April 4, 2014 — By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR — photo courtesy Marv Keller/marvsphotography.com — DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ryan Partridge believes his racing program was just hitting stride late last season en route to his first NASCAR late model track championship at Irwindale (Calif.) Event Center.
“I know our program was getting good at the end of last year,” Partridge said.
A lot of teams spent the 2013 season adjusting their set-ups to match changes in the half-mile paved oval’s surface. Teams discovered their race car handling characteristics differed after a year of inactivity at the track in 2012 due to an ownership change.
“I think the surface polymers weathered,” Partridge said of the asphalt compound used when the track was built 15 years ago. “In the past the track would tighten up at night, and now it loosens at night. It’s very bizarre. It was like a whole new track.”
It is likely that if the track operated weekly in 2012, the natural evolution of the surface would have gone largely unnoticed except in some astute crew chief set-up books.
“It was something everyone had to work with. We all noticed the change,” Partridge said. “It was maybe more racy with less grip. We felt like that might throw us off. But what our team does best is adapt. We picked up on it really quick. We had a good start and kept our momentum.”
Partridge won the 2013 late model track championship with five wins and nine top fives in nine starts. He also competed in the race truck division and placed seventh in points. He won the truck division’s championship in 2010 and will race full time in both divisions again this year.
He also made his third career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start last month when the series came to Irwindale. He led 14 laps during the final third of the 150-lap event before falling back on a Lap 136 restart and finishing a series career-best eighth.
“You’re never satisfied with eighth, but we led some laps and showed what we could do and be competitive on a small budget,” Partridge said.
Partridge is also crew chief and head instructor for LA Racing Experience which is based at Irwindale Event Center. He’s a consultant-mentor for two current drivers, Lacie Price and Griffin Steinfeld. Price is granddaughter of two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship team owner Gene Price. The 20-year-old college student is running full time in Irwindale’s truck division. Steinfeld is a K&N Pro Series West rookie.
Partridge drives a Toyota Camry for PPL Motorsports in the late model division at Irwindale. The driver’s brother, Andy Partridge, is crew chief. Bryce Coleman is a crewman and Lindsay Gilbert is the team’s social media specialist.
He began his racing career at age five in quarter-midgets in 1993. He competed in legends cars when he raced at Irwindale for the first time in 2004. He won a legends state championship in 2005 and his family put together his first late model in 2006.
The track opens its 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season Saturday. Joining the late models are race trucks, mini stocks and skid plate racing along with fireworks.