Jason Galvin has the highlights from an exciting night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. Photographed by Cory Rubin and Brian Lewis, edited by Brian Lewis.
Irwindale – Two Santa Clarita natives took another step closer towards NASCAR championships on Saturday.
Canyon Country’s Rod Johnson, Jr. and Santa Clarita’s Rich DeLong III were both victorious in their respective divisions at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale during the track’s tribute to September 11th victims.
Johnson Jr. dominated the Late Model race, leading 38 of the 40-lap feature race. The No. 15 Sunrise Ford/Justice Brothers/Racecar Factory Chevy nearly broke the track record in qualifying. Mike Johnson raced door-to-door with the 21-year-old rookie for the first five laps, and Mike Johnson led by a nose on both laps two and three, but the younger Johnson Jr. took the lead for good and pulled away uncontested for his class leading fifth win of the season.
“We started on the pole, and Mike put up a good challenge there at the beginning. He was probably clear a few times, but he left us some room on the outside and we were able to get back around him and set sale for the rest of the race,” Johnson Jr. said.
Johnson Jr. now leads defending series champion Nick Joanides by 30 points with just three races left. Last season, Johnson Jr. won the Super Truck championship, a supporting division to the Late Models. His father was the first ever Super Late Model champion at Toyota Speedway, back in 1999.
DeLong III had a longer night in a competitive Super Stock race. His No. 84 FreckledHound.com/Quality Body Works Chevy qualified second, and he started third after an invert of the field. DeLong battled with teammate Eric Sunness, Gary Frankovich, and former series champion Bryan Harrell for much of the races first half. But after a caution, DeLong III pulled away from the field, winning by nearly a full straightaway.
“The car was real good tonight, and the team was flawless all night long,” DeLong III said. “We went out with a no fear attitude, and figured we had nothing to lose, and we changed a few things around with the car and my driving style, and it paid off tonight.”
DeLong III leads Harrell by 52 points with three races left in their season. The win was the sixth of the season for DeLong III, who last season finished second in the division’s final points standings.
The scariest moment of the night came when Harrell and Frankovich, battling for second in the Super Stock race, collided at the start/finish line. Both cars careened toward the wall, scraping it before ramming head-on into a barrier at the tracks exit. The barrier did its job though, and both drivers miraculously walked away unhurt.