Irwindale, CA. - - The second night of racing this season at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway showcased five racing divisions Saturday and produced one of the most exciting and unexpected finishes in track history during the NASCAR Jani-King Super...
Irwindale, CA. - - The second night of racing this season at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway showcased five racing divisions Saturday and produced one of the most exciting and unexpected finishes in track history during the NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model 75-lap feature. A crowd of 3,950 fans stood for the dramatic finish.
With a pack of contending cars racing for victory on the final lap, Stephan Sadler charged into the lead on the backstretch and won his first career main event by a mere 0.181 seconds (one foot). It was the only lap he led in his second full season at the track. He started 12th in a 21-car field and bettered his career best finish of fifth at Irwindale. The driver from Brea said he has won four late model main events at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino.
"I was so excited after reaching the checkered flag first that I forgot to turn left when I got to the first turn and I hit the crash-wall at the right front," the happy winner revealed. He drove his Padco Carpet Cushion-sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix, minus the right front fender, to the start/finish for interviews and trophy presentation. Afterwards, a wrecker towed Sadler's winning car back to the pits.
Tim Woods III edged into second place by a slim 0.003 seconds (literally inches) in his Ford Taurus. Dan Moore, Irwindale's 2002 SLM rookie of the year and an Ultra Wheel Super Truck veteran, finished a SLM career-best third in his Chevy Monte Carlo. That made three different manufacturers in the first three positions for much-desired parity. Moore took the white flag as the race leader. He led only lap 74 after passing leader Brandon Loverock when racing resumed on lap 73 after a caution period. Loverock fell from first to fourth on lap 74 and he finished fourth, 0.295 seconds in back of Moore.
Fireworks that precipitated the final exciting conclusion started on lap 66 when the cars of race-long leader/2002 Irwindale SLM champion Rip Michels and second place Greg Pursley made contact. The two multi-feature winners at the track had dueled for the point for 35 laps. Their cars came together between the fourth turn and the starting line, with Pursley's now first place car spinning across the line as the lap 66 leader. Michels continued at the point and Pursley lost ten positions. However, under the caution flag track officials penalized both drivers and sent them to the back of the lead lap cars to 11th and 12th positions.
Loverock led lap 67, with Moore, Sadler, Woods and Tony Bruncati on his back bumper under caution laps from lap 67-72. Positions remained unchanged on lap 73, but the final two circuits proved surprising to everyone involved with closing lap passes by relative newcomers to the SLM series. (Russell White also won his first SLM main last week, proving the competitiveness of the series.) Nineteen of 21 starters Saturday finished and 11 drivers were on the lead lap. Michels and Pursley later made the requested visit to the racing director's office in the pits and each driver blamed the other for the lap 66 incident.
A 50-lap West Coast Pro Trucks main event concluded the five division evening shortly after 10PM and brought victory to new truck owner/driver Dean Kuhn, the 2001 Irwindale Grand American Modified champion. He started third and took second on lap 23 when the trucks of Chris Johnson and Mike Pennington dropped out. Inside runner Kuhn chased race-long leader /outside runner Jeff Williams and tried to pass him several times before he succeeded during lap 38 with an inside pass on the backstretch. Williams trailed Kuhn by 2.212 seconds at the finish.
Michael Thomas was third, with Craig Baker fourth and second year trucker Neil Conrad fifth. Baker received the hard charger award for coming from 13th to fourth place. Fifteen of 26 trucks finished and 13 drivers ran all 50 laps. Rookie Michael Young, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic from a moto-cross accident, used hand controls and started 24th in the 25 truck field. He charged to a ninth place impressive finish in his first race despite very little practice time. "This is something I've wanted to do for a long time," he told fans afterwards in the pits.
Rod Johnson, Irwindale's 1999 SLM champion, started seventh and led all but the first four laps of the 35-lap NASCAR Grand American Modified main event in his new GAM. His winning margin was 0.349 seconds over Roger Carufel, Jr and 0.996 over third finisher Andrew Phipps, a GAM rookie and Super Stock graduate and many-time winner at Irwindale. Carufel received hard charger honors. Thirteen of 18 starters finished, with eight drivers on the lead lap.
Fastest qualifier Tom Landreth started fourth in his 1934 Ford coupe replica and captured the 35-lap King Taco Legend Cars main event on the third-mile track. He took charge on lap nine when he passed his brother Ted, leader of the first eight laps. Brent Jones passed Ted for second on lap 13 and trailed the winner by 0.463 seconds. Ted finished third, with J. D. Hendley fourth and father Bob Landreth fifth in a 27 car field. Hendley was the hard charger award recipient. There were 22 finishers and 12 drivers ran all 35 laps.
Quickest qualifier Greg Tucker started his Ford Pinto fifth and led laps 22-35 in winning a 35-lap Mini Stock car main on the third-mile. He outdistanced fellow Pinto pilot Tony Lawler by 3.278 seconds. Eric Reed was third in a 25-car field. Early leader Craig Kennard dropped out of second place on lap 26. Ten of the 20 finishers completed the full distance. John Kendall, younger brother of four-time SCCA Trans-Am champion and Speed Channel TV analyst Tommy Kendall, started 13th and finished eighth in his first Legends race.
Loverock won the six-car, six-lap SLM trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers. He earned $250 from High Banks Racing Collectibles. Steve Twilligear won the six-car, six-lap Legend Cars trophy dash in the first race of the evening. Fastest qualifiers were Pursley (SLM), Thomas (WCPT), Travis Thirkettle (GAM), Tom Landreth (Legends) and Tucker (Mini Stocks).