Irwindale race report 2002-10-12

Tim Huddleston excelled aboard his Pontiac Grand Prix in an open competition event Saturday at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway before 6,352 spectators. He set his 17th fastest qualifying time of the year (a new track record for the fourth time...

Tim Huddleston excelled aboard his Pontiac Grand Prix in an open competition event Saturday at the half-mile Irwindale Speedway before 6,352 spectators. He set his 17th fastest qualifying time of the year (a new track record for the fourth time this season!) and then won the opening round of the "Racecar Factory 100" for the California Late Model Championship". It was his eighth main event victory of the season.

The 100-lap race was the longest in track history for the Auto Club-backed Late Model Division. Huddleston, the track runner-up in 2002 point standings, earned $1,500 for the night and a good head-start on a $1,000 bonus for the driver with the best record after round two of two next Sunday afternoon at Bakersfield's Mesa Marin Raceway. The inaugural post-season series for Late Model drivers Saturday attracted drivers from four tracks, including Irwindale, Mesa Marin, El Cajon and Altamont.

Lee Ladd started seventh and won the open competition Vista Paint Super Stock 50-lap main event in his Ladco 1973 Camaro. It was his first feature victory in the Super Stock Division during his rookie season in the class. Ladd, a popular past Modified 4 (Mini Stock) track champion at IS, finished third in final Super Stock points at IS. He won by 2.011 seconds over Chris Houwen's Camaro in an 18-car field. Third finisher Cliff Conklin led the first nine laps before Ladd passed him and paced the final 41 laps.

"Barefoot" Billy Ziemann started in row two of the Pick-Your-Part Figure 8s 25-lap race that decided the track championship for the 2002 IS eight race season. The 18-car field included 11 winged Figure 8 Specials. Point leader James Altman, in a Camaro, entered the race with an 18-point advantage. Six drivers had a mathematical chance to win the inaugural IS Figure 8 title.

Altman finished 12th after a collision at the X intersection with title-contender Chris Williamson. However, Altman's closest challengers - Steve Stewart and Tom Smith - were tied for second place in points and both drivers encountered problems early. They finished 15th and 18th respectively. Williamson, a four-time winner this year, finished fourth and climbed into second position, only eight points behind Altman (332-324).

Following a problem-plagued early season, Ziemann also won the last $1,000 to win Figure 8 main at IS. He also won the four-foot rookie-of-the-year trophy and $1,250 for finishing seventh in the $60,000 Figure 8 three-hour enduro September 28 at Indianapolis Speedrome, which paid the winner $10,000.

An IS track record field of 24 cars participated in a Pick-Your-Part Demolition Derby in a designated infield area of the third-mile, which was soaked with soapy water. Stan McDonald, from Oceanside, outhit and outlasted the huge field that included many first-time participants. McDonald earned $1,500 for his first triumph at Irwindale.

Six cars were still moving when a second red flag for an engine fire in a disabled car gave drivers a chance to plan their final assaults. When the 20+ minutes of smashing and bashing received the checkered flag only McDonald's heavy sedan was able to move. Richie Altman, Eric Griffin, two-time Irwindale Demo Derby winner Robert Rice in his Orange Crush, James Altman and Rebecca Ninberg, in her Pink Lady, took positions two through six in that order.

The opening race of the evening was a 20-lap exhibition for the Hornet Class cars from Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino. The four-cylinder, front and rear-wheel drive compact cars had ten cars present. The cars lapped in the high 18s and 19 second bracket at IS. Sky Lundy, from Cathedral City, led all 20 laps from the pole and won by half a lap over Rhonda Everhart. The 6:25.755 minute race was all green flag laps and had six of eight finishers on the lead lap.

The 27-car Late Model feature had a six-car inversion, so fast timer Huddleston started sixth. The race had four leaders. Outside front row starter Kevin Wood led the first two laps in his Ford. Mike Price put his Pontiac in front from laps three-38 and 41-47. Doug McComb, in a Chevy Monte Carlo, led laps 39-40 and 48-78. Huddleston made an inside pass in turn four on lap 79 and led to the lap-100 checkered flag. Runner-up McComb trailed by 1.557 seconds, with Price 5.183 seconds behind the winner. Scott Youngren, the L/M rookie-of-the-year at Irwindale, was fourth.

The expectant father from Fallbrook rushed home following the race because his wife is expected to give birth imminently to their first child - son Nash. McComb said a red flag on lap 79 really cost him the race because his tires were best on long runs. Huddleston said, "The red flag was my big break because my tires were cooked and they cooled during the delay." Huddleston passed McComb promptly on the restart.

Ron Daniel, the sixth-place driver in final 2002 L/M points at Mesa Marin, finished fifth to earn the highest placed visitor honor. Jim Conklin, Kevin Wood, who had to replace a flat right front tire on the red flag, Eugene Dewberry and Johnny Lathrop finished sixth through ninth. The top nine drivers all ran 100 laps.

Marlin Gill completed 99 laps for tenth place. The Mesa Marin regular had started last (27th) and he earned the hard charger award for the race. Eighteen of the 27 drivers were running at the conclusion. Jason Gilbert, the highest finishing of five Altamont Speedway regulars, ran 99 laps and placed 11th.

The 100-lap event, the first IS L/M race at that distance, took one hour and three minutes because of three yellow flags for minor spins and one red flag for a five-car crash on lap 79 as cars exited the second turn. All drivers involved were uninjured. Track cleanup resulted in a 22-minute delay. The lead lap cars of Tim Harris (P.6), Mike Johnson (P.7) and Altamont driver Brian Koski (P.11) were towed back to the pits. Cars of Dave Lowenstein and Doug Carpenter were able to rejoin the race.

No trophy dashes were run. The California Highway Patrol Precision Driving Team, nine CHP officers in black and white CHP patrol cars, performed their crowd-wowing close order drill driving routines which had been postponed by rain back on September 28.


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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Mike Johnson , Chris Williams , Tom Smith , Scott Young , Dave Lowe
Teams Williams