LOS ANGELES – Irwindale Speedway ran its first Irwindale 500 Saturday, Sept. 19 in an unprecedented extravaganza from 4:00 to 9:15 p.m.
Competitors only were present because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Mask wearing and social distancing protocols were required just to receive governmental approval to race. Usual attendees in the grandstand were able to watch the event live on irwindalespeedwaytv.com via pay-per-view.
It was the sixth racing event for competitors only at the speedway since mid-June. The event consisted of 10 racing divisions, 13 main events and 500 laps of competition on the half and third-miles. There were 100 race cars/trucks present in the expanded pits that included part of the front parking lot.
Competitors came from five states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. One driver flew in from his native Japan.
The gigantic program became necessary because raging wildfires in Los Angeles County forced track management to postpone the Sept. 12 six division program one week. Unhealthy air throughout the area caused by smoke from forest fires made breathing outdoors unhealthy for everyone. The postponed race joined the scheduled four races already scheduled for Sept. 19.
Southwest wind Thursday improved air qualify. Competitors practiced four hours from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday nights. Saturday practice for all divisions took place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with the temperature in the 90s. Qualifying followed with five divisions using group qualifying and five divisions employing individually timed laps.
Touring series included SPEARS Mfg Modifieds presented by Lucas Oil, Sigma Eng. Pro Late Models and Southwest Tour Truck Series. NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series divisions that competed were: Pick Your Part Late Models, INEX Legend Cars, Tucker Tire enduro sedans, super stocks and spec racers (spec late models and trucks).
Twin main events on the third-mile were run in three divisions – Legend cars, enduros and pro late models. NASCAR late models also raced two features on the half-mile. Spec racers had seven cars and five trucks in the same race with separate winners in each class. Enduro cars also had two classes in the same race. Winners in the stock and faster sport classes both received 50 points for victories.
The temperature was 97 degrees at 4:10 p.m. when the first race started. It was still 86 with 38 percent humidity at 6 p.m., 76 degrees at 8:30 p.m. with 52 percent humidity and 74 degrees with 54 percent humidity when the final checkered flag waved at 9:15 p.m. Competitors sat in the grandstand shade under the suites to watch the races.
– The NASCAR late models ran twin 35-lap features as events one and 11. Fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 24, won both races after starting first in race one and sixth in race two after the top-six finishers were inverted after race one. Thirteen cars raced.
– The So Cal-based Southwest Tour Truck Series has 10 scheduled races at four tracks in three states with five races in Irwindale. A season-high 13 trucks raced a pair of 20-lap races instead of one 30-lapper. Jeff Peterson won both races in a Ford-F150. He took the lead with a last lap, final turn pass of leader Jacob Smith. The Southwest Tour Truck rookie towed 922 miles in 15 hours with his dad to race at Irwinadle for the first time. He finished fourth in race two that inverted the first four finishers from race one. Ron Davis departed with the points lead.
– The 40-lap race mixed spec late models and trucks that have similar race speed. The 12-vehicle race had trucks in front early. Trucker Andrew Porter raced his grandfather, Kenny Smith, for most of the race and won his fifth main this season. Spec late model driver Andy Partridge took second from Smith on lap 34 and earned 50 points for the third consecutive spec late model race.
– The 13th and final feature, the super late model event, had nine starters. SPEARS Southwest Tour Series veteran Dylan Lupton led all 50 laps. He started second in his dad’s Van Doorn chassis No. 4 Chevy in which he won the July 11 Irwindale feature. Fastest qualifier Jimmy Parker, started fourth and closed rapidly during the final 12 laps, but trailed by .287 at the finish. Dan Holtz placed third.
– Event two was the touring SPEARS Mfg. Modified Series that raced 75 laps on the third-mile instead of the usual half-mile. Fastest qualifier Eddie Secord started third and led the final 69 laps to edge runner-up Jeremy Doss by 1.119 seconds and take the point lead from Doss by four points. Fourteen of 15 starters from three states finished and 12 ran all 75 laps.
– Eleven cars raced in the third and seventh events in a pair of 30 lappers for the Legend cars. The winner was a surprise entrant who had not raced at Irwindale since 2011, Mitchell deJong. The 23-year-old had been racing in the Red Bull Global Rallycross for years before the tour went out of business a few years ago. He has been iRacing since then and surprised everyone by qualifying fourth fastest in an 11-car field and winning both mains after starting fourth and eighth.
– Events four and eight had 19 four-cylinder enduro sedans racing 30-lap mains on the oval without a detour into the infield. Ten stock and nine sport sedans started, with all sports sedans at the back. Bory Molina, in a Toyota Selica, won both sport class mains. Stock victories went to Honda Accord drivers Robert Rice and Brad Stellman.
-The twin 40s featuring nine pro late models went to Parker Malone and Huddleston. The two winners finished second to each other. Fastest qualifier Tyler Herzog placed third in race one while Dean Thonpson was third in race two, which inverted the first seven finishers in race one.
– Ten cars raced in event six, the super stock feature. Fast timer and series champion Rich DeLong III, 32, won his second main this season after starting last in his Chevy SS. He was the third race leader and won by 2.415 seconds over Robert Harryman’s Camaro.