Comeback performances in motor sports are always interesting. The five-division event Saturday at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway had two feature winners who starred in a pair of NASCAR track series before about 4,000 spectators on a balmy...
Comeback performances in motor sports are always interesting. The five-division event Saturday at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway had two feature winners who starred in a pair of NASCAR track series before about 4,000 spectators on a balmy evening. Deryk Ward started on the pole as sixth fastest qualifier and drove his self-built Pontiac Grand Prix to victory in the Auto Club Late Model 50-lap main event. Russell White, in a Chevy Monte Carlo, captured the Lucas Oil Super Late Model 75-lap feature.
It was Ward's first feature triumph since August 25, 2001 and the third of his career. Ward, known as "the X-man" for his use of the Roman numeral X to denote his car 10, entered the final 2001 point race as a primary IS championship title contender, but he saw his title hopes dashed that evening by a crash.
The Palm Springs resident persevered through crashes and mechanical problems during the last two seasons. He put a new front clip on his 2001 Pontiac for this season and has enjoyed success in the three races to date. He now ranks second in track points and has the IS 2004 track championship as his goal.
Ward passed fellow front row starter Tony Green on the third lap and beat hard-pressing point leader Tim Huddleston by 0.972 seconds (about 20-yards). Fastest qualifier/sixth starter Doug McComb came back from a second lap pit-stop under a caution flag to repair a loose distributor coil. He restarted 28th and charged to a closing third place, 1.060 seconds behind the winner. He credited the drives by Ward and Huddleston, but he told the crowd, "I think I had the car to beat." Green placed fourth. Jameel Saied was fifth for his career best finish by five positions.
In the 75-lap SLM feature that concluded almost four hours of racing, White beat 28 other drivers and the battle of the bulge. The three-time SLM feature winner last year found he was getting too fatigued during races last season. "I've lost 35-pounds during the off-season to get in shape for races this season. I use a treadmill for walking and lift weights to increase my endurance. I wasn't as tired tonight despite working 60 to 70 hours a week at my company."
White credited his crew chief Brian Barron for keeping his No. 17 BSB Medical Services Chevy race-ready this season. The winner said he was happy for the lap 71 caution flag that resulted in a green, white, checkered flag finish. Inside-running Greg Pursley, the new point leader and winner of two of the four SLM mains this year, started his Monte Carlo fourth and was pressing outside-running White for the lead from lap two. He made a passing attempt in the fourth turn and pulled his RF fender even with White's LR fender as the caution flag flew on lap 71. White acknowledged his concern about Pursley's attempt to bag his third victory in four races this season. "I began driving his line (to block) and I normally don't do that," the winner told the media. His winning margin was a mere 0.268 seconds (about five yards). Brandon Loverock was a close third, 0.914 seconds back, in his Monte Carlo.
Both Late Model and SLM fields had 29 car starting grids. The LM main had 23 finishers, with 17 cars on the lead lap in a 37-minute race from start to finish (21 minutes running time) and five yellow flags. The SLM feature had 21 of 29 starters on the lead serial and 14 drivers ran all 75 laps in a 46-minute event (32-minutes running time) with five caution flags.
Carson Woods won the 29-truck Napa Auto Parts Super Truck 50-lap race. Ironically, his No. 89 Chevy truck sponsor is CarQuest Auto Parts. Point leader Woods, who won the season opener March 20, started fourth as the third quickest qualifier and became the third leader on lap 20. He beat 18-year old Mark Holeman by 0.615 seconds. Second fastest qualifier Holeman, from Los Altos, started fifth and passed tenth starter Greg Adler on the final lap with an inside move in the final turn.
Third starter Ron Peterson led laps 14-19 and finished fourth. Quickest qualifier Joe Herold captivated fans with his charge from the back of the field. On lap three he took second position behind early leader Louis Mammolito, but they made contact on lap 14 leaving turn two, with Mammolito spinning. Officials penalized Herold for causing the leader's spin and sent him to the back of the field. He accepted his loss of positions and proceeded to regain them lap after lap until he ran out of laps. He finished fifth.
Fastest qualifier Andrew Phipps, the 2003 Grand American Modified champion as a series rookie, led all the way in the 14-car field. The GAM invert all or none came up none this week. Phipps traded the lead three times with fellow front row starter Travis Thirkettle before taking command for good on lap seven of 35. Thirkettle saw the checkers 1.417 seconds behind Phipps. John Watkinson was third, five seconds back.
The 23-car, 35-lap Mini Stock main event on the third-mile went to Eric Reed, driving Orville Tucker's No. 89 Ford Pinto. With an eight-car inversion, sixth-starter Reed became the fourth race-leader on lap 24 and led to the finish. Dustin Morgan, the lap 17-23 leader, trailed by 0.298 second. Fred Adams, the 2003 track champion, started on the pole and paced the first eight laps before settling for third spot. Tony Lawler led laps nine-16, but he looped without help on the backstretch during lap 17 and lost 14 positions. Then he became involved in a two-car spin on lap 19 and parked his Pinto.
The most serious-looking crash occurred on lap 71 of the SLM race. Tim Buckley had his Taurus in 13th position when a rear suspension failure propelled his car into the first turn wall hard at the RF corner. He was unhurt. Mike Price was in fourth place on lap 45 when he pulled onto the fourth-turn grass with a steering failure. After being towed to the pits, Price replaced a screw and returned to the race under a yellow and finished 17-laps down in 23rd position.
Hard charger award winners selected by track officials were Steve Rogers (M/S)-11th to fifth; Jim Peacock (GAM)-11th to seventh; Robbie Brand (L/M)-11th to sixth, and Mike Brusco (SLM)-28th to 14th. Peacock, who is a 60-year old driver who raced CRA Sprint Cars at Ascot until 1979, was a crew chief for years on Chad Daly's GAM. When Daly moved into a truck racing series this year Peacock took over Daly's No. 28 GAM. He made only his second GAM start Saturday and again finished only a lap down to the winner.
MINI STOCKS: Fast Time: Greg Tucker, 17.591 (third mile). Main: Eric Reed, Dustin Morgan, Fred Adams, Kevin Bernhardt, Steve Rogers, G. Tucker, Mike Morales, Bob Reed, Carl Farless, Robin Miller, Robert Lovas, Craig Kennard, Jim McNear, Brenda Pugh, Ed Lavender, Tim Ross, Rodney Schmitt, Brad Hamilton, Ron Pugh, Tom Dye, Virgil Young, Tony Lawler, Aimee Blue.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS: Fast Time: Andrew Phipps, 18.619. Main: Phipps, Travis Thirkettle, John Watkinson, Eddie Ernst, Tim Morse, Brent Jones, Jim Peacock, Jamie Barnett, Garrett Yamada, Mike Trottochau, Johnny Lathrop, Dennis Eckert, Steve Paulson, Joe Ruggles, -DNS Jim Smith.
NAPA AUTO PARTS SUPER TRUCKS: Fast Time: Joe Herold, 19.694. Main: Carson Woods, Mark Holeman, Greg Adler, Ron Peterson, Herold, Paul Brennan, Rich Geisler, Billy Helgeson, Derek DeSario, Eric Hardin, Randy Colling, Kyle Evans, Brian Harris, Michael Mantel, Jeb Bailey, Louis Mammolito, Jim Madrid, Jim Kondziela, Frank Steiner, Ken Davis, Paul Galli, Darrin Walts, Ken Bryan, Jon Campbell, Matt Saied, Pat Mintey, jr, John Sereika, Darren Sigwing, Dave Blankenship.
AUTO CLUB of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LATE MODELS: Fast Time: Doug McComb, 19.057. Main: Deryk Ward, Tim Huddleston, McComb, Tony Green, Jameel Saied, Robbie Brand, Mike Johnson, Brian Kelley, Andrew Myers, Colby Bankston, Scott Youngren, Kevin Wood, Ron Schartau, Andrew Lewis, John Ahrendt, Todd Conrad, Kory Haolopoff, Mike Mulhall, George Ruark, Candace Muzny, Dennis Schlarbaum, Robert Rice, Richie Altman, Danny Renko, Ron Daniel, Dan DiGiacomo, Jack Roberts, Tim Harris.-DNS Keith Spangler.
LUCAS OIL SUPER LATE MODELS: Fast Time: Kevin O'Neil, 18.055. Main: Russell White, Greg Pursley, Brandon Loverock, O'Neil, Rod Johnson, Tony Bruncati, Nathan Wulff, Gary Jenkins, Jason Patison, Scott Conaway, Jeff Schafer, Todd Southwell, Dennis Arena, Mike Brusco, Dean Cato, Scott Calvin, Ed Hoffman, Tim Buckley, Terry Elliott, Jim McGill, Chris Oddo, Dan Moore, Mike Price, James Bruncati, Tony Jackson, Tim Woods III, Alan Sadler, Dan O'Donnell, Travis Whitehead.