KENNEDY: Recapping The Irwindale Banquet

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Tim Kennedy

LOS ANGELES – The Irwindale Speedway season championship awards banquet was held Saturday in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Monrovia with 170 in attendance.

Following a three-course catered dinner, emcee and track co-promoter Tim Huddleston welcomed attendees. He began a new tradition of awarding door prizes to persons who answered correctly more than 30 Irwindale Speedway-related trivia questions.

The first awards of the evening went to four champions of the eighth-mile NHRA Summit ET Series Irwindale Dragstrip. They were: Don Mehling (Super Pro), Marvin Rolls (Pro), Troy Gonzales (Pro Motorcycles), and Garret Hoefer (Sportsman class).

Seven champions and the top five drivers in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track points on the half and third-mile ovals were recognized and presented trophies for their 2018 accomplishments.

  • Junior Late Models (drivers from age 14-17): Champion Kyle Keller, 14, from Las Vegas, was the first honoree. He won five of 11 main events on the half-mile and scored 572 points to edge second place R. J. Smotherman by eight points during the inaugural season of the restrictor plate series.
  • Legend Cars: Darren Amidon, 33, won his fifth series championship on the third-mile by 27 points over three-time track champion Chad Schug. He won eight of 11 features and now has 37 feature victoruies in the series at IS.
  • Enduro Cars: The first track championship for the economical entry-level four-cylinder sedans went to Daniel Hudson, 30, who won eight of 11 features on the third-mile in his Acura Integra. Fifty drivers scored points during the inaugural season.
  • Super Stocks: Rich DeLong III, 30, won the series championship with three victories in six main events. He tallied 336 points to outpoint the runner-up by 32 points. He also won the 2010 series championship in the NASCAR Division VI series.
  • Spec Late Models: Kenny Smith, 72, became the oldest track champion in Irwindale history (dating to 1999) by winning five of eight series features on the half-mile. He scored 442 points to 350 for runner-up Craig Yeaton.
  • Irwindale Race Trucks: Lucas McNeil, 25, won his first track championship by 90-points over runner-up Dennis Arena, the 2017 series champion. McNeil won three of 11 features. Seven time series winner Ryan Partridge, 30, was absent on the final double-points night because he was racing for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship in Northern California.
  • Late Models: The premier NASCAR Division I track series for Whelen National Championship points went to Lawless Alan, 18, who won three of 19 main events on the half-mile and outpointed the runner-up by 22 points.

Special Awards

Sportsman of the Year: Rick McNeil, father of two racing sons, was recognized for providing two racing trucks and a late model for his sons and assisting other competitors during the season.

Dedication Award: Marylou Smith, a cancer survivor and wife of the spec late model champion, was feted for supporting racing efforts of her husband for 50 years and the racing efforts of her grandson and graddaughter during recent years.

UNOH Youth Achievement Award for drivers ages 14-17: Ryan Schartau, 15, won one late model feature and finished second in track points by 22 digits. He also raced a Lucas Oil Modified.

Ambassador Award: Long-time enduro driver Cheryl Hyland was the first recipient for her dedication and support of Irwindale racing by manning track booth at the Long Beach Grand Prix and for assisting TV broadcast stations.

Sponsor of the Year: Jan Quackenbush, owner of Jan’s Towing, was honored for providing oval track tow trucks and backing Night of Destruction events and Irwindale Dragstrip Thursday night racing. He also provides tow trucks for the Pasadena Rose Parade to tow disabled floats down Colorado Blvd.

Real Life Champions Plaques: Ryan Partridge, Josh Leyvas and Thurman Spicer received appreciation plaques for resuscitating two injured pitmen after they contacted an electricl current short wire in a race hauler and lost consciousness in the pits during a Saturday early afternoon practice.

The 20th Irwindale Speedway oval track season will begin Saturday, Jan. 26 with the first of seven Night of Destruction events with enduro car racing also on the program. Seventeen Saturday nights will follow in the second of five promotional seasons for co-promoters Bob Bruncati and Tim Huddleston, the third track promoters in track history.