IRWINDALE, Calif. — Toni McCray swept the Lucas Oil Late Model Twins 30-lap features to vault into championship contention Saturday night before a crowd of 6,290 at half-mile Irwindale Speedway.
McCray drove impressively from eighth starting position into the lead by the 12th lap in the first Late Model feature and finished two car lengths ahead of runner-up Trevor Huddleston. She started fourth in the second feature and passed Ryan Partridge for the lead on the 17th lap and won by six car lengths over Partridge.
McCray’s wins were her second and third of the season and sliced eight points off Partridge’s lead. She’s second in the championship, trailing Partridge 478-460 with 10 features completed and 10 remaining. Partridge has five wins. He was fourth in the first feature Saturday.
McCray didn’t anticipate her charge to the front on the first race.
“I kinda surprised myself,” McCray said. “We didn’t qualify good. We were really tight. I came back (to the pits) and said, ‘We really have to free it up.’ They made some changes and told me, ‘You’re going to be better.’ I go, ‘I’m going to drive the wheels off of it. We need to win both of these races, we’ve gotta catch Partridge. The only way we’re going to be in the championship hunt is if we win more races. I’m determined to win as many as I can and I know I’m going to have to race hard to be up on it every race, every lap.
“So, I did what I had to do.”
McCray was third for the first restart behind Huddleston and Christian McGhee on the 10th lap.
“They (Huddleston, McGhee) definitely made contact going down the back straightaway,” McCray said. “When I saw that going on, I knew I needed to go to the bottom right away. So, I ran the bottom. The 71 (McGhee) got somewhat of a run off of (turn) four on me, but I was door to door with him, so I ran it into (turn) one really hard and coming off of two and going down the back straightaway. I cleared him going into three.”