IRWINDALE, CA. - Ten racing series that compete regularly for points on the half or third mile tracks at Irwindale Speedway completed an eight-month season during October. It was the sixth racing season at the NASCAR-sanctioned state of the art paved speedway. Competitors were honored at the track banquet, attended by more than 600 persons, on November 20. Following is a summary of each series during 2004 and special award winners.
LUCAS OIL PRODUCTS SUPER LATE MODELS: Greg Pursley, 36, won his first SLM series championship at IS by 128 points in the David Hays-owned "lucky" No. 13 King Taco Chevy Monte Carlo. He won 13 of the 18 Lucas Oil SLM features and set a new one-lap track record. Pursley also won the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series eight-track Sunbelt Region championship and the Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Championship for a combined payoff of $170,000. He was honored at an October 31 awards banquet in Nashville, TN. Mike Price won Irwindale's rookie of the year title by finishing this tough series sixth in points. Ed Hoffman received most improved driver honors; 68 drivers earned SLM points.
AUTO CLUB LATE MODELS: Doug McComb earned his first Auto Club of Southern California championship by 54 points in his No. 48 Victory Circle Dodge Intrepid. He had four victories, four seconds and four thirds in a 16 point-race season. For the third consecutive year the L/M champ received an expenses paid trip for two to Hawaii from series sponsor-the Auto Club. McComb and the second and third finishers in points also will be guests of the Auto Club at the California Speedway February, 2005 Nextel Cup race. Rookie of the year Dan DiGiacomo placed ninth in final points. Todd Conrad took most improved honors; 52 drivers scored series points.
VISTA PAINT SUPER STOCKS: Craig Rayburn, a veteran of Saugus Speedway racing, scored the most points twice and claimed his first Vista Paint Super Stock championship in his No. 3 Memory Lane Camaro. He led the point parade most of the way in a 15-race campaign. Rookie of the year Johnny White, a 19-year old from Phoenix, won three mains and finished sixth in points. Bryan Harrell took most improved driver kudos; 52 drivers earned points.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS: Second generation driver Andrew Phipps collected his second consecutive GAM championship. The son of many-time Saugus Speedway champion Dave Phipps drove the No. 12 Ladco Chevy in which Rip Michels won his GAM title before moving up to SLM and the Elite Division Southwest Series where he won the 2004 rookie of the year trophy. Andrew won five features and had four seconds in the nine-race season. Rookie of the year Jamie Barnett ranked eighth in points. Most improved driver Joe Ruggles finished third; 24 drivers collected GAM points. The series has switched from alcohol-fuel to gasoline for 2005.
KING TACO LEGEND CARS: Tom Landreth faced stiff competition on the third-mile from a group of teenage rookies and comers in the King Taco Legends. He won six-times in the 10-race season and emerged with his third Legends crown and second in a row in his No. 30 coupe. The championship battle came down to the final race and Tom prevailed by 42 points over his father Bob, the series point leader most of the season and eventual runner-up. Five drivers won the maximum 50 points for a triumph and 58 drivers got points for taking a green flag. Seventh ranked driver Evin Powell became rookie of the year. Kevin Wong, one of two racing brothers in the series, got it right; he was proclaimed by track management as most improved driver.
MINI STOCKS: Greg Tucker recorded his first IS track title on the third-mile by 46 points. He drove his four-cylinder No. 69 Ford Pinto to eight victories in the 14-race season. The crowded Minis field usually had 30 cars at each race. Rookie of the year hardware went to Rod Schmitt. Kevin Bernhardt won a feature and most improved driver; 42 drivers earned points.
PICK YOU PART FIGURE 8s: Rod Proctor, driving his own No. 21 non-wing Figure 8 special, took over the Pick Your Part Figure 8 point lead at the mid-point in the eight (it figures)-race season. He won by 16 points. Twenty-nine drivers, including drivers of two Late Models and one Super Stock, received points. No rookie or most improved driver winners were named.
NAPA AUTO PARTS SUPER TRUCKS: Champion Ron Peterson scored well in every IS 2004 NAPA Auto Parts Super Truck feature during the 16 race season. This popular and competitive spec truck series also races at other tracks. Ron's Frahm Dodge-sponsored No. 41 Dodge Dakota was in the thick of three-wide action all year. Rookie of the year Eric Hardin finished sixth in points. Most improved driver Billy Helgeson finished second in points, only 14 points behind the champ; 50 drivers received IS points.
WEST COAST PRO TRUCKS: Chris Johnson (No 20 Ford F-150) had three wins, three seconds and a third in nine WCPT spec truck races at IS. Dean Kuhn won all four IS races he ran, but the past IS champion did not enter five races and placed 14th in track points. No rookie or most improved driver winners were named. Thirty-two WCPT drivers scored IS points.
AMF BOWLING PURE STOCKS: This new IS economical racing division for 1970's American stock cars began as a Friday night at 9:00 p.m series on the third-mile. As interest built and AMF Bowling sponsorship materialized the Pure Stocks had three point races on Saturday nights. Jimmy Rouse (No. 09 Chevy) won two races at IS and became the first IS track champion. Michelle Rouse, wife of the champion, won two features and finished fourth. The highly competitive season had 10 different main event winners of the 13 races.
NHRA SUMMIT RACING SERIES: The eighth-mile Irwindale Dragstrip honored four champions-Leo Glassbrenner (Pro Street class), Doug Gibson (Sportsman class), Jim Bette (Trucks/SUV class) and Tony Pellettera (Pro Bikes) class).
Other awards presented at the IS awards banquet went to L/M champion McComb's main man Chris Greaney (2004 crew chief of the year) and to Lee Ladd (2004 IS sportsman of the year). Sean Vincent, Super Stock No. 99 crew chief, was voted NASCAR Sunbelt Region crew chief/mechanic of the year.
The 2004 stock car racing season at IS concluded in November with seven hours of racing televised live nationally by Speed Channel. The second annual $500,000 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, with $70,000 added this year to award all 70 drivers an extra $1,000, took place November 11-13. Assembled were the top 30 Grand National drivers (15 Busch North and 15 GN West), plus the top 40 drivers from the four touring NASCAR Elite Divisions (top 10 in points from Midwest, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest Series).
Drivers raced four 50-lap mains (two per division) on Friday to determine starting positions for Saturday features. With the highest drivers in points at the back of each race, passing was plentiful and all four 50-lap races were caution-free. On Saturday, team competition points were computed at a break before the final 50 laps. Busch North won the GN team title money, and Southwest drivers won the Elite Division team money and divided it equally. SW Series veteran Eric Holmes won the Elite Division 125-lap race, and Busch North veteran Mike Johnson won the wreck-marred GN 150 lap event and took home $31,000.
The 64th running of the USAC "Thanksgiving Night Midget Grand Prix" brought the sixth IS season to a close. A USAC Ford Focus 25-lap main, a 40-lap main for USAC Western States 360ci sprint cars and a 100-lap USAC National and Western States Midget feature were the feature attractions for open-wheel racing fans.
The seventh racing season at IS will begin in March 2005.
By: Tim Kennedy