(04-17-2010) IRWINDALE, CA - That was no ghost in the yellow and black No.77 late model at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.

Nick Joanides promised that he would not be racing in any more Automobile Club of Southern California series races this season. So who was the winner in front of 2,000 on Saturday night? No one other than the reigning series champion, who had to hold off Rod Johnson Jr. of Canyon Country in the final five laps of the 50-lap main event.

Week four of 2010 Toyota Speedway at Irwindale point racing Saturday had six sponsored series and seven main events in front of about 2,000 spectators. The featured NASCAR Auto Club Late Model 50-lap race went to reigning series champion Nick Joanides, who was not suppose to race Saturday because of team financial constraints. He had scheduled work Saturday and intended to arrive at the track about 5:00 pm to be a spectator.

Joanides said as of Thursday he was not going to be racing. But then car owner, Loyd McGhee's pride got in the way. A friend bet the La Verne resident $2,500 that Joanides could not finish in the Top 3.

"I know it makes me look bad," Joanides said. "I swear on my life I got the call at 11 p.m. on Thursday Loyd told (his friend) to put your money where your mouth is. It was a personal bet and that's how we got out here."

Joanides, who has won all of premier series Pepsi SLM races this season, won his 37th race at Irwindale, moving him into fourth on the all time win list.

Third-place finisher Travis Irving of Norco said he talked to McGhee at 7 p.m. on Thursday and there was no plans for Joanides to go racing. That changed four hours later with a little bet.

"It's pretty amazing," Joanides said.

It became the Joanides-Johnson show over the final 17 laps. Johnson then tried going underneath with five laps to go, but could not make the pass.

Joanides posted the fastest lap time in the afternoon practice and nearly backed it up with a second place qualifying run. Fastest qualifier Rod Johnson, Jr., a 20-year old 2009 super truck rookie of the year and series champion, started sixth as a result of a six car invert. Joanides was next to him inside row three. Joanides shot past cars early on the inside and he was third after one lap and second on lap 3. He became the third and final leader on lap 7 when he took command in his Monte Carlo via an outside pass exiting turn four.

After just one caution flag on lap 16, Joanides, edged a pressing R. Johnson by a car length, a mere 0.153. "That was all there was right there," Johnson said. "Nick did a great job to protect the outside."

Truck racing/IMCA dirt modified veteran/ACLM rookie Christian Copley, 18, started first as the sixth fastest qualifier. Copley led the first lap over fourth starter Mike Johnson, who led laps 2-6. M. Johnson ran the inside groove and challenged outside runner Joanides closely to lap 33 when R. Johnson (unrelated to him) took second from Mike on the outside after many laps trying to accomplish the pass.

M. Johnson held third to lap 41 when Travis Irving, the April 3 feature winner and point leader, passed him on the outside in the second turn.

16 drivers finished on the lead lap. Copley finished an impressive fifth in just his third ACLM race. Completing the top ten were: Kenny Smith, hard charger award winner Chris Holloway, Darren Cheek, second year ACLM driver/16th starter Kyle McGrady, 17, and George Atkinson. Rookie Brandon Davis, from Henderson, NV., started second as the fifth quickest qualifier and was fifth on lap 16 when he was bumped from behind and collected the first turn wall. He restarted and finished 12th, only 0.l00 in back of his HPR "blue crew" teammate and fellow Nevadan Dallas Colodny and 0.418 ahead of Tim Huddleston, his team owner. 

Christian McGhee, protégé of Joanides, continued to show excellent driving skills. He competed in two races over the weekend in his #71 Jan's Towing Bandolero. After starting 8th on Friday night, he charged through the field to a 4th place finish overall and 2nd place in his age group. On Saturday, McGhee would line up 10th. He quickly moved towards the front again, taking over the 4th position in just three laps. He had moved up to the third position overall and was first in his age bracket with just 2 laps remaining when a car from behind made contact with McGhee, forcing him up the race track. He dropped back to a sixth place finish at the checkered flag, 3rd in his age bracket.