Rip Michels capped perhaps the most exciting NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model main event of the season at Irwindale Speedway Saturday night by winning his third 75-lap race feature of the year. His twenty-first main event triumph at the track...
Rip Michels capped perhaps the most exciting NASCAR Jani-King Super Late Model main event of the season at Irwindale Speedway Saturday night by winning his third 75-lap race feature of the year. His twenty-first main event triumph at the track came before 6,150 cheering fans on Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge round four of ten.
The Fox Sports Net television network taped the race for airing on July 11 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on FSN2. Michels, Irwindale's 2000 NASCAR Grand American Modified champion, tallied most of his victories in that division. His stock car exploits are becoming equally noteworthy.
Michels, from Mission Hills, started sixth as the second fastest qualifier in a 28-car field. He became the third and final race leader on lap 25 when he used a slower car as a pick. Michels cut to the inside in the second turn to take command from pole starter Keith Spangler, who led the first three laps.
Nathan Wulff, from outside row one, went to the inside in turn four and took the point on lap four. He paced the rapid field through lap 16. Spangler was back in front from laps 17-24 until Michels' LADCO Chevy Monte Carlo became the dominant machine. Ben Walker started third and finished second, 0.697 seconds back, in his Ford Taurus. Fastest qualifier Tony Bruncati came from seventh grid position in his Sunrise Ford to place third, 3.507 seconds behind the winner.
Kazuto Yanagawa had to move from his eighth grid position to the back of the field (28th) after the ignition failed and his Chevy Monte Carlo didn't move off the grid. He switched to his onboard backup ignition box and charged through the field to finish fourth, 4.098 seconds behind Michels. Yanagawa, originally from Nagoya, Japan, earned the "hard charger award". "K.Z", as he is known, said, "I would've won if I had started from my eight position on the grid." Wulff was fifth, 5.810 seconds off the pace.
Newlywed Tony Green, the track SLM Division point leader, started fifth and was sixth when his car and seventh place Brent Reynolds collided during lap 23 on the backstretch. Both drivers spun to the infield and lost about 11 positions before resuming the chase without being lapped. Green hustled back to finish sixth.
Brandon Loverock, the second ranked driver in current track point standings, came from 13th starting spot to earn seventh position. Tommy Fry, Spangler and second year driver Nick DeFazio completed the top ten. Twenty-two of the 28 starters finished and 16 drivers ran all 75 circuits. The race had two caution periods for minor spins and took only 29:05.928 to complete.
The track's premium "in-house" SLM racing division thrilled spectators from laps six-23 when the top six drivers raced in a tight pack two or three abreast. These drivers swapped the top six positions at least 20 times at the starting line and more often than that at points around the half-mile banked oval. Things settled down into a "chase Michels" mode after the laps 31-34 and 38-42 cautions. Michels told the crowd, "My guys gave me such a good car I told them they could get their photo taken with the Miller Lite trophy girls instead of me." He thanked the packed grandstand and told fans, "We could hear you cheer." Runner-up Walker, the Miller Lite Big Ten Challenge point leader, increased his point advantage in the series-within-a-series with another of his top three finishes. Walker, a third generation driver who raced as a Featherlite Southwest Series rookie last season, said he must have top three finishes each week to keep his race team financially viable. "Oh my god, he (Michels) was unreal tonight," he told the crowd on the track PA system.
The other race of the night was a 32-truck American Race trucks series feature that track officials reduced from the scheduled 75-lap distance to 50 laps because the 11 p.m. curfew was approaching rapidly. ART teams cooperated and ran an all-green flag race in 17:49.175 minute Poleman and fastest qualifier Michael May was in front all the way in his Ford F-150. It was his fifth 2002 feature triumph-four at Irwindale and one at Tucson. May, from Huntington Beach, defeated runner-up and former race winner Michael Thomas, in a Dodge, by 1.958 seconds. Dave Lyon took third in his Chevy. Mark Schilling and Terry Young followed. Track ART point leader Val Cummings, Aaron Staudinger, Robbie Brand, Josh Hulsebosch and Jeff Williams rounded out the top ten. Twenty-eight of the 32 starters finished and 15 drivers completed all 50 laps.
May ran a 20.807 fast lap during group qualifying. Bruncati's SLM fast time was 18.315. Wulff led all the way in the six-lap SLM trophy dash for the six fastest qualifiers with a time of 1:52.823
AMERICAN RACE TRUCKS:
Fast Time: Michael May, 20.807.
Main: May, Michael Thomas, Dave Lyon, Mark Schilling, Terry Young, Val Cummings, Aaron Staudinger, Robbie Brand, Josh Hulsebosch, Jeff Williams, Tony Forfa III, Dale Cromwell, Rick Harbaugh, Steve Dyer, Neil Conrad, Dennis Bennett, Dan Pehrson, Tom Taylor, Mike Mocaby, Jim Satterfield, Kirk Knostman, Chris Johnson, Robert Leininger, Mike Pennington, Shawn Rizzone, Alan Rizzone, Steve reeves, Joe Perez, Randy Nelson, Robert Dolacki, Cal Vandervoort, Stewart Sprung.
JANI-KING SUPER LATE MODELS:
Fast Time: Tony Bruncati, 18.315.
Dash: Nathan Wulff, Ben Walker, T. Bruncati, Tony Green, Rip Michels, Dean Kuhn.
Main: Rip Michels, Walker, T. Bruncati, Kazuto Yanagawa, Wulff, Tony Green, Brandon Loverock, Tommy Fry, Keith Spangler, Nick DeFazio, Dan Moore, Tim Woods III, Deyon Young, David Beat, Taka Mizuki, Dean Cato, Dean Kuhn, Steve Hamilton, Kevin Vernon, Ed Hoffman, Richard Gautreau, Alan Sadler, Brent Reynolds, Andy Coyle, Gary Jenkins, Todd Southwell, Stephan Sadler, Russell White.