IRWINDALE, Calif. — Chances are it won’t be another seven years before Trevor Cristiani comes back to Irwindale Speedway.
The young man from Boise, Idaho, said he had been to the fast half-mile oval to watch a race in 2010 and hadn’t been back. When he returned last week, he brought his race car with him to make his first start this year in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by MAVTV.
Saturday night he drove that red-and-white Pepsi-sponsored STR Chevrolet to a convincing and surprising win in the Lucas Oil Modified Series’ SpillVak Triple Crown II.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Cristiani said after overtaking leader and reigning series champion Taylor Miinch with eight laps to go and pulling away to win the 75-lap contest by 1.173 seconds despite a caution flag that bunched up the field one lap later.
“This is amazing, this is such a strong field,” said Cristiani, who is getting married in two weeks and now can pay for a little nicer honeymoon. “I’ve got to thank my dad and my crew. We thrashed on the car all weekend and we made a lot of changes last night and made a lot of gains. I was able to run fast the while race and that was our goal.”
Cristiani is guilty of understatement. He had qualified sixth and started there quietly while Miinch, Jason Irwin and fast qualifier Scott Winters began setting a rapid pace. Miinch quickly proved his car the best of those by pulling out to almost a one-second lead over Winters in three laps.
Winters held on to second and kept Miinch in sight while Dylan Cappello, Irwin, Cristiani and Ryan Partridge battled for the next three spots. Irwin, who had won round one of the Triple Crown, was gone with mechanical issues on lap 14, leaving Cappello second and Cristiani trying to fend off Partridge and Blake Rogers, who had moved up from ninth.
After several laps of side-by-side racing Cristiani took third away from Cappello on lap 44, and on lap 60 he went low through turn 2 to take second from Winters and trail Miinch by 0.882 seconds. By lap 65 Cristiani had rocketed to within .212 seconds of the leader, and on lap 68 he took the top spot and never looked back.
Miinch held on for second, with Winters, Cappello and Rogers rounding out the top five.
“I thought we had a good car all night,” said Miinch, who won the first four races of the season and leads the Hoosier Tire West point standings, “but sometimes you just get beat and Trevor really had a good car at the end.”
Trevor Cristiani, Taylor Miinch, Scott Winters, Dylan Cappello, Blake Rogers, Ryan Partridge, Aaron McMorran, Cody Kay, Justin Johnson, Jeremy Kay, Ryan Schartau, Dave Arce, Cameron Morga, Chris Cook, William Guevara, Doug Carpenter, Travis McCullogh, Mark Allison, Jerry Toporek, Rod Proctor, Jason Irwin, Eddie Secord.