Busch North Series Drivers Look to Build on 2003 Success in 2004 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown At Irwindale Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 3, 2004) -- The inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in November 2003 produced both success and disappointment for the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series competitors. With the second annual Toyota All-Star Showdown set to return to the southern California track November 11-13, the Busch North contingent is intent on replaying the successes, which means a second straight Grand National team championship, while erasing the disappointments and bringing the individual honors back to New England as well.
The Toyota All-Star Showdown formula again finds the top 15 competitors from both the Busch North Series and the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series squaring off in a pair of 50-lap qualifying races on Friday, November 12, with the 125-lap feature to follow on Saturday, November 13. The event is once again set for live, prime-time coverage on SPEED Channel. The four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series compete the same nights under a similar format.
Two-time defending Busch North Series champion Andy Santerre experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the 2003 Showdown. He charged from last to first in his qualifying race and was the heavy favorite to win the finale, but was forced to settle for second behind winner Austin Cameron of the West Series. "We've got a bunch more experience so we know what setup and what gear to go with," Santerre related, adding "I think the Busch North guys are going to be better prepared when we go back this year. We had a good showing last year, but I think knowing the race track now, everybody who goes back will be a lot closer to race ready when we show up."
Despite the disappointment of coming so close to becoming the first Showdown winner only to fall short, Santerre is upbeat about his chances in 2004. "We ran good. We came out with our heads high," he said. "We'll be excited about going back."
Like Santerre, Joey McCarthy came from deep in the field to win his qualifying race, and he led the first 100 laps on Saturday before finishing sixth. "It's really a neat race track; it's not close to any other track we run," McCarthy observed, describing the state-of-the-art half-mile with its compound banking and superspeedway class facilities for racers and fans.
"When we were coming back home, I thought about a lot of things I would have like to have tried to make us better prepared," McCarthy commented. "That will definitely help next time. I think there are things we can do with our chassis to make it work better on that kind of a track," he added.
Bryon Chew enjoyed his best weekend of the 2003 campaign 3,000 miles from home at Irwindale, taking second to McCarthy in the qualifying race and challenging for the feature win in the far outside groove before settling for fourth place. "We were pleasantly surprised at our performance in Irwindale," Chew declared. "We were skeptical at first, but how well the people treated us and how well we ran helped us a lot. We were impressed with Irwindale Speedway and how the event worked out," he concluded.
Not every Busch North Series driver enjoyed on-track success at the 2003 Toyota All-Star Showdown, of course, but even those who didn't finish up front were impressed with the track and the concept. Brian Hoar was ninth in his qualifying race and tenth in the feature, but that doesn't trim his enthusiasm for the second time around. "Irwindale is a great place," he stated emphatically, adding "I've never been to a track that was so raceable, with so many grooves."
"The whole experience was really cool," Hoar continued. "It was really neat to talk to all the fans and to know all the people back home were supporting us, watching their TV sets until the wee hours of the night. I'm excited to do it again and maybe do a little bit better."
A long and tough 15-race regular Busch North Series season separates the veterans of the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown from the chance to cross the continent to Irwindale Speedway again. The fact that so many who raced in the first event are already thinking about the second edition shows how quickly the Showdown has established itself as a true classic in NASCAR competition.