Irwindale race report 2004-05-01

Irwindale Speedway presented a four-division grand slam event on Saturday evening, with the emphasis on the SLAM. The second ever Monster Trucks event at IS and a Demolition Derby supplied some lurid car crushing action that lured almost 6,000 ...

Irwindale Speedway presented a four-division grand slam event on Saturday evening, with the emphasis on the SLAM. The second ever Monster Trucks event at IS and a Demolition Derby supplied some lurid car crushing action that lured almost 6,000 spectators to the track. The racing part of the show was a 15-lap feature for the Pick Your Part Figure 8 series and a 50-lap race on the third-mile track for a season-high 17-cars in the new "Pure Stock" class.

In the opening event, John Kelley started eighth and became the third race leader on lap 39. He used an outside pass on the backstretch to put his 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo into the lead for good and won by a straight-away (5.224 seconds). "This is my first win ever," the happy winner said as he proudly clutched his first place plaque. Kelley jumped from sixth to second in track points.

The race was the third and longest at Irwindale for the new series that races every other Friday from 9:00 to 10:00PM, following the normal four-hour open practice session for all divisions. Kelley, from Riverside, became the third different winner in the series, which is an entry class of American-built cars (1970s vintage) that is similar to the street stock class that raced at IS during the 1999 inaugural racing season.

The 17-car Pure Stock field lost three cars on the first lap when the spinning 1977 Ford Thunderbird of Dave Foster collected Jeff Elder's 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo, sidelining both cars. Spectators, predominantly fans of Monster Trucks, demolition derbies or Figure 8 action, loudly cheered the close, 60+ mph Pure Stock racing action that had a lead pack of four cars for the final portion of the race.

The final lap produced a shake-up behind leader Kelley. Second place Brian Malone, who led the first nine laps and laps 30-38, was holding his inside line lap after lap. Third place Michelle Rouse wanted second and tapped Malone's 1974 Dodge Dart, which spun across the track at the end of the backstretch in front of the field, without contact. Rouse finished second in her 1974 Chevelle. Her husband Jimmy Rouse, the track point leader, two-time feature runner-up and fastest qualifier in his 1976 Chevy Nova, was a close third.

First-time IS racer and 13th starter Tony Martinez came from eighth place to finish fourth in a new 1976 Chevelle just built in just five days by Race Car Factory in Monrovia. The ex-Cajon Speedway and Ascot Park stock car driver cut below slowing cars and the spinning Malone car in turn three to finish on the tail of the wife and husband Rouse team and was awarded the race's "Hard Charger" award. Martinez, who had not been in a race car for over 10 years, gave a good accounting for himself in the sharp-looking Chevy Malibu Laguna. Martinez was also involved in the rest of the show as well, helping to provide the "crush cars" for the trucks as well as a number of the cars that took part in the DD.

Bob Bartleson, 1999 IS street stock veteran Justin Good, April 16 feature winner John Mattie and Harry Michaelian followed Martinez home at the Speedway. Malone, the first IS Pure Stock 40-lap winner on April 2, recovered to finish ninth, the last driver on the lead lap.

Mark Whitson, a first-time driver at IS, started sixth in his 1976 Chevelle and passed Malone on the outside during lap 10. Whitson opened a half-lap lead before he retired to the infield on lap 30 with a mechanical problem. Malone reassumed the point and led the tight four-car battle until Kelley got tired of trading second place with Michelle Rouse and made his winning outside pass of the first two drivers. The 18-minute race had four cautions and required 28-minutes to complete.

The second and final regular racing event was the 11-car, 15-lap Figure 8 race. "Barefoot" Billy Ziemann led all the way from his outside front row starting position and won $1,000. The Figure 8 specialist, who shuns shoes, last won a main event at IS more than a year ago in his self-built winged special. "My Caddy was running good tonight," he told the crowd. Six cars finished.

Ron Chaney placed second, a little less than a straightaway back, for $600. Chaney's car hit and spun the second-running car of Don Rogers as they entered the third turn on the final lap. Rogers recovered and finished third (worth $450) as the only other driver on the lead lap. "He took me out and I run for points," Rogers told the crowd. Chaney responded, "He was a little loose and slowed a bit and I had no brakes."

Jesse James, who is a distant relative of the 19th Century outlaw, was a charging third on the ninth lap when he collided with the lapped car of Harry Kuenniger entering turn three. Their cars became hooked together as they gunned their engines to separate their cars without success. Neither car continued. Ziemann and pole starter Rod Proctor battled for the lead from the first lap to lap 13 when Proctor went inside Ziemann for the lead entering the third turn. Ziemann's car rode up and over Proctor's RF wheel and Proctor stalled with a bent suspension. Ziemann continued leading. Red flags flew after both crashes to remove disabled cars.

Event three was the featured Monster Truck one-hour event in which the behemoths competed in wheelie contests, Chicago-style drag races, crushing/wheelie/donut competitions and face-off races around crushed cars. A track-high eight Monster Trucks, up from six trucks at IS last year, competed in the heavily-advertised event. The 9,500 to 10,000 pound trucks run on Huge 66-inch, 1,600-pound Firestone tires and sport 600+ cubic inch engines that generate an estimated 1,200 horsepower. Trucks competing were the original (1974) and most famous Monster truck-Bigfoot, now in its 11th incarnation. Other trucks were Shocker, Carolina Crusher, Nasty Boy, King Krunch, Unnamed-Untamed, Livewire and Hot Shot. In the finale, Shocker, driven by 28-year old Pat Gerber, from Bakersfield, defeated Bigfoot, the winner at IS last year.

The concluding event was an eight-car demolition derby in the start/finish infield. Cars crushed by the Monster Trucks lined the watered and soaped battleground. When 16-minutes of smashing and bashing received the checkered flag, the No. 707 car driven by Stan McDonald, a USMC Sergeant from Oceanside, received the victory over cars 909 and 24. He also won an IS demo derby last year.

Fast Time: Jimmy Rouse, 18.427.

Main: John Kelley, Michelle Rouse, J. Rouse, Tony Martinez, Bob Bartleson, Justin Good, John Mattie, Harry Michaelian, Brian Malone, Mark Whitson, Bill Bartleson, Blake Usilton, Debra Zunia, John Betzer, Stuart Pfouts, Dave Foster, Jeff Elder.

Heat 1: Rod Proctor, Jesse James, Craig Rayburn, Robbie Stutzel, Harry Michaelian.

Heat 2: Billy Ziemann, Don Rogers, Harry Kuenniger, Ron Chaney.

Main: Ziemann, Chaney, Rogers, Michaelian, Proctor, Stutzel, Justin Good, James, Kuenniger, Tony Curtis, Rayburn.

Main: Shocker (driven by Pat Gerber) over Bigfoot.

Winner: Stan McDonald.

-is/tim kennedy-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Dave Foster , Tony Martin , Jesse James