JOANIDES SWEEPS TWIN IRWINDALE SLM FEATURES
By TIM KENNEDY
- IRWINDALE, California
Nick Joanides continued his outstanding Toyota Speedway at Irwindale
2009 season Saturday by taking both NASCAR AC Delco Super Late Model
feature victories in front of about 2,000 spectators. His double
triumphs gave him six victories in the nine races run this season. The
2008 AC Delco SLM track champion and current 2009 point leader, also
leads the current point standings and has won two main events in the
tracks Auto Club Late Model Series this season. His latest achievement
has him ranked fourth nationally in the NASCAR Whelen All-American
Weekly Racing Series with an estimated 2,000+ drivers competing at
various NASCAR sanctioned tracks. He also leads the Nascar California
State Standings with an estimated 160 drivers competing at four
different Nascar sanctioned tracks in the state. Joanides drove the Loyd
McGhee-owned Mr. Crane No. 71 Chevy Monte Carlo to the twin triumphs,
giving him 25 total (in SLM and late model divisions) at Irwindale since
2006. All but one of his victories have come since he joined forces with
McGhee. His first victory came in 2006 in a late model and the rest of
his feature victories have come in the last two years since he took over
the driving duties for J&M Racing in August of 2007.
Among those giving credit to Joanides, a Woodland Hills resident, were
the track's all-time feature winner Rip Michels, who has 57 Irwindale
feature trophies in three series. Michels, a four-time track champion
(three in the SLM class) finished a close second (-0.086) in the first
40 and third in the second 40. He told the crowd, “That was fun
racing. My hat is off to Nick and his team. They've found something and
are hard to beat this year.” Michels continued that in past SLM
seasons one driver and team such as Greg Pursley, Van Knill or himself
have been dominant for a season, Nick though has now been dominant for
two consecutive seasons. “We will just have to work harder to catch up
to Nick and his team,” Michels added. Joanides said his car was
perfect all night, especially in the second 40. He started alongside
pole starter Michels in that race with an inversion of two cars. He
chased Michels' Ford Fusion for the first 17 laps in exciting
side-by-side, nose-to-tail racing most of the time. On lap 18 Joanides
made a clean inside pass through the third and fourth turns. All teams
used the same tires in the second 40 that they ran as new tires in the
first 40 lap race.
Bandoleros rookie Christian McGhee, 10, son of Nick Joanides’ SLM & LM
owner Loyd McGhee, won his first main event by leading only the final lap (lap
20). He edged Lexi Moore, 0.199. The winner entered the final lap in
third place, but the first two cars made contact and spun out. Rookie
Ryan Cansdale, 10, had led all the way and was trying to win his seventh
consecutive feature in race nine this year. Second place Aaron Anderson,
13, made contact in turn two, spinning both leaders.
1ST SLM MAIN: The late afternoon qualifying session where drivers get
two laps, set the field for both races. The fastest qualifier on the
first of two laps received pole position in the first 40 with an
inversion number of one. The second timed lap determined starting
positions for the second 40 and the inversion number was two. Joanides
set fast time on both laps. In the first 40, pole starter Joanides
trailed outside front row starter and second quickest qualifier Alex
Haase, a 19-year old Las Vegas Legends and SLM veteran, for 19 laps with
Michels close behind. Michels began to apply pressure to Joanides from
the third position. Joanides then passed Haase on the inside in
three-wide racing exiting turn four as Michels dove to the inside.
Joanides was able to lead the final 21 laps. Haase, a Kyle Busch
Motorsports driver making his first start this season at Irwindale,
drove his family-owned black No. 51 Ford Fusion. The teen has been
racing stock cars on the East Coast this season and plans to make
additional SLM twin features this year. Michels started third and
completed his pass of Haase for second on lap 24 with an inside move
from turn four to the starting line and applied pressure to Joanides.
The two ran side by side and nose to tail with Joanides in the high
groove and Michels down low. Several times Michels made slight contact
with Joanides hoping to push him into a mistake, but it never happened
and Joanides was able to hold on for the win by about a half a car
length. Dan Moore started ninth in his No. 9 Ford Fusion and charged to
third place, passing Haase on lap 39 on the outside in the fourth turn.
Haase settled for fourth, with David Ross fifth. Danny Gay (from 6th),
Luis Martinez, Jr. (from 5th), Travis Thirkettle (from 8th), now 17-year
old Bear Rzesnowiecky (from 12th), and David Beat (from 11th) completed
the top ten on the scoring pylon. Sixteen of the 20 starters finished
and all ran 40 laps in a 17-minute race with one caution flag for
debris. Haase ran the quickest lap of the race at 18.419, with Joanides'
18.437 and Michels' 18.490 next fastest laps of the first 40.
2ND SLM 40: In the fifth of six main events Saturday, pole sitter Michels
led the first 17 laps despite intense inside groove pressure from second
starter Joanides. Michels was running in the low groove when on lap 18
Joanides made an inside move to the apron of the race track through the
third and fourth corner to take the lead without contacting Michels'
car. He then pulled away to straightaway lead before slowing late to
avoid lapped traffic. His victory margin was 2.379 seconds . Third
starter Haase reversed his late-race slide in the first 40 and passed
track-master Michels for second position on lap 27 with an outside move
on the backstretch. “It was my best main event finish here at
Irwindale and about my tenth super late model race here. We got to lead
some laps in the first race, but Nick was so far gone in the second
race,” Haase told the media. Michels settled for third in his green
No. 12 Ford Fusion, 1.057-seconds behind Haase. Ross finished fourth and
Rzesnowiecky, Jackson Race Cars teammate of Joanides was fifth. Moore,
Gay, Martinez, Thirkettle and out of retirement SLM veteran Todd
Southwell (from 19th in Dennis Furden's No. 43) completed the top ten.
Sixteen of 20 starters finished; 15 drivers completed all 40 laps in a
15-minute race with one caution flag on lap 4 for a solo spinner. Haase
ran the fastest lap of the race (18.544 or 97.066 mph) on lap 5.
Joanides' 18.562 (96.972 mph) on lap 3, and Michels' 18.568 (96.941 mph)
on lap 3 were the next fastest laps, showing how close the top three
drivers lap times were.
BANDOLEROS: The Briggs & Stratton-powered cars for youngsters ran
a pair of main events one Saturday and one at 7:15 pm during Friday
night 5:00 to 9:00 pm open practice. McGhee's first victory in the 7:45
pm main Saturday came with his father Loyd receiving live lap by lap
reports on a cell phone from his SLM/late model driver Joanides, who was
watching his protege from the pit grandstand. McGhee missed his double
SLM triumphs by Joanides and his son's first Bandolero win because he
was in Idaho on business. Christian's Bandolero carries No. 71 and is
painted yellow and black, similar to the SLM car driven by Joanides.
Runner-up Lexi Moore, 10, finished one length back for her best result
this year. She was the runner-up in TS@I Bandolero 2008 final point
standings. Blake Dunkleberger, 13, was third, with Chancellor Tiscareno,
12, fourth, and Jeff Gordon-fan Ricky Schlick, 13, fifth in a 13-car
field. The 11-minute race had one yellow flag.
The first Bandolero main event of the busy weekend had 13 starters at 7:15
pm Friday. Rookie Cansdale (No. 37) won a 19-lap race by 0.285 over
Aaron Anderson, in a preview of their Saturday night battle for the lead
on the final lap that resulted in their collision and simultaneous
spins. McGhee finished third Friday, with Dunkleberger and Tiscareno
fourth and fifth in a 10:29.228 race.
Fast time honors went to: SLM – Joanides – 18.085 on lap 1 and 17.982 on lap 2;