The Ripper Battles Back, Davidson Produces on Short Notice and More
When it came to the Elite Series side of things at Irwindale, nobody made a bigger comeback than Rip Michels.  The personable Western driver led the majority of laps early in the race, but got spun on lap 89 by Burney Lamar.

With only 36 green flag laps to go, Michels almost made it back through the field.  He came from the tail end of the lineup to finish sixth in front of a home crowd.

“We’re here to win and we didn’t get to win, but I think that we did the next best thing and put on the best show that we could,” said Michels.  “This is my home track.  My family, my friends, all of my sponsors are here and
everybody is here, so I’ve got to give it my all.  I can’t get mad, I just have to go and do my thing.”


J.R. Norris might have set a new record for misfortune at the Showdown when he finished in the 23rd position.
Norris had possibly the fastest car in the event, but his #5 Richie Wauters-owned Southeast Series machine had the problem of getting caught in six different skirmishes during the race Whenever somebody spun or wrecked, it seemed that Norris was a car length or two behind it.

“I had a good car and I was three laps from the halfway [when I spun],” said Norris.  “I was just trying to make it to the halfway.  I wasn’t even running hard and I still got caught up in it.  It just wasn’t my race.  I thought after last night that our luck was ready to turn around, then today came and it hit me again.”

Unfortunately, the race at Irwindale was also typical of the luck which Norris has had throughout the 2005 season.      

“I thought that this was going to be my year, but it wasn’t,” said Norris. “Richie [Wauters] gave me a great machine all year and it just our year all year long and we just didn’t have any luck.”
knows the track well and this was his first time entered in the Showdown.

“This was great,” said Purlsey.  “We won the National championship last year and we were really disappointed that I didn’t get in this race.  I cam here and watched it.  I’ve been here every year watching and I was hoping to be able to get in it.  We got in it last night, had an awesome car and led most of the race until the last two-thirds of the last lap.  We fixed it up tonight and we were just riding.  Unfortunately, a car blew a motor.  I got in the oil and was just along for the ride at that point.” 


Since the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is the largest event for the top guns of the NASCAR Elite divisions, you would expect that teams spend months and months preparing for the show.  The annual event invites the top-ten drivers in standings from each of NASCAR’s Elite divisions.
Rip Michel's team goes to work on their #12 car.  (51 Photos)
There is one event where that all can change, though.   

“We’ve still got the Snowball Derby, so maybe we can go and win that.  That could turn around your whole year.  We had a good car last year.  Stephen [Wallace] and I are both going to run that race, so maybe we can go in there and both run well.”


Lady luck wasn’t riding with Greg Purlsey this weekend either.  He led 49 ½ laps in his qualifying race on Friday night, but finished second at the line of the 50 lapper.  That set the stage for getting caught in a big wreck on lap 37 of the feature that knocked him back to a finish of 36th.
“This just about tops my year off,” said Purlsey.  This is the kind of year that we’ve had.  It’s been up and down.  Every race we’ve pretty much been out front and either we do really good or something stupid happens.  I keep saying that I used all my luck up last year winning that national championship.  It’s few and far between to win 14 races in one year.  Hopefully, we’ll get our luck back next year.”

Purlsey won the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Championship in 2004 based on his performance at Irwindale in a Super Late Model.  He
be nice if we could get more guys up there and do a little better.  Second is pretty good news though.  We didn’t really expect to beat the Southwest when we came here, so that’s kind of like a win.  If they come out to Rockford and WIR, they’d have their hands full.  We’re at their hometrack here.

“The car was good.  It was real close.  It got a little tight at the end racing with Burney and the #33, but we stayed out of trouble and had a pretty good run.  It was pretty consistent throughout the night and that’s where we messed up last year, so I can’t complain.”


While some of the best short track drivers in the country were spinning and wrecking around him, Robert Richardson kept calm on the way to a strong 13th-place finish in the Showdown.  Getting to the finish was not an easy task for Richardson.  He struggled with the handling of his #33 car in his qualifying race on Friday night and started 35th in Saturday’s main event.  Moving through the field was a challenge in a race with 13 caution periods over its 125-lap distance.
finished 14th in the standings based on a strong first part of the season and received the invitation to the Showdown at the last minute when a few other teams declined.

“This car was sitting there after Casey Smith drove it in a couple of races,” explained Davidson.  “We put it together, loaded it up and drove west.  The first time that I sat in this racecar was Thursday when we had practice.” 

The #41 team didn’t miss a beat despite a tight timetable.

“It was tough, but the dedication that these guys have is unbelievable,” said Davidson.  “Steve and Sandra Turner, who own this team, do anything that we need to make sure we are properly prepared.  I can’t thank them enough.”

The 125-lap feature race was especially grueling with 13 caution periods.  Davidson stayed out of trouble, but ran in the top 10 for nearly the entire race, so his finish wasn’t unexpected.

“There were some good cars that ended up wrecked and torn up, but that’s part of it.  You’ve got to get to the end.  We didn’t luck into anything.  We worked hard and we made a lot of changes at the break.  That seemed to be the ticket.”

With the high level of competition out there, Davidson needed to get racy when the race neared its conclusion.

“It was hard racing there at the end.  Every car in the pits here has marks on it, but all in all, it was a pretty good race.”


The Elite Series feature was a rough race, but Eddie Hoffman survived to finish fourth.  That was the best finish for all non-Southwest Series teams and it came as a result of Hoffman’s own “driver development” program early in his racing career.
“That was five years of Enduro experience,” said Hoffman when asked how he made it to the finish.  “Knowing which way that they were going to spin, where they were sitting and making the right choices.  There was some luck along the way.  We missed them all and there were four or five of them right in front of us.”

Hoffman had the best effort of the 10 Midwest Series teams at Irwindale.

“I’m glad that we could do that,” said Hoffman.  “It would
Eddie Hoffman's #0
J.R. Norris signs some pre-race autographs.
The #41 of Davidson.
Purlsey's #70.
This year, Chris Davidson and his #41 Turner Motorsports team did not compete in the entire NASCAR Southeast Series.  They were outside the top-10 in points so they figured they would not be invited.  Yet, just a week before the prestigious events, they got the invitation in the form of a phone call.

Then, in a span of eight days, they prepared for the race, hauled to California, practiced, qualified and competed in the event.  It was a Herculean effort and it paid off.  Davidson finished seventh, best among the ten Southeast Series competitors in a 40 car field made up of the best drivers from SES and NASCAR’s Southwest, Northwest and Midwest Series.

Davidson had actually skipped the final few races of the year in SES and raced successfully close to home while the Turner Motorsports team fielded a car for Casey Smith.  Davidson still
Another problem was dodging those wrecks.  Richardson was successful in doing so in all but one incident.  After that, Richardson just had to make his way through the field again.  When asked about avoiding the other accidents, Richardson didn’t even know where to begin.

“Which big wreck?” said Richardson.  “I was in the middle of all of those I think.  Getting through that was a mess.  People were overdriving tonight and being too aggressive when they shouldn’t have been and people were paying the price for it.  Luckily, we took advantage of those mistakes and did what we needed to do.”

The top-15 finish was a success for the team when you take all of that into account.

“Considering all-in-all, tonight was fantastic,” said Richardson.  “We topped what we did last year and learned a bunch of stuff.  We raced with some good cars and drivers.  The car was great all night long and it worked great on the bottom.  Overall, I’m happy where we ended up.  It’s hard to pass 40 cars and get what we did.”

Robert Richardson