WWS: Irwindale race report 2000-08-19

Irwindale, Calif. - - Long time NASCAR Winston West driver Joe Bean won the Home Depot 250 at Irwindale Speedway driving a car that he rhapsodized about as being the "…Sweetest handling racers I've ever had." One press room wag even suggested...

Irwindale, Calif. - - Long time NASCAR Winston West driver Joe Bean won the Home Depot 250 at Irwindale Speedway driving a car that he rhapsodized about as being the "…Sweetest handling racers I've ever had." One press room wag even suggested that he weld up all the chassis settings on his #77 Ford Taurus, and keep the car in cold storage until the season finale at Irwindale, a race track that Bean openly professes complete infatuation with. It took Bean a scant 1 hour, 34 minutes and 24 seconds to run the full 250 laps and, in doing so, to put the field a long16.811 seconds behind him.

Crediting his crew and car owner, Bean was clearly thrilled to be able to deliver a dominating win for his car's sponsors Food 4 Less and City of Hope. Both entities had many special guests in attendance at the Speedway, and Bean's win elicited a mighty roar of approval from everyone in the house. At the end, the race and $16,750.00 in first place money were only Joe's to lose, as he came close to lapping the entire field and looked as though he was on cruise control from about lap 240 on. But the beginning of the race was no cakewalk for the San Diego resident … And that's the rest of the story.

After a so-so qualifying run to 13th place in the night's starting line-up, Bean expertly sliced and diced his way first-ward and on into the lead on lap 67. A few laps later he got entangled with a car that he was lapping coming off turn four, cut a tire down, and found himself spinning helplessly up the front straight.

By the time that Bean got back around to his pit for new rubber, he was a lap (and a half!) down on the leaders. "Things happen quickly on a ½-mile, especially here!" Joe diligently had worked his way back up to the leaders and, eventually, the lead, when his car started coughing white smoke on acceleration in the turns. Bean had turned off one of the electric cooling fans to conserve energy on the long runs and had seemingly overheated the differential, a component that gets a particularly tough workout at Irwindale.

The smoking eventually subsided, but Bean did not stop "smoking past" his opponents as he went to the head of the class once more and remained there for the duration. His win, his first Winston West victory since 1996, was a very popular one with the fans and the pit crews alike. Rival crews warmly cheered Bean as he vaulted from his car in the pits. After the race, hoards of happy fans kept him and his crew busy at their race hauler signing autographs fully two hours after the race had been ended.

Fuel mileage plagued many 'West drivers, with points-leader, fastest-qualifier, and one-time race leader, Brendan Gaughan having to abandon his spirited pursuit of Bean for a splash of fuel with only eight short laps to go. Gaughan finished fourth with enough points to retain his points lead.

Two-time Winston West champ Bill Sedgwick finished second after being mired in some mid-pack racing for many of the race's 250 laps. Scott Gaylord was pleased with his third place against the tough twenty-eight car field. The team has been struggling of late and this podium finish was, in Gaylord's words: "…Like a win for us."

The two hundred and fifty lap race was plagued with very few yellows and blessed with great racing for almost every place on the score sheet. 5,711 roaring fans saw a wonderfully-entertaining race with the kind three-wide racing action that one would rightfully expect from the hot combination of the best NASCAR drivers on the western side of the US and "LA's ½-Mile Super Speedway" as the showcase for the product.

The best news is that they'll all be back for 300 (!) laps of the same kind of exhilarating racing action at Irwindale on Saturday night, November 11, when Home Depot will present the Winston West Season Finale 300. Stay tuned, and maybe just to be sure, call in for your tickets now (626-358-1100) while you're thinking about it. Guaranteed to be one tire-slinging, fuel-sloshing, last-chance-corral-shoot-outs for the Winston West title. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!

In the evening's curtain-raiser, James Weston from Goleta, clinched the first 2000-season NASCAR Weekly racing title at Irwindale Speedway. Notching his ninth win in the fifteenth race of the sixteen race series, Weston put his points total out of reach for all behind him in the hotly-contested division.

Weston's race was as dominating as Bean's only more so. Headed only on one lap of the fifty (by Cathedral City's Guy Goldstein) Weston won the race and clinched the championship in the same style that he had subscribed to all year long: Get the car right, qualify well, go the front early, and let anyone who wants to run down there in the low grove where tires heat up and turn to unmanageable overheated black goo, while you're up there on the high line going real fast and not overworking your own Goodyears. The plan has worked all season and has fashioned a very well-deserved championship.

Still second in points, but now without a chance for first place in the championship, Riverside's Todd Burns tried his best to right his car after an early laps coming together out of turn four. Unfortunately, in his attempt to get the power down and the car quickly heading West along the front straight, his car's driveshaft just couldn't stand up to all that instant power and snapped letting the hard charging Burns down. Todd and Oak Hill's Tony Green (the consensus Rookie-of-the-Year for the Late Models) both still have a shot at second place in the annual standings.

Their next race: September 9.

An interesting sidelight to the story is that Weston and Goldstein worked as fueler and jackman respectively on buddy Greg Viogt's Winston West #13 car. Voigt is currently leading the points battle for the Speedway's NASCAR Super Late Model crown. -DS

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Drivers Brendan Gaughan