By Louis Brewster, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 06/09/16, 1:18 PM PDT
In the first four races of the 2016 NASCAR K&N Series West, it’s been a battle of two drivers with deep ties to western San Bernardino County, although the points leader commutes from his home in Sherills Ford, N.C.
Before moving east with his dad, who happens to be NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Gilliland, 15-year-old Todd was a resident of Chino Hills.
At the same time, Ryan Partridge was living in Rancho Cucamonga and making a name for himself at Irwindale Speedway.
On Saturday, the series heads to Dacono, Colo., for the Napa/Toyota 150 at Colorado National Speedway.
Gilliland leads the points race, 178-174, over Partridge. Gilliland has two wins in the series to Partridge’s one, but they are not running away from the field. In fact, 51 points separate Gilliland from Matt Levin, who is 10th.
Chris Eggleston, the defending series champion and Gilliland’s Bill McAnally Racing teammate, is third, just five points behind Partridge. Noah Gragson, Julia Landauer, Cole Rouse, Riley Herbst, Gracin Raz and Ron Norman are next in line.
An important part of Saturday’s event will be qualifying. In 2015, Partridge won the pole and won his first series race. This season, a pair have won from the pole, with the worst starting position for the race winner being third. There have been three winners in the early going. In fact, races in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015 were all won from the pole.
The track is a .375-mile paved oval. Of the expected field, just Eggleston and Partridge have collected wins at Colorado. Gilliland is hoping to replace Dylan Kwasniewski (16 years, two months and seven days in 2011) as the youngest winner.
Racing deaths aren’t as prevalent as before, and neither are incidents when spectators lose their lives. However, we can still recall an incident in the High Desert Lucerne Valley in 2010 that killed eight spectators and injured nine more.
Over the past week, that painful crash raced to the forefront of our memories. First, at the Baja 500, a driver avoided a crowd of spectators but still went downhill into another group. A young Southern California boy was killed and his mother seriously hurt.
If that wasn’t tragic enough, motorcycle riders Travis Livingston of California and Noah Evermann of Alaska died on the course.
At the Isle of Mann motorcycle race in Europe, two more motorcycle riders lost their lives. The Tourist Trophy had produced 242 deaths in its 107-year history, but that number climbed with the passing of sidecar driver Dwight Beare, 27, and solo driver Paul Shoesmith, 50.
Racing is a dangerous sport, of that there is no doubt. Thankfully, our sanctioning bodies keep working to make it safer for drivers and spectators.
Straight Rhythm returns
There will be changes in the format when the Red Bull Straight Rhythm returns to Pomona’s Fairplex on Oct. 22. For openers, it will be a one-day event with the finals on the front straight of the historic horse track.
There will be 24 competitors — 16 riders in the Open Class and eight in the Lites Class (250cc or less) — racing down the half-mile section. James Stewart has won the Open class the past two years, with Marvin Musquin and Malcolm Stewart taking the Lites victories.
Those who purchase tickets before July 1 will get a discount. General admission is $35 ($25 for ‘early birds’) and VIP at $159 ($135 before July 1). Tickets and event details are available at www.redbull.com/straightrhythm
When Jeff Gordon was competing in NASCAR, he and Brad Keselowski were tough on one another. Gordon is now in the Fox television booth and Keselowski is still driving, and the rivalry hasn’t faded.
Early during Monday’s race in Pocono, Keselowski was called back into the pits when NASCAR said a Team Penske crew member had used his body to illegally modify the car to improve its aerodynamic performance. Keselowski rallied to finish third.
Gordon used the incident to recall a similar situation at the Las Vegas race earlier in the season. However, that was not the same and Keselowski lashed out afterward at what he considered to be Gordon’s bias.
“They need to get some people that aren’t inbred to the sport and own teams and have internal knowledge, because that is pretty crappy,” Keselowski said. “It is what it is. It’s not that I don’t like Jeff Gordon in the booth, it’s just that you need to have people in the booth that don’t own teams or have commercial interests in the sport, because they say things that are very biased.”
Gordon, a 24-year Sprint Cup vet, later apologized on Twitter and also said he was bias toward “anyone making it interesting...”
• Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Cars return to Perris Auto Speedway on Saturday night. Brody Roa of Garden Grove is the points leader and is among the young drivers leading a change of the guard in the 13-year-old series. The 25-year-old Roa has a six-point lead over Richard Vander Weerd. Although six drivers in the top 10 are 25 years or younger, don’t forget the veterans. Cal Poly Pomona grad Mike Spencer, a five-time champ, tops a group that also includes four-time titlist Damion Gardner and Lawndale’s Jeremy Ellertson. Other races will include the PAS Senior (drivers 45 and older) and Young Gun (drivers 14-25 with no prior sprint car experience). Spectator gates will open at 5 p.m. and racing at 7.
• Ruben Armiñana, who will retire as president of Sonoma State University on June 30, will be honored days before that as grand marshal for the June 26 Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Sonoma Raceway.
• Upland’s Alex Grigoreas is back atop the California Lightning Sprint Car Series points when it returns to Bakersfield Speedway — aka “The West’s Fastest 1/3 of a Mile High Banked Clay Oval” — Saturday night for the third of four appearances in 2016. Grigoreas has a 60-point lead over 2015 Rookie of the Year Pat Kelley of Chino, with James Heling of San Bernardino third. Darren Hillberg, who missed the most recent race at Perris due to a vacation, is fourth, followed by Victorville’s Jeff Dyer.
• Scott Winters, who has won the last two Lucas Oil Modified Series races at Madera Speedway, has a doctorate in mechanical engineering. The series is back Saturday night for the first of two races this year on the 1/3-mile paved oval.
• NHRA will eliminate all monetary fines for any oildown violations that occur during qualifying rounds and time trials. The new policy, announced Wednesday, applies to all teams and is effective starting this weekend’s at the Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J. Monetary fines will continue to be enforced, as will points penalties, for all oildown violations in both qualifying and eliminations.