KENNEDY: King Of The Wing Invades Irwindale

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Tim Kennedy

LOS ANGELES – Irwindale Speedway presented a rare Sunday event – the inaugural Fall Spectacular – on Nov. 10 from 2 to 4:50 p.m.

It featured the national touring winged 410 sprint car King of the Wing Series in its eighth and final race this season. Sunday was the fifth Irwindale appearance for King of the Wing, which did not compete at Irwindale in 2016.

King of the Wing visited five states from April to November and crowned four regional champions. Bobby Santos III, from Massachusetts, won three of the four regional titles and $16,000 by winning six of eight main events. He did not race in two Meridian, Idaho, events (Sept. 20-21) that had 31 competitors present because he raced with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Versatile Santos, 34, has also raced in the USAC Silver Crown and National Midget divisions and has triumphs in both divisions. He won the USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix 98-lap midget event at Irwindale Speedway in 2008. He won the King of the Wing $2,000 winner’s share Sunday and called Irwindale his favorite track. He also drove the same car to victory in a 20-car King of the Wing field at Irwindale on Nov. 3, 2018.

Santos, driving his No. 22a Richard Fieler Beast/Chevy, won the two-event West Coast Region championship. He won the Nov. 9-10 paved half-mile feature at Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway Park and Sunday’s 30-lap race. Five cars blew engines Saturday night, reducing the field from 17 to 12 at Irwindale.

Eric Humphries, from Chowchilla, Calif., placed second at Bakersfield and Irwindale and won his second consecutive King of the Wing National title. He drove the No. 15 HSI Beast/Chevy owned by Carl Mott and Dennis Bolding. He drove the same car to victory in Irwindale on Nov. 18, 2017 in a 30-car field.

Humphries, 33, raced all eight events in Florida, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho and California and earned $13,200. He won the championship by 126 points (664-538) over Santos. He is the fifth champion in the King of the Wing series that started in 2014. Champions in order have been JoJo Helberg, Aaron Pierce, Davey Hamilton Jr., Johnny Giesler and 2017-18 champ Humphries.

This year 43 drivers earned King of the Wing points. Hudson Stanley, from Middleton, Idaho, received the King of the Wing rookie of the year trophy at Irwindale after finishing ninth. The 16-year-old placed sixth in final points with 319. The 12 King of the Wing drivers at Irwindale came from six states as follows: three each from California and Idaho, one each from Massachusetts, Nevada, Utah and Washington, and two from British Columbia, Canada.

Santos set the fastest qualifying time of 14.597 seconds (123.313 mph) in single car time trials at 12:30 p.m. Helberg set the existing fastest qualifying lap in Irwindale history with his 13.791 seconds (130.520 mph) lap on Nov., 22, 2014 during King of the Wing qualifying. This year Humphries was second fastest at 15.016 seconds. Humphries and Santos started fourth in the pair of inverted six-lap heat races. Their winning averages were 117.596 mph and 118.215 mph, respectively.

Twelve King of the Wing sprinters raced 30-laps on the half-mile and used a six-car inverted starting lineup based on qualifying times. Pole starter Justin Segura, from Idaho, led the first eight laps with Utah-based Monty Bergener following closely. A single car spin on lap eight caused the first of two caution flags. On lap nine leader Segura’s car began smoking heavily, causing the second caution. A broken valve cover bolt sidelined his car.

Bergener inherited the lead with Santos and Humphries in tow and led laps nine through 13. Santos shot into the lead on lap 14 on the outside near the starting line. Humphries took second on lap 20 as lapping began. Santos extended his lead to a straightaway and won by 5.444 seconds over Humphries.

A.J. Russell started fourth and finished third, with fellow central Californian Audra Sasselli coming from seventh to fourth in her Beast/Chevy. Canadian Ron Larson started third and placed fifth. Bergener was sixth and the last driver on the lead lap. Ten drivers finished the 16-minute race. Santos ran the fastest race lap at 15.159 seconds (118.741 mph).

Other events on the diverse program that attracted about 3,000 spectators on a sunny, mid-70s day included INEX Legend Cars and four-cylinder enduro sedans. Both series used group qualifying starting at noon and raced scheduled 25-lap mains on a new road course laid out by driver Ryan Partridge and Irwindale’s Will Kozak. The 12-turn course used portions of the half and third-mile ovals and the infield. Drivers and fans loved the competition on the rubber cones and blocks-marked course.

Ten vintage pre-1970s open-wheel midgets and sprint cars also staged a 15-lap exhibition race on the third-mile oval. An additional four vintage race cars, including a 1940s WRA track roadster raced by Sam Hanks, the 1957 Indy 500 winner, were on static display inside the front gate for arriving fans to examine.

Seven Legend Cars raced and 12-year-old rookie Jake Bollman led all 15 laps. The Huntington Beach resident started fifth and won by half a lap. He won his first Irwdinale 35-lap main Sept. 14 on the third-mile oval. Fastest qualifier Tyler Hicks was a close second on lap four when he retired with a mechanical problem. He had set the fastest qualifying time of 62.827 mph. A blown engine oiled a turn and with four cars remaining officials shortened the race by ten laps.

The 21-car four-cylinder enduro sedan race on the road course produced the closest race of the day. The first six starters, inverted by qualifying times, had fastest qualifier Kirk Kubik (38.610 seconds – 46.620 mph) sixth. Bobby Ozman (Acura Integra) and Bory Molina (Toyota Celica Supra) traded the lead three times and captivated the crowd as they darted between lapped cars. Molina edged Ozman by 2.436 seconds after a lapped car interfered with Ozman’s plan for a last lap pass. Eight of 18 finishers completed all 25 laps.

The final event was the first RV Destruction Figure 8 race with nine starters. The Sunrise Ford Mustang 5.0 pace car, driven by Irwindale co-promoter Tim Hudddleston, ran several F-8 mid-race laps for added spice. Robert Rice battled fellow front row starter James Bolinas early. Rice led the first 14 of 20 laps by a straightaway and avoided near collisions at the infield X. However, he tried to catch the pace car, overheated his engine and retired. Bolinas lapped the field by lap 16 but he also slowed on lap 17, allowing several RV drivers to unlap themselves. Bolinas barely edged closing Bill Altfather and Steve Cook.