(04-10-10) - Nick Joanides won his second consecutive 2010 NASCAR Super Late Model feature in a Toyota Speedway at Irwindale race Saturday in the No. 71 Loyd McGhee-owned Mr. Crane Chevy Monte Carlo, making him a perfect two for two. The series welcomed Pepsi One as the new sponsor replacing AC Delco. Joanides, a real estate appraiser from Woodland Hills during the week, scored the 36th feature victory of his career at Irwindale. He tied retired late model 2002-03 champion Todd Burns for fourth place on the list of all-time feature winners, despite competing at the track full time for just three years. The double 2009 track champion (SLM and Auto Club Late Model) and 2009 NASCAR Whelen California State champion said his team needs sponsors to continue and will only race one series this season. The fifth-fastest qualifier and trophy dash winner led every lap in front of about 1,500 spectators on a chilly night. The second weekly TS@I event this season competed with the NASCAR Sprint Cup race telecast live on Fox at 4:30 PM. 

Joanides, the fifth quickest driver during afternoon time trials, earned pole position by winning the six-lap King Taco Six Pack Trophy Dash. Joanides led every lap of the feature by a steady 30 to 40 yards and had 1.578 seconds over runner-up Ryan Reed, 16, at the finish. Reed, the son of past NASCAR driving star Mark Reed, was thrilled with his second place run in just his third SLM race. He was the 2009 Legends track champion.


Sergio Pena, a 17-year old rising star in NASCAR, finished third in his first-ever SLM race. The then 16-year old driver from Winchester, VA led many laps and finished a close second to NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano in the January 30, 2010 Toyota All-Star Showdown Grand National 225-lap feature. It is the premier NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national short-track race of the year. That event was his first race at Irwindale and his debut in a GN stock car. King Taco Restaurants owner Luis Martinez, Sr. Position One Motor-sports provided the No, 03 Chevy that Luis, Jr raced last year. Luis, Jr. and "Serging" Sergio are friends from their karting and Formula Renault racing days. Sergio also raced late models in 2009 near his Virginia home. Pena, a polite, personable driver who reminds people of Logano at the same age, started fifth and ran third all race after challenging Reed for second for the last half of the race. Pena has a K & N Grand National East ride this season as part of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program. His dad accompanied him on his return visit to TS@I. Pena said he will return to race in Irwindale three or four more times this season. “This is my favorite track by far. It feels like home to me. I have fun racing here and the competition is so good.”


Randel King, 18, drove a second Position One Chevy (No. 30) and finished a close fourth after starting second. The 2008 SLM rookie of the year and 2009 S2 track champion challenged Pena and Reed during the closing laps. Pena finished 0.164 in back of Reed and King was only 0.222 in back of Pena. The cars of Joanides and Pena used standard engines from past seasons while the cars of Reed and King used the TS@I newly approved for 2010 spec or crate engines from General Motors. Rounding out the top ten were: Vision Airlines teammates Justin Johnson and Dusty Davis, Ryan Partridge, Scott Dodd, the Vision AL third driver Jimmy Parker, Jr and David Beat. Ten drivers finished on the lead lap. Fastest qualifier Partridge lost his No. 88 Eshleman Racing Chevy in a trophy dash crash and sub-drove the team's No. 33 car.

"It's scary, very scary," Joanides said of the current economy. "That part is sad. The cars here are strong, the drivers are strong. You've got a lot of good guys here. It’s probably the most competitive I’ve ever seen this series."

Joanides said some of the regulars failed to show because of the recent addition of a spec motor to the series.

"Numbers are numbers," he said. "They have 35 more horsepower. The fact that we won without it doesn’t mean everything is good, we’re beating them through the corners, but each of us with an open motor is still down 35 horsepower and there’s no dispute to that”

"I do know four cars stayed home because they don't want to chance it. I talked to (track general manager) Bob DeFazio, and they're trying to do the best they can to make them closer. That will help establish confidence in some of these guys that are staying home right now.”


“Hopefully, we'll find some sponsorship so we're not one of the teams staying home too.” 


Contributions to this article by Tim Kennedy & Keith Lair of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.