Source — Tim Kennedy

(10-03-09) IRWINDALE, California — He did it! Nick Joanides started first and finished fourth in the first NASCAR Auto Club Late Model 26-car, 40-lap main event. He started fourth and finished first in the second 40-lap co-feature during Saturday Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale action on the banked half-mile. He entered the twin-40s with a 34-point lead over runner-up Tim Huddleston. Ironically, both 39-year old drivers were born in the same year (1970 ) and week (June 11 for Tim and 17 for Nick). Both drivers also began their racing careers at Saugus Speedway and were rookies in the Sportsman division together in 1993. Their careers took much different paths until 2006 when Joanides began racing full time at Toyota Speedway. Up until then, he spent much of his career racing in the Nascar Southwest, Midwest and Grand National West Series. Huddleston finished second in the first 40 and cut the point lead to 30. Joanides third ACLM victory this season gave him a 38-point (794-756) championship victory margin over fifth finishing Huddleston, the 2005, 07-08 ACLM track champion. Joanides also has 14 Super Late model 2009 victories, giving him 17 feature victories this year. 

The amazing feat almost didn't happen. After attempting to do it last season, when he fell 8 points short of Huddleston for the 2008 title, his team tried unsuccessfully to sell the No. 77 late model and operated on a limited $10,000 ACLM series budget. They almost parked the car during the season, but main event purses kept the car in action.

Joanides, the 2008-09 AC Delco SLM track champion, became the first driver in track history to win championships in the tracks top two divisions. The fact that he did so in the same year is an amazing accomplishment that may never be equaled. About 5,000 spectators, including the Alhambra High football team wearing their jerseys, attended on Ladies & Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Management also saluted pipe trades and big rig truckers, who displayed their rigs on the front straight and paraded them around the half-mile before racing commenced. 

ACLM 1ST 40: Fastest qualifier Mike Johnson promised another win. He delivered his sixth feature victory of 2009 (seventh including the televised late model preliminary during the January Toyota All-Star Showdown) in his Racecar Factory-built Chevy Monte Carlo. He started fifth in a five-car inversion, took second on lap 7, and made his winning pass from the fourth turn to the starting line on lap 29. Huddleston started in the front row, next to pole-sitter Joanides and led the first 28 laps. The three-time series champion finished second, 1.032 seconds in back of Johnson. Travis Irving, 24, started and finished third in his CHP-backed Toyota Camry. He took second from Johnson briefly by a fender with an inside pass on lap 14 at the starting line. Irving trailed the winner by 1.346. With tight three wide racing, Joanides dropped back to a "safe" fourth position. and finished there 1.466 back in Loyd McGhee's championship Chevy Monte Carlo from Jackson Race Cars.

Travis Motley started fourth and finished fifth in one of Huddleston's five High Point Racing, Justice Brothers Monte Carlos. His ACLM rookie teammates—sixth starter Dallas Colodny, 20, and eighth starter Beau DeBard, 22—followed in sixth and seventh. Sean Bennett, series rookie Kyle McGrady, and Chris Johnson completed the top ten. Only two of the 26 starters failed to finish and 22 completed all 40 laps in a 24-minute race. There were two yellow flags for spins. Johnson praised HPR team owner Huddleston's generosity for loaning him parts to compete and for saying not to worry about it when Johnson spoke to him about payback for the parts. 

ACLM 2ND 40: First 40 winner Johnson rolled one large dice at the starting line and it stopped on snake eyes, making the second 40 inversion two. It put first 40 runner-up Huddleston on the pole with Johnson outside in row one. Third through 26th started in that order based on their first 40 finishing positions. Huddleston led the first six laps. Johnson led lap 7 and Huddleston paced laps 8-20. Joanides, from fourth, ran third for the first 13 laps. After several attempts, he passed Johnson on lap 14 for second. He quickly closed the gap and took the lead from his championship rival Huddleston with an inside pass in the fourth turn on lap 21. Knowing the safest place to be was out front, Joanides quickly opened a ten yard lead as Huddleston, Irving and Motley battled closely for second. A three-car tangle and double spin on lap 24 in turn four brought out a caution flag. Under caution, leader Joanides radioed to his spotter, “I'm hearing noises.” He later said it sounded like it could be from the bell housing.” The team later discovered that a piece of metal from the rocker panel had gotten wedged under the car and was dragging the ground. On the lap 24 restart, Huddleston made a slide job pass and slid sideways up in front of his title rival Joanides high in the second turn. Joanides braked and turned left as they exited the second corner and shot back into the lead. Huddleston slowed, regained control and fell to fifth place, where he finished. Motley, from Tucson, AZ, ran second from lap 24 to the end and Irving held third during those laps.

The red flag came out on lap 27 to clear damaged cars and clean oil from the track after fourth place Colodny and fifth place Johnson made contact exiting turn four. Colodny spun out in mid-track. Teammate DeBard, in seventh, collected Colodny's car and both HPR cars were eliminated with significant damage. On lap 37 rookie Kyle McGrady, 17, who started ninth, took fifth place from Huddleston with an inside pass through the third and fourth corners. He moved away from the three-time track champion and appeared a sure bet to record a career-best fifth place finish. A lap later ninth running Devin Cravens spun up into the second turn wall, causing the sixth and final yellow flag. A wrecker towed his car to the pits. Huddleston retook fifth from McGrady on the restarted lap 38 and Chris Holloway, 21, took sixth on the final lap. McGrady's seventh place equaled his ACLM career-best result. The impressive teenager, who drives his family-owned K & N Filters Chevy, climbed from ninth to eighth in final point standings and is the third ranked rookie in 2009 points. Colodny (P5) and DeBard (P6) finished ahead of him. Tim Smith, from Bakersfield, was the fourth top ten rookie at tenth position. Accidents reduced the 26-car starting field to 15 finishers and all ran 40 laps in a 34-minute event. 

Joanides received permission from car owner McGhee via radio to do burnouts; to the fans approval, he did so in the first turn grass and on the front straight. “I figured it was best to win the thing. We could have cruised safely to a 15th place finish to win the title, but going out and winning the race is the right way to do it,” Joanides told the media. He thanked car owner McGhee, the Jackson team, and new team sponsors, including Jan's Towing.