KENNEDY: Repeat Winners Aplenty At Irwindale

Tim Kennedy

IRWINDALE, Calif. – Irwindale Speedway presented its sixth NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series event during the COVID-19 pandemic Saturday from 5:30 to 9:20 p.m.

It was the second consecutive racing program that used track lights because sunset was earlier than the June through August events. Only competitors were admitted to the five divisions, eight main event program totaling 265 laps. Fans at home were able to watch via SPEED SPORT TV affiliate Irwindale Speedway TV. All winners were familiar with first place trophy presentations.

The progressively-banked half-mile was the venue for 12 LKQ Pick Your Part late models, which ran a pair of 35-lap features as the first and last events on the card. Spec Racers (eight Lucas Oil trucks and seven You Race LA spec late models) ran a combined 40-lap main as the fifth event. Winners of both series received 50 first place points towards the two track championships.

The four-degree banked third-mile was the setting for three divisions — the INEX Legend cars, Tucker Tire enduro cars and super stocks, which raced one 35-lap main. The Legend cars raced a pair of 35 lappers. The enduro sedans ran two 25-lap races on the six-turn r-oval. It jogged into the backstretch infield and extended from the fourth turn outward to the half-mile start/finish line before a left turn towards the third-mile first turn.

Fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 24, won both late model 35-lap features. The three-time track champion now has 59 feature victories at Irwindale. He is tied for third place on the overall victory list at the track, which his father Tim has co-promoted since 2018. He started first in the straight-up lineup for race one and started eighth in the second race that had an eight-car inverted lineup based on the finish of the first race. The all-green 11-minute first race averaged 89.424 mph.

The Spec Racers 40-lap event also sent past winners to the podium. Andrew Porter, 26, started sixth and finished second overall and first in class. It was his sixth consecutive victory since June. Spec late model rookie Jake Drew, 20, started ninth and waged a captivating duel with truckers Dennis Arena and Porter from laps 10-18.

Drew, a karting winner and instructor at karting tracks, shot past Porter for second on lap 17. A lap later he passed Arena on the inside at turn four for the lead he held to the finish. He won by 15-yards over Porter, who got by Arena before lap 25. Drew won his second start in the No. 56 HPR Chevy on July 11 after finishing second in his initial Irwindale race in the same car. He was recruited by Irwindale co-promoter/Sunrise Ford dealer Bob Bruncati, who also supplies Irwindale with Ford pace cars/trucks.

INEX Legend car competitors competed in the series’ season finale. A close point race had several drivers battling for their first Irwindale championship during the twin 35s. Rookie Tyler Reif, 13, set the fastest qualifying time and started ninth in the fully-inverted first race and finished fourth. Tyler Hicks started fifth and placed third after leading the first five laps. Chad Schug, a three-time Irwindale Legend car champion, drove the No. 09 Ricky Leigh coupe for the first time instead of his own No. 29 coupe. The 33-year old started seventh and led the final 30 laps for his 22nd Irwindale victory in the third event of the night.

The second Legend main (event seven) inverted the first eight finishers from the first race. Christian Bazen, 15, started third and led the first lap. Camden Murphy, visiting from Charlotte, N.C., led lap two in his first Irwindale race. Fifth starter Reif led laps three and four, but contact on lap five in turn four caused him to spin. His steering column broke and his car had to be lifted by a wrecker and carried to the pits. First race winner Hicks inherited the lead and paced the field from lap five through lap 34.

On the white flag lap a car spun at turn two in the groove. Schug went to the outside to avoid contact as runner-up Lawless Alan ducked to the inside and emerged with the lead. He beat Schug to the waving checkered flag by .557 seconds. Jake Bollman was third, .644 seconds back. Hicks, 25, won his first Irwindale track championship by a handful of points.

Events two and six were for enduro sedans. A season-high 20 four-cylinder sedans competed for the fourth time in seven events this year. All 10 stock sedans started in front of the ten faster-speed sport sedans and raced for separate track championships. Rodney Argo, a retired 410 sprint car owner/driver from Gardena, Calif., started 16th and led laps 11-25 for his fifth sport class 2020 victory in his No. 9 black 1999 Honda Prelude.

His 28th triumph at Irwindale moved Argo to 17th position all-time on the track where he started racing three years ago for fun. Robert Rice (Honda Accord) won the stock class by placing fifth overall. He now has 59 victories at Irwindale and is tied for most victories with late model double winner Huddleston for third place. They are only one victory short of Ryan Partridge’s 60 and eight behind all-time track winner Rip Michels’ 67.

The second enduro 25 again started all 20 cars. Fastest qualifier Bory Molina (Toyota Celica) started 12th, led laps 21-25, and won the sport class for the third time this season. Pole starter Chris Voight (Honda Accord) led laps 15-20 and won his second stock class 50-points this season. He finished a strong second overall, only 1.800 seconds off the lead.

Super stocks started nine cars in event four of the night. Fastest qualifier Rich De Long III started eighth and led laps 18-35 in his No. 84 Chevy SS. He bumped his total Irwindale career victories to 24, which is 22nd best all-time at the track. Craig Rayburn led laps 4-17 in his Camaro and trailed the winner by .328 seconds after 35 circuits. However, his car did not pass post-race inspection and was dropped to last place. Bryan Harrell, a two-time series champion and two-time winner this year, inherited the second spot.