Irwindale Speedway race report 2001-05-05

COMEBACK KID... Ok, so he's not exactly a "kid", but you have to admit that he staged one heck of a comeback on Cinco De Mayo Day at Irwindale Speedway. Greg Voigt of Goleta, who was last seen last Saturday at Irwindale Speedway being carried out...

Ok, so he's not exactly a "kid", but you have to admit that he staged one heck of a comeback on Cinco De Mayo Day at Irwindale Speedway. Greg Voigt of Goleta, who was last seen last Saturday at Irwindale Speedway being carried out on his shield (at least metaphorically) after a first-lap fracas in the Food 4 Less Super Late Models put him into the first turn wall with a torn-off front clip and beaucoup body damage came back to win the hotly-contested 75-lap feature event only seven short days (and long nights) later.

Now, having back-to-back Super Late Model races (which both were also runs for the $15,000 in end-of-season money) that Miller Lite had put up in challenge money is tough enough even if you go home from the first race with a complete and unmolested car.  In Voigt's case he had roughly two-thirds of a car sitting in his race shop on Monday morning.   He figured that he was out of it for a few weeks and would just take his lumps.  His crew, on the
other hand, was adamant.  They wanted to go back to Irwindale on the next Saturday, come hell or high water, make the race, race for it, and then maybe back off for a race or two.  No way did they not want to show their faces (and their number 89 F4LSLM with Voigt) at the Speedway on May 5.  Pride is a good thing, properly-applied, and this was the textbook example.

They didn't really care what Greg thought, they were going for it and they weren't taking "Hey, let's sit this next one out and catch our breath," for a workorder. In fact, there were even a few (unnamed) fellow drivers who came up with some bucks to help the cause along - No names, no need to. The very essence of true competitors, helping each other off the track and racing the heck out of each other on the track. Voigt had done it for others - It was payback time.

And so the story ends with Greg Voigt, in a visually cobbled-together car that was admittedly (by him) far from the car that he wrecked in one week earlier, running on "other people's money", taking the lead on lap 63 (of 75) due to (more on that later) Rip Michels' abomidable bad luck and squeezing out a first victory of the season over Simi Valley's Tommy Fry by an 0.093-second (that's faster than you can blink your eye) margin, to yet another on-their-feet-and-screaming crowd at "The 'Dale".  Try writing this one as
a possible movie plot and get laughed out of the studio before the second page.  Greg Voigt is NO Cinderella, his win at Irwindale, which matches his total number of wins in his Track Championship Season last year, was the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance, a true team effort on every level.

As for Rip "The Rocket" Michels, the "Mission Hills Missile" just had everyone covered in this, his fifth-ever Super Late Model race. Maybe it's the national magazine articles about him and his family, maybe it's what he eats for breakfast, maybe it's the way he lives - But this 2000 NASCAR Grand American Modified Champ is showing some speed (and stick) in the Super Lates. Michels (no "a" in there please) led the first 84% of the race with command.

The certified welder son of a certified welder mom was gone, they had already started engraving his name on the winner's trophy, he was counting the winner's share of the purse, going over his victory lane speech, in the zone - When an errant bit of twisted steel pierced one of his tires and 4,839 astonished fans saw a "hero to zero-zero to hero" modern morality play played out on the Irwindale Speedway stage. Rip, like Greg, is a fighter - He'll be back and he'll be heard from - Bet the farm.

"Three second places in a row - There's only one thing better,"  was Tommy Fry's response to the prosaic press box: "How does it feel-" questions on Saturday after the race.  Fry made the try of the night on Voigt coming off of turn 4.  In fact, from certain angles he looked to have headed  the 89 car for a few feet - But it was Voigt's night and Fry is a real competitor.  His choice could have been a nudge, his pride kept him in his own wh
eel tracks, diving Voigt clean, hard, and honest.  Competitors, not combatants.

In third, running a great race, with breathtaking headlong dives down the inside into turn 3, was young Brand Loverock of Norwalk. Loverock, only in his fourth year of racing, is showing much of the poise and talent that his two podium-mate have developed over the years. Hanging around with them, at the head of the pack, is looking more and more like the place that Loverock belongs in a tough division of determined pro drivers.

Fast-charging David Gilliland looked poised to make it three in a row from fifth, but this time, a green, white, checker finish this time was not so efficatious for his efforts. The Chino Hills racer just couldn't get past the above mentioned Loverock, racing him hard and sharp for the position. An ever-improving Russell White rounded out the top five in the dynamic division, the Riverside racer having another good outing passing 1999 Winston West Champ Sean Woodside on the last of the 75 rounds of the raceway.

Las Vegas' Deyon Young showed why he's the points leader in the American Race Truck Series with a BD-second win over David Lyon of nearby West Covina in the popular "spec" truck division, while Mike Wright, from Yucca Valley scored big in the quick MSRA Pro4 Mods with an almost 1-second victory over Orange's Ed Reed.

Terry ("we've got to get a shorter name") Limberopoulos of Bellflower won the season's inaugural NASCAR Modified 4's race in his jaunty rear-motored Renault. The race (which saw a great 22 cars out for their first racing laps on Irwindale's fast-flat third-mile oval) was spirited affair for all 30 laps. Old "T.L." won the division handily leading Saugus' Guy Tripp in his Pinto across the stripe with almost 2 seconds to spare in a race that only took 14 and quarter minutes to run.

Next Week is officially named: "Hold onto your hat" week at Irwindale Speedway with the heavy artillery of NASCAR's Winston West rolling into town and in 250 laps of the Food 4 Less 250. All the tire-slinging, gas-sloshing pit stop action you can handle with drivers the likes of legendary Herschel McGriff, 2000 champ Austin Cameron, Steve Portenga, Joe Bean, Johnny Borneman, Mark Reed, Eric Norris, and 2000 Series Champ Brendan Gaughn all going at it like (speed-crazed) cats and dogs.

Add-in the Auto Club Late Models as an accompanying act, and fans have got a G-R-E-A-T reason for being at Irwindale Speedway early (gates open at 4pm) on May 12.

Kids 12 and under will be admitted FREE to this show (with an adult ticket purchase) and the full field of Winston West cars will do an on-track autograph session at 6pm. Fans are making plans. Live racing right there, right now, is the way it is at Irwindale. Kicked-back, lots of commercials, and endless replays, TV racing is (great) on Sunday afternoons - The real stuff, the right stuff is live at Irwindale every Saturday night - This one in particular.


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Series Stock car
Drivers Steve Portenga , Mark Reed , Eric Norris , David Gilliland , Austin Cameron , Rip Michels