Irwindale Speedway race report 2002-06-29

First-time winner Tony Bruncati and four-time winner Rip Michels collected trophies in a pair of NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model twin-50-lap main events Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. A Pick Your Part demolition derby and a spectacular...

First-time winner Tony Bruncati and four-time winner Rip Michels collected trophies in a pair of NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model twin-50-lap main events Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. A Pick Your Part demolition derby and a spectacular 15-minute fireworks show followed the second SLM feature and helped attract a standing room only crowd-the first 6,500-seat sellout of the season.

Greg Adler started sixth and became the third and final race leader on lap 25 in the 26-truck, 50-lap Ultra Wheel Super Truck main. He led the balance of the race and opened a 30-yard winning margin over rookie Ryan Arciero during the final ten laps. Pole starter Arciero, led the first ten laps, 13-16 and 20-24 before settling for second. Point leader Carson Woods was third. Fourth place Jim McGill led laps 11-12 and 17-19 during the exciting four-truck dicing for the lead in mid-race.

Point leader Roger Carufel, Jr started second and led all the way in a 35-lap NASCAR Grand American Modified feature. It was his fourth main event triumph of the season in seven races. He also has three second place finishes to help him open a 62-point lead in what he hopes will be his first Irwindale championship season. Fastest qualifier Travis Thirkettle chased the winner all 35 laps and trailed by 0.829 seconds with Eddie Ernst third.

Robert Rice, a GAM series veteran, used his hefty bright orange "Orange-Crush-mobile"sedan to capture the $1,000 first place prize in a five-car $2,000 demolition derby. The event took place in a confined watered section of infield pavement at the start/finish infield. It was the second demolition derby at the track. Rice also won the track's first "DD" last year in the same car, which emerged relatively unscathed Saturday and ready for Irwindale's next demolition derby on August 17.

The first SLM 50-lap main had eventual winner Tony Bruncati on the pole and fastest qualifier Rip Michels outside in row one. They monopolized the lead and used beautifully-controlled "slide-jobs" to trade the point four times.

Bruncati had his No. 22 Sunrise Ford-sponsored Ford Taurus in front for the first two laps. Michels put his No. 12 LADCO Chevy Monte Carlo atop the scoring pylon from laps three through six. Bruncati led laps seven-18 before Michels went low exiting turn four and had his nose in front on lap 19. Bruncati used an outside pass in the fourth turn on lap 20 to take command for good and earn his first main event trophy after three years racing a super late model at the track.

All his inside groove racing eventually heated Michels' tires and he lost second postion to Brandon Loverock on lap 27. Tommy Fry took third place on lap 28. Michels regained third during lap 40 and finished third with a flat right front tire trailing sparks on the cool-off lap. Runner-up Loverock trailed Bruncati by 1.717 seconds. Michels was a mere 0.140 seconds in back of Loverock's Chevy.

Fry's Chevy finished fourth, 3.340 seconds behind the winner. Point leader Tony Green brought his Chevy home fifth, but he saw Loverock cut his point lead by six points to 32 points. Brent Reynolds, Ben Walker, SLM rookie/truck veteran Dan Moore and Nick DeFazio completed the top ten. Only the top ten drivers ran all 50 laps. Fifteen of the 20 starters were still racing at the finish.

The second SLM 50 had three race leaders. Kevin Vernon, trying to join Bruncati as a first time Irwindale winner, started second and led the first 32 circuits. Ninth starter Loverock charged forward quickly and was in second place by lap 12. Inside-running Loverock raced outside-running Vernon evenly for 20-laps and trailed by half a length from lap 25-32.

On lap 33 Loverock used an inside move at turn three to take charge. Sixth-starter Michels dropped Vernon to third on lap 37 and then battled the now outside-running Loverock for the lead. Michels used an inside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line and took the point during lap 41. He won by ten yards over Loverock, with Vernon 30-yards back in third.

Yanagawa, Nathan Wulff, Bruncati, Fry, Moore, Walker and AMA Grand National Dirt Track Series motorcycle expert rider Brett Landes completed the top ten. Nineteen of the 20 starters finished, with 15 drivers running all 50 circuits. The rapid, all green flag race took only 15:53.766. SLM point leader Green experienced tire problems and finished 14th. He saw his point advantage over Loverock shrink to only eight points - 410 to 402.

For the first time, SLM drivers used two qualifying laps, timed individually, to set starting lineups for both of the twin-50s. Their first lap gave them their starting spot in the first 50 and their second lap gave them their starting position for the second 50. A rule allowed a maximum of six tires for both races. Drivers had to start the first 50 on tires used for qualifying. The two remaining tires could be used to replace any flat tires or for the second 50 lap race.

Loverock, from fourth grid position, won the six-lap SLM trophy dash. He led the final two laps. Carufel, from fifth, led only lap six in winning the GAM dash. Demolition derby runner-up Mike Atkinson, a tech inspector at the track, earned $500. The third place driver Juliana Paez, a housewife and mother of three from nearby Monrovia, collected $250. The fourth and fifth place cars had race drivers Gerrit Cromsigt and Aaron Staudinger as drivers. Both cars were surplus security guard firm sedans "liberated" late Saturday from a scrap yard in Long Beach and driven north on the 605 Freeway to the track for their final and furious runs.


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Drivers Rip Michels