IRWINDALE - The Late Model title was an afterthought.
The 2009 goal for Woodland Hills' Nick Joanides and La Verne's Loyd McGhee was to win a second consecutive Toyota Speedway at Irwindale ACDelco Super Late Model series title and contend for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series championship.
Joanides did both, winning the track title for his car owner and finishing third in national points.
But what Joanides did on Saturday night, in front of 5,000, may have been more impressive than winning another Super Late title. Joanides became the first driver to win two track titles in the same year. He finished a safe fourth in the first Twin 40 race and then got the victory in the series finale to take the Automobile Club of Southern California Late Model series. The two divisions are the track's top series.
In addition to the two track titles, Joanides also won the Nascar Whelen All-American California State Championship and Lucas Oil Slick Mist Title in 2009.
"We only needed to finish 15th to win the title, but I figured it was best to win the thing," Joanides said. "It's incredible. Going out and winning the race is the right way to do it".
"It's absolutely unbelievable"
He had a 34-point lead going into the 100-point night and won the series title by 38 points. Three-time champion Tim Huddleston of Agoura Hills, who has won the last two titles, finished second, Travis Irving of Corona third and Mike Johnson fourth. Johnson won the first Twin 40.
"It's one of those things that is part of history," McGhee said.
"Nobody's done it and I don't think anybody will ever do it. It's been a match made in heaven. We work well together."
It was his first victory in the series since April 25, the fourth race of the season.
The team spent only $9,700 on the program and even considered racing only half the season. It was his 35th win, in both series, in two years for the pair.
Huddleston was second and Irving third in the first race. Travis Motley of Tucson, Ariz., was second and Irving third in the second race, which had a final three-lap shootout because of a spin.
FOLLOW UP STORY on 10/09/2009......
Afterthought turns into series title!
Lloyd McGhee's race team was not even planning on sending his car to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale's Automobile Club of Southern California Late Model series this season.
The economy was at its lowest point and the team was planning on competing for a second consecutive ACDelco Super Late Model series title anyway. Beside, no team has purposely had the audacity to try and win titles in both divisions in the same season.
The race-car owner from La Verne and his driver, Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills, had tried last season. They won the SLM crown, but finished second in the Late Model race.
"I think we deserved it more last year because we put more effort into it, but it didn't work out," McGhee said.
This year, despite twice seriously considering not racing in the division, the team did it. Joanides won the second Twin 40 last Saturday to clinch the Late Model title. A week earlier, he had taken the SLM title and NASCAR's California state title.
"We're going to be a piece of history," McGhee said. "I think it's going to go down in the books. I'm not sure anybody has done this around the country."
McGhee said the late model title was really just an afterthought.
"We were going to park the car and the (car builder) Jackson's pride got to 'em," he said "They said, `Let's do it again.' They said, `Give me $10,000 and let's see where we go with it.' "
The plan was to run five races. But Joanides won a race and led in the point standings after five races.
"We wanted to see what happens and to be a thorn in everyone's side," he said. "Then he won and was leading the points. Now what are we going to do?"
Midway through the season, the title appeared to be slipping away.
But then points leader Tim Huddleston got in a pair of accidents and Joanides was back in the points race.
"The frustration level had set in," he recalled. "We didn't think we had a chance. Then the others had mishaps and we had a renewed vigor. Everyone was like we still have a chance, but we still will not spend any money. With four races to go, we thought we could just finish in fourth and could win the title."
Joanides boasted that of the $10,000 budgeted for the series, the team spent $9,700.
"Apparently it doesn't cost a lot of money to win," McGhee said. "It has to be a real thorn in (Huddleston's) side, plus we beat him with his old car and it is all beat up."
Joanides said that winning the Late Model title was more satisfying than taking the SLM crown.
"I had to do it with no money and make it last, it was kind of an oxymoron, go race hard and get all you can out of a car that's not very good, but at the same time, be careful and don't do any damage to it" Joanides said.
That meant no engine blowups or wrecks or the car would be parked. The team spent half of its $10,000 refreshing the engine about two-thirds of the way through the season. He completed every race.
"To keep it at that level, you have to spend money and we weren't spending," McGhee said. "Nick is the best at saving tires and knowing when to use the car. He is savvy."
Will they contend for both titles next year?
"Nick's won two, so where do we go from here? McGhee said. "It depends how much money we get."