Irwindale race report 2002-08-31

Doug McComb started fifth and drove his Chevy Monte Carlo to his first career victory in a 22-car NASCAR Automobile Club of Southern California Late Model 50-lap feature Saturday in front of 5,642 spectators at Irwindale Speedway. The second year...

Doug McComb started fifth and drove his Chevy Monte Carlo to his first career victory in a 22-car NASCAR Automobile Club of Southern California Late Model 50-lap feature Saturday in front of 5,642 spectators at Irwindale Speedway. The second year late model driver earned three main event victories in the super stock division during the first two seasons at the four-year old speedway.

McComb, from Thousand Oaks, said he drew inspiration from a contingent of 84 guests from his sponsors who viewed the race from the roof of the track's administration building outside the east turn. Sponsor guests came from the law firm Elliot, Snyder and Reid, Pick-A-Part and Victory Circle (his car builder). During his victory lap McComb stopped on the apron of the half-mile track between the third and fourth turns. He unfastened his safety belts and window net, sat on the door and waved to his cheering sponsors in thanks for their support all season.

Defending late model champion Dave Hessing led the first three laps from his outside front row starting position. Fourth starter Scott Youngren passed Hessing on the inside exiting turn four to take command during the fourth lap. Rookie Youngren paced the race through lap 29. McComb took second from Hessing on lap six and then dueled Youngren closely from lap 10-30, when McComb made his winning pass on the inside at turn two. McComb had seven lapped cars and a straight-away advantage (6.506 seconds officially) over runner-up Youngren at the finish of the 50-lap event.

Shawn Garrett, of Palmdale, became another first-time series winner in a 31-car NASCAR Vista Paint Super Stock Series 40-lap race. As the fourth fastest qualifier, Garrett started his Camaro from the pole. He became the third race leader on lap 32 when he passed early leaders Darren Cheek and Andrew Phipps, the top two drivers in series points and both multi-feature winners. The three drivers waged an entertaining battle for fans. Cheek led the first two circuits and laps 30-31. Phipps paced the field during laps three-29 and Garrett was right with the leading duo.

A four-car crash on lap 33 brought out the caution flag and the cars of Cheek and Phipps tangled. Officials repositioned the pair at the back (actually 14th and 15th) of the 22 cars remaining for the lap 37 green flag. At the finish, Garrett held the lead by five yards over Kris Marquis, who enjoyed his career best finish using his new Camaro that replaced his older Monte Carlo. Lee Ladd took third. Phipps raced back to fifth place, 2.674 seconds behind Garrett. Cheek finished 11th, with 15 drivers on the lead lap, and still leads Phipps by 50 points (540-490) with two races and 100 first place points available.

Travis Thirkettle came from fourth grid position in a 14-car NASCAR Grand American Modified field to his second consecutive GAM triumph and third of the year. He passed pole starter and early leader Rod Johnson during the sixth lap on the inside in the fourth turn. Thirkettle, son of long-time stock car driving star Jim Thirkettle, led the balance of the 35-lap race. He won by 1.352 seconds over brake-less Johnson. Charlie Wahl earned third spot.

The most controversial race of the night - the Modified 4's - took place on the third-mile track. Season-long adversaries and track championship rivals Terry Limberopoulos and Guy Tripp were center stage again. Defending Mod 4s champion Tripp trailed Limberopoulos by only eight points (424-416) entering the race. Limberopoulos came from third starting spot to lead laps three-33 of the scheduled 35-lap race.

A two-car collision on lap 32 resulted in two laps of caution that put fourth starter Tripp on the back bumper of leader Limberopoulos. On the lap 34 green flag, Tripp's Ford Pinto tapped the back of Limberopoulos' Renault as the left the second turn. Tripp promptly hit the Renault a second time, flipping the Renault onto its roof on the backstretch. Tripp's Pinto raced by into the lead as the red flag appeared. Fans booed Tripp loudly.

It was the third time this season the two drivers tangled while racing and the second time Limberopoulos flipped as a result of contact from Tripp. Last week as leader Tripp and second place Limberopoulos came to the checkered flag while lapping a slower car their cars made contact. Tripp got out of shape briefly, allowing Limberopoulos to finish first. With the history of their tangles to draw upon, officials disqualified Tripp, bringing a chorus of cheers and applause from the crowd.

Officials summoned a tow truck to remove Tripp's Pinto from the front straight when he didn't drive to the pits immediately. As the tow truck arrived Tripp restarted and drove to the pits. The race, which had three yellows and one red, started at 7:49 and it got the checkered flag at 8:35 after officials canceled the final two laps. Greg Tucker, who was third at the final green flag, won his second race of the season Steve Rogers was second and Dustin Morgan third in one of three colorful Tucker Tires of Covina Pintos.

The first of the night's five features also took place on the third-mile. The second appearance at Irwindale of the new USAC Ford Focus Midget Series produced a field of 12 cars, including three still eligible three-quarter midgets. The all-green flag race took only 4:54.937 - a new track record.

The 20-lap main event again went to Todd Hunsaker in his 1993 Stewart chassis with a Koch Honda engine. He also won the April 20 debut of the series at Irwindale in his TQ Midget, which he plans to replace soon with a Ford Focus midget. At the checkered flag, Hunsaker enjoyed almost a full straight-away lead (3.595 seconds) over runner-up Garrett Hansen in a four- cylinder Ford Focus midget. Ray Neveau was third, 5.429 seconds behind Hunsaker. Nine of the ten finishers completed all 20 circuits.

Johnny Lathrop led all six laps of the trophy dash for Late Models that for the first time featured the six slowest qualifiers in the 22-car field instead of the six fastest qualifiers. In the Super Stock dash for the six fastest qualifiers, feature winner Garrett started third and led all but the second lap when Hessing led. However, officials set Garrett back to second place after the finish because he had jumped the opening lap green flag.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Dustin Morgan , Scott Young , Garrett Hansen