TIM KENNEDY'S FIRST RACE REPORT OF THE 2005 SEASON ! IRWINDALE, CA., Mar, 12 - Season seven opening night at Irwindale Speedway Saturday produced four first-time main event winners and two repeat winners in 285 laps of competition, plus two new...
TIM KENNEDY'S FIRST RACE REPORT OF THE 2005 SEASON !
IRWINDALE, CA., Mar, 12 - Season seven opening night at Irwindale Speedway Saturday produced four first-time main event winners and two repeat winners in 285 laps of competition, plus two new one-lap track records during afternoon time trials.
The initial 2005 event signaled a probable new era of competitive racing in all series at the seven-year old speedway. A bumper crop of 155 racing cars/trucks in six classes provided four hours of almost non-stop action on the half-mile and third-mile ovals before an estimated 6,200 spectators on Advantage Ford Night.
First-time winners were veterans Joe Ruggles (Grand American Modifieds), Victor Wu (Vista Paint Super Stocks), Dustin Morgan (Mini Stocks) and rookie Austin Grabowski (Auto Club Late Models).
Grabowski, a 16-year old student at Damian High School in LaVerne, deserves special kudos because the 2004 Legend Cars driver was making his debut in the tough Late Model Division. He defeated Tim Huddleston, a multiple winner in Late Models, to record his amazing first main event victory in his first Late Model start and his first race on a half-mile.
Repeat winners were Ron Peterson (Dodge-sponsored Super Trucks Series) and three-time IS champion Rip Michels (Lucas Oil Super Late Models). Michels, a 39-year old San Fernando resident, extended his IS record as most prolific main event winner to 39. The former GAM champion won two SLM track titles in 2002-03 before moving up to NASCAR's touring Elite Division Southwest Series last season. He finished seventh in series points and won SW Series rookie of the year honors.
Michels earned a berth last November in the lucrative Toyota All-Star Showdown race at IS for the top 40 Elite Division drivers in the nation. Michels logged his 38th IS feature triumph in the same green No. 12 Stock Building Supply 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo last August during a break in his SW Series schedule. "Irwindale is special. We've been getting our butts kicked in the Southwest Series, so it's great to come back and race against my buddies," Michels told the crowd.
Ruggles started fourth in a 12-car GAM field. He took the lead on lap seven exiting the fourth turn. He out-raced contending past GAM Series winner
John Watkinson by 0.566 seconds in a 35-lap contest. In Super Stock action, Wu started his Camaro seventh in a 21-car field, chased pole starter/early leader Greg Crutcher and took command in the fourth turn with an inside move on lap 13. Wu then built half a straight advantage by lap 30 of the 40-lap event. A caution flag on lap 36 gave Robin Bourgeois and Crutcher hope, but Wu beat Bourgeois to the checker by 0.682 seconds. Second year series driver Danny "Hibachi"
Grill came from ninth to finish fourth and earn the $50 hard charger award. Grabowski, the fourth fastest qualifier in a 27-car Late Model field, started fifth with an eight-car inverted lineup. He took his Jeff Schrader Race Car Factory-built Monte Carlo to second position on lap 10 in a tight six-car lead pack. Then he overhauled pole starter/race-long leader Jameel Saied on lap 12. Outside-running Grabowski raced evenly from that point to the lap 50 checkers with inside-running Huddleston, who finished 0.096 seconds back in his 2005 Taurus. Race Car Factory, located in nearby Monrovia, built the top three finishing cars. Sixth-starter Scott Youngren brought his car from the back after officials imposed a penalty for Youngren's contact that spun Russell White on lap three.
With 39 SLMs present, officials ran a ten-lap "B main" for the 29th through 39th fastest qualifiers. They added the first two finishers to the back of the 28 direct transfers from time trials for a 30-car, 75-lap race for the night's featured event. The inversion number was two, so fourth fastest qualifier Michels started fourth. He chased lap three-19 leader/pole starter Todd Southwell from lap seven-20 when Michels made an inside starting line pass for the lead. Southwell retook the point at the same location on the outside and led lap 21. Michels shot past at the starting line on lap 22nd and paced the balance of the race at laps above 98-mph in traffic. Southwell trailed by 0.944 seconds at the finish. Andrew Phipps, the 2003-04 GAM track champion, impressed with a solid third-place run in his SLM debut. He drove the No. 21 Sunrise Ford-backed Taurus raced last season by James Bruncati. Second-starter Phipps ran the fastest qualifying lap during late afternoon time trials and his 17.712 (101.626 mph) was a new track record for the series. Greg Pursley, the IS 2004 SLM champion and Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Champion, set the former mark of 17.817 (101.232 mph) last August.
A red-flag on lap 32 of the SLM feature stopped action after cars running fourth through seventh tangled at the starting line. Jim McGill's Monte Carlo spun into the first turn infield wall tire barrier, ricocheting to the infield grass between the half and third-mile tracks with extensive front end damage. After several minutes McGill climbed from his car without serious injury. The 29-truck race went to outside front row starter Ron Peterson, the lap one-19, 21-24 and 37-40 race leader in his 2003 Dodge Dakota. Inside-running Pat Mintey, Jr started third and led all laps when Peterson was not in front.
On lap 25 Mintey took command and Joe Herold dropped Peterson to third simultaneously. During lap 37 Herold's Chevy S-10 tapped the back of Mintey's Chevy spinning Mintey in the second turn. Officials penalized Herold to the back of the lead lap and Peterson inherited the point. He won by 0.930 seconds over John Sereika. Mintey finished 17th and Herold 19th with 25 trucks still racing and 19 on the lead lap. Ken Maler started at the back and finished 12th to earn hard charger honors.
The final feature took place on the third-mile arena and started 25 of the four-cylinder entry class cars-Ford Pintos, Toyota Celicas, and a few Chevy Vega, Mercury Bobcat and Capri Nissan SX entries. Morgan started and finished first in his Tucker Tire of Covina Pinto. Bob Reed trailed by 0.795 seconds and 19 of the 25 starters finished. Female drivers Brenda Pugh (10th) and rookie Lauri Wong (16th) ran all 35 laps in a race slowed by three cautions for spinning cars.
Johnny White made another impressive debut in a night when Grabowski and Phipps amazed IS regulars. White, a winner in the fast super stock black No. 50 Cass Racing Camaro last season, was the fastest and third fastest driver in the Late Model Division during the two afternoon practice sessions timed using AMB on-board electronic transponders. White, a recent high school graduate from Phoenix, set the fastest qualifying time of 18.829 (95.597 mph) in a field of 25 qualifiers. He drove the black No. 11 Jim Cass 2004 Monte Carlo in his Late Model debut. White's time beat the track record of 18.852 (95.481 mph) established in March 2004 by Tony Green. White started eighth in the main and was running third from lap 21 until he dropped out with a problem after 48 of the 50 laps.
MINI STOCKS: (25 cars-on third-mile)
Fast Time: Fred Adams, 17.546.
Main: Dustin Morgan, Bob Reed, Kevin Bernhardt, Dennis Croasman, Jack Rogers, Eric Reed, Virgil Young, Richard Garver, Tony Lawler, Brenda Pugh, Glenn Duffin, Phil Griffin, Rodney Bornhop, Rod Schmitt, Ron Schmitt, Lauri Wong, Bobby Cormack, Jim Martus, Tyler Rogers, Jim McNear, Greg Didoha, Tom Dye, Brian Johnson, Kris Melleby, Rory Russell.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS: (13 cars on half-mile)
Fast Time: John Watkinson, 18.842.
Main: Joe Ruggles, Watkinson, Tim Morse, Jim Peacock, Robert Rice, Shawn Buckley, Zach Foster, Doug Carpenter, Greg Tucker, Garrett Yamada, Lloyd Mack, Charlie Wahl, -DNS-Brent Jones.
VISTA PAINT SUPER STOCKS: (22 cars on half-mile)
Fast Time: Larry Sampson, 21.974.
Main: Victor Wu, Robin Bourgeois, Greg Crutcher, Jeff Grill, Lee Ladd, Steve Gilmore, Eric Sunness, Jimmy Sloan, Kenny Brown, Dan Rodgers, Steve Smith, Sampson, Garry Howell, Bill Shoemaker, Eric Bewley, Keith Wood, Phil Holt, Roy Moore, Jamie Barnett, Bryan Harrell, Brent Cusick. -DNS- Rich DeLong III.
DODGE SUPER TRUCKS: (29 trucks on half-mile)
Fast Time: John Sereika, 19.515.
Main: Ron Peterson, Sereika, Eric Hardin, Cory Fancy, Louis Mammolito, P. J. Baker, Randy Colling, Derek DiSarro, Paul Brennan, Mark Laeger, Dan Higgins, Ken Maler, Logan Henson, Danny Mathus, Joe Anderson, Dave Scarcella, Pat Mintey, Jr, Scott Fortier, Joe Herold, Darren Sigwing, Bob Barker, Uli Perez, Steve Latina, Richard Williams, Tim Doyle, Matt Saied, Josh Barker, Dave Blankenship, Ryan Fortier.
AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LATE MODELS: (27 cars on half-mile)
Fast Time: Johnny White, 18.829 - NTR (old TR - 18.852 by Tony Green, March, 2004).
Main: Austin Grabowski, Tim Huddleston, Scott Youngren, Brian Kelley, Sean Bennett, Dan DiGiacomo, Mike Mulhall, Brian Jones, Chris Houwen, Richie Altman, Robert Rice, Dan DiGiamarino, Rodney Peacher, Robbie Brand, Dennis Schlarbaum, Dave Hessing, Danny Renko, Jack Chisholm, Craig Yeaton, Justin Lofton, J. White, Candace Muzny, Travis Thirkettle, George Ruark, Jameel Saied, Pat Ackley, Mike Johnson.
LUCAS OIL SUPER LATE MODELS: (39 cars on half-mile)
Fast Time: Andrew Phipps, 17.712 - NTR (old TR - 17.817 by Greg Pursley, August, 2004)
B Main: Charlie Wahl, Dennis Arena, Mike Brusco, Robbie Sawyer, Tommy Nutter, Doug McComb, Kevin O'Connell, Scott Calvin, Jobe Spyres, Chris Oddo.-DNS - Brian Dryer.
Main: Rip Michels, Todd Southwell, Phipps, Rod Johnson, Kevin O'Neil, Nathan Wulff, Mike Price, Brandon Loverock, Brian Eickler, Dan O'Donnell, Van Knill, Arena, Danny Gay, Dean Cato, Mark Perry, Tony Jackson, Dave Lyon, Scott Conaway, Brian Yeager, Russell White, David Ross, Jason Patison, Wahl, Chris Clyne, Andy Coyle, Dan Moore, Jim McGill, Ed Hoffman, Kevin Thompson, Gary Jenkins.