After an impressive introduction in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown a year ago, Sergio Peña will return to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) for a second time when NASCAR’s premier short track showcase is contested on Jan. 28-29.
Peña’s first foray in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition was highlighted by the 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Light, and a neck-and-neck battle with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor Joey Logano. The pair swapped the lead five times before Logano, a K&N Pro Series East alum, wound up in Victory Lane with Peña second.
“He was really good,” Logano said of Peña following the race. “I had to really be methodical in every move I made.”
Peña, a 17-year-old from Winchester, Va., went on to compete in all 10 races during the 2010 K&N Pro Series East season with Revolution Racing as part of Drive for Diversity. He recorded three top 10s with a best finish of sixth at Gresham Motorsports Park.
As the calendar turned to 2011, Peña did not have anything lined up for a return trip to Irwindale given that his full-time team – Revolution Racing – will enter only one car with 2010 K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year Darrell Wallace Jr. An opportunity arose recently for Peña to get behind the wheel of a car owned by NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Greg Rayl, who will also compete at Irwindale.
“I was a little bit bummed out that I wasn’t going to be able to run it, and just a couple weeks ago I found I was going to be able to do it again, so I couldn’t be more happy,” Peña said. “Last year was really good for us, and really fun, so I’ve been waiting for this race to happen ever since it ended last year.”
Peña will attempt to make the field in Irwindale as a teammate to fellow K&N Pro Series East driver Miguel Paludo. A two-time Porsche Cup champion in his native Brazil, Paludo recorded a pair of top 10s in nine starts during his first season of NASCAR competition for a team affiliated with Germain Racing. He plans to run full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011 with Red Horse Racing.
“I saw the race last year, and it was a really cool race,” Paludo said. “It’s the first NASCAR race of the year, so for me it is a pleasure to be a part of this race.
“I’m excited to do it. I’ve never been to Irwindale, so I hope Sergio and I can work together to have a great result,” Paludo said.
Paludo is the seventh international driver from the fourth different nation to commit to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Without guaranteed starting positions, all three of the Rayl cars will have to qualify their way into the show.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown main event is broken up into three sections – two 100-lap segments preceding a 25-lap dash to the finish. The race features secured starting spots for the 2010 champions of NASCAR’s developmental series and race winners of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series from the 2010 season.
The schedule also includes a 75-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model race and a 50-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model race.
Both nights of racing will air live on SPEED, beginning each night at 10 p.m. ET. The coverage will be anchored by Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the booth with Dick Berggren and Jim Tretow covering action in the pits.