Dale Quarterley, a longtime veteran of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, is slated to return to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) for the first time since 2004 to participate in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Jan. 28-29.
Quarterley, originally from Westfield, Mass., competed in the first two NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdowns. He finished 26th in 2003 and 10th in 2004.
For Quarterley, who also finished second in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race in Irwindale in 2004, it’s an opportunity to return to a track that he is very fond of.
“Anybody that has gone there and run that race track – it’s just a sensational facility,” Quarterley said. “Between the pit area, the restrooms, the grandstand, the spot tower – it’s a phenomenonal 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."
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown also makes sense for Quarterley from a practical perspective. Not only will it provide his sponsor – Van Dyk Baler – with some exposure since it has an office in Los Angeles, but it will also serve as a tune-up for a team that has competed in a very limited schedule in recent seasons.
While plans for the 2011 K&N Pro Series East season are not completely finalized, Quarterley does intend to return to the circuit where he has compiled six career wins. The last year he registered double-digit starts was 2004, but that doesn’t mean the veteran wheelman who turned 50 on January 15 has lost his competitive edge. In his lone 2010 start, Quarterley finished fifth on the intense high banks at Dover International Speedway.
“We decided to go out and run Irwindale and get the team put back together,” Quarterley said. “I’m really using the race as a test to kind of get myself going so, come Greenville, we’re up and running.”
Quarterley’s return to the K&N Pro Series comes at an interesting time for NASCAR’s top development circuit. Ricky Carmichael started the trend of action motorsports stars to take on stock cars in 2008 when he competed in the K&N Pro Series East, and now Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan are set to follow in his footsteps – Pastrana starting with the Showdown, and Deegan at some point in 2011. An accomplished former motorcycle racer who competed in the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) until 1996, Quarterley has an insightful take on the recent infusion of two-wheel racers into the world of NASCAR, and what they will face in the transition.
“We get too old to keep racing motorcycles,” Quarterley said. “I stopped at 32, and even 32 in road racing was an eternity.
“If you high-side your bike at 120 mph, its two weeks before you can walk right. But if you spin your race car out and take both ends off of it, by Tuesday you forgot it even happened,” Quarterley said.
But the now-veteran of stock car racing says it’s not all about age, safety or even about the possibility for greater financial opportunities.
“We all wake up in the morning thinking of racing somebody,” Quarterley said. “For those guys, this is another way, shape or form of racing.”
Having gone through the transition from two to four wheels 15 years ago, and by seeing what Carmichael experience in 2008, Quarterley knows what to expect of Pastrana and Deegan in their initial transitions.
“The racing on the car side is just as intense as the racing on the motorcycle side – that side of the fence is about the same,” Quarterley said. “What’s not the same is that motorcycle racing is really 100-percent from start to finish. You don’t save tires, you don’t cruise, it’s as fast as you can go from start to finish.
“That’s the hard part I had, I had to slow down because the cars won’t take 100-percent all day. Even if you can do it, the car can’t do it. It’s hard to get yourself to find that sweet spot. That’s what they’re going to struggle with,” Quarterley said.
Quarterley thinks that there will be the obvious learning curve for them, as with any rookie, but he doesn’t think all of their mistakes should be blamed on inexperience.
“If you watch some of these guys, they blame it on rookie stuff,” Quarterley said. “Carmichael did it when he came in, and some of his was rookie mistakes, but he was in 100-percent mode. He saw a hole, he filled the hole. It’s that simple, because that’s how they think. It takes awhile to get it in your head ‘well, I’m faster than him, and if I don’t get him this lap, I’ll get him the next lap.’
“If you watch guys that win week-in and week-out, that’s exactly what they do. You hardly ever see Jimmie Johnson fill a hole, he waits until there is an actual hole there,” Quarterley said.
Quarterley and Pastrana will attempt to race their way into the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown without guaranteed starting positions, which went to race winners from this past K&N Pro Series season as well as the 2010 champions of NASCAR’s developmental series.
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 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.