running Herold edged low-running Mintey by a foot, 0.015 seconds officially.
The two opening 35-lap main events for King Taco Legend Cars and Mini Stocks used the third-mile track. Apparent first-time IS Legends winner Dustin Ash, the fastest qualifier in a 30-car field, started third. He trailed pole starter Tom Landreth for 33 laps before he made an inside pass on lap 34 entering the first turn. Ash, from Las Vegas, led the final two laps and edged Landreth by a car length. However, officials set him back one position for passing Landreth with his left side tires in the infield below the white line. Such passing is against track rules that are reiterated every week in the mandatory driver's meetings. It was Landreth's fifth triumph in seven races this year and he took the point lead from his father, Bob, by two points-304-302.
Mini Stock point leader/fastest qualifier Greg Tucker drove his Ford Pinto from sixth starting into the lead on lap three. He won his sixth main in nine starts by 30-yards (2.068 seconds) over Bob Reed, the lap two leader and IS 2000 series champion. Officials also moved Reed from the lead during a lap three caution because he had passed lap one leader Robert Carney under the white line.
Reed said Carney forced him below the line, but he dropped to second as directed and chased Tucker the rest of the race. It was the winner's sixth victory in nine starts and gave him a 60-point lead over Reed. Dennis Croasmus, 18, made an outside pass on the final lap to take third from Kevin Bernhardt.
The SLM feature was a dogfight from the initial green flag. Pole sitter Kevin O'Neil led the first five laps in two and three-wide racing among the first five runners. O'Neil led James Bruncati, Russell White, Pursley and Michels after five laps. On lap six cars got together exiting turn four with leader O'Neil getting loose and collecting Bruncati and Pursley. As cars bounced off each other, seventh place Tony Bruncati careened off the first turn pit entrance attenuator and across the track. Eighth place Todd Southwell, ninth place Dan Moore and other cars beyond the top ten became involved during evasive action. The crash literally "destroyed" both Bruncati Fords. During the 33-minute delay for track clean-up delay, track officials reviewed the video of the crash and disqualified White's car for precipitating the crash by getting into the back of O'Neil's car.
Five cars were unable to continue. Damaged cars of Pursley and O'Neil returned to race without front fenders and hoods and resembled modifieds. Southwell's right side door had a major indentation and other cars had pushed up hoods or shortened noses as a result of the crash. With the disqualification of White, Michels inherited the lead and he kept it for the final 70 laps, despite four caution flags. Nathan Wulff was second from lap six-17 when officials checked his car for an oil leak during a caution and sent him to the pits for repairs. He returned 17 laps down. Brandon Loverock inherited second on lap 31 and trailed Michels across the finish line by 15-yards (0.718 seconds).
Travis Bennett, a 24-year old rookie NASCAR Elite Division Northwest Series driver who ranks third in NW points, started 12th and finished third (1.006 seconds behind Michels). Bennett, from Ellensburg, WA, drove the Bakersfield-based Ford with Gary Collins as crew chief in his second ever race at IS. He drove the same car to fifth place at IS a week earlier as he seeks experience at IS before the November 11-13 Toyota All-Star Showdown. Rod Johnson, IS 1999 SLM champion finished fourth. SLM rookies Mike Price, Jeff Shaefer and Jim McGill followed in order. Eighteen of the 26 starters finished; 15 ran all 75 laps.
Hard charger award honorees were (Legends)-rookie Kenton Gray (P.29 to P.13); (M/S)-Carl Farless (P.14 to P.11); (SLM)-Ed Hoffman (P.24 to P.8), and (Trucks)-Rich Legere (P.19 to P.13).
EDITORS NOTE: I am very proud to report that we had a great display of sportsmanship in the Irwindale pits on Saturday night. When the Speedway track crew radioed that Greg Pursley did not want any assistance from them and that he would drive his wounded car off the race track after the spectacular 11-car, lap 5 "pile up on the interstate" most fans thought, "Who's he kidding, that car is done for the night."
Most fans had know idea that pit crew members of virtually every car in the Lucas Oil Super Late Model were already very aware that Pursley was going to limp his injured car back in and try to get it fixed up well enough to get him back in for the remaining seventy laps of the race.
And fix it they did, with tie-wraps, and baling wire, and PLENTY of "200 mile-an-hour" racer's tape. There were crew people and drivers climbing all over Greg's hurt race car. I wasn't there, but eye witnesses told me that it made a Michael Schumacher F1 pit stop look positively deserted. Apparently a casual observer could not have even seen the bright yellow #13 King Taco car for the swarm of people working on it.
That's the real NASCAR, that's the kind of competitive spirit that makes it a pleasure to be a part of racing at Irwindale Speedway. Thanks for the show behind the show people! You are the best! One can only hope that this kind of generosity and sportsmanship will be saluted on some "racing" websites along with the vitriol that seems to be their main stock in trade. -Doug Stokes
KING TACO LEGEND CARS:
Fast Time: Dustin Ash, 17.017.
Main: Tom Landreth, Ash, Austin Grabowski, Matt Hicks, Jim Smith, Bob Landreth, Ryan Partridge, Evin Powell, Tom Lovelady, Ryan Schug, James Kalawaia, Mark Gaiser, Kenton Gray, Steve Twilligear, Larry Meredith, Tom Skahill, Jason Alsop, Scott Fortier, John London, Mark Iungerich, Chad Schug, John Barnett, Micah Nourse, Bill Bonney, Lynn Sours, Jeff Scott, Larry Alsop, Dave Kalawaia, Sam Jones, David Bremer.
Fast Time: Greg Tucker, 17.409.
Main: Tucker, Bob Reed, Dennis Croasmus, Kevin Bernhardt, Eric Reed, Robert Lovas, Tom Dye, Steve Rogers, Mark Sucky, Rich Garver, Carl Farless, Virgil Young, Fred Adams, Glenn Duffin, Kris Melleby, Christy Yanker, Rod Schmitt, Ron Schmitt, Brad Hamilton, Robert Carney, Ed Lavender, Tyler Rogers, Mario Ruiz.
NAPA AUTO PARTS SUPER TRUCKS:
Fast Time: Eric Hardin, 19.519.
Main: Joe Herold, Pat Mintey, Jr, Billy Helgeson, Mark Holeman, Ron Peterson, Rich Geisler, Greg Adler, Jim Kondziela, Michael Mantel, Pete Ciulla, Dave Scarcella, Jim Madrid, Rich Legere, Ken Maler, Joe Anderson, Darrin Walts, Frank Steiner, John Sereika, Hardin, Paul Galli.
LUCAS OIL SUPER LATE MODELS:
Fast Time: Greg Pursley, 17.868.
Main: Rip Michels, Brandon Loverock, Travis Bennett, Rod Johnson, Mike Price, Jeff Shafer, Jim McGill, Ed Hoffman, Todd Southwell, Pursley, Dennis Arena, Tim Buckley, Kris Terris, David Ross, Gary Jenkins, Charlie Wahl, Robert King, Kevin O'Neil, Nathan Wulff, Scott Calvin, Kevin O'Connell, James Bruncati, Russell White, Tony Bruncati, Dan Moore, Tony Jackson. DNS-Scott Conaway.