LOS ANGELES, California — The 8th running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale took place Fri.-Sat. January 28-29, 2011. It featured three divisions--K & N Pro Series (East & West with champions from Canada, Mexico and Europe added), plus NASCAR Whelen All-American Weekly Racing Series Super Late Models and Late Models. The K & N feature was 225 laps for the second consecutive year, down from 250 in 2009. As usual, SPEED Channel televised racing live both nights. Fri. was 8-11 pm PST and Sat. was 7-11:35 pm (35 minutes overtime). On-air talent again was Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the announcing booth, with Dick Berggren and Jim Tretow track-side. They did outstanding work and the overall TV production, including camera-work, rates an A+. SPEED showed 7 hours and 35 minutes of live TV racing from Irwindale and caught all the key incidents, most from several angles. Replays were impressive. There were six TV cameras--roof, turns 1-2-3-backstretch and on the starters' stand above his head looking towards turn 4. SPEED also placed four TV cameras in the cars of Travis Pestrana, Eric Holmes, Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Steve Wallace. All four on-board cameras provided outstanding footage of crashes and close calls. Additionally, Pat Patterson and former NASCAR truck champion Mike Skinner did the Sirius radio broadcast.
PURSES: The $460,000 purse for the three-division event came from TS@I and Toyota and included travel award plans ($60,000 in travel expense money for K & N East teams and $15,000 for West teams based on 2010 final point standings). Payoffs broke down this way for on track finishes. K & N $244,996 ($220,000 for the feature and $24,996 for the 50-lap Open), $42,371 for the SLM 75-lap race and $25,000 for the Late Model 50 lap event. Feature winners and their winning checks were: K & N—Jason Bowles, of Ontario, CA. ($30,000), SLM—Ryan Partridge, 22, of Rancho Cucamonga, ($6,000), and LM—Sean Woodside, 40, of Saugus, ($2,000). Woodside is a past sportsman stock champion at Saugus Speedway, which closed in 1995. He won the 1999 NASCAR West Series championship and the 2001 SLM Irwindale track championship. Top ten checks for P. 2-10 by division were: K & N—$26,000, 17,000, 16,250, 16,000, 10,000, 12,200, 8,500, 9.200 and 7,750.(P. 26-31 received $5,1000 each and P. 32-40 earned $5,000 each. ... SLM--$3,500, 2,500, 2,000, 1,750, 1,500, 1,400, 1,350, 1,300, 1,285 decreasing to $1,025 for P. 25 (last). ... LM--$1,750, 1,500, 1,400, 1,300, 1,250, 1,200, 1,100, 1,000 and 850. P. 21-25 received $200. $5,000 went to teams in the 20-lap qualifying races.
ENTRIES: The three divisions jammed the pits with 117 stock cars and haulers. By division the car counts were 46 in K & N, 36 SLM and 35 LM. K & N had 49 entered cars and 46 arrived to race. There were 30 K & N West cars and 7 K & N East cars, plus seven foreigners and two others (versatile Travis Pestrana and Nationwide Series veteran Steve Wallace (Rusty's son).The 36 SLMs were reduced to 31 qualifiers by blown engines or crashes during Friday practice sessions. The 34 LM qualifiers were augmented by Saturday-only driver Travis Irving, who parked his No. 85 Toyota Camry and drove the ex-No. 4 Derek Thorn Chevy ride renumbered 41. ... Duplicate car numbers forced some changes as usual: K & N – L. Lasserre (61 to 81), L. Martinez, Jr. (6 to 06); SLM – D. Moore (9 to 19), G. Hannaman (21 to 81) and J. Gomez (22 to 23); LM – B. Davis (55 to 15).
DRIVERS BY STATES: Showdown drivers this year came from 17 states and four foreign countries. K & N drivers came from 14 states and four nations as follows: 20-Calif., 4-Ariz, 2 each from Ida., N.H, and Nev, and 1 each from Alab, Conn., Georgia, Mass., Maryland, N.C, N.J, Utah and Virginia. Foreign drivers came from Mexico (3), Canada (2), Brazil and France (1 each). ... SLM – Eight states were represented led by Calif. with 19, Nev.-6, Ariz.-4, Virginia and Wash.-2 each, Ida., Missouri and Tex.-1 each. ... LM – Drivers came from four states—32-Calif., and 1-each from Ariz., Ida. and Nev.. ... CARS: Four car manufacturers were represented in all three divisions. K & N – Chevy-24, Toyota-10, Ford-9 and Dodge-3. ... SLM - Chevy-20, Ford-13, Toyota-2 and Dodge-1. ... LM – Chevy-30, Ford and Toyota-2 each, and Dodge-1.
Ex-motorcycle racer Dale Quarterly (# 32 Chevy) returned to Irwindale for the first time since the 2004 Showdown. A press release announced his return to the Showdown and included a great quote by the 50-year old Massachusetts driver. He said, “Anybody who has gone there and run that race track—it's just a sensational facility. Between the pit area, the restrooms, the grandstand, the spotting tower—it's a phenomenal place to go race at. The drivers like it. You can put on a good show for the fans. It's definitely a driver's race track, so that's one of the things that has me excited.” Dale reportedly had sold his car for delivery after the Showdown. He crashed on lap 214 of 225 and blamed the 66 car of Steve Wallace for hitting his car from behind entering turn one. TV replays showed Dale came down a bit and Wallace came up a bit—a racing deal. The crash into the wall under the scoring pylon also collected the cars of Troy Ermish and Cole Cabrera.
Earlier in the late model main, Mike Johnson (# 17) blamed Tim Huddleston (# 50) for their front straight crash into the front straight concrete K-rails protecting the pits. TV replays showed Huddleston's 50 Chevy held his line and the RF of Johnson's 17 Chevy came up across the white center-line into the LR of the 50 car, sending both cars spinning into the K-rails. Huddleston confronted Johnson in his car later and they were shown on TV calmly discussing their difference of opinion about the crash. The 50 car, brand new from Racecar Factory, is the 75th late model built by RCF according to owner Jeff Schrader. It will need a new front clip before it races again.
ATTENDANCE: This year the Friday night grandstand count was an estimated 4,200 persons, up from 3,500 a year earlier at the 2010 Showdown. Saturday night was again a sellout—6,500, slightly more than some past Showdowns. Thursday, Jan. 27 all haulers entered the pits. Teams unloaded race cars and set-up pit stalls. A practice session on the half-mile ran from 5:00-9:00 pm for the SLM and LM classes only. Most teams took part. ... Temperatures for the 2011 Showdown were perfect. Thursday's high/low were 74 and 56, Friday was 77 and 51 and Saturday 67 and 52. When Saturday's telecast started at 7:00 SPEED reported it was 57 degrees, with 78% humidity and wind from the SW at 7 mph. ... Noted drivers/crew chiefs—Bill Sedgwick (# 06 Luis Martinez, Jr), Steve Portenga (# 21 Mike Self), Craig Raudman (# 22 Jonathon Gomez), Mike Harvick (# 42 Taylor Cuzick) and Bill Wilburn (# 98 Chad Boat). ... There was a Showdown program on sale ($5.). ... Prices on the TS@I gas pumps in the pits were the same as last year--$7.50 a gallon for 100 octane and $8.00 a gallon for 110 octane.
GUESTS: Well-known personalities at the 2011 Showdown included: drivers Robby Gordon, Townsend Bell, Billy Boat with son Chad, and Matt Crafton advising and spotting for newcomer Pestrana. Sprint Cup driver Michael Waltrip served as grand marshal and gave the starting command. He also volunteered as a second TV booth analyst for the second 100-lap segment. Famed engine builder/past Cup car owner Robert Yates was in the pits. NASCAR Western exec Ken Clapp was present as usual. SEMA manufacturer Vic Edelbrock was at the TS@I premier stock car event for the first time. Auto Club Late Model sponsor rep Rick Lalor, a US Army Reserve Lt. Col., participated in opening ceremonies in his full military dress uniform. All drivers were introduced at the starting line and shook hands with 11 dignitaries on the stage. Daredevil Pestrana tried to slide down the hand rail from the stage. It sagged and almost sent him tumbling before he could start his first-ever NASCAR stock car race.
Speaking of Pestrana, Showdown TV and media coverage of the personable 27-year old action sports star and fan favorite from Annapolis, Maryland was almost Danica Patrick-like. His background deserves special attention because it is so unique. He is a five-time national cycle champion (1992-99) and the preeminent figure in freestyle cycles. At 15 he won the 1999 X Games gold medal in San Francisco. He then jumped his bike off the pier into the SF Bay water. Travis performed the first double back-flip on a motorcycle in the X Games at the Staples Center seven years later. He won best trick and three gold medals. He also won the Rally America title a record four times. He even tried USAC Silver Crown open-wheel racing. On New Years Eve a couple of years ago Travis jumped a Suburu car from a dock over Long Beach Harbor water onto a barge just as he planned. He then took a bow and jumped into the water. What a showman. He is the new Evil Knievel. He outperformed NASCAR star Carl Edwards recently when they represented the USA in the Race de Nations in Europe for drivers from various nations and racing disciplines. His website lists his hobbies as rally cars, sky diving (including without a parachute), base jumping, pit bikes, BMX, jet skiing, boating and mountain biking. The 6'2”- 195 lb driver appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 8/9/06. His nickname is “The Gimp” for all the broken bones he has endured.
Someone wanted to see him try NASCAR stock cars and backed his Pestrana-Waltrip Racing. His national number is 199 so he used No. 99 on his black & orange Boost Mobile Toyota Camry at Irwindale. The Pestrana and Michael Waltrip team will race in seven NASCAR Nationwide Series races starting in July at Lucas Oil Speedway near Indianapolis and he also wants to fit in as many K & N Pro West and East races as possible. Travis tested a stock car in December at the New Smyrna, FL short-track. Pestrana said he would use the Showdown as a baseline to see where his starting point was in stock cars against other racers. He hoped to run every lap to enhance his stock car learning curve. Travis listened to advice from experts during practice and applied their suggestions. He planned to “have fun and learn”. Travis performed beyond his or anyone's wildest expectations. He qualified 20th fastest in a 46-car field and ran all 225 laps. He avoided crashes three times and had only a dented RF fender after the race. He was 15th at the second full-field pit stop at lap 197 with 28 cars still on the track. He told his crew the car was tight in the first 100 laps. After the second segment they got the car loosened and he was able to race forward. He was ninth and on the top ten scoring pylon at lap 206 and in P. 7 on lap 218. He moved to his P. 6 finish in the final laps. Pestrana remained in his pit long after other drivers had departed. He talked to fans, answered questions politely, signed autographs and posed happily for photos, making every person feel important. No wonder he has such an immense following. He hopes to top the NASCAR achievements of fellow two-wheel racer Ricky Carmichael, who made the switch from four to two wheels several years ago. He should be a genuine sensation in Nationwide events because of his driving talent and his contagious enthusiasm.
BEST PRACTICE TIMES: (Fri. Jan. 28) Session 1 – N. Joanides-18.812, T. Huddleston-18.909, G. Atkinson-18.950, B. Davis-18.953, rookie D. Lupton-18.980. Six drivers ran 18s, 23 ran 19s and 3 ran 20-second best laps.... Final Practice – Huddleston-18.914, S. Woodside-18.984, Lupton-19.028, Atkinson-19.069, J. Gomez-19.193. Two were in the 18s, 21 in the 19s and 2 in the 20s. ... SLMs – Session 1 – R. Johnson, Jr.-17.886, S. Dodd-17.994, K. Thompson-18.055, D. Ash-18.074, C. Price-18.081 as 29 cars practiced. Two drivers ran 17s, 24 ran 18s, 1 each ran 19, 21 and 22-second laps. Blown engines and a practice crash sidelined several cars. Travis Thirkettle (No. 5) drew qualifying position one, but he blew his engine in practice near turn one. Owen Riddle, from Washington, spun in Thirkettle's oil and hit the wall ending his first Showdown effort. Charles Price (No. 12), Bill Mitchell and Casey Kingsland also DNQ.
QUALIFYING: Friday time trials ran from 2:34 to 3:16 pm for SLM at a warm 77 degrees under a cloudless, blue sky; 46 K & N cars qualified from 3:31 to 4:29. LM drivers qualified from 5:50 to almost 6:30 with the sun set and a cooler track making a new track record possible. Second year LM driver Brandon Davis, 25, obliged as the 29th of 34 qualifiers. He ran 18.471 (97.450 mph). His 55 car ran as 15 at the Showdown and was Huddleston's Showdown winning car last year. Davis set the old TR of 18.552 (97.025 mph) on 10/16./10 for the same HPR team. ... SLM – Rod Johnson, Jr, 21, was the fastest qualifier as the 17th of 31 qualifiers He drove the No. 03 Position One ride to fast SLM time of 17.732 (101.511 mph) in his second SLM event. Rod set fast time (a NTR of 17.571) in his first SLM effort (the TS@I California Classic on Nov. 27-28, 2010). The K & N Pro fastest qualifier was No. 44 Derek Thorn, 24, at 18.334 (98.178 mph) in his eighth K & N event. The series one-lap TR is 17.781 on 6/19/99 by Butch Gilliland, father of current NASCAR Cup driver David G. ... Drivers ran two consecutive laps before being impounded in the infield. In K & N 30 of 46 drivers ran their faster of two laps on L 2. The fastest 25 K & N drivers made the 225 lap main event as did one protected race winner for 26 cars. Eight provisionals (4 West and 4 East) also went to the main based on 2010 points. The final six starters in the 40 car 225 lap feature went to the first six finishers in the K & N Open race Friday after the SLM feature. The K & N Open started 12 cars that qualified 35-46th fastest.
ROOKIES: Included -LM – S2 Cars 2010 champion Dylan Lupton, 17, Adam Coonfield, 26, Taylor Miinch, 16, Dylan Hutchison, 16; SLM – truck and late model champ Rod Johnson, Jr., 21, modified star Chris Gerchman, 22, and Legends vet Jack Madrid,16; K & N Pro – Brennan Newberry, 20, Luis Martinez, Jr., 20, Cole Cabrera, 16, D. Thorn, 24, USAC midget/sprint car vet Chad Boat, 18, Travis Motley, Taylor Cuzick, 19, Taylor Barton, 26, and Spencer Gallagher. ... UNUSUAL SPONSORS: K & N – Twisted X Boots; AG Source Magazine; Van Dyk Baler; Rusty Wallace Racing Experience; Greyhound Adoption Center, FullTiltPoker.net. ... SLM – Equalibryium Wrist Bands with Titanium, Petrol Eyewear; Amazing Grass; Extenze; Langers Juice; Heritage Cattle Co.; Mancavesite.org; Hooters; Sierra Speed Technology. ... LM – Brendan's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Camarillo; Four Star Fruit; Cook Roofing; 51Fifty Apparel; RaceforAutism.net; Boresha Coffee, and Lefty O'Doul's. The winning K & N 225 Toyota Camry of Jason Bowles had www.RWRE.us and Triad Technologies as sponsors.
Newspaper coverage in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune had sports page 1 stories and photos each day from Wednesday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Jan. 30. Wednesday had Travis Pestrana (# 99), Thursday – Jonathon Gomez (# 22), Friday – Nick Joanides (# 71) and the story of his recovery after hospitalization from a bout of walking pneumonia over the Christmas holiday, Saturday -- Ryan Partridge SLM victory (Eshleman Racing Batman # 11), and Sunday – Jason Bowles (# 75) K & N 225 victory story accompanied by a photo of Auggie Vidovich's No. 11 MMI fiery blown engine in the first turn as # 98 Boat and # 53 Cabrera passed early in the 225. Page 3 had another photo of six cars at speed. ... Heats/Qualifying Races: The front gates opened at 4:00 both days and fans arriving early were able to watch a pair of heats or qualifying races. That was a fantastic addition to the Showdown format. SLM 25-lap heats (Fri.) started 16 and 15 cars and ran from 4:58 to 5:08 and 5:14 to 5:28. The finishing order of race 1 made up the inside row for the 75-lap SLM feature in the order they finished. The finishing order of race 2 comprised the outside row of the feature in the order they finished heat 2. Winners started 1st and 4th. A pair of LM qualifying races Saturday ran from 4:36 to 4:47 and 4:56 to 5:07; winners started 2nd & 4th.
MAIN EVENTS DATA: K & N: 40 cars started & 23 finished with 15 on the lead lap. There were five leaders & five lead changes. D. Thorn led 1-102, A. Myers 103-191, P. Harraka 192-202, G. Pursley 203-206 & 211-217, and J. Bowles 207-210 & 218-225. Race time: 1:49.56 – Victory margin: 0.501. Non-green laps (11)--reds (3). Total caution laps—53. Starting and finishing times—8:41 and 11:19 pm. ... SLM: 25 cars started & 17 finished with 12 on the lead lap. There were four lead changes among four drivers—R. Johnson, Jr. 1-4, N. Joanides 5-23, R. Partridge 24-55 & 63-75, and A. Haase 56-62. Race time: 32:52 – Victory margin: 0.748. Non-green laps (3 yellows for 19 laps). Starting & finishing times: 7:25 and 7:58 pm. ... LM: 25 cars started & 19 finished with 17 on the lead lap. One driver—Woodside--led all 51 laps. Race time: 32:22 – Victory margin: 0.281. Non-green laps (5)--2 reds. Total caution laps (23). Starting & finishing times: 7:33 and 8:14 pm. Both SLM and LM classes ran the full scheduled lap distances, unlike past Showdown SLM and LM events.
Crashes eliminated 10 of 40 K & N starters with three and four-wide racing common. L 27 @ turn 2—Eight cars were involved, including contenders Eric Holmes and Max Gresham. ... L 207 @ turn 4 P. 2 Thorn collided with P. 1 Harraka going for the lead with a five car crash the result. FQ/pole starter Thorn led every lap of the first 100 lap segment and had a 30 yard lead at the break with 29 cars still racing. It ran all green from L 103-195 as Andrew Myers opened a straightaway lead (5.132 seconds) by L 190 in Joe Nava's Ford. A flat RR tire cost him a lap. Following a second full-field ten minute pit stop at L197, the final 27 lap sprint was a duel between Bowles and patient Pursley, who went to the front at “time to go time”. Pursley's Gene Price Ford had a flat tire at a L 218 green flag following a three-car crash (cars 32-38-53) and red flag for cleanup work. Pursley lost two laps replacing the tire in the infield pits and finished 20th. Earlier dominant drivers Myers and Thorn placed 13th and 7th. Many cautions enabled recipients of “lucky dog” free passes to stay on the lead lap.
IMPRESSIVE DRIVERS: K & N: Included early leaders Thorn and Myers and early front runners Darrell Wallace, Jr, David Mayhew and Jason Fensler. Also impressive were late race chargers Lucas Lasserre, of Pau, France, P. 39 to P. 15 on the lead lap, Chad Boat up to P. 8 by L 197, Travis Motley P. 23 to P. 8, Pestrana P. 20 to P. 6, Johnny Borneman P. 37 to P. 5, Luis Martinez, Jr. P. 27 to P. 4, and D. J. Kennington (leading foreign driver) who stayed on the lead lap and raced to P. 2 in the closing laps on his first visit to Irwindale. He said he watched the Showdown race on TV last year at home in Canada. ... SLM: R. Partridge P. 3 in heat and feature winner; R. Johnson, Jr., FQ, heat race winner & early feature leader; Jack Madrid, 16, 2nd FQ and P. 7 in main (from 24th), Washington resident Jason Fensler, P. 4 in feature, and Las Vegan Alex Haase, 20, P. 2 in feature. ... LM: Brandon Davis, 25, FQ with a NTR, P. 2 in his heat, and P. 3 in feature; Kyle McGrady, 18, 7th fastest of 34 qualifiers, P. 3 in qualifying race, & P. 6 in main, and Travis Irving, P. 20 to P. 4 in his new ex-No. 4 Derek Thorn Chevy ride. Others had solid outings as well.
WINNERS' QUOTES: K & N: Winner Jason Bowles, a 3-time K & N feature winner at Irwindale, had a prior best Showdown finish of third. He revealed NASCAR driver Ron Hornaday, Jr. was watching the race live at home in North Carolina and phoned during the race. “He told me to stop running the bottom or I'll use up my tires.” He took the advice. “This is the biggest win of my career. Race wins are huge for me right now, trying to put my name on the map and get a job doing this for a living.” He thanked RWI and said he wrecked his primary car during testing and his winning car was his backup. He said it was his best ever car in race trim. “We just kept our nose clean early. When the green came out for that last 25 (laps) it was time to go.” Showdown 2011 K & N special award winners were: L. Martinez, Jr—rookie of the race, and J. Borneman—move of the race award. ... SLM: Partridge said, “That was so much fun. Irwindale is the best short track in the nation. To be able to finish so well, it's amazing. It feels like we've earned it. There are a ton of people on board. This is the race of races as far as we're concerned on the West Coast.” ... LM: Woodside stated, “I had a great race car. I wanted to win one of these big races. I raced with Nick (runner-up Joanides) a lot of years at Saugus.” Woodside and Joanides are 40, as is Huddleston, so 1970 was a good year for So Cal champion stock car drivers. Joanides said, “Sean raced me clean. He made a veteran move on me when I tried to get under him. His car ran through the middle really good. We had great weather this year and ran a lot of green flag laps this year.” The first two Showdown LM mains (won by M. Johnson in 2009 & Huddleston last year) did not run the full distance. This year LM drivers ran one extra lap because of the green, white, checkered flag finish.
INNOVATIVE PROMOTION: TS@I management had a new wrinkle for the Showdown this year. Track staff arranged for a gourmet food truck festival on track premises just east of the track office during the Thursday, Jan. 27 5-9 pm SLM and LM practice session. Twelve lunch wagons and the Go Country 105fm mobile unit were present, as was a NOS Energy Drink free sample unit. A press release and use of Twitter and Facebook got the message out and attracted people from many cities. Many people present had never been to TS@I or watched auto racing. They were able to watch NASCAR cars practicing free of charge and dine on purchased specialty food from different nations from catering trucks. Singaporean, Greek fusion, crepe fusion, standard American county fair fare, all-things bacon items, auto gelato/ice cream and real Hawaiian shaved ice were some of the catering truck offerings. Track visitors watched NASCAR practice from atop the NOS VIP viewing deck on the administration building roof. The combination of gourmet food and an evening of free entertainment watching stock cars run practice laps right below their elevated perch attracted hundreds if not thousands of non-racing people. They were potential TS@I customers and ticket buyers. Many enjoyed what they saw on the track and purchased tickets to see Showdown races Friday and/or Saturday. Santa Anita Race Track in nearby Arcadia also used the catering food truck idea to attract new horse racing fans within the last month.
SUGGESTIONS: It is time to reduce the K & N 225 lap feature to 200 laps. The hectic final 25 lap sprint to the checkers could be laps 176-200. A ten minute full field pit stop after 100 laps and another after 175 laps could set-up teams for the final 25 lap dash. The75 lap SLM and 50-lap LM features are perfect as is. Keep double file restarts and the lucky dog free passes. Heat races to set starting positions (inside and outside rows) and qualifying races for the SLM and LM classes should be continued. Fans were able to see more racing that really meant something for racing teams too. The 20 or 25 lap distances are perfect for those races. The 50-lap K & N Open race for the slowest qualifiers is a good idea for Friday night. It allows all K & N drivers present a chance to race their way into the feature and earn one of the final six starting positions in the finale. The Showdown late January weekend in So Cal is perfect weather-wise and track-wise. The event concluded 2010 weekly racing series action and left in-person and TV audiences eager to see more racing action in 2011.