Toyota All-Star Showdown announcement sends NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series drivers California Dreamin' for November. LEE, N.H. -- Last Saturday, the day before the season opening Freedom 150 at Lee USA Speedway, found the ...
Toyota All-Star Showdown announcement sends NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series drivers California Dreamin' for November.
LEE, N.H. -- Last Saturday, the day before the season opening Freedom 150 at Lee USA Speedway, found the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race teams seeking refuge from the wind and rain in the garage area. The bigger the hauler, more racers were gathered for the traditional rites of a rainy day, namely hot coffee and serious race talk. The topic of discussion everywhere was the Toyota All-Star Showdown, announced just three days earlier. The Showdown will pit the top 15 teams from the Busch North Series against the Winston West Series on live national television from Irwindale Speedway in southern California on Saturday, November 8.
Mohegan Sun Chevrolet driver Matt Kobyluck has been the most active proponent of the common rules introduced for the Busch North Series and Winston West Series in 2003, which has made the Showdown possible. He's already competed in two Winston West events, at Phoenix and Las Vegas, and plans to run more as his Busch North schedule permits.
"I think it's a great event. It will showcase the best of both series," Kobyluck declared, adding, "You get to compete against the best drivers at our level. Toyota stepped up to the plate and put a big purse up for us, plus we get to go out to sunny California for a couple weeks, counting the Winston West finale at Fontana the week before."
Reflecting on what he has learned from his west coast forays in 2003, Kobyluck continued, "They have teams as competitive as our top teams, with the right funding and sponsorship. The only difference I think is that there seem to be more competitive teams in our series running all the races. Those guys travel a long way. Where we have a more local base where we can travel three or four hours to the track, they have to travel a day or two. I have an appreciation now for how close our tracks are."
"There just might be a little more depth I our series," Kobyluck concluded. "You've got to raise your game and give it your best."
The 2001 Busch North Series champion, Mike Olsen, added his thoughts to the forum in the Kobyluck rig. "I like the fact it's just the top 15 teams from each series," he said. "It's good money, and live TV which is always good for our sponsors."
SPEED Channel has already telecast the early Winston West races, and Olsen has been an avid viewer. "I've already watched more this year than I have in my lifetime," he noted. "I think our division is as competitive as theirs, if not a little better. It will be on their home turf, but we'll get significant track time, so we should be all right."
"It's on my anniversary weekend, so I got the green light as long as my wife can go along," Olsen added.
Goss Dodge driver Brian Hoar agreed that the Toyota All-Star Showdown has focused his attention on both the Winston West Series and the track where the Showdown will be held. "I watched a Winston West race from Irwindale last summer," Hoar said. "It looks like an awesome track. It's our kind of track, a short track."
As for the drivers he will face for the first time at Irwindale, Hoar has made an early start on his mental notebook. "I've already tuned in," he explained. "The names and numbers are becoming more familiar. You start remembering who and what you might be expecting when you start racing these guys."
Travel planning will be a big part of the Toyota All-Star Showdown for the Busch North teams, including Hoar's operation based near Burlington, Vermont. "It's a little intimidating to think we've got to get our hauler all the way to California. Just getting down to Dover, Delaware, a ten-hour drive, it a big process," he said with a smile. "But I know a couple of good truck drivers. We'll manage," he predicted, adding "For myself, I have an airport about ten minutes from home. I think I'll go that way."
In contrast, Joey McCarthy expects the Irwindale environment, less than 20 miles from Los Angeles, to be just like home, with a little smog on the side. McCarthy's TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet team is located in Dover, New Jersey, along Interstate 80 in one of the most congested traffic areas of the east coast. "We've got one of the best truck drivers out there. He's used to dealing with just about anything," McCarthy quipped. Turning serious, McCarthy echoed the rest of the Busch North Series drivers with his thoughts on the Toyota All-Star Showdown: "It's always great to go out and run at different tracks against different competition to see what you're up against, especially when you're trying to move to the next level. It's a great thing for the series."
Between the opener at Lee USA and the start of the trek to Irwindale, the Busch North Series teams face a tough schedule of their own. Seventeen more races will be contested before the invitations are handed out to the Grand National Division's version of the big dance. That means a whole lot of California dreamin' in the northeast during the 2003 racing season.