"I’m really honored and blessed that I got to connect with him (Gene Price) and get this going. They’ve got some great cars."— Candace Muzny
The prestigious event, slated for Jan. 29-30, attracts the top drivers from across the country to what has become the pinnacle of short-track racing in America.
Muzny will make the cross-country trek from her residence in North Carolina to the track she called home for many years. She raced in the NASCAR Late Model class at Toyota Speedway through the 2007 season, but left after the passing of her fiancé, Del Dalrymple, at the end of that year.
Muzny moved to the East Coast and set up shop in North Carolina. Her plans to return to California and compete in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown stemmed from her meeting with car owner Gene Price, whose team finished third last season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West championship standings with driver Greg Pursley. Gene Price Motorsports will field entries in the all-star event for Munzy and Pursley, a veteran West Coast driver who was also a regular competitor at Toyota Speedway for many years.
“I saw Gene Price at the NASCAR banquet and we got to talking,” Muzny said. “I knew that he has really great equipment. So, that’s how it got started. I basically gave him a call and decided to do the deal. I’m really honored and blessed that I got to connect with him and get this going. They’ve got some great cars.”
Although she failed to qualify for the feature at the all-star event in 2007, Muzny is confident of being competitive this time – based on the equipment she’s in, the people around her and her experience at Irwindale.
“I feel we’ve got a pretty fair shake and can probably come out with a pretty decent finish,” she said.
Her return to Irwindale will bring with it mixed emotions. “It will be tough, because I have so many memories of Del there,” she said of Dalrymple, who was also her crew chief. “That broke my heart. But I miss a lot of my friends. I miss so many good people and I had such a good time there. I love the East Coast and my situation out there, but I do miss the West Coast. I miss a lot of the drivers and the camaraderie we had.”
Muzny decided to move east following Del’s death. She consulted about her future with long-time sponsor and mentor Jesse James.
“That was a really hard time for me,” Muzny said. “It uprooted my whole existence at that time.”
James pointed out that there was nothing keeping her on the West Coast. “So, I packed up everything I had and drove cross country and found a place back there and found a shop,” said the Oklahoma native. “I ended up renting a shop from L.W. Miller, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion.”
With some assistance from Miller and others around her new home in North Carolina, Muzny began racing her late model there – competing primarily at Hickory Motor Speedway, as well as Tri-County Speedway and Orange County Speedway.
“This last season was my first true season,” she said. “We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season. At about the middle of the season, I think I just kind of grew as a driver. I think there were a lot of things I didn’t learn mentally early on, because I had not been racing since I was a little girl.”
Muzny is also getting assistance from Dale Quarterley, a NASCAR Camping World Series East veteran who raced motorcycles in the 1980s and is considered a master on road courses.
“He ended up getting a shop next to me,” Muzny said. “I knew that he came from road racing and was a great driver. He has a really good way of communicating with me and breaking down the corners and actually allowing me to learn better how to relate and communicate with L.W. with what the car is doing.”
Quarterley worked with her as her spotter late in the season and will spot for her at the Showdown.
“I ended up getting hooked up with a lot of the right people and I got the right people around me,” Muzny said of her move to North Carolina. “I’ve got a great group of guys that come with me to the races. They put their time in and we all work really well together. It’s like our own little family. I’d like to get something more going and that’s what my attempt is at the Showdown.”
The seventh running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will be highlighted by the 225-lap Camping World Series all-star race. Each race winner during the 2009 Camping World Series season is eligible for a protected starting spot, as are the 2009 champions from each of NASCAR’s six regional touring series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
In addition to eligible 2009 race winners and series champions, the starting lineup will be determined through time trials, limited provisionals for Camping World Series regulars, and the last-chance "Open" race that provides drivers one final chance to make the grid.
The 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown schedule also includes 100-lap Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model and 75-lap Late Model races. Both nights of racing will air live on SPEED.