WILD, WILD NIGHT LEADS TO TWO WINS IN THREE RACES AND NEW POINT LEADER!
(05-29-2010) - What was supposed to just be another routine twin main event in the Auto Club Late Models at Toyota Speedway turned into a night wilder than Nick Joanides could have ever imagined.
Joanides' friendly Super Late Model rival, Rip Michels threw down a challenge for Nick on Friday Night. After Nick did not respond, Rip brought his challenge to the press in an effort to get Joanides to respond.
The challenge? To run in the tracks new "SKID PLATE" division race. These cars are every day front wheel drive cars, however the rear tires are removed and replaced with steel plates. These cars produce an incredible fireworks show and something of a demolition derby as sparks fly from the steel plates and with cars spinning every lap. With a "no yellow" rule, there is carnage all over the place.
Joanides accepted the challenge and the track officials lined up Rip and Nick at the rear of the 22 car field for the start.
First up was race number one of the Twin Auto Club Late Models. After a flat tire sidelined Joanides on opening night, he sat 19th in the point standings with no intention to run for a championship. After winning the first two Super Late Model races of the year, the plug was pulled on the SLM program due to uncertainty with the division at the time. The team then decided to campaign full time in the Late Model series. Joanides came back strong with a win in the second race, followed up by 4th and 2nd place finishes. Joanides came into the evening fifth in the point standings, a distant 38 points behind.
Joanides started the first race from the pole and hoped for an easy win. With the car loose off the corners, it was far from easy. First to challenge was Rod Johnson Jr., the current point leader. After a heated battle, Johnson fell out with an ignition failure.
Next up was Mike Johnson, he challenged Joanides for several laps before the caution flew. Joanides pulled away on the restart. Another restart set up a duel with long time rival, Sean Woodside. The two battled side by side over the final ten laps with Joanides holding on for the win. With R. Johnson's problems and Nick's win, he closed the gap to just 2 points off the lead.
In the second Late Model Main Event, R. Johnson spun and was running near the back of the top 10. With Joanides running third for most of the race, he was poised to take the point lead if he could just maintain that spot. With four laps to go, "friend", Travis Irving made a move to the inside of Joanides and made contact. The two battled door to door when Irving made contact a third time to Joanides' rear quarter panel, turning him sideways. After having it nearly saved, Irving made contact a fourth time and finished off Joanides as he spun to the infield.
Joanides would restart the race in the 16th position with just 4 laps remaining. Certainly upset over the lost opportunity at taking the point lead, Joanides drove like a man on a mission. As the field in front was side by side, Joanides passed 3 cars on the restart, then squeezed through middle of another two rows of two by two to take over the 8th position on the next lap. Just one lap later, he picked off another two spots to take over the 6th position. On the final lap through turn four, Joanides stuck the car in the middle of a two wide battle to take over the 4th position at the line.
With R. Johnson being one of the cars he passed, Joanides, the reigning Late Model champion, moved to the top of the point standings once again.
When Joanides arrived at the track, there was uncertainty as to whether they would have a "SKID PLATE" car available for him to drive. Having never driven one before and having never raced on the track's 1/3 mile inner track, Joanides figured it would just be fun to go play.
With no practice prior to the race, he and Rip started from the back. Joanides quickly figured out how to drive the steel plated cars as they drift sideways all the way around the track. Laughing to himself throughout the entire race, he and Rip moved through the pack. Joanides took 17th on lap 1, 12th a lap later, 8th in another lap. By Lap 5, he was up to the 5th position with Rip just ahead. On lap 8, Rip took the lead as Joanides took third. Two laps later, Nick passed his rival for the lead, but just one lap later, he pushed it a little two hard and spun it around. After dropping back to 4th, Joanides moved back up to the second position before getting T-Boned by another car, spinning him yet again. Joanides spun it back around and kept going in the third position. By Lap 17 he took over the lead yet again and came spinning to a 9 second victory in his first ever race on the 1/3 mile track.
Joanides made more track history by becoming the first driver to win races in two separate divisions on the same night. Joanides holds multiple records in the Super Late Model division and is the only driver in history to win Championships in the top two series at the track, in the same year. "With the Late Models and Super Lates being pressure packed, there's always a lot of stress to perform, but to get in one of these things was just a blast. I can't think of the last time I laughed so hard, let alone while driving a race car. Then to win the thing was just unbelievable. What a great way to finish off an amazing night" commented Joanides.