Irwindale Speedway 2000-07-15

BEFORE: "…There was live band, a great free car club show, fire trucks on display, and a full moon shining brightly over the Dr. Pepper-sponsored night of NASCAR action on Saturday evening at Irwindale Speedway …" That's one attempt at ...

BEFORE: "…There was live band, a great free car club show, fire trucks on display, and a full moon shining brightly over the Dr. Pepper-sponsored night of NASCAR action on Saturday evening at Irwindale Speedway …" That's one attempt at trying to explain some of the "unusual" events that took place on both the ½-Mile and 1/3-Mile oval tracks that night.

In the Dr. Pepper Twin 40 races for NASCAR Late Models points leader James Weston and second-in-points driver Todd Burns both went home with 98 points in their wallets. The Goleta resident (Weston) won the first race with Burns coming in second; and the Riverside runner (Burns) reversed the order of finish in the second. Both drivers used up every inch of the race track, their cars, their skill, nerves, and, in the last few laps of the final 40-lapper, each other's cars.

In round one Jeff Saelid (Covina) made the most of his front row starting spot to lead the first dozen or so laps with Weston working his way up from behind. Weston took over first and then had "fun" trying to try to shake off Saelid who stuck to his back bumper like a coat of paint for a number of laps. As Saelid finally faltered, Burns blasted his way into the second place spot and began skillfully dogging Weston's every move with rookie point contender the "X-Man" (in reality Palm Springs' Deryk Ward) running hot in third. Weston was not going to let Burns by no way, no how and that's the way that they finished with Steve Nickolai (Simi Valley), and Rick Miller (also from Palm Springs) finishing in fourth and fifth.

Guy Goldstein (Miller and Ward's neighbor from Cathedral City) may well have had the fastest car on the track in this one as he dropped completely off the pace ending up at the rear of he pack and then, as if reborn as a jet fighter, knifed his way all the way back up through the field to fifth place and looking for more before an engine main seal betrayed his beautiful comeback drive.

In the second of the twin Dr. Pepper 40-lappers, Weston and Burns again ended up facing off for the last laps and the all-important win in the Late Mods. Weston found himself tapped from behind and spinning on lap two, and almost in last place as Ward put his X on leading some laps for himself. By lap 11 Todd Burns had seen enough of Ward's backside and passed him for the lead with Palmdale's Richard Hooper racing up for third position and Steve Nickolai snatching fourth. Then, all of a sudden, here comes Weston picking cars off whenever and wherever he encountered them and simply taking over the race lead, just like that.

Behind him Burns and Ward had a wonderfully entertaining battle over second place which ended when Ward ran out of tires (or track width) and brought out a very late yellow. With two laps to go and everyone on their feet, Burns and Weston put pedals to the metal and metal-to-metal three or four times including a lurid two car sideways skid up the front straight that no one could have saved, yet both of them did so. Burns aimed low for a pass, the two touched (Brushed? Bumped? Banged? Bashed?) … Weston lifted his right foot an imperceptible quarter-millisecond to catch the car … Burns slipped by for his first main event win since June 3. Both men walked away with 98 points on the night; but both men walked away knowing that they should have banked the full 100. Both men walked away and KNEW that there was a full moon a'shining on Saturday night.

In the NASCAR Super Stock division T.K. Karvasek laid on some of his patented low-groove magic to take the win. His usual "dance partner" Jeff Green was really having to live up to his nickname ("Wild Thing") as he raced with virtually no brakes and exactly no power steering. His third place finish was perhaps the best piece of driving seen in a night of many great drives. That's not to diminish 1999 champion Mike Price's drive to second on the night's imaginary Super Stock podium. Burbank's Yagel Berkovitz finished fourth and Reseda's Jon Wilkes (who is his own entire pit crew, by the way) got a good fifth. If you thought that we were going to forget to add the first three driver's home towns, think again. They were (in order of appearance above): North Hills, Long Beach, and San Pedro. "Super" … Good choice of adjectives here.

Jim Smith of Orange bested Nick DeFazio of Charlotte, N.C. in the crowd-pleasing Legend Cars 35-lapper on the fast 1/3-mile inner oval. Alta Loma's Tom Landreth was third, Chase Bankhead from Irvine got fourth, and Kevin Krauss from nearby Temple City was fifth.

Troy Decuir was a familiar site in the Mini-Stockar winner's circle with Dave Uppman form Hawaiian Gardens finishing second to the Moreno Valley motormeister. Camarillo's own Randy Jones got third, while Peter Nosan from Sun City and James Ross from Whittier ran fourth and fifth respectively.

"Full Moon-itis" seemingly struck the NASCAR driver with the best record of all on Saturday night as the winner of every race in his division so far this year, Bob Reed (Riverside), finished an uncharacteristic second to last year's division champion Lee Ladd (Thousand Oaks).

Bumping, grinding (you'd have thought that they were practicing for the next day's "Ford LA Street Race") and generally carrying on was the order of the day in the NASCAR Mini Stocks. Pat Ackley from Huntington Beach avoided trouble for third and was followed home by Oaji's Greg Tucker and West Covina's Randy Colling in fourth and fifth respectively.

AFTER: Even with all the on-track action, the 210 laps of exciting main event racing were in the record books a bit before 10 p.m. which gave virtually every one of the over 5,000 in the grandstands a chance to partake in one of the longest-standing and most convivial of short track traditions: open pits after the races. Kids (of all ages) meeting their heroes, getting an autograph, posing for a picture, maybe even taking home an signed racing tire or a busted fender ("…Where you going to put THAT?" "… Awww Mom!") as a super souvenir. It's part of why fans love short track so much, and one of the experiences that keeps people coming back week after week … If you haven't visited the Irwindale pits after a race, you've missed out on a great part of the full flavor of weekly racing. We hope to see you there (in the pits after the races) next Saturday night!

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Drivers Jeff Green , Bob Reed , Jim Smith , Kevin Krauss