(05-29-2010) - BY TIM KENNEDY - IRWINDALE, CA – Six racing divisions and seven main events entertained Toyota Speedway at Irwindale spectators Saturday on the annual Pipe Trades Night and Salute to the Indy 500 and Charlotte 600 the next day.

Auto Club Late Model twin-40 lap features on the half-mile went to Nick Joanides, and Mike Johnson, as a strong field of 22 cars competed in front of about 2,300 fans. A new open competition stock car class, which debuted with an impressive first night car count of 19, turned into a dominant victory for 18-year old Austin Murphy, of Lancaster. The four-time Bandolero Series Irwindale main event winner in 2004 drove a late model that he races at Lake Havasu (AZ) 95 Speedway. He also set fastest qualifying time (15.792 – 75.912 mph) on the third-mile oval. It was his first TS@I triumph in a non-Bandolero car.

Joanides took the 20-lap skid plate race. After scoring his 38th Irwindale main event victory in the first ACLM 40, the 2009 TS@I super late and late model double champion accepted an E-mail challenge from driver Rip Michels. Joanides took his first ride in a skid plate car and drove a No. 71 Ford Tempo to victory, his second in three races that evening. It was his 39th main event triumph at the track and fourth best record in track history.

1ST ACLM 40: All 22 ACLM starters took the green flag at 7:15 in the first race of the night. Pole starter Joanides, in Loyd McGhee’s No. 77 Chevy, led all but one lap. On lap 36 second finisher Sean Woodside made an inside pass for the lead at the start/finish line. Joanides was back in front to stay on lap 37 and won by a slim 0.198 margin. Woodside, who started 13th in his first race since opening night on March 27, had passed Mike Johnson for second on lap 27. Joanides said, “I feel like we were back in 1990. We (Woodside) did a lot of hard battling at Saugus (Speedway) then.” Woodside (part of the top three finishers meeting with the media) said, “Nick and I have been racing since we were young. Now we’re old.” Rookie Brandon Davis, 24, started second and finished a career-best third, 2.601 seconds back. Darren Cheek, Travis Irving, Christian Copley, Kenny Smith, Chris Holloway, Davin Cravens and Kyle McGrady completed the top ten with 15 of 22 starters racing a the finish. Mike Johnson was in third place as he exited the fourth turn on lap 39 to receive the white flag when his car slowed suddenly with vapor lock. A hit from behind sent his No. 17 Chevy spinning to the front straight infield and out of action for 16th position.

The caution flag flew three times during the 35-minute contest. Contact between Tim Huddleston and SRL2010 feature winner/point leader Derek Thorn eliminated Thorn’s No. 4 ride from Bakersfield. RF contact with the backstretch wall bent a tie rod and suspension pieces. R. J. Johnson was in third place on lap 20 when he pulled into the infield with an ignition problem. A three-car crash at the backstretch on lap 26 involved the HPR team cars of Huddleston and Travis Motley. Joanides had a scary moment when Huddleston spun his car back around right in front of him. Joanides swerved sideways to avoid Huddleston’s damaged car. George Atkinson looped and continued. Several other cars received body damage but continued. Another three car incident collected Huddleston, Atkinson and Johnny DeLuca and caused the Huddleston and DeLuca cars to exit on the back of Jan’s Towing wreckers. Cheek’s run to fourth place from 16th earned the hard charger award.

2ND ACLM 40: At 9:20 pm, 20 of the 22 cars returned for the second ACLM 40—the sixth of seven races of the busy night. Thorn and Huddleston cars were non-starters. Two drivers who experienced mechanical problems in the first 40 returned for more action. Mike Johnson’s team and time between races cured his vapor lock problem. Woodside, the first 40 runner-up, experienced a failing rear end near the conclusion and needed a replacement. Rival M. Johnson came to the rescue and loaned the No. 45 team a rear end. Johnson started second and Woodside eighth, with Joanides on the pole again. Johnson later told the media, “I came out mad. I got in the car and was still mad. I was out of my head. We were lucky to make it back out there. I had in-laws from out of town here. They thought I was done for the night and almost left before the second 40. Good thing they stayed.” All Johnson did was out-drag Joanides at the start and lead all 40 laps. Inside-running Woodside moved forward and engaged in a four-way battle for second from lap 16-22 when he moved past Joanides to grab second for good. He then dueled his rear end benefactor Johnson for the lead after a pair of caution flags at laps 36 and 37 that produced tense two-abreast restarts. Johnson took the inside on both restarts and would not be denied his first main event triumph of 2010. Woodside finished second again and was 0.649 back.

A position three battle between Joanides and Irving on lap 36 resulted in contact from Irving that spun Joanides’ car to the backstretch infield. Officials consulted and sent Irving to the back of the pack also for his involvement. Then a lap 36 restart produced another backstretch crash that involved three HPR “blue crew” cars driven Davis, Joey Licata and Motley. The badly damaged car of Bakersfield’s Kenny Smith, who backed his No. 61 hard into the outside wall near turn three, received the most damage. All four cars were removed with extensive damage. DeLuca spun at turn two and newcomer Chris Winter, 20, caught the first turn wall to avoid contact. The lap 37 green flag had Joanides in the 16th position. During the final four laps Joanides climbed to P.4 and he took the point lead from Irving, who held it after the first 40. McGrady finished a career-best fifth, with Cheek, Copley, R. Johnson, Atkinson and Irving next across the finish line. Thirteen cars finished the 33-minute event. Cheek and McGrady received the hard charger and hard luck awards in front straight presentations. After six of 17 scheduled ACLM events, reigning series champion Joanides is atop the points for the first time in 2010 with 250. Four drivers are tied for second at 240. The four are: a pair of impressive ACLM rookies, R Johnson and Copley, plus Holloway and Irving. The competitive series has had 32 drivers earn 2010 ACLM points so far.

SKID PLATE CARS: The second skid plate race of the year produced the series all-time high car count of 22., two more cars than the previous high 20 cars on March 27. They ran their longest race–20 laps—from 10:05 to 10:24. This is the second year for the new class, which is the idea of driver Robert Rice. The four-cylinder, front-wheel drive cars use spark-producing metal skid plates attached to tire-less rear wheels. Drivers drew pills to determine their two by two starting positions on the third-mile and raced counter-clockwise. The fan-pleasing race, with many first-time skid plate drivers, had five leaders and six lead changes. Fourth starter Randall Lupu led the first lap. First-time racer Gabriella Rodriguez, who graduated from St. Joseph High in Lakewood a night earlier, led laps 2-7 in a Honda Accord. Then Rip Michels came from the back row in his No. 12 Toyota Tercel and led laps 8-9. Nick Joanides started 22nd and led lap 10, but on lap 11 he spun his Ford Tempo in turn three, was rammed and dropped three positions. Robert Rice, from sixth, led laps 11-17. On lap 18 Joanides made an inside pass of Rice from turn four to the starting line and retook the point with sparks trailing from his RR and LR skid plates. Joanides led the final three laps and won by 9.590 seconds over teenager Gabriella Rodriguez. She passed Rice on the final lap in a car her family bought from Rice. Her dad, a DD/Figure 8 driver, prepared the car for her.

The skid plate race had a yellow and two red flags to remove stalled cars blocking the track. It took 17 minutes to complete 20 laps; 16 cars reached the finish line in the entertaining final race of the night. The first six finishers completed 20 laps. All-time track main event winner Michels (61 wins) finished fourth, 22 seconds behind his NASCAR SLM rival Joanides. Train racing and demo derby veterans Jonathon DeStefano and April Shaw-Johns placed fifth and sixth respectively. John Zimmerman, the March 27 skid plate 15-lap race winner, finished seventh, a lap down. The 22-car race had five female drivers, including Angela DeFazio, the daughter of track GM/COO Bob DeFazio. Michels received the hard charger award for skating from P. 21 on the grid to fourth place. All skid plate drivers who finished in P 1-11 received $250 each, and the P. 12-22 drivers each received $100. Skid plate cars in action Saturday included the following makes: Toyota Corollas and Tercels, Honda Accords, a Nissan Sentra, Mazda 323, Datsun 200SX, Saturn, Mercury Tracer, Chevrolet Cavalier, Ford Tempo and Ford Escort.