All-Star Showdown preview

Ranger, Lopez Add International Flavor Track Champion Michels Ready To Defend Turf In SLM Race D.W. Named Grand Marshal Fifty-four Cars Entered For Grand National Race International Flare Fresh Off Canadian Tire Series Title, Ranger Heads...

Ranger, Lopez Add International Flavor
Track Champion Michels Ready To Defend Turf In SLM Race

D.W. Named Grand Marshal
Fifty-four Cars Entered For Grand National Race

International Flare

Fresh Off Canadian Tire Series Title, Ranger Heads To The Toyota All-Star Showdown Andrew Ranger is a special talent behind the wheel of a racecar -- any racecar. And he heads to Irwindale this weekend looking to showcase that talent which earned him the 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Sirius Satellite Radio championship.

He came into the 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season with just one stock car race under his belt, but that wasn't enough to deter the talented 20 year-old from Roxton Pond, Quebec. He made the move to NASCAR last winter from the ranks of the CHAMP Car World Series in which he finished 10th in points for both the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In 2005, at just 18 years of age, he became the youngest driver in series history to notch a podium finish.

That's ancient history, though, for Ranger. His move to the heavier cars of NASCAR has been seamless. He picked up his first NASCAR win in the season's second race of the year -- his third start in a stock car. En route to his championship, he posted seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes throughout the 12-race schedule.

The NASCAR Grand National Division cars that will be used in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown are different from those used in the Canadian Tire Series, but Ranger does not foresee any difficulty in adjusting. He will be driving a car owned by fellow Canadian Dick Midgley, owner of Midgley Motorsports of Victoria, B.C. "Andrew is NASCAR's Canadian national champion and with our base of operations in Canada, it seemed like a natural fit," said Midgley.

Travis Bennett drove a Midgley car to a fourth-place finish in a NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series event at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., this season.

"The cars are just a little heavier and have a few more horsepower," said Ranger. "I really don't think it will be that hard to get used to."

On the track by himself, the adjustment may be easy, but he'll have to do it with other drivers on the speedy 1/2-mile oval, most of which have plenty of experience in their equipment, as well as at Irwindale Speedway itself.

"That was the case all season long in the Canadian Tire Series," Ranger said. "I've heard nothing but great things about the track. This is a great chance to compete against top drivers and an opportunity to showcase your talent in front of a people of influence in NASCAR."

Former NASCAR Mexico Champion Lopez Is Making His Move Former NASCAR Mexico Series champion Rogelio Lopez heads to Irwindale following his first full season in the NASCAR Busch East Series, where he has become a force to be reckoned with.

Lopez, 27, of Aquascalientes, Mexico scored his first career NASCAR Busch East Series victory at the fabled Music City Motorplex fairgrounds oval in Nashville, Tenn., midway through the season. As if punctuating his 2007 campaign, Lopez won his first career Budweiser Pole Award at New Hampshire International Speedway in September, and converted the start to a third-place finish. He finished the season seventh in series points with a record of five top-5s and six top-10s in 13 starts.

Lopez has the whole package needed for success, and he's proven he's for real. He's also a bonifide star entering the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20. By virtue of his Music City win, Lopez also won a guaranteed starting position in the 250-lap all star race.

"We're looking forward to the Toyota Showdown and we're in pretty good shape," Lopez said. "We have a good car. To win that race would be very important to me and for my sponsors and the team. It would be nice to end the season like that. We tested the car at Caraway Speedway (in Asheboro, N.C.) and I think we have a pretty good set-up. We've been strong on short tracks like Music City, and on big tracks like New Hampshire, so we're looking forward to going to California.

"Our focus will be on running for the NASCAR Busch East Series championship next year. I think we have everything we need to do that."

Lopez won the 2006 NASCAR Mexico Series championship. In 2007, he joined up with NASCAR Busch East Series team owner Dave Davis, crew chief Freddy Skaff, and promptly became a contender in the No. 03 Telmex/Lucas Oil Chevrolet. Lopez also has a place in NASCAR history as the first driver from Mexico to compete in a NASCAR Touring event with the series in 2005. Like most of the tracks the NASCAR Busch East Series visited in 2007, Lopez has never laid eyes on Irwindale Speedway.

"I've never been to Irwindale Speedway, but I've talked to a lot of drivers who've been there," Lopez said. "I think I've gotten some good advice, and I'm going to follow some guys who have been there like Sean Caisse in practice to see what they do."

Lopez also takes a big picture of his racing career, hoping to use NASCAR's ladder system to work his way up.

"Look at guys like Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex. They came up through the NASCAR Grand National Division, and they're winning in the Cup Series now," Lopez said. "Sean Caisse looks like he's the next guy who is moving up. I'm hoping I can do the same. The NASCAR Busch East Series is very competitive. Teams like Joe Gibbs and DEI compete in our series. They are here because they know they can take drivers to the next level from here. It's a great place for teams, drivers and sponsors. I hope we can move up, too. We want to prove ourselves next year. We'll be working really, really hard to do that."

Showdown stats

All-Star experience: Eight drivers have competed in all four previous Toyota All-Star Showdown events. Two of those drivers -- Mike Duncan and Matt Kobyluck -- have already secured a spot in this year's event by virtue of winning a Grand National Division race this season. In addition to Duncan and Kobyluck, others to compete in all four previous events were Bryan Chew, Scott Gaylord, Mike Johnson, Joey McCarthy, Mike Olsen and Jack Sellers.

Four races, four winners: None of the first four winners in Toyota All-Star Showdown competition have been able to repeat. The four post-season events featured four different winners -- Austin Cameron (2003), Mike Johnson (2004), David Gilliland (2005) and Matt Kobyluck (2006).

Finishing up front: Matt Kobyluck has the most top-five finishes in Showdown competition, with three. He is tied with Brian Hoar and Joey McCarthy for the most top-10 finishes, with three each.

Best average finish: Matt Kobyluck has the best average finish of 4.25, among drivers with three or more starts in Toyota All-Star Showdown competitition. His win last year and runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2005, followed a 12th-place finish in the inaugural event in 2003.

Leading the way: David Gilliland has led the most laps in Toyota All-Star Showdown competition. The Riverside, Calif., competitor -- who since graduated to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- led a total of 133 laps, 91 circuits in 2004 and 42 in 2005.

Race distance: The race distance for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown has varied. The inaugural event in 2003 was 125 laps. The race distance for events from 2004 to 2006 were 150 laps. This year's event is slated for 250 laps.

Last to lock in: Eric Holmes was the last driver to lock in a spot to this year's event by winning a Grand National West Series race, taking the victory in the season finale. Holmes won the Elite portion of the Showdown in 2004.

Home Field Advantage: Track Champ Michels Ready

To Take On All Challengers In Super Late Model 150 The only thing left for Rip Michels to accomplish in 2007 is to win Friday's NASCAR TOYOTA All-Star Showdown King Taco 150 NASCAR Whelen All-American Super Late Model race at Irwindale Speedway. The 42-year-old resident of San Fernando, Calif., has enjoyed a dominant year at his "home track", Irwindale Speedway, winning his fourth track division title, and the ACDelco Super Late Model series crown on Sept. 22.

"Winning any championship is awesome," Michels said. "Winning the 2006 NASCAR Southwest Tour title was sweet, but winning this year's Super Late Model title is cool and hopefully winning Friday's Showdown race will cap a special year. But the competition in Friday night's race will be tough!"

Michels won 11 races, and his 55 career victories on the half-mile variable banked track are more than any other Irwindale Speedway competitor.

At one point in time, Michels was considering not racing at Irwindale Speedway this year.

He had spent the past three years racing on the NASCAR Elite Division, Southwest Series winning last year's title and his only win which was the race at Irwindale. NASCAR realigned its short-track racing program, eliminating the Southwest Series from its development ranks.

Michels spent the off-season looking for another team and right after Christmas of last year, Michels agreed to a deal with long-time Irwindale Speedway competitor Lee Ladd and team owner Bob Bruncati to race one of Bruncati's Super Late Model cars at the Speedway.

"I've had a great racing career and have accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could," said Michels. "The accomplishments I have reached are because of great people like the late great Jim Kent, who taught me how to build my first street stock, to Lee Ladd, Rick Smith and, of course, my team owners Bob and Maureen Bruncati."

"It takes the whole package to win and without the support of these people, including my crew members and a supporting wife, you will not be successful."

D.W. Will Oversee Festivities As Showdown Grand Marshal Eighteen years after finally reaching Victory lane in the Daytona 500, three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip will serve as the Grand Marshal for the race that has become the 'Daytona 500' of the NASCAR Developmental Series: the 2007 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Waltrip -- who had championships in 1981, 1982 and 1985, along with 84 wins in NASCAR's premier series -- will serve as the dignitary for what has become the pinnacle of short-track racing. Known for its tight three-wide or sometimes four-wide competition and dramatic finishes.

After his racing career, in which he had more than 800 career starts in NASCAR's Cup Series between 1972 and 1999, Waltrip became a television commentator. The Owensboro, Ky., native serves as an analyst on FOX's NASCAR broadcasts.

Showdown coverage on TV

SPEED's coverage of the NASCAR Grand National Division this season culminates with live coverage of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown for a fifth consecutive year.

The cable network televised 22 Grand National events this season as part of its Racing Across America series. About SPEED SPEED is the nation's first and foremost cable television network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 74 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest-growing sports cable networks in the country.

TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for the 2007 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, which will take place Oct. 19-20 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, are available for purchase at the Irwindale Speedway ticket office, by calling (626) 358-1100 and online at www.irwindalespeedway.com.

The Race: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown

The Place: Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway

The Event: 150-lap Super Late Model race and 250-lap Grand National Division race

The Date: Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20
TV: SPEED (live)

Track Layout: half-mile oval

Race Purse: $467,980

Schedule: Friday: Super Late Model Practice, 10-10:45 a.m. Grand National Practice, 10:55-11:55 a.m. Super Late Model Practice, 12-12:45 p.m. Grand National Practice, 12:50-1:50 p.m. Super Late Model Time Trials, 2:30 p.m. Grand National Time Trials, 5 p.m. Super Late Model Race, 6:15 p.m. Grand National Open Qualifier (50 laps), 7:30 p.m. Saturday: Grand National Division Race, 7:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr. , Matt Kobyluck , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Mike Johnson , Andrew Ranger , Eric Holmes , David Gilliland , Austin Cameron , Rip Michels , Rogelio Lopez , Sean Caisse