NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN -- NEWS & NOTES * 2004 national champion Greg Pursley ready to take on All-Stars on home track * New race format eliminates mid-race shake-up DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 8, 2005) -- After Rip Michels triumphed...
NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN -- NEWS & NOTES
* 2004 national champion Greg Pursley ready to take on All-Stars on home track
* New race format eliminates mid-race shake-up
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 8, 2005) -- After Rip Michels triumphed as the 2003 Super Late Model track champion and NASCAR Sunbelt Region champion at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, he watched from the sidelines as the nation's best short track racers took to the track in the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Michels, of San Fernando, Calif., was not eligible to race in the All-Star event because, despite his Irwindale credentials, he wasn't in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division or NASCAR Grand National Division, the two regional touring divisions that make up this prestigious invitational event.
That weekend, Michels knew where he wanted to race the next year. In 2004 he stepped up to the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year award. Michels finished seventh in the point standings and realized his goal of competing in the 2004 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. (All NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division drivers must qualify for a spot in the event, by finishing in the top 10 of the point standings for their respective series -- Midwest, Northwest, Southeast or Southwest.) Michels nearly won the event before finishing second to fellow Southwest Series driver Eric Holmes.
Michels' story has repeated itself. Last year, Greg Pursley won the track's Super Late Model title and NASCAR's Sunbelt Region championship, just as Michels did before him. Pursley, a resident of Canyon Country, Calif. who won 13 Super Late Model races in 2004, was also crowned national champion of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, a $170,000 prize that also included a barrage of national media attention. Pursley was celebrated as NASCAR's top weekly short track racer and yet, watched from the grandstands at the 2004 Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Pursley was determined to make the most of his national award and pursued new driving opportunities, landing in the Southwest Series in 2005. To date, he's logged two top-five finishes in his first seven starts. He is on track to earn an invitation to Irwindale for the November 10-12 running of the 2005 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
"Hopefully, we'll make it," said Pursley, who is ranked seventh in the Southwest Series standings. "Right now, we're in, but that can change quickly."
For Pursley, the event represents something he didn't have a chance to do as NASCAR's national champion -- compete on track against the best drivers in the nation. In the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, Pursley's title came via a points index, on paper, measured against drivers from 65 other tracks. In the Toyota All-Star Showdown, Pursley would face an on track, side-by-side chance to race against his rivals. In the Southwest Series' last visit to Irwindale, Pursley finished second to defending series champion Jim Pettit II.
"It's an honor to be there," said Pursley. "It killed me last year, being a national champion at my home track, and having to sit there and watch it. That's what we worked for this year. We're trying to do everything we can to make that showdown.
"You're racing the top 10 best drivers out of every series. You're going to measure yourself against the best right there."
NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN NOTES
* Event Update: Mid-race Inversion Eliminated ... In the previous two editions of the Toyota All-Star Showdown, drivers were faced with a challenge at the mid-way point of the feature events. With 50 laps remaining, in both the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and NASCAR Grand National Division portions of the event, the race was halted and the first six, eight or 10 positions were inverted. The drivers who led the race to the break were relegated backwards, and had to work their way back in to the lead over the final 50 laps.
In 2005, the races will still be halted with 50 laps remaining, to allow teams to work on their cars or add fuel. However, the running order will not be inverted or changed in any way when racing resumes. Drivers will return to the track in the same order, and complete the final 50 laps in traditional fashion. The event's "team" competition, in which each series is scored together to determine the top "team" (or series) in the race, will be concluded at the mid-way break.
What: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
Who: NASCAR Grand National Division and NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division
Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.
When: Nov. 10-12, 2005
Posted awards: $500,000
Race lengths: Grand National Division 150 laps; Elite Division 125 laps
TV: SPEED Channel
Track layout: half-mile oval
Schedule: Practice Nov. 10; Practice and Qualifying Races Nov. 11; 125-lap and 150-lap feature races Nov. 12
2004 Champions: Mike Johnson (NASCAR Grand National Division), Eric Holmes (NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division)