KENNEDY: Champions Crowned At Irwindale

Tim Kennedy

IRWINDALE, Calif. – The annual Irwindale Speedway Breast Cancer Awareness Night started with an afternoon NISSFEST car show where about 50 Nissan owners displayed cars in the front parking lot.

It attracted hundreds of people and helped boost attendance to more than 3,000. Many visitors purchased grandstand tickets and watched a drifting demo event following the National Anthem. Veteran drifting drivers took part in the 15-minute final round of solo and tandem competition following earlier on-track competition from 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

NASCAR Irwindale competitors raced for six track championships starting at 7:30 p.m. An all-female drivers demolition derby concluded the program. Championship-deciding events included Lucas Oil Race Trucks and You Race LA Spec Late Models in a pair of 35-lap features on the half-mile. Both series raced in the same twin-35 lap races, but separate points and track titles were awarded in each division. The two features paid the usual 50-points to win.

INEX Legend Cars and Tucker Tires of Covina-sponsored enduro cars followed with 35-lap main events on the third-mile oval. A 25-lap Progressive Paint Super Stock main also used the third-mile and preceded the second truck/spec late model feature. These three divisions awarded double points for the season finales, so winners received 100 points with a dropoff of four points per position.

The final event was the third annual Black Flag Cancer all-female drivers demolition derby organized by veteran enduro competitor Cheryl Hyland. It attracted a new track record 23 drivers in four-cylinder foreign and American sedans. The demo derby purse from various individuals and company sponsors awarded $1,100 to the winner. The event lasted from 9:49 p.m. to 10:25 p.m. with three remaining competitors battling to the checkered flag. One brief red flag at 10:15 p.m. waved because of a small engine fire.

CHAMPIONS CROWNED: Irwindale 2019 track champions by divisions were all point leaders entering the evening.

Kenny Smith, 73, repeated his 2018 spec late model championship in his own RCF-built No. 43 Chevy. He won by 44 points and was the fastest qualifier six times. He is the oldest track champion at Irwindale, which opened in 1999. The Oak Hills resident has won 10 championships including titles at Saugus Speedway, which closed in 1995.

His wife Mary Lou, who has been fighting cancer at the City of Hope Medical Center, was present Saturday. The series had 10 main events with five different winners. Smith won four times, including a non-points race on May 25. Some drivers could not make a rescheduled date so it became a non-points event. Sixteen drivers scored points.

Lucas McNeil, 26, of Saugus, backed up his 2018 truck championship in his No. 78. He was the fastest qualifier six times and won five of ten features. Four drivers won the 10 mains. Ten drivers scored series points. McNeil won his second Irwindale championship by four points (482-478) over three-time feature winner Andrew Porter, Smith’s 26-year old grandson, who won both 35-lap truck features Saturday.

Darren Amidon, 34, from Lakeside, won his sixth INEX Legends car Irwindale championship in his own 1930s-replica No. 33 coupe. His Irwindale title years started in 2007. He has amassed 41 Irwindale main event victories, eighth highest total in Irwindale history. He won four of the eight features and earned his crown by 12 points. Four drivers won the eight features and 24 drivers scored series points. .

Rich DeLong III, 31, of Castaic, became a three-time Irwindale super stock champion. He dominated the series by setting fastest qualifying time in all eight events, leading the most laps, and winning all eight main events in his No. 84 Chevy SS. He won the title by 78 points. Twelve drivers scored series points.

Rodney Argo, 46, from Gardena, won his first Irwindale championship in the Enduro Sport division with his No, 9 1999 Honda Prelude. The former 410 sprint car feature winner at Perris started racing in the four-cylinder enduro sedan class during 2017. Irwindale began awarding enduro points in 2018. For 2019 the series was divided into 2.3 liter sport class and the less-powerful 2.0 liter stock class. Argo, a six-time feature winner, won the hotly-contested sport class by two points (486-484) over three-time winner Bory Molina. Four different winners won the 10 sport division races. Fifteen drivers scored points.

Brad Stellman, 56, from Gardena, became a first-time Irwindale champion in the second year of Irwindale stock enduro car racing. He drove his No. 62 1995 Honda Accord and was the top stock class enduro driver in the combined divisions four times as six drivers scored first place points. He finished eighth overall in the season finale behind faster sport enduro cars. All stock class cars started in front of all sport class cars after the 11-race enduro series was divided into two classes for the second 2019 event onward. Stellman beat runner-up Robert Rice by eight points (474-466).

The next Irwindale racing event on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 10 will be the Fall Spectacular featuring the King of the Wing 410 winged sprint cars that reach 140 mph on the straights. JoJo Helberg set the fastest lap ever recorded at Irwindale on Nov. 22, 2014. His fastest Irwindale record lap was 130.520 mph. Also on the program will be Legend cars and enduro sedans racing on a new 12-turns road course using both ovals and the infield. A first-time RV Demolition Figure-8 race will follow.

Gates for the rare Sunday Irwindale event will open on Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. with autographs at 12:45 p.m. and the first race at 2 p.m. Admission prices are $12. for adults, $7 for kids 6-12 and free for kids 5 and under. The most recent King of the Wing race in Meridian, Idaho, on Sept. 20-21 had 31 and 30 sprint cars.

King of the Wing teams will race at Kern County Raceway Park Saturday night, Nov. 9 before coming to Irwindale. The high-point driver after those two races will be crowned the King of the Wing Series West Coast Region champion.