NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series Gears Up For "The Showdown" DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 5, 2004) -- When each and every race season begins, drivers, teams and owners have the championship in the front of the their minds,...
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series Gears Up For "The Showdown"
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 5, 2004) -- When each and every race season begins, drivers, teams and owners have the championship in the front of the their minds, but now NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division teams have the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in the back of their minds.
The Toyota All-Star Showdown is in its second year and has become one of the premier events on the NASCAR schedule. The top 10 points finishers in each of the four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Divisions (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) get invited to participate in this one-of-a-kind NASCAR event. This 40-car event brings together the finest regional series drivers to compete for over $500,000 in prize money, as well as, the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a live national television audience with SPEED Channel supplying the coverage.
Additionally, the top 15 drivers from the two NASCAR Grand National Divisions -- Busch North Series and West Series -- will be on hand to test their skills against each other in an event on the same race card.
This special event will be held November 11-13 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Representing the Northwest Series this year are: John Bender of Snohomish, Wash., Joe Benedetti of Auburn, Wash., Travis Bennett of Ellensburg, Wash., Garrett Evans of East Wenatchee, Wash., Pete Harding of Surrey, B.C. Canada, Steven Howard of Roy, Wash., Jason Jefferson of Yakima, Wash., Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash., Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. and Brandon Riehl of Boring, Ore.
Last season's inaugural event did not produce great results for the Northwest Series contingent, but this year's cast is confident of a stronger showing. "No, last year, singularly or as a group, we did not fare well, but this year will be a different story," said Joe Benedetti. "Getting the car set-up just right was difficult for most of us. Now, that many of us have some experience on that track I look for different results."
Six of the 10 Northwest Series entrants competed in last season's event. Bender, Benedetti, Howard, Jason Jefferson, Jeff Jefferson and Lewis were all a part of last season's show. Bennett, Evans, Harding and Riehl are first time Showdown participants.
Despite being "rookies" in this event, the four newcomers should be able to handle the task at hand. Bennett, the Northwest Series Auto Meter Rookie of the Year and points race runner-up, has raced this season with solid results at Irwindale. Four-time series champion Evans and former series champion Harding are veteran drivers with experienced crews as they look to teach the youngsters a few lessons. Riehl has used 2004 as a breakout season. In addition to being a Northwest Series regular, he has participated in several Southwest Series events giving him and his team valuable experience on several West Coast tracks.
The six repeat drivers are anxiously anticipating the event to properly present their skills behind the wheel. "I think I speak on behalf of all of the guys there last year when I say that we will make a better showing," says Lewis. "It's not that we weren't competitive, but we each had our share of bad luck for one reason or another.
"Having a feel for the car set-up will be a huge difference this year. In our series, we don't have a similar track to Irwindale, so we all couldn't roll the car out of the hauler ready to race. Many of us were chasing the car all weekend."
The 2003 and 2004 series champ Jeff Jefferson echoed those statements adding, "Our equipment and skills are every bit as good as everyone else's. We just need to go out and take care of business.
"This is a great event that NASCAR has put together and it serves as a good barometer of where a race team is."
Twin 50-lap qualifying races on Friday will determine the starting lineup for Saturday's feature race. For the qualifying races only, the field will be lined up based on alternating points positions from each participating series with points leaders at the rear.
The Toyota Showdown includes a unique feature not found in any other NASCAR event -- a "team" competition between each participating series. For the opening laps of the Saturday feature event, drivers from each of the four respective series are scored as "teams" and the "team" with the highest cumulative point total, based on the running order after the opening segment, is declared the "team" winner.
Then, after a 10-minute break, the cars will be inverted to begin the final 50-lap segment to determine the race winner.
"If the other 39 teams are excited as I am, then this will not be a race to miss," says Bennett. "Getting a spot in the Showdown was a goal when we started the season and now that it's here, we're ready to go."
NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
What: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, a special invitational event for NASCAR's top regional touring series competitors from two racing divisions -- the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and NASCAR Grand National Division.
Who: Top 10 drivers from each of the four series which comprise the AutoZone Elite Division -- including the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series; Top 15 drivers from each of the two series in the Grand National Division, which includes the Busch North Series and West Series.
When: November 11-13, 2004
Where: Irwindale Speedway -- Irwindale, Calif. (half-mile oval)
* Drivers will compete for more than $500,000 in prize money at the 2004 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
* The Toyota All-Star Showdown will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel . Scheduled airtime is 5:00 pm PST .
* The Toyota All-Star Showdown is a non-points event; invitations are extended to drivers, based on the final 2004 point standings for each series. If any of the invited drivers decline to compete, the invitation is extended to the next eligible driver in the point standings, until the starting field for each event is filled. Forty drivers will compete in the AutoZone Elite Division and 30 drivers will compete in the Grand National Division portion of the event.
* The AutoZone Elite Division feature race will be 125 laps and the Grand National Division feature race will be 150 laps.
* The starting lineups for Saturday's feature races will be determined via twin 50-lap qualifying races on Friday. For the qualifying races only, drivers will be lined up based on alternating points positions from each participating series -- with the points leaders at the rear of the fields.
* The Toyota All-Star Showdown includes a unique feature not found in any other NASCAR event -- a "team" competition between each participating series. For the opening laps of each feature event on Saturday, drivers from each respective series are scored as "teams" and the "team" (or series) with the highest cumulative point total, based on the running order after the opening segment, is declared the "team" winner.
* There will not be an inversion to start the feature events; however, after a 10-minute break the cars will be inverted to begin the final 50-lap segment of each feature event.