An open-wheel extravaganza Saturday at Irwindale Speedway featured three USAC Western States division-Ford Focus Midgets, W/S Midgets and 360 Sprint Cars-plus an open competition NASCAR Grand American Modified 50-lap race. It attracted 3,940 fans,...
An open-wheel extravaganza Saturday at Irwindale Speedway featured three USAC Western States division-Ford Focus Midgets, W/S Midgets and 360 Sprint Cars-plus an open competition NASCAR Grand American Modified 50-lap race. It attracted 3,940 fans, despite game one of the World Series in progress between the Giants and Angels in Anaheim, about 30 miles southeast via freeways.
Versatile Kasey Kahne-a veteran of Midget, Sprint Car and Stock Car racing-used an open week in his NASCAR Busch Grand National racing schedule to win the 360 Sprints 40-lap feature. He drove a Zarounian Racing Beast chassis only three races old and mated with an engine from Ed Pink. Kahne, from Enumclaw, Washington, said he held on despite losing his brakes after a caution flag on lap 35.
Josh Wise, a 19-year old college student from Riverside, took the 30-lap Midget main event, also on the banked, half-mile. He drove his Eric Wise-owned 2001 Beast/Ed Pink Chevy. It was his second feature victory this season and fifth on the circuit. Wise's rapid rise in USAC racing has included the 1999 TQ Midget championship, 2000 W/S Midget rookie of the year and 2001 W/S Midget most improved driver honors for finishing second in final point standings.
Jon Wilcox captured his first main event victory in the new Ford Focus Midget Series. The 20-lap race utilized the third-mile track. The El Cajon resident drove his own four-cylinder, 178 horsepower Ford Focus Zetec powered Midget. He led the final 19 circuits. Wilcox became the eighth different main event winner of the 16 events contested this season on six different tracks in California.
Travis Thirkettle won his fourth consecutive Grand American Modified feature and fifth this season in 13 races on Irwindale's half-mile. The runner-up in Irwindale's GAM final point standings dueled six-time Irwindale winner Roger Carufel, Jr. all 50 laps. Thirkettle became the third and final leader on lap 32 when he passed Carufel on the inside in the second turn. Carufel trailed by 1.083 seconds.
Kahne won both the USAC Midget and 360 Sprint Car features at this mid-October Thanksgiving Night Grand Prix preview event last year. He said he loves to race and "would race every night if I could". He said it is always fun returning to his open-wheel racing roots. He added he will return to Irwindale November 28 and race in the annual Thanksgiving Classic.
Kahne, the second fastest qualifier in a 30-car field, started fifth and became the third race leader on lap 20. Levi Jones, from Olney, IL, started on the pole and led the first four laps. Fourth starter Bud Kaeding, in Bob Consani's Beast/Chevy, made an inside pass in turn four and paced laps five-19. Kahne passed Kaeding entering the first turn on lap 13, but he was in front only half a lap before Kaeding retook the point in turn three.
Leader Kaeding slowed suddenly on the backstretch during lap 20 when his car jumped out of gear, causing him to fade to tenth position. Kaeding reacted promptly and then resumed speed. He was back to eighth position on lap 22. He took second on lap 32 and battled Kahne during the final six laps after a two-car spinout cost Kahne his 30-yard advantage and bunched the field. Kahne edged Kaeding by 0.457 seconds (ten yards).
Tony Hunt finished third, 1.856 seconds in back of the winner, and he moved into third position in points. Thirteen of the 22 starters finished and 11 drivers completed all 40 laps. John Ryals'engine broke an oil line in the fourth turn on the second lap and he pulled into the infield. However, three cars spun in oil he deposited in the fourth turn and they were sidelined for the night.
The 20-car W/S Midget Series feature had four race leaders. Point leader and outside front row starter Robby Flock led the first two laps. Danny Ebberts, the 2001 W/S Midget champion, started third and led laps three through six. Fastest qualifier Michael Lewis quickly advanced from his sixth starting position to lead the seventh lap.
As Lewis and Ebberts entered the third turn on lap eight, Ebberts tried to get under Lewis but he made contact with leader Lewis and caused Lewis to spin broadside into the outer wall. The Indiana driver, who came to Irwindale to get track time in preparation for the Turkey Night GP, was irate at Ebberts when he climbed from his damaged Mike Reed-owned 2002 Beast chassis.
Ebberts then led laps eight through 20. Second fastest qualifier Wise cleared traffic and engaged Ebberts from laps 13-20. Fifth starter Wise passed Ebberts on the inside in the second turn during lap 21 and pulled away to his 0.863-second victory over Ebberts. Tony Hunt, doing double-duty in the two premier races of the night, finished third. Flock and Jerry Coons, Jr rounded out the top five finishers. Fourteen of the 20 starters finished, with the top ten on the lead lap. Wise and Lewis in the Midgets and Kahne in the 360 Sprints started last in their heat races and won "going away".
Nine of the Ford Focus Midgets in a 12-car field finished the 20-lap race. All nine drivers were on the lead lap. Point leader Todd Hunsaker, a four-time series winner, was second, 0.142 seconds in back of Wilcox. J. J. Ercse, a three-time winner in the new series, took third place.
In the 13-car GAM 50-lap main, Eddie Ernst finished third. Andrew Phipps, Irwindale's runner-up in super stock points, took fourth in his first GAM race. Billy Johanneck, from Phoenix, was fifth in his first action at the track. All of the top five drivers completed 50 laps.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS:
Fast Time: Steve Luecht, 18.539.
Main: Travis Thirkettle, Roger Carufel, Jr, Eddie Ernst, Andrew Phipps, Billy Johanneck, Ruben Federico, Scott Brown, Joe Ruggles, Dennis Schlarbaum, Robert Rice, Luecht, Garrett Yamada, Richie Altman.
USAC 360 SPRINT CARS:
Fast Time - Tony Hunt, 16.629.
Heat 1 - Scott Hansen, Chad Nichols, Hunt, Amy Barnes, Ivan Worden, Randy Mello, Tony Iacobitti, Mike Aaby.
Heat 2 - Kasey Kahne, Bobby McMahan, Mike Ford, Daniel Hood, Brad Bumgarner, Robert Beck, Eric Butze, Ryan Burdett.
Heat 3 - Bud Kaeding, Jason McCord, Levi Jones, Shauna Hogg, Tom Stansberry, Rick Brown, Chuck Maddox.
Heat 4 - Alex Harris, Jeff Gardner, Wally Pankratz, John Ryals, Todd Ellison, Brian McClish, Rick Hendrix.
Semi - Eric Butze, Rick Hendrix, Brian McClish, Tony Iacobitti, Ellison, Robert Beck, Randy Mello, Stansberry, Mike Aaby, Rick Brown, Worden, Burdett, Maddox, Bumgarner.
Main - Kahne, Kaeding, Hunt, Hendrix, Hansen, Gardner, McMahan, Barnes, Robert Beck, Nichols, Hood, Iacobitti, Hogg, McClish, Butze, Pankratz, Jones, Harris, Ellison, McCord, Ford, Ryals.