WS: Irwindale race report 2000-10-14

Irwindale, Calif.- - On a beautiful Fall evening made for racing, Peru, Indiana's Russ Gamester made winning a Coors Light Silver Bullet Championship race against a full field of the best "Big Car" drivers in the business almost look easy.

Irwindale, Calif.- - On a beautiful Fall evening made for racing, Peru, Indiana's Russ Gamester made winning a Coors Light Silver Bullet Championship race against a full field of the best "Big Car" drivers in the business almost look easy.

Gamester, who had qualified fifth behind Tracy Hines' new track record of 16.549 (the old record was 16.616 set at last year's event by Ryan Newman and cracked by Jason Leffler and Dave Darland as well), worked his track magic by staying in touch with the first lap leaders Leffler, Hines, and Jason McCord and staying out of even the slightest hint of trouble as first McCord had right rear tire bleeder lay down on him, and next Leffler just plain lost the handling in his normally indomitable #9 Beast.

Gamester's after-race comment to a packed press box was exuberant and  typical 
of most winners,  "I wish I could run here every week!" he sighed.  

Watching the event unfold it was sometimes almost hard to tell that Gamester had the race so well in hand, there were so many passes and repasses in the pack, and the 35 year-old pro was having his own way so effortlessly that many thought Leffler was just laying behind waiting for lap 95 (of 100) to make his move and collect his second consecutive Silver Crown race at Irwindale.

What no one knew was that the young Long Beach Busch GN driver was struggling mightily just to stay with the flying Gamester, driving a gritty race and carrying a car that had somehow missed the sweet set-up to an outstanding second place finish. Both drivers knew the truth when Gamester let Leffler by at one point in the late laps, knowing full well that he could (and would) take the lead back virtually at will. Both drivers knew that they had been racing at the end of those 50 fast laps at Irwindale Speedway.

The once-a-year event for the Silver Crown cars attracted a number of special events and visitors along with them. The Historic Champ Car Association put on a living history display with 12 beautiful track racing cars ranging from the earliest Model T race car through cars of the great Indy Roadster era. Their six paced loudly for the wonderful sights and sounds of yesteryear.

Also on the evening's agenda was a (successful) attempt on the World's Closed Course Speed Record for a Rose Parade Float. The City of Hope/City of Duarte float annihilated the old record (set one year earlier at this same race) with a blast into the books at an astonishing 35.808 miles-per-hour! Nearly doubling last year's just under 17 mph lap average the float was flatfooted down the straights and hammered through the turns by the President of Feista Floats, Tim "Get outta my way" Estes.

Congressman David Drier, and well-known LA radio station KFWB traffic reporter Jeff Baugh, along with track announcer Bruce Flanders (who had come up with the idea one year previous) were aboard to make the record "official". The record-shattering attempt came exactly 53 years to the day after John Glenn flew the Bell X-1 through the "sound barrier" and into the pages of modern aviation history ... The Rose Parade Float speed record run, while every bit as astonishing, make considerably less noise (unless the cries of "Hey hang on!" ... which could be heard over the sounds of the motor ... Were taken into account).

An Air Force Color Guard from March Air Base was on hand to honor the service people who were killed and injured on the U.S.S. Cole in the week prior.

Tony George, the President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on hand for his first visit to Irwindale to watch stepson Ed Carpenter compete in the 'Crown Cars. Mr. George was very generous with his compliments of the facility.

Dave Darland, who led the 2000 Silver Bullet points battle into Irwindale, led it out as well, but only by the slimmest of margins. With but one race left on the national series' schedule he carries a very precarious 5-point lead (551 to 546) over Hines into Memphis Motorsports Park's October 28/29 race.

Aaron Fike won the Oliver Trucking check for his superb "Rookie of the Race" performance running third with Irwindale favorite Bud Kaeding putting Jack Hewitt's #23 into a solid fifth place right in front of Hines who took fourth in the 50-mile go.

In the Western States Sprint Cars, Brad Noffsinger, from Concord, North Carolina took the lead on the 34th of 40 laps and cruised to a popular win in the second open-wheeler show of the night at the Speedway. Salt Lake City's Todd Ellison ran fifth in the race but that was plenty to put him over the top as this year's divisional champ. Reseda's John Ryals had a personal best finish with second in the 40-lap main and was seen taking the congratulations of a winner from his many friends and admirers. Ryals, who had to keep pinching himself about the results, had driven almost a flawless race to a well-deserved podium finish.

With both Rip Michels and Dean Kuhn (the division's top two points-getters for 2000) not entered, the rest of the NASCAR Grand American Modified clan had plenty of playing room and a nice, round $1000 first place prize to fight over. Steve Luecht, from Chula Vista set fast time, won the main event, and the "grand" with Roger Carufel Jr. from Saugus right behind. Luecht and Carufel had finished 5th and 6th in the 12-race NASCAR-GAM weekly series at Irwindale for 2000.

ESPN2's camera were on hand to capture both the USAC Sprints and the 'Crown cars. The 2-hour show is scheduled for air on the evening of October 22. Consult your local listings for exact time.

More flying open-wheelers will be back at Irwindale next Saturday when the Supermodified Racing League brings their ground-bound land missiles to "LA's ½-Mile Super Speedway". The fastest machines that encircle the Irwindale oval, these infrequent visitors need to be seen to be believed. Come and believe your eyes. -DS

<pre> FEATURE EVENT K&N PRESENTS USAC COORS LIGHT SILVER BULLET CARS (100 LAPS) 1.) RUSS GAMESTER TERRE HAUTE, IN $9,400 2.) JASON LEFFLER LONG BEACH, CA $6,600 3.) ARRON FIKE GALESBURG, IL $5,000 4.) TRACY HINES NEWCASTLE, IN $3,625 5.) BUD KAEDING CAMPBELL, CA $3,150

USAC WESTERN STATES SPRINT CAR CHAMPIONSHIP (40 LAPS) 1) BRAD NOFFSINGER CONCORD, NC 2) JOHN RYALS RESEDA 3) SCOTT HANSEN SIMI VALLEY 4) BUD KAEDING CAMPBELL 5) TODD ELLISON SALT LAKE CITY (2000 DIVISIONAL CHAMPION)

NASCAR GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS (40 LAPS) 1) STEVE LUECHT CHEVY CHULA VISTA 2) ROGER CARUFEL JR. CHEVY SAUGUS 3) ROBERT RICE CHEVY HAWTHORNE 4) MIKE BUSH PONTIACNORTH HILLS 5) MICHAEL HALE CHEVY BOUNTIFUL, UT

NEXT RACE: OCTOBER 21 SRL SUPERMODIFIEDS, NASCAR LATE MODEL "75", AMERICAN RACE TRUCKS, SUPER STOCK "50", & MINI-STOCKS

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Series NASCAR , USAC
Drivers Jason Leffler , Ryan Newman , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Bud Kaeding , Aaron Fike , Tony George , Brad Noffsinger , Russ Gamester , Jason McCord , Rip Michels , Color Guard , Ed Carpenter