Irwindale, Calif. - - With only two races to go in the tumultuous 2002 season, Irwindale Speedway's premier NASCAR weekly racing division, the Jani-King Super Late Models, has come down to a three-car battle for the championship heading into this...
Irwindale, Calif. - - With only two races to go in the tumultuous 2002 season, Irwindale Speedway's premier NASCAR weekly racing division, the Jani-King Super Late Models, has come down to a three-car battle for the championship heading into this week's races at the fast half-mile oval.
Rip Michels leads the field with 698 hard-earned points. Counting seven wins along the way, the quick veteran Mission Hills racer know first hand how tough it is to win a championship at Irwindale and he and his fiercely loyal crew are about to do some serious "bearing down" this Saturday night.
Norwalk's fast and smooth Brandon Loverock won last week's J-K Super Late Model race in fine fashion, leading almost all the way and then forcefully taking the lead back from Rip Michels when the 12 car zapped by him mid-race. Loverock, with 640 points (and only 50 of them coming from his sole win) can get the title, but he needs to finish well and he really needs the #12 car to finish poorly.
Tony Bruncati, who learned his first class style racecraft as a go-kart driving champion, is the only other Super Late Model shoe who has a math-chance at the 2002 SLM laurels. With 618 going in he could topple Michels, but only with a whole bunch of outside intervention.
Nagoya, Japan's Kazuto "KZ" Yanagawa has 572 points in fourth place, with Tommy Fry from Chatsworth presently in fifth place at 536. Fry has let it be known that his season is over at Irwindale and is not expected to contest the final two rounds.
Tony Green, the early and mid-season division leader, is currently listed sixth in points after missing the last three races with a heavily banged-up car. He has indicated that he'll return to make a horserace out of the championship and no one disbelieves him. Newly-wed Green makes his home in the high desert community of Oak Hills.
In the "race within a race" for the 5,000 long green of Miller Brewing's money, the Miller Lite Big 10 points look like this: Michels 302, Bruncati 298, and Loverock 290. Or, in words of one syllable: TIGHT. This is the second-last race of that high-bucks series as well, and anything is possible in that crowded scramble all the way back to about eighth place.
Points for races (regardless of length) at all "NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Presented by Dodge" events are awarded on a 50, 48, 46, 44, 42, 40, 38 ^Å and so on ^Å schedule. Obviously, finishing well each week is MUCH better than a winning effort one week and a DNF the next.
NOTE: Irwindale's website (www.irwindalespeedway.com) has a complete points page for each division which shows each driver's placing for every race so far in the season. Looking at that "chart" is an excellent and informative way of judging an individual driver's season. A "0" in one of those columns is a very hard thing to make up for, and consistancy is highly rewarded at this level with this particular points-awarding system.