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RACING SCENE COLUMN

TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN
Source — Tim Kennedy
Date Posted — February 16, 2010
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LOS ANGELES, California — The 7th running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale took place on January 29-30, 2010. SPEED Channel televised the event live both nights-- Friday from 7:00-10:25 pm (25 minutes of overtime) and Saturday from 7:00-12:12 am (72 minutes of OT). The K & N Pro Series (former Camping World Grand National West and GN East) raced for a $408,750 purse. The Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model purse was $50,000 and the Late Model Series was $25,000 for a combined purse of $483,750. Feature winners received $31,000 (K & N Pro), $10,000 (SLM) and $2,500 (LM). The normal TS@I winner payoffs are $1,250 (SLM) and $1,000 (LM). Second through fifth finishers in K & N Pro received $23,000, $22,500, $20,000 and $13,000. Second through fifth in the SLM division paid $5,000, $3,500, $2,500 and $2,000. Last place (40th) paid $500. The LM payoffs for P. 2-5 were $1,700, $1,500, $1,400 and $1,300. The two support divisions (SLM and LM) ran a 5:00-9:00 pm practice session on Thursday, January 28 and nearly all SLM and LM competitors participated.

ENTRIES: The 2009 TASS entries by division were: K & N Pro (56 cars—42 GN West and 14 GN East), SLM – 52 cars and because of inclement weather 51 started the feature. LM – 49 cars and 47 started the main event. The 2010 TASS field had 45 K & N Pro Series cars and 40 started the Saturday 225 lap feature. SLM had 44 entrants (40 present) and 39 started Friday's scheduled 100 lap main (reduced to 66 laps by time constraints). The LM series had 47 cars present and 44 cars started Saturday's scheduled 75 lap feature which NASCAR officials reduced to 55 laps because of the late hour (past midnight). Friday attendance was about 3,500 and Saturday was a sellout of all 6,500 seats. Temperatures were a perfect 70 degrees and sunny Thursday and mid-60's daytime under partly cloudy sky on Friday-Saturday race days, The temperature was in the low 50s when race nights concluded. Teams from eastern states reported their home states had snow and 20 degree highs. Some GN East teams race haulers departed their HQ in eastern states on Thursday, January 21 in case of unexpected delays (snow or breakdowns). They traveled about 3,000 miles west on I-40 and I-15. Most had one driver for the long haul, but one team had three drivers. Owners, drivers and team members flew west.

DRIVERS BY STATES: K & N Pro—45 drivers represented 15 states and four other countries: CA-20, CT, ID, IL, MA, NH, NJ, & NY--2 each, AZ, NM, OK, UT, VA and WA—1 each; Canada-2, Brazil, France and Mexico—1 each. ... The SLM series had 47 drivers entered from six states: CA-40, AZ and NV-2 each, CO, TX and UT-1 each. ... The LM division had 47 entrants from six states: CA-40, AZ and NV-2 each, CO, TX and UT-1 each. ... MANUFACTURERS: K & N Pro Series – four makes led by Chevy with 29, Toyota-9, Ford-4 and Dodge-3. SLM series--Chevy 32, Ford-9, Toyota-2 and Dodge-1. Late Models—Chevy-35, Ford-7, Toyota-4 and Pontiac-1. ... This year two TASS Fan-fest nights took place at Longo Toyota, about 4 miles southwest of TS@I. Ryan Truex, Jason Bowles, Matt DiBenedetto and Rip Michels attended Wednesday. Joey Logano, Matt Kobyluck, Eric Holmes and Paulie Harraka attended Thursday. They met fans in the dealership lobby, signed autographs and apparel and helped promote the TASS. Earlier, David Gilliland was on the Sirius radio show with Pat Patterson from Clubhouse 66 Restaurant, 1200 E. Route 66 in Glendora.

Top five in practice times: K & N Pro – Session # 1 – Fri. 1/29 - 10:55 am: 1. Pena, 18.774, 2. Barkshire 807, 3. Myers 839, 4. Pursley 844, 5. Vidovich 864. All 45 cars ran. Final Practice 1/29 – 12:50 pm: 1. Bowles 18.660, 2. Truex 712, 3. Gilliland 713, 4. Pena 736, 5. Holmes 760; 43 of 45 cars ran. ... SLM series: 1st session, Thur. 1/28 – 1. R. Partridge 18.307, 2. A. Allen 352, 3. D. Gilliland 361, 4. A. Haase 416, 5. L. L. Martinez, Jr. 443; 34 cars ran laps. Final practice on Fri. 1.29 (noon): 1. N. Joanides 18.365, 2. Gilliland 409, 3. Derek Thorn 465, 4. A. Allen 473, 5. J. Johnson 475; 32 cars ran. ... Late Models: Fri. 1/29 – 2:30 pm – 1. T. Motley 19.093, 2. R. Johnson, Jr. 093, 3. M. Self 134, 4. T. Huddleston 166, S. Bennett 235; 45 cars ran laps. Practice crashes prevented two of the three Jack Sellers cars from qualifying. (# 5 J. Hale and # 15 Sellers). SLM – TS@I Legends 2009 champion Ryan Reed, 16,made his SLM debut. In Thursday night practice his car pushed up and hit the 4th turn wall at the RF and RR and received enough damage to keep it in the pits for repairs. He qualified 28th fastest and raced up top 15th in the 66 lap race. Fellow SLM rookie/Legends veteran Kyle Neveau, 17, was driving in his third SLM event. During his first qualifying lap the RF suspension of his dad's No. 39 broke and his car hit the turn two wall, ending his first TASS attempt.

Fastest Qualifiers: K & N Pro – 17th qualifier Sergio Pena, 18.390 (97.879 mph) – the 1 lap track record (set in 1999) is 17.781; SLM – 15th qualifier Rip Michels, 17.861 (100.778 mph) – the 1 lap TR (set in 2005) is 17.712; LM – 36th qualifier Tim Huddleston, 18.900 (95.23l8 mph) – the 1 lap TR (set in 2006) is 18.575. ... Most drivers set their fastest lap on the second of two qualifying laps. By division the totals were: K & N – L 1 – 10 & L 2 – 33 (two of three Jack Sellers drivers did not qualify after practice crashes); SLM – L 1 – two & L 2 – 37; LM – L 1 – 15 & L 2 - 28 (four cars did not post qualifying times). ... Sean Woodside (the 2001 SLM track champion) returned to racing following a one year layoff since the 2009 TASS. He has been too busy to race with his technical work in movie and TV productions, including the Grammys. He raced a brand new LM Chevy owned by Tim Sweet with Bakersfield's Mike Harvick (Kevin's father) as his crew chief. Sean was the first to qualify in the Saturday 1:01-1:56 pm session. He turned seventh fastest time, started seventh and finished second in the 55 lap LM feature. What rust? ... NASCAR officials from the south, including race director Scott French, officiated all three divisions, so TS@I racing director Lester Boyer was a spectator. Andy Ashbeck was the sole starter for all three divisions. NASCAR short track PR rep Jason wrote the TASS race stories.

ROOKIES: Some of the interesting rookies by division were: K & N – Brennan Newberry 19, (SRL Tour), George Brunnhoelzl III (NASCAR Modifieds), Sergio Pena, 16, (Drive4Diversity S2 race winner), foreigners Willy Boucenna, Beto Montiero and Ruben Rovelo, Josh Combs, 19, Justin Philpott, Candace Muzny, and third generation driver Justin Funkhouser, 26. ... SLM – Ryan Reed, 16 (2009 Legends track champion on TS@ I third-mile), Kyle Neveau, (Legends), and Julien Penaruiz. ... LM – Donny St. Ours, 16, (Legends winner), Christian Copley, 18, Pro Trucks and IMCA dirt modified winner, Grant Hebner, 20, (Super Trucks) was 5th FQ and finished 8th, Jeff Peterson, 18, (Super Trucks), Rod Johnson, Jr. 20, (2009 Super Trucks track champion) 2nd FQ, led first 11 laps and finished 15th, Larry Cerquettini (2009 Super Stocks track champion), Taylor Cuzick (ASA Speed Trucks), Michael Self, 19, 4th FQ and P. 7 in the feature on his first visit to TS@I, plus paraplegic Ricky James, 21, (2008 Pro Truck track champion who raced motocross and off-road trucks in 2009).

GUESTS: Grand Marshall was actor Michael Rooker, who played NASCAR driver Rowdy Burns in the 1990 movie “Days of Thunder” starring Tom Cruise. As a 20 year salute to the movie, a 40-ft screen was set up in the infield and the racing flick played for TS@I fans Sat. 1/30 from 4:45 to 6:45 pm with reduced lighting during the on-track autograph session. Rooker, 54, also promoted the “Days of Thunder” video game and gave the command to start engines. Other guests included 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, driver agent/lawyer Cary Agajanian and longtime NASCAR Western exec Ken Clapp. Long-time NASCAR Winston West No. 22 driver St. James Davis was present with his wife La Donna in one of 12 suites. Both were severely injured years ago during an attack by several chimps while they visited their chimp Moe at a wildlife way-station. ... Joey Logano, 19, signed autographs and apparel for fans who lined up 35 deep near the front gate and next to his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota show car at the Toyota display. The Chalet Village had a bevy of booths and displays that grabbed spectators attention during pre-race & post-race periods.

Following the Thursday night 5 to 9 pm practice session there was a special 50-lap race in the unique S2 cars for four Drive4Diversity drivers. A ride in the K & N Pro Series No. 4 Toyota led by four-time NASCAR GN East champion driver Andy Santerre awaited the S2 race winner. The Race Car Factory-built cars and the D4D drivers were: No. 50 Sergio Pena who turned 17 on February 13, No. 51 Ryan Gifford, No. 56 Darrell Wallace, Jr. and No. 59 Mackena Bell. The S2 cars were raced by Kyle Longmore (No. 50), Rod Johnson, Jr. & Ryan Reed (No. 56) and Kendall Lopez (No. 59) during the inaugural S2 season at TS@I in 2009. Only 19-year old Bell had raced at Irwindale prior to the test for the Revolution Racing 2010 TASS ride. She finished eighth in final TS@I SLM 2009 points with a best finish of third in the Nava Racing No. 30. All four of the D4D drivers will be in Revolution Racing cars for the 2010 K & N Pro East Series. The new RR team is owned by former DEI exec Max Siegel and John Story. Pena led all the way and won the TASS ride. The rest is history. He set fastest qualifying time Friday in the K & N No. 4 ride, swapped the lead with winner Joey Logano five times, led the 225 lap feature for 54 laps and finished a close second in his first K & N Pro competition. His amazing debut played out on national TV, making Pena an instant racer to watch in 2010.

The K & N Pro lineup consisted of 14 drivers who made the event by their qualifying laps (to P. 21), Twelve spots were protected or guaranteed spots for 2009 GN West & GN East winners and for NASCAR Mexico, Canada and Modified Series champions. Eight spots were provisionals (four each GN West and GN East). The final six positions went to the first six finishers in Friday's 50-lap open race for the slowest qualifiers. Friday had SLM and K & N Pro qualifying and the SLM feature followed by the 50-lap K & N Open. Saturday had LM qualifying at 1:00 pm with the K & N 225 on TV live followed by the LM feature live as well. The “lucky dog” free pass after cautions for the highest running lapped car and two abreast restarts were used in all three TASS divisions. ... There were five of the newly approved 2010 spec or crate engines in the 40-car SLM field. Travis Thirkettle, Kevin Thompson, Luis Martinez, Jr., Jeff Eshleman and his team car used the new $8,000 engine. ... Darryl Wong's Speed Wong team brought in NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland to drive its K & N No. 89 Toyota and put Matt Crafton, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver from Tulare, in its SLM No. 89 Chevy. Junior Joiner was the crew chief. Jennifer Wong, driver Brian Wong's older sister, was listed as owner of the two Wong cars. Crafton finished in P. 11. Gilliland started seventh and ran second to Logano from lap 69 to the lap 100 break. He was unable to continue because of an electrical problem and finished 38th.

FEATURES: The number of starters and cars racing at the finish by division were: K & N Pro - 40 and 24 with 21 on the lead lap; SLM – 39 and 24 with 22 on the lead lap; LM – 44 and 32 with 24 on the lead lap. Margins of victory were: K & N – 0.584; SLM – 0.478 and LM – 1.245. Fastest laps of the race: K & N – Logano @ 18.568, followed by Pena, 18.643 and Eric Holmes, 18.742. ; SLM – Rip Michels @ 18.233, followed by Haase, 18.331 and Thirkettle, 18.337; LM – Tim Huddleston @ 18.876, followed by2009 TASS LM winner Mike Johnson, 18.928 and Sean Woodside, 18.970. LAP LEADERS: K & N - Pena led laps 1, 106-133 and 178-202 and Logano led the other 171 laps. There were 14 cautions for 69 laps. SLM – Three drivers exchanged the lead four times. Michels led the first 31 laps, 33-46, and 57-66. Travis Thirkettle led lap 32 and Alex Haase paced laps 47-56. There were seven cautions for 36 laps. LM – the race had two leaders & two lead changes. Rookie Rod Johnson, Jr passed pole-sitter/team leader/three-time champion Huddleston on the first lap and led the first 11 laps over his boss. Huddleston led the final 44 laps. There were six cautions (32 laps) and a red for 28 minutes. The SLM had three red flags, including a flip by Shawn Calderwood in turn one. The K & N 225 had two reds to clear wrecked cars. On Friday the SLM main ran from 7:38 to 8:54 pm. The K & N 50-lap Open ran from 9:17 to 9:35 pm. Saturday's K & N 225 started at 7:32 and concluded at 10:30 pm after two full-field pit stops at 100 and 200 laps. The LM race ran from 10:56 pm to 12:03 am. ... With cars coming from different tracks, there were duplicate car numbers in qualifying that became different numbers for one car (via duct tape) for the race.. SLM: Calderwood's 6 became 76, Kingsland's 88 was 18, Allen's 22 was 28, Rueschenberg's 25 was 26, Engle's 51 was 61, and the Penaruiz 16 was 06 by race time. In the LM race Vieria's No. 51 became 54, Moore's 27 was 87, Holmes' 21 was 1, Cook's 98 was 88, J. Philpott's 05 was 5, and Koski's 5 was 8.

TV: SPEED did a solid, professional job again this year with race coverage, features and driver interviews. Play-by-play announcer was Rick Allen, who replaced unavailable Mike Joy, and the analyst was Phil Parsons as usual. Pit reporters were the reliable Dr. Dick Berggren and Jim Tretow. They all did their “ homework” to learn about the SLM and LM drivers by meeting with TS@I PR and announcing staff Thursday afternoon from 3:45-4:45 pm in the conference room of the track administration building. Some of that info made the telecast in appropriate places. ... Noted drivers who served as 2010 TASS K & N Series crew chiefs were: Santerre (# 4 Pena), Bill Sedgwick (# 6 Jason Bowles), Steve Portenga (# 21 Blake Koch), Craig Raudman (# 22 Jonathon Gomez), Gary Collins (# 29 Brennan Newberry), Terry Henry (# 17 David Mayhew), and Mike Olsen (# 91 Willy Boucenna). ... Impressive young K & N Pro drivers were Pena, Logano, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Truex, Michael Self, and Josh Combs. Candace Muzny, with sponsorship from Jesse James' West Coast Choppers, charged from 37th starting spot up to 25th by lap 40 and 27th at lap 100. She was 21st on lap 142, ahead of 14 drivers. She was16th at lap 160 and 14th at lap 190 with 28 cars still on the track and 17th at the lap 200 full-field pit break. She became involved in the seven car crash on lap 205 in the second turn and dropped out after 208 laps. Her 24th place paid $6,200. The lowest payday in the 40 car field was $5,000.

IMPRESSIVE SHOWINGS: K & N Pro – Runner-up Pena is an obvious choice here. His Cinderella 2010 TASS is what makes the event “the Daytona 500 of NASCAR short track racing”. He went from an unknown to the national spotlight. His Columbian dad is a friend of Indy Car, Formula One and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya. ... SLM – Derek Thorn (P. 3), Jay Sauls (P. 6), Dusty Davis (P. 9) and Ryan Reed (P. 15) made favorable impressions. ... LM – Park City, UT driver Michael Self (# 84) turned 19 on Nov. 1 and made his TS@I debut driving in the K & N and LM events. As the 43rd and last qualifier he posted the fourth fastest time. His No. 88 Chevy was in 14th place on the lead lap in the K & N 225 when hit from behind by Greg Pursley's No. 26 entering turn three. Self's car slammed into the wall head-on . He took an ambulance ride to the outside of turn three, but he was released after an examination. His HANS device prevented serious injury according to his father, a medical doctor. Although he had a sore back and neck he started his No. 84 fourth in the LM main about 45 minutes after his K & N crash. He remained in the top five to lap 25 and finished seventh thanks to a re-pass move on the No. 21 car four laps from the premature conclusion.

CRASHES: The lap 60 major SLM crash involving P. 3 Thirkettle and P. 4 Haase started on the backstretch when Thirkettle's No. 5 got loose, came up into Haase's No. 51 and sent both cars into the wall near turn three. Both cars were damaged severely, but the drivers thankfully walked away unscathed. ... LM No. 65 driver George Atkinson, a TS@I regular, became the only 2010 TASS driver taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was part of the seven car crash on the front straight on a lap 38 restart. The crash started when second place Rod Johnson, Jr. missed a shift and evading cars came together near the starting line. The 33, 05, 24, 5, 62, 28 and 65 cars in mid-field became victims of cars jockeying for space. The 28 and 65 cars stopped partly atop K-rails protecting the infield pits. Rescuers used the jaws of life to cut the roof off Atkinson's RCF-built 65 car to extract him after he complained of back/neck pain. At Arcadia Methodist Hospital medical personnel performed a cat-scan of his sore neck/back. George remained under observation and tests were normal, so he was released at 3:00 am. He said on February 2 that he felt a lot better, but he was taking it easy at home, sleeping a lot, and taking Vicodin. Upon hearing about George's recuperation, someone wrote that he can now race his No. 65 in a convertible division. ... Paraplegic Ricky James (No. 24) received TV air-time when interviewed on the front straight by a pit reporter. His LM crew chief is past track champion Dean Kuhn. Ricky, 21, was paralyzed at age 16 in a motocross race crash in Texas. He uses hand controls to win in pro trucks and off-road racing. During 2008 Ricky finished fourth out of 20+ wheelchair participants in the annual Los Angeles Marathon. He also has competed in an Iron-man event. NASCAR official Brett Bodine visited his shop last year to check Ricky's hand control system of accelerating and braking before he was approved for NASCAR competition. During practice Ricky's No. 24 Toyota blew the engine and he was one of four drivers unable to qualify. Car owner Clay Wooster loaned Ricky an engine so he could start last (44th). He was running 23rd with 36 cars on the track when the lap 38 crash ended his run. Ricky will be one of the members of the TS@I 2010 Auto Club Late Model impressive rookie class.

SLM winner Rip Michels said, “It's kind of fitting for me to win, we've run so well. Coming for the green, white, checker finish it was nerve wracking with David Gilliland alongside. It was hard to keep your rhythm with all the yellows and restarts. I thought I had the best car tonight.” Michels, the TS@I all-time feature winner, added to his lead with his 61st victory as the track began its 12th season. Second ranked Tim Huddleston kept pace with Rip the next day, with his LM victory being his 44th Irwindale feature, all in late models. Third in track feature victories is Tom Landreth with 42 Legend Car features. ... Prices for gasoline on the TS@I pit pumps was $7.50 per gallon for 100 octane and $8.00 per gallon for 110 octane Sunoco fuel. ... The Philpotts, Ryan (SLM) and Justin (K & N) from Tracy, are first cousins. Their dads also raced for years at Stockton (CA) 99 Speedway and have won track championships.

Past TASS winner Matt Kobyluck is one-eighth Mohegan Indian on his mother's side. His No. 40 Mohegan Sun Casino Chevy that won the 2009 TASS was in their hauler as a backup car this year. Last year that car, which was a backup car pressed into service for the race, won the 250 lap TASS event. The race was reduced to 225 laps this year. Kobyluck entered the 7th running of the TASS with the best average of all TASS drivers in the prior six events. He improved his 3.6 average this year with a close third place finish behind battling teenagers Logano and Pena. ... LM driver John Moore, a 46-year old veteran from Granite Bay, CA and a front-runner at the Roseville track, owns his own Nor Cal environmental cleanup firm, JM Environmental. His AT&T car sponsorship is a trade-out for his firm's advertisement in the yellow pages. ... Vision Airlines, of Las Vegas, owns and sponsors the 90 and 94 SLM cars. Vision AL started in 1994 with one nine-seat Piper Chieftain. It acquired its first jet in 1998. It flew Grand Canyon tours, charters and some scheduled routes. It now operates a fleet of European-made Dornier 228 and 328 smaller turbo-jets, B-737 and B-767s. In fact,Vision Airlines participated in the January 12 Haiti devastating earthquake relief efforts. Vision AL white and red jets ferried medical personnel and supplies to Haiti and evacuated people from Haiti on contract to the US government.

SPONSORS: There were some unusual sponsors on TASS cars this year. SLM and LM cars had: Gilley's @ Treasure Island Hotel, Las Vegas; Equity Homes; Nitro2Go; Four Star Fruit; Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; TaxBrain.com; Legacy Pools; 51-Fifty Apparel Co.; Freightliner of AZ; Havasu 95 Speedway; Hooters; VHS Diamonds; Vision Airlines; CHP; idevaffiliates.com, and even a funeral home. ... K & N Series: Greyhound Adoption Center—Make a Fast Friend; Build Brazil; Heritage Cattle; babycancer.com; Valenzano Winery/Dangerous Red; Whelen Engineering (on three GN East cars); J. Michael Self, M.D, a plastic surgeon in Salt Lake City; Syndex Concrete (Bakersfield); Curb Records and West Coast Choppers. ... RACECAR (a stock car series in Europe) sent teen winner Willy Boucenna, of Saint Gervais la Foret, France to race the No. 91 Mike Olsen GN East car. He ran the 50-lap K & N Open Friday and missed a transfer to the 225 by two positions. Beto Montiero, of Recife, Brazil, missed the 225 by one position. Ruben Rovelo, from Mexico City, started the 50 lap Open first and led the first 26 laps before he spun out on his own while holding a ten yard lead over ultimate winner Michael Self. He restarted ninth but could not advance to a top six finish on his flat-spotted tires.

SUGGESTIONS: It seems every TASS turns into a wreck-fest that slows and at times stops the outstanding, close racing action. Causes include: drivers trying to score a big payday from the largest purses of the year for all three racing divisions; large fields in the three features with many drivers racing at TS@I for the first time; drivers unfamiliar with driving styles or tendencies of unfamiliar drivers, and drivers trying to impress potential sponsors or car owners on national TV. How can NASCAR TASS officials overcome some or all of those obstacles to provide track spectators and the SPEED Channel live national TV audience with the outstanding, close action that TS@I is famous for in racing circles? Perhaps the fields in all three divisions should be determined by a series of three or four heat races in each division. Finishes in heat races would determine a 30 car maximum field in each feature. Heat winners would occupy the first four positions, with second and third in each heat next, followed by the fourth place and lower drivers in succeeding rows. All entrants would race their way into their features. To make time for heat races, qualifying could be eliminated or cut to one lap, or best practice times could be used to determine heat race lineups. Fans could be admitted at 3 or 4 pm to watch all the heat races and they would watch more racing action and close finishes for their money with less down time between races. There would be less crashing and torn up cars, saving car owners money as an added benefit. The featured K & N Pro distance of 225 laps could be cut to 150 or 200 laps with only one full field pit stop of ten minutes. Double file restarts and “lucky dog” free passes for the first car down a lap should continue.

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See also
Article posted by RacingWest.com staff on February 16, 2010. http://www.racingwest.com

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