Return to Irwindale Means Good News For NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Drivers
Second Annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Set For Nov. 11-13
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2004) -- For the second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, NASCAR's best regional touring drivers are headed back to California this fall. Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, the site of last year's inaugural event, will host the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Nov. 11-13, 2004. More than $500,000 in prize money and live national television coverage on SPEED Channel awaits the 70 drivers who will be invited to compete in this one-of-a-kind NASCAR event.
This invitational event will once again feature the top 10 drivers from each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division -- which includes NASCAR's Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series -- competing together in a single race. Also on the racing card at Irwindale will be a combined field of NASCAR Grand National Division drivers, which includes drivers from the Busch North Series and West Series.
Midwest Series drivers dominated the Elite Division portion of the inaugural running of the Toyota All-Star Showdown, placing five drivers inside the top 10 and easily securing the newly designed team competitition of the event, which pitted series vs. series in a battle for bragging rights and bonus money. After last week's announcement that the Toyota All-Star Showdown will return to Irwindale, this year's Midwest Series drivers are anxious to start the season and hopefully earn an invitation the prestigious event.
Ryan Hanson (Prairie Avenue Concrete Ford)--"Can we go run it next week? This is our All-Star event. Pro basketball has its All-Star Game and football has the Pro-Bowl, this is our equivalent to that. Last year the Midwest Series guys went into Irwindale very confident, but cold, because none of us had raced there before. I think because we all went in there cold that we had to all work extra hard during practice and try all sorts of different things and I think that made us all better. This year I think we have to get more than one guy on the podium."
Hanson ended the 2003 Midwest Series season on a high note, finishing second in the regular season curtain closer and backed it up with a fourth place showing in the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Steve Carlson (Wilson Oil Company Chevrolet)--"I'm really looking forward to having a chance to earn a trip back to Irwindale. I had some problems in the final 25-lap shoot out otherwise I think I might have had something for them. I really think that the Midwest guys that make it back this year will be able to try a few things on the set up and maybe get even faster. The Southwest, Northwest and Southeast series drivers are probably going to be gunning for us, but we'll be ready. Because of the team concept, if we have some new guys that get invited, I'm sure we'll help them out and work on getting everyone up to speed quickly."
Carlson is a nine-time Midwest Series champion who placed fifth in the 2003 version of the Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Nathan Haseleu (G&M Auto and Transmission Ford)--"Last year was disappointing to miss the Toyota All-Star Showdown, but we didn't attend the first race of the regular season, so we were playing catch up the rest of the year. Last year I was at home and watched the race on TV, and it made me feel good to watch the Midwest Series guys do so well. I race against them every week, so I know how tough they are. But we are definitely going to make a run at it this year. We feel like we not only have a good chance of getting invited to the Showdown but also a good chance to contend for the championship."
Haseleu's team skipped the first event of the 2003 campaign, but when NASCAR announced plans for the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown, he switched gears and made an all out assault at a top-ten point finish, only to fall one position and 63 points short.
Justin Diercks (Iowa-Illinois-Taylor Insulation Chevrolet)--"I'm excited to have the chance to go back to Irwindale Speedway, it is just an awesome facility. And Los Angeles is just a world-class city. Everything that Toyota and NASCAR did at the first race just made it so special for those of us that were competing there. I have to focus during the season, one race at a time, and concentrate on winning races and championships, and if I do that, I'll have a great opportunity to go back for the second Showdown. The Midwest Series Drivers will probably have a target on our backs at Iwindale after we did so well last year, but I expect us to take the team title again this year. I think because we have a race at Irwindale under our belts, It'll make us better. We will be raising the bar on ourselves."
Diercks was caught up in an accident during the final practice at Irwindale, but with help from several different Midwest Series teams, was able to answer the bell for the main event and went on to post a top-10 finish.
The driver selection process for this year's event will be the same as it was in 2003. In order to receive an invitation, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division drivers must finish in the top 10 of the point standings for their respective series, resulting in a 40-car field for the Elite Division portion of the event. In the NASCAR Grand National Division race, the field will be made up of 30 drivers -- 15 from the Busch North Series and 15 from the West Series -- who will also be invited based on the final 2004 point standings for each series.