Showdown: Pre-race notes

NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN A SHOWCASE RACE FOR DRIVERS; NEW TECHNOLOGY ALSO ON DISPLAY AT IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY NASCAR Grand National Division spec engines and composite bodies arrive in all-star event CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2006) --...

NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN A SHOWCASE RACE FOR DRIVERS; NEW TECHNOLOGY ALSO ON DISPLAY AT IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY

NASCAR Grand National Division spec engines and composite bodies arrive in all-star event

CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2006) -- The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is a showcase for NASCAR's best regional racing talent. Seventy aspiring drivers, representing 22 U.S. states and Mexico, will convene at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway Oct. 20-21 for the fourth annual edition of this event. Along with the all-star drivers, another important element will be on display.

A new type of engine has arrived in the NASCAR Grand National Division, which includes the Busch East Series and AutoZone West Series. Fifteen drivers from each series are invited to race together in the Toyota All-Star Showdown and many will use NASCAR's new "spec" engine. This optional new engine was designed to offer consistent horsepower, durability and performance at a significantly lower cost than the division's traditional custom-built engines.

The spec engine was developed by veteran engine builder Carl Wegner and officials from the NASCAR Research and Development Center, in Concord, N.C. The engine was designed to reduce costs in the Grand National Division, by using a precisely-specified set of components. Teams are able to purchase a complete spec engine or an unassembled engine kit for nearly half the cost of a traditional-built motor.

Teams using these engines have won races and poles, but taking it to Irwindale, where nearly $500,000 in prize money is up for grabs in a nationally-televised race, puts NASCAR's new technology on a national stage.

Team owner Armando Fitz, who co-owns a Busch East Series team with NASCAR Busch Series driver Carlos Contreras, helped Mexico's Ruben Pardo make his U.S. racing debut a huge success, by winning the Busch East Series finale at Lime Rock Park and becoming the first Hispanic driver to win a Rookie of the Year award in any NASCAR series. Their win at Lime Rock was also the first by a team using the new spec engine.

Pardo and the FitzContreras Racing team will be one of six Busch East Series teams scheduled to use a spec engine in the Toyota All-Star Showdown -- representing almost half of the Busch East Series contingent heading to Irwindale.

"The new spec engine really came through for us," said Fitz. "It gave us the power we needed while also helping to keep our costs down. It was only available to us for the last three races of the season, but in those we had our best qualifying results and of course our win. The true value though will be in having it over the course of a full season where it will also help us with our maintenance costs as well. All I can say is that we are very happy to be part of the history of the new spec engine."

The new spec engine is not the only cost-saving initiative introduced by NASCAR this season. Grand National Division teams also have the option of using a one-piece, molded composite body instead of the traditional -- and costly -- sheet metal bodies. It's a cost-saving combination that is expected to significantly lower the price tag for Grand National Division cars now and in the future.

NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Fast Facts

The races: The Toyota All-Star Showdown consists of two separate events -- one race for the NASCAR Grand National Division and one race for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division. Thirty drivers will compete in the NASCAR Grand National Division race and 40 drivers will compete in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division race.

The drivers: Drivers are invited based on the final point standings for their respective series, including the top 15 from each of the two series in the NASCAR Grand National Division (Busch East Series and AutoZone West Series) along with the top 10 from each of the four series in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division (includes the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series).

The track: Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, half-mile oval.

The dates: Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21

TV: SPEED
Radio: NASCAR Radio on XM Satellite Radio (Channel 144)

Posted awards: $500,000

2005 Grand National Division winner: David Gilliland
2005 Elite Division winner: Auggie Vidovich

On the web: www.nascarregionalracing.com or www.irwindalespeedway.com.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Carlos Contreras , David Gilliland , Auggie Vidovich , Rubén Pardo