JOANIDES TAKES NASCAR SLM 100

By Tim Kennedy

(09-26-2009) IRWINDALE, California — Nick Joanides continued his series domination Saturday in Toyota Speedway at Irwindale half-mile racing in front of about 3,000 spectators. Joanides topped the Eibach Springs 100-lap Super Late Model 100-lap open feature. The 2008-09 AC Delco SLM track champion, 2009 Whelen All-American Series California state champion and third place driver in NASCAR Whelen short-track national points set fastest qualifying time in a 20-car field. He started second in Loyd McGhee's Mr. Crane Chevy Monte Carlo and led all but the first lap for his 14th SLM feature victory at the track this season. He tied the track mark set by Greg Pursley in 2004 and earned $5,000 for his non-point, 1.163 second victory. Joanides, 39, also has a pair of Auto Club Late Model feature triumphs this year, giving him 16 and counting. Joanides is the ACLM point leader by 34 points. He will attempt to capture his first ACLM championship in twin features next Saturday in an unprecedented bid to become the champion of both SLM and late model divisions in the same season. No driver in 11 years of racing at the track has won those two championships, even in different seasons.

An opening lap crash on the front straight at the green flag involved four cars and caused a complete restart. Joanides took command for good on lap 2. First lap leader Michels faded to fourth by lap 4. Luis Martinez, Jr., 19, took second on lap 4. Travis Thirkettle was third on lap 7 when he exited to the infield with an mechanical problem. At lap 30, Joanides led Martinez, Dan Moore, Ryan Partridge, Michels and Rickey McCray. Moore took second from Martinez on lap 38 with an inside pass in the fourth turn. Partridge and David Beat passed Martinez on lap 43. At the halfway mark the order was Joanides, Moore, Partridge, Beat , McCray, Martinez and Michels. The first yellow flag waved on lap 63 and lasted ten laps. Moore, in P. 2, had a flat tire and parked in the infield on lap75. McCray, son of the Orange Show Speedway promoter, was second and Partridge third at lap 73. Beat and Michels battled for fourth. Third through fifth changed on laps 83-84 after Beat and Michels tangled leaving the fourth turn. Beat bounced off the outer wall and continued. Martinez dropped out of P. 7 with a flat RF tire. Beat slowed in the closing laps with a problem that caused him to lose a lap. On lap 91, with Joanides holding a comfortable 35-yard lead, fourth place Andy Allen and lapped Keith Spangler tangled. Spangler spun in turn two for a yellow that lasted through lap 95. The lap 96 green had McCray and Partridge on Joanides' back bumper, but he pulled away to a 15-yard victory margin as they battled for runner-up honors. McCray, 31, finished his TS@I career-best second, 1.163 behind Joanides. His best result had been fifth in race 13 this season. He earned $2,000. Partridge, driving the ex-Andy Coyle No. 39 Monte Carlo now owned by David Eshleman, was third, 1.762 seconds in back of Joanides. It was worth $1,700 for his team. Allen took fourth, 1.794 back, with Scott Dodd fifth, 2.634 back and Michels sixth, 3.686 seconds behind Joanides. Only the first six finishers completed all 100 circuits. Las Vegas driver Justin Johnson, 24, was seventh, with Spangler eighth, Beat ninth, and Mark Perry tenth as 11 drivers finished. Two of the 20 entered drivers DNS the 41-minute race that had two caution flags. Kevin Thompson blew his engine on his second qualification lap. Joanides said, “We almost didn't race this week to be sure we could race for the late model championship next week.” His budget-strapped McGhee team intended to race only for the SLM championship in 2009 and sell their late model, but when a buyer did not materialize they raced the late model on a week to week basis.

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