Fired Up For The Showdown
For Joey Logano and David Gilliland, winning the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown served as a prelude to their accension to NASCAR's national series stage.
What drivers have come to call the 'Daytona 500 of short-track racing' has become a launching pad for those looking to make their mark, and it has come into even sharper focus in recent years. Fans have seen drivers such as Logano, Ryan Truex, Brian Ickler, Ricky Carmichael, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Justin Loftin run in the prestigious postseason event for NASCAR's developmental series.
The trend is certain to continue. Last week, action sports star Travis Pastrana announced his NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for 2011. Before he gets there, though, he will make his official NASCAR debut at Irwindale. Pastrana will drive for the Michael Waltrip Racing team that is coming off back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championships with Truex.
The event is loaded with some of the best young talent in the series, including 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series Sunoco Rookies of the Year Luis Martinez Jr. and Darrell Wallace Jr. -- Martinez, 20, finished seventh in points in the West while Wallace, 17, became the youngest winner in series history and finished third in the East; Max Gresham, 17, won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series combination race last May at Iowa Speedway; and Sergio Peña, 17, who nearly won the event last year in his first series start.
There will be plenty of veterans lined up, though, to show experience pays off on the fast, multi-grooved half-mile at Irwindale. They will be led by three-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Eric Holmes and two-time NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown winner Matt Kobyluck. Jason Bowles, the 2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion and 2009 Showdown third-place finisher, and Sean Caisse, a two-time Showdown pole winner and 2006 runner-up, are also headed to Irwindale.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series will share the stage -- and spotlight on SPEED and Sirius XM Chn. 128 -- with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The Super Late Model Division will race Friday night, while the Late Models hit the track Saturday.
Champions Gather In Irwindale
Eric Holmes got to know two of his teammates for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in a unique fashion: They shared the stage in December at the 2010 NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Series Awards Gala. Holmes, who was celebrating his third NASCAR K&N Pro Series championship, will hit the track this weekend alongside 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion DJ Kennington and 2010 NASCAR Mexico Series champion German Quiroga.
It's an unprecendented collection of champions for Bill McAnally Racing, which will also field cars for 2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year Paulie Harraka and series veteran Moses Smith.
"It's an outstanding opportunity," McAnally said. "To be able to have these champions, and the opportunity to have five competitive cars -- I've never felt so good about going."
McAnally credits the NASCAR Nationwide Series change to the new car, which allowed him to pick up several of the old Nationwide chassis in North Carolina to bring back for his California-based team.
In addition, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car owner Mike Olsen will field a car for the 2010 RACECAR Euro Series champion Lucas Lasserre of France. And past NASCAR champions entered include Matt Kobyluck (2008 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Jason Bowles (2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), Andrew Ranger (2007 and 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), and Greg Pursley (2004 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series).
Santerre, Kobyluck Tough To Beat
Looking for a favorite Saturday? It would be tough to pick against two veterans towing from the East Coast.
Matt Kobyluck is coming off a disappointing -- by his standards -- 10th-place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. But the 40-year-old Uncasville, Conn., driver has had more success than any other entrant at the multi-grooved Irwindale half-mile. The two-time winner of the Showdown, Kobyluck has a pair of runner-up finishes, a third (last year) and a fourth in his last six starts there.
"I go out there with a certain level of confidence; we've certainly had a level of success there," said Kobyluck, who credits crew chief Perry Waite and his crew with working hard to put together a good setup for the race. "It's got to be one of those tracks that fits my driving style."
Santerre won't be behind the wheel, but rather atop the pit box for 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East rookie Darrell Wallace Jr.
"The track is unique," Santerre said. "The key is practice and working with the driver. You're never going to get it perfect on the bottom and you're never going to get it perfect on the top. There's a happy medium there. That's what we work hard at, running both."
Santerre was the crew chief for fellow Revolution Racing rookie Sergio Peña last year, when the then-16-year-old earned the pole and nearly beat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano for the win.
Santerre won one of the two qualifying heat races and finished second in the inaugural Showdown in 2003. In 2004, he led 10 of the first 12 laps before being sidelined on Lap 13 with a broken transmission. After getting out of the car and forming Andy Santerre Motorsports, he fielded a car for Sean Caisse. Caisse won one of the two qualifying heat races and finished fourth in 2005; he finished second in 2006; and won the pole and led the first 74 laps in 2007 before being wrecked while trying to pass a lapped car.
"We've been fast, run up front and been in contention," Santerre said. "But the one thing we haven't done is get to Victory Lane.
"It's a fun race track. I don't know why we've had the success we've had there, but we've always had good drivers and I've always had a good setup for that place."
In Wallace, Santerre will have a driver who is coming off a rookie campaign in which he had two wins and five top fives in 10 races and finished third in points.
Fan Events Highlight Race Week
Fans in the Irwindale area will also have a chance before the race weekend to meet some of the top drivers scheduled to compete in the Showdown at two special fan events.
Matt Denny's Alehouse Restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., will be the site of the fan event on Wednesday, Jan. 26, while Clubhouse 66 Restaurant in Glendora, Calif., will serve as host on Thursday, Jan. 27. Both events will be from 6-8 p.m. PT and provide fans with an opportunity to meet the drivers, get autographs and have a chance to win tickets to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
2011 NTASS News Matt Dennys 200On Wednesday at Matt Denny's, drivers scheduled to appear include 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year Luis Martinez Jr.; top NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers Jonathan Gomez, David Mayhew, and Greg Pursley; Toyota Speedway Late Model champion Rod Johnson Jr.; and defending NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Late Model race winner Tim Huddleston.
The Lug Nutz Show with Gordon Stewart on KLAA 830-AM will broadcast live from the event.
2011 NTASS News Clubhouse 66 200On Thursday at Clubhouse 66, drivers scheduled to appear include a trio of 2010 champions in Eric Holmes (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), DJ Kennington (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series) and German Quiroga (NASCAR Mexico Series); 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year Darrell Wallace Jr.; 2009 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown K&N Pro Series race runner-up Sergio Peña; and two-time NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown K&N Pro Series race winner Matt Kobyluck.
KXOS 93.9 FM will broadcast live from the event.
In addition, the track will host a Fan Walk Saturday from 12:05-3 p.m., in which the fans will have an opportunity to tour the garage area and get autographs from their favorite drivers.
Fans will also be able to check out on-track action Friday and Saturday through live streaming video on nascarhometracks.com, leading up to the SPEED broadcasts.
LAST YEAR'S EVENT
Joey Logano got his second NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown trophy and Sergio Peña nearly made a historic debut on the national stage.
Logano, 19, held off the 16-year-old Peña and two-time race winner Matt Kobyluck for the victory in the 225-lap race before a sold-out crowd in Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Logano and Peña waged a race-long battle for the lead from drop of the green. For most of the race it was the Peña in heated pursuit of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Peña was able to grab the lead on severaloccasions. Logano, however, got the best of two late-race restarts to pull away for the victory.
Kobyluck got by Peña briefly on Lap 218, and by the time Peña got back to second four laps later, he didn't have enough time to track Logano back down.