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2014 NHRA: Toni McCray takes two wins in Lucas Oil Late Model Twins at Irwindale
Posted by: newsla on Jul 06, 2014 - 07:29 AM
2014 NHRA: Toni McCray takes two wins in Lucas Oil Late Model Twins at Irwindale

Toni McCray of Highland, Calif., swept the Lucas Oil Late Model Twins 30-lap features to vault into championship contention Saturday night before a crowd of 6,290 at half-mile Irwindale Speedway.


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McCray drove impressively from eighth starting position into the lead by the 12th lap in the first Late Model feature and finished two car lengths ahead of runner-up Trevor Huddleston of Agoura Hills, Calif. She started fourth in the second feature and passed Ryan Partridge of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., for the lead on the 17th lap and won by six car lengths over Partridge.

McCray’s wins were her second and third of the season and sliced eight points off Partridge’s lead. She’s second in the championship, trailing Partridge 478-460 with 10 features completed and 10 remaining. Partridge has five wins. He was fourth in the first feature Saturday.

McCray didn’t anticipate her charge to the front on the first race.

“I kinda surprised myself,” McCray said. “We didn’t qualify good. We were really tight. I came back (to the pits) and said, ‘We really have to free it up.’ They made some changes and told me, ‘You’re going to be better.’ I go, ‘I’m going to drive the wheels off of it. We need to win both of these races, we’ve gotta catch Partridge. The only way we’re going to be in the championship hunt is if we win more races. I’m determined to win as many as I can and I know I’m going to have to race hard to be up on it every race, every lap.

“So, I did what I had to do.”

McCray was third for the first restart behind Huddleston and Christian McGhee of La Verne, Calif., on the 10th lap.

“They (Huddleston, McGhee) definitely made contact going down the back straightaway,” McCray said. “When I saw that going on, I knew I needed to go to the bottom right away. So, I ran the bottom. The 71 (McGhee) got somewhat of a run off of (turn) four on me, but I was door to door with him, so I ran it into (turn) one really hard and coming off of two and going down the back straightaway. I cleared him going into three.”

For the second race, McCray asked her Rip Michaels-led crew to further loosen up the back.

“They actually freed it up a little bit more for me because I was still tight on entry and right in the middle of the corner,” McCray said. “Rip (Michaels) did a little adjustment for me. The car was really good. We were on rails. The car has been good every week. We’ve had some bad starting positions, but I’m getting better at racing. I want the championship and I’m going to fight Ryan (Partridge) hard for it.”

Partridge started on the outside of the front row next to McGhee and took the lead on the first lap. McCray was up to second by the second lap and she and Partridge raced side-by-side for much of the next 17 laps. Partridge’s car was better than it had been in the first race when he finished fourth, but he couldn’t hold off McCray.

McCray went inside in turn four to beat Partridge to the lead by a nose on the 17th lap. She was able to pull up to the outside in front of Partridge exiting turn two on the 19th and was in control to the checkered flag.

“The first race, we tried some different stuff on the car,” Partridge said. “It’s a very competitive series and you’ve always got to be chasing and trying to find something new, something better. We changed our stuff back for the second race.”

Partridge understands he’ll be in a tough championship battle with McCray a perhaps others, in the final five Lucas Oil Twins events.

“Absolutely,” Partridge said. “I think one of the advantages we have with my team is consistency and being able to get our stuff tuned up real fast. This is the point in the season when that has a little less value because people are starting to figure their stuff out. People are getting comfortable with their cars, finding out what it needs, so I think we’re seeing a whole different way of racing. I feel the more and more races everybody gets under their belt, the less of an advantage we have.”

Huddleston’s second place was his best in the series and third tied his previous best.

“We had a great night,” the 18-year-old said. “We qualified on pole and that put us in a good starting position (pole) for the first race. We had a little trouble with the 71 car (McGhee), but we were able to bounce back and still finish second. In the second race, the start got us and we dropped back a little and worked our way back to third. All in all, the greatest night I've had so far.”

Joey Licata Jr. of Lake Balboa, Calif., drove to his first victory of 2014 in the Irwindale Race Trucks 40-lap feature and Zack Green of Long Beach, Calif., took his fifth victory of the season in six starts in the 30-lap Super Stocks. Brent Scheidemantle of Alta Loma, Calif., won the 35-lap Legend Cars feature on the one-third mile inner track.

Lucas Oil Late Model Twins, July 5, at Irwindale Speedway

Race 1: (30 laps) 1. Toni McCray (Highland), 2. Trevor Huddleston (Agoura Hills), 3. Andrew Porter (La Verne), 4. Ryan Partridge (Rancho Cucamonga), 5. Sean Woodside (Burbank), 6. Christian McGhee (La Verne), 7. Ryan Cansdale (Laguna Beach), 8. Mike Johnson (Covina), 9. Ricky Schlick (Claremont), 10. Curtis Burns (San Bernardino), 11. Rodney Peacher (North Hills), 12. Billy Helgeson (Riverside), 13. Dana Moore (Valencia), 14. Jeff Williams (Newbury Park), 15. Travis Irving (Corona), 16. Glenn Schwenger (Redondo Beach).

Margin of victory: .206-second. Lap leaders: Huddleston 1-10, McGhee 11, McCray 12-30.

Race 2: (30 laps): 1. McCray, 2. Partridge, 3. Huddleston, 4. McGhee, 5. Irving, 6. Porter, 7. Woodside, 8. Cansdale, 9. Helgeson, 10. Johnson, 11. Schlick, 12. Peacher, 13. Burns, 14. Moore, 15. Williams, 16. Schwenger.

Margin of victory: .952-second. Lap leaders: Partridge 1-16, McCray 17-30.

Note: All drivers from California.

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