NORTHWEST SERIES' TOP 10 READY FOR NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 4, 2005) -- The third running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is nearly at hand and the 10 teams representing the NASCAR ...
NORTHWEST SERIES' TOP 10 READY FOR NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 4, 2005) -- The third running of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is nearly at hand and the 10 teams representing the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series plan on the third time being a charm.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown brings together the best short-track racers from all over the country. The four-day event (November 9-12) is again being held at beautiful Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, one of the finest race facilities in the nation. This special post-season invitational event includes the top 10 drivers from each of the four series which comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest). Also competing in a separate event will be the top 15 drivers from each of the two series in the NASCAR Grand National Division (Busch North and West Series). All told, teams will be racing for nearly $500,000 in prize money.
Sweetening the pot, SPEED Channel will be on hand to provide live coverage. They will begin with the 50-lap qualifying races on Friday, Nov. 11 at 11:00 p.m. (ET)/8:00 p.m. (PT). The main events will be held on Saturday, Nov. 12 beginning at 8:00 p.m. (ET)/5:00 p.m. (PT) on SPEED. In the booth providing play-by-play and commentary for the SPEED audience will be a pair of NASCAR broadcasting veterans, Mike Joy and Dr. Dick Berggren, who are both part of the NASCAR on FOX team for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. In the pits will be Ralph Sheheen and Jim Tretow, also no strangers to NASCAR fans.
This tremendous event was born in 2003, but it was anything but that for the Northwest Series contingent. It was a struggle right out of the box and never got better. Only Chris Hart finished in the top 15 and the 10 teams managed an average finish of 29.3.
Last year, a determined bunch from the Northwest Series headed to Southern California with different results. Six drivers placed in the top 15 led by reigning champion Jeff Jefferson in sixth place. At the end of the race, Northwest Series teams combined for an average finish of 18.8.
"Hopefully, that improvement will continue and I think it will," says current and three-time series champion Jefferson.
Familiarity with the track goes a long way in having success. Jefferson along with John Bender and Gary Lewis are making their third appearance at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Jeff Bailey, Garrett Evans, Pete Harding and Brandon Riehl will be there for the second time. Northwest Series newcomers this season include Jeff Barkshire, Wilbur Bruce and John Dillon.
"We all want to do well for ourselves, obviously. But, we need to work together and share information as much as possible to represent the series and racing in the Northwest well," said Bender.
One of the best sources of information may be Lewis. In addition to being a former series champion and three-time entrant in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, he traveled south both times the Southwest Series visited Irwindale Speedway this season.
"It's a tough place to get a read on," says Lewis. "It seems like every time I've been there the car reacts differently to previous set-up combinations whether it's sunny, cloudy, day, night, June or November. It's a great track to drive, but getting a balanced car is a little tricky."
The prize money and live television audience are certainly motivating factors for the race teams, but the measuring stick this event can be used as provides as much fuel to the fire as anything. "Seeing how you, your team and equipment stack up against the best short-track racers from the other series makes it special, too," says four-time series champion Evans.
However, not to be lost in the hoopla is that 40 teams are there to win the race. "It's a high energy atmosphere, but we and everyone else is there to win," said 2005 series runner-up Riehl. "The whole thing is a lot of fun, but there is still business to attend to."
Despite finishing 12th in his first NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown last year, former series champion Harding feels there is improvement to be made. "Sure, we ended up in pretty decent shape, but we missed some practice time last year. This time we plan on getting up there with the leaders and race for the win."
There is no doubt that all 40 teams earned their invitation and feel fortunate to be a part of this special event, but none more than Bailey. The entrant in the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2003 missed the top ten a year ago after a disappointing season. "We're very excited to be in the mix again this year," he said. "Last year's poor performance during the season was made even worse being at home and watching this thing on television."
This year's first timers are anxious to experience the event for themselves. "I heard all the guys talking about Irwindale this and Irwindale that from the very start of the season," says Sunoco Rookie of the Year Barkshire. "Our primary goal was to win the championship, but we wanted to finish in the top 10 and find out first hand."
Circumstances dictate everything and no one knows that more than Bruce. He was putting together a car last winter to race in a handful of Northwest Series events when opportunity walked through his door. Car owner Neil Wiener was looking for a driver to put in his equipment and the search ended with Bruce. "Neil walked into my shop one day and asked if I would drive his car this season," recalls Bruce. "It wasn't a hard decision. We had a great season, but this is a real chance to thank him for his confidence in us."
Racing is all about opportunities and they have changed over the years with the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown being one of a positive nature. Dillon won the Northwest Series title in 1990 and has competed off and on in the series since. This season was a chance to race a complete schedule and the prospect of this event drove the Dillon team. "To hold an event like this is such a great idea," he said. "It gives all of us a carrot to chase and the chance to race on a national stage is truly special. We can't wait to be a part of it."