DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2003) -- The NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series enters the final four events of the season this weekend at Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park. Over the last six races, David Gilliland has been the hottest...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2003) -- The NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series enters the final four events of the season this weekend at Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park. Over the last six races, David Gilliland has been the hottest driver in the series, improving from 12th place to fourth place in the standings on the strength of four victories and a streak of success at the site of the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown -- Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
The 26-year-old from Riverside, Calif., is driven to move up through NASCAR's racing divisions and knows that the eyes of the racing world will be watching this event.
The Toyota All-Star Showdown will bring together top drivers from throughout NASCAR's regional racing divisions, to compete at Irwindale on Nov. 6-8. The top 10 drivers in each of the four series which comprise the NASCAR Elite Division -- Featherlite Southwest, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest, Kodak Southeast and Raybestos Brakes Northwest -- along with the top 15 drivers in the two NASCAR Grand National series -- Busch North and Winston West -- who will compete in a similar format. The race will be televised live, on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel, beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Nov. 8.
"I am really excited about this event," said Gilliland, who has won three of the last four Featherlite Southwest Series races contested at Irwindale. "I feel like I may have an advantage, but all the guys that will be there are great drivers. This will be an event like no other. Forty guys that can win, now that will make a great race."
Drivers in the showdown will be competing for their share of $500,000 in prize money, but Gilliland says that beating the best of the best is more important.
"I just want to win races, and the Showdown is the biggest race to win," Gilliland said. "Everyone in racing will be watching this one."
With some drivers looking at the Toyota All-Star Showdown as a crowning achievement in 2003, other drivers see the event as an audition in front of a national audience.
Auggie Vidovich Jr., of Lakeside, Calif., has led the Featherlite Southwest Series standings since the second race of the season and hopes that a victory in the Showdown might propel his career forward. Through 10 races in 2003, he has six top-five and nine top-10 finishes and is the only driver to complete every lap contested this season (1,352 laps).
"I can't wait for the Showdown," Vidovich said. "I love racing at Irwindale and having all the guys from the other series here is great. We all want to win. This race will really show who is the best."
Other drivers throughout the top 15 in the standings have a lot more pressure to perform. Jim Pettit II, of Prunedale, Calif., is a former NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champion. A win in the Showdown would be another career highlight.
Pettit currently sits second in the standings behind Vidovich and is long known for his patience and ability to pass race cars.
"Our series is tough to win on," Pettit said. "Putting 40 of the best drivers in the country on one race track means you're going to want to start up front. Passing will be twice as hard."
Former two-time NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champion and defending Featherlite Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean, of Jerome, Idaho, would like to add another trophy to his mantle.
"I just love to race," McKean said. "The competition and camaraderie make this sport special. Having an all-star event like this gives teams something more to shoot for all season. It makes you work that much harder and every position, all season, becomes even more important."
The Toyota All-Star Showdown is an invitation-only, non-points event. Drivers will be invited based on their finish in the 2003 point standings for their respective series. Forty Elite Division teams and 30 Elite Division teams will make up the event's starting fields.
The three-day event begins with practice on Thursday, Nov. 6. Teams return for another practice session on Friday, Nov. 7, along with twin 50-lap qualifying races for both divisions. The feature races will be held Saturday, Nov. 8.