Irwindale, Calif. - - All racing events have multiple story lines, each driver, crew person, official, fan, journalist, photog, souvenir seller and hot dog hawker has his or her own reason for being there. At Irwindale Speedway this Saturday...
Irwindale, Calif. - - All racing events have multiple story lines, each driver, crew person, official, fan, journalist, photog, souvenir seller and hot dog hawker has his or her own reason for being there. At Irwindale Speedway this Saturday night, there are at least three major storylines developing, each of which will make for an interesting evening for fans of top professional open wheel short track racing:
I) Davey Hamilton, Indy Racing League ("IRL") driver and holder of Irwindale's fastest-ever lap (a ripping 15.655-second blast into the record books on opening night, March 27,1999) will be back, fittingly driving car number 1 and looking to ice his record for a good long time with a dip into the 14's, "If everything is right." The Las Vegas-living Hamilton, who finished fourth in the IRL points standings this year, has always felt that there is at least another half-second in the track. "I'm anxious to get back to IS ... it is, with out a doubt my favorite short track ... one of the best ovals I have ever driven on regardless of size, anywhere."
Saturday night, with a warm, well-seasoned track, and some cool air flowing into his 850+-horsepower V-8's nostrils, might just be the night for the breakthrough.
On A Related News Note: Davey Hamilton just announced (Oct. 27, 1999) that he will fire off a new Supermodified Racing League ("SRL") in the 2000 season which will sanction races throughout the western United States beginning in February. His contention that there over 60 such racing cars in the West and that only a bare handful show up for major events making the basis for the formation of the new Super League. The hard-working, hard-charging Hamilton, who now adds "Racing Association Owner/Promoter" to his already long list of job titles, will (natch) be available to discuss any of the above on or before raceday.
II) Bud Kaeding, had his string of consecutive Irwindale Speedway USAC Sprint Car victories snapped at five three weeks ago here at IS. Needless to say the young (19) charger from Campbell, California was not too thrilled with his 8th place in the Sprint Car main on that night. This Saturday, he'll be back, ready and raring to regain the kind of track dominance that he showed for the first five months of the season. "The competition in USAC's Western States Sprint Car Division just keeps getting tougher and smarter," observed track VP Robert (Bob) DeFazio. "Our last USAC Sprint Car was the fastest 30 lap race ever run at Irwindale: 8 minutes, 32 seconds ... No yellows, just wire-to-wire, pure flat-out racing. It was almost a blur, the Sprint Car drivers have got a lot of this place figured out ..."
Company, er competition for the Kaeding kid will come from all quarters including Bobby McMahan from Rio Linda, Rick Williams from San Leandro, Mike Boat from Arizona, Rick Hendrix from Canoga Park, and Tony Hunt from Fair Oaks.
III) Jay Drake, the 30 year old, journeyman open wheel driver from Val Verde, California won last year's Turkey Night Grand Prix by a whisker over Jason Leffler on the tight, tacky 1/3-mile clay oval at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale, and, in doing so added his name to the incredible list of victors (attached) in the most prestigious USAC Midget event of them all. This year the 59th running of the classic will take place on the paved banks of Irwindale Speedway which has become one of the West fastest and most-competitive 1/2-mile raceways.
So, what has this got to do with Saturday night's MCI Worldcom Western States Midget Car race? How about everything? "Yes, we all want to win each and every race that we enter," but Turkey Night is the Indy 500 or Daytona, or LeMans, or (you name it) for Midget drivers," said Wally Pankratz, the veteran driver who has been trying to catch the Turkey Night gold ring for almost 20 years now. "Saturday night's race will be a race within a race, one for the win, the other to get the car, driver, crew, everyone tuned up for Turkey Night a few weeks later on the same track. Its perfect timing, virtually all the other tracks have ended their seasons, all the eastern hotshoes will want a last (paying) shot at Irwindale before November 25th ... It's going to be a race to remember!"
There you have it, it's a three-ring circus with more storylines than you can shake a stick at. And, Irwindale Speedway will further entice open wheel fans by offer this first 5,000 through the gates (opening at 2:00 pm by the way) a free die cast scale model of a Sprint Car. The 1/43rd scale collectors' edition '99 Inaugural Season model is decked-out in Irwindale red, black, and white and packaged with its own tiny display stand, perfect for that place of honor in any collection.
Ticketing opens at noon, gates open the public at 2:00, qualifying will start at 4:00 and racing will begin at 7:00. After the races have concluded for the evening, fans are invited to join the racers and their crews in the pits for a handshake, a slap on the back, a hug, photos, autographs and just general camaraderie .. It's a short track tradition that always adds enormous value to every fan's visit.