Irwindale, CA, Mar. 29 - Irwindale Speedway began year five of operation Saturday with a four-division racing attraction that drew a capacity 6,500 crowd on a warm evening. It was the ninth sellout in track history and the first opening night ...
Irwindale, CA, Mar. 29 - Irwindale Speedway began year five of operation Saturday with a four-division racing attraction that drew a capacity 6,500 crowd on a warm evening. It was the ninth sellout in track history and the first opening night sellout since 2000. Patriotic salutes, American flag-waving and chants of "USA, USA" were part of the opening night festivities.
Russell White, a 34-year old stock car veteran, started on the pole as fourth fastest qualifier and won the NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model 100-lap Advantage Ford feature of the night. It was the first career main event victory at Irwindale for the Riverside-area driver who has competed at the track every season on an irregular basis. His best prior finish was third last season. He won his only other main event years ago in Blythe, CA.
White attributed his hard-fought triumph to new sponsorship from Dragon's Keep Cycle Repair, VG-1 and BSB Medical Services and participation in IS open practice sessions. He started on the pole and trailed Greg Pursley for 34 laps before he executed an inside pass in turn four and then led the final 66 laps. White used the same Chevy Monte Carlo he drove last year to defeat fifth-starter/Winston West driver Mike Duncan by 0.267 seconds. Tommy Fry took third position with 23 of 31 starters still racing and 11 drivers on the lead lap.
Scott Youngren started sixth in his Chevy Monte Carlo and became the third and final race leader on lap 61 of the 75-lap Auto Club of Southern California NASCAR Late Model main event. The race had six lead changes. Early leaders Deryk Ward, from the pole, and eighth-starter Todd Burns, the series-defending champion, traded the lead five times. However, neither driver finished. Outside groove -runner Ward paced laps one-20, 22 and 26. Inside-running Burns was the point man during laps 21, 23-25 and 27-60.
Burns had opened half a straight advantage by lap 35, but he slowed on lap 61 and pulled into the infield a lap later. He retired because his Monte Carlo burned a coil wire and lost ignition. He held a five-yard lead over Youngren when he dropped out. Ward parked his sixth place car in the infield on lap 46.
Runner-up Tim Huddleston, in a Ladco Leasing Pontiac, closed in quickly on Youngren during the final five laps and trailed the winner by 0.444 seconds (five yards) as they raced under the checkered flag. Twenty-four of the 31 starters finished and 13 drivers ran all 75 circuits.
Fastest qualifier Lee Ladd started ninth in his Vista Paint-sponsored Camaro, took the lead on lap 12 to become the third race leader and then dominated the Vista Paint backed NASCAR Super Stock 40-lap main. The popular 65-year old driver and sponsor of other drivers won the 1999 Irwindale Mini Stock Division driving championship. He was the leading Super Stock rookie last year when he finished third in final driver points. S/S runner-up Dan Rodgers trailed Ladd by 0.807 seconds (10 yards) and logged his career best finish in a main event. Twelve of 30 starters completed all 40 laps.
The concluding main event of the night went to defending Ultra Wheel Super Truck champion Carson Woods, Jr in the UW Super Truck 50-lap feature. Officials reduced the scheduled 75-lap race because of the rapidly approaching 11 p.m track curfew. Woods started fifth in his Chevy truck and became the second race leader during lap 19 when he passed pole starter Jim McGill.
The first five trucks raced in a tight pack for the final 22 laps following a red flag on lap 29. A four truck crash in the third turn required extensive track cleanup of body-work and fluids from the trucks. Drivers escaped injury. Woods' winning margin was 0.159 seconds. Dave Blankenship, 2002 series rookie sensation Ryan Arciero, Greg Adler and McGill finished second through fifth. Twenty-two drivers in the 34-truck field ran all 50 laps.
Greg Pursley, a 2002 Winston West driver and five-time SLM feature winner at Irwindale during 1999, started fourth and led the final three laps of the only six-lap trophy dash. Early leader Duncan, from Bakersfield, started second in his Ford and led the first three laps before finishing second, 0.318 seconds back. Fastest qualifiers were Tony Bruncati (SLM) at 18.183, Burns (L/M) at 19.124, Arciero (Super Trucks) at 19.441, and Ladd (S/S) at 21.866.