Victories Lock Fensler, Souza Into NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 28, 2008) -- Despite only running a handful of races between them this season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West, Todd Souza and Jason Fensler were each able to lock up a coveted spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The annual postseason event, considered the 'Daytona 500 of short-track racing,' is slated for Jan. 23-24, 2009 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).
Souza secured his entry to the event by winning on the road course at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, one of four races he ran this year in the NASCAR Camping World Series West. Fensler, meanwhile, won at Altamont Raceway Park near Tracy, Calif., in the only race he ran on the circuit this season. The victories also marked the first career series win for each driver.
Thirteen drivers overall each earned a secured spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown by winning a NASCAR Camping World Series race this year. Champions of each of NASCAR's developmental series also earned secured spots in the event. Other positions in the starting lineup will be determined through time trials, limited provisionals for NASCAR Camping World Series regulars, and the "Last Chance Open" race that provides drivers one final opportunity to make the final 40-car starting grid.
Souza and Fensler join a growing list of short-track stars to sign up for the season's biggest race. NASCAR Camping World Series champions Matt Kobyluck (East) and Eric Holmes (West), rookie Austin Dillon, and Jason Bowles have already committed to the all-star event.
Souza and Fensler agree about the importance of having a secured spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
"It means a lot to us," said Souza, who drives the No. 13 Central Coast Cabinets Chevrolet owned by his wife, Kelly. "We get to go there without having to worry about qualifying for it. We're guaranteed a spot. We have no pressure, compared with the other guys that don't have a guaranteed spot. For us, it's perfect. We're fired up to go."
While he is assured of a spot in the feature race, Souza says his team will still have plenty to work on during practice.
"It will change our approach a little bit, but we still will have to get the car where it needs to be," said the 44-year-old Aromas, Calif., competitor, who won the 2000 NASCAR Camping World Series West rookie title and went on to compete in more than 60 races in the former NASCAR Southwest Series. "So, we're going to be pushing it in practice. And we'll probably push a hard lap of qualifying. We've got to make sure our car is going to be one of the top cars out there. Hopefully, we'll get it ironed out. I think we will."
Fensler, who spent the bulk of his season on top of the pit box calling the shots for Speed Wong Racing, got the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an additional team car owned by Jennifer Wong when the NASCAR Camping World Series West visited his home track at Altamont in September. It was only his fourth career series start, having raced the Altamont event in 2007, and with two series starts to his credit as a teenager in 1993.
The effort resulted in victory for Fensler, who also stressed the importance of having secured a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
"This is a very prestigious event for all local racing and regional racing across the country," he said. "It's a race I've always wanted to run. Having the opportunity to secure a spot in it was huge for me personally and for the team as well."
Having a limited amount of seat time in the series, meanwhile, magnifies the importance of already being locked into the race, Fensler pointed out.
"Obviously, I don't have a tremendous amount of experience at Irwindale, especially in a (Camping World Series) car," said the 33-year-old Wilton, Calif., driver -- who has won several championships racing Late Models and Modifieds. "It's really going to change our strategy in practice to run as many laps as we can in race condition to get myself familiar with the race track and familiar with the car and make ourselves a good car for the race and not have to worry about getting in on time."
In addition to Fensler and Souza, other drivers among the 13 winners to earn a secured spot in the upcoming event include Holmes, Jason Bowles, Jeff Barkshire, Mike David, Kobyluck, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Eddie MacDonald, Peyton Sellers, Brian Ickler and Aric Almirola.
Champions of NASCAR's seven developmental series include Holmes, Kobyluck, Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Scott Steckly (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), Antonio Perez (NASCAR Mexico Series), Ted Christopher (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), and Brian Loftin (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour).
This will mark the sixth edition of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway. The exciting competition on the fast half-mile has become a staple of the all-star weekend. In addition to the Camping World Series event, the schedule will include a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model and Late Model features. The graduated banking -- between six and 12 degrees -- at the state-of-the-art-facility produces multiple racing grooves that make for thrilling side-by-side racing.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown weekend features two nights of live coverage on SPEED, which has broadcast the event in each of its first five years. It will be part of a packed weekend on SPEED that includes the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car event.