NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN GRAND NATIONAL SERIES LEFTOVERS by Mike Twist
Santerre, Kobyluck, Fisher, Portenga, Moore and More!
NOT THE FINISH THAT SANTERRE WANTED

Andy Santerre hasn’t made an announcement yet as to what he’ll be doing in 2006.  Word is that he’ll be back with Grizco Racing is some way, but whether that will be as a driver going for an unheard of fifth straight championship or as a team manager overseeing two and a half entries in the Busch North Series remains to be seen.
If Santerre does hang up his helmet, a victory in the Toyota All-Star Showdown would have been a good way to cap things off.  Santerre was right in the mix going for victory with his #44 car, but in the last 20 laps, he got sandwiched in a restart traffic jam and bounced off the outside wall in a separate incident.  He finished sixth with a wounded racecar.

“No [this isn’t how I wanted the year to end], but you know what?  We had a good car,” said Santerre.  “We made some adjustments today and the car was definitely
good tonight.  It was better than yesterday.  The guys on this team, and on both teams, did a good job.  The #55 [teammate Mike Stefanik] and the #44 guys did great.  It didn’t end the way that we wanted, but the cars were fast and were both capable of winning the race.  We were a victim of circumstance in both cases.”

The restart wreck started Santerre’s downhill slide.

“It pushed the whole nose in and aero is pretty important at a track like this,” said Santerre.

An incident with Steve Portenga’s #16 finished things off.

“I could still go fast, but I got hung out after that wreck,” said Santerre.  “Then, The #16 car didn’t have a spotter he said and he took me to the fence.  His spotter was gone for the last 20 laps.  He ran me to the wall and I had two choices – hit the wall or lift.  I lost four spots.  I was headed back, but I couldn’t have won it with the nose beat out.  I could have been third or fourth probably.”  

KOBYLUCK ENDS UP BEST OF THE NORTHERNERS

With Mike Olsen’s disqualification from the race win, Matt Kobyluck ended up the best of the Busch North bunch.  He finished second after running a clean and smart 150 laps.
“We had a good finish and the car basically got through with no trouble,” said Kobyluck.  “There was one time when the #5 [Sean Caisse] and the #96 [Mike Johnson] got together and ended up getting into me.  Other than that, there was no contact the whole night.  It was uneventful other than there was some great side-by-side and three wide racing pretty much all night long.  I seemed to be involved in that all night long, so it was fun.  To come out of this with a top three is nothing to complain about.”
wrecks,” said Moore.  “I caused my own wreck in practice, but I didn’t get anyone else.  Nobody should be mad at me, so I’ll go home and get ready for Homestead next week.”

We’ll have more about Moore’s race a little bit later.

PORTENGA FINISHES OUT RUN WITH NAPA TEAM

Steve Portenga ran his final race in the #16 NAPA Chevrolet at Irwindale.  Next season, Richard Childress Racing will put Peyton Sellers, the 2005 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Champion, in the car fielded by Bill McAnally Racing as part of their driver development program.

Portenga’s seventh place finish is not how he wanted to go out.

“I let NAPA down and I let myself down,” said Portenga.  “We wanted to do better here for the last race of the year.  I ran in the top five pretty much all night long and that last restart knocked the wind out of our sails.  We were saving a little bit for the end and when that happened, it got us.  They all stacked up in front and it shoved everything in and got everything on my right front.  It messed my whole night out and knocked the toe out and everything.

“The guys worked good at the break and we had a good strategy.  You just can’t win them all and I’m satisfied with a top 10 even though it’s not what I wanted.  We worked hard at it and gave it our best shot.”

EDDIE MAC A VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE

Eddie MacDonald was poised for a solid finish in the Showdown after winning the Busch North season finale last month at Thompson Speedway, but like many other cars, he was involved in the late race restart wreck.  MacDonald was the only driver eliminated in the skirmish though after he mangled his radiator in the incident.

Santerre (#44) runs with John Salemi (#63) in practice.  (51 Photos)
Near the end of the race, it looked like Kobyluck might contend for the victory, but that just wasn’t to be.

“The last 20 laps, the car was the best,” said Kobyluck.  “We made some big adjustments during the break.  The car really livened up for the last 20.  I needed all of it to get to where I was because everyone was so equal out there.  It took quite a few laps to get by one car.  So I used that to my advantage and every time we had a restart, I would pick off one or two cars.”

MOORE NOT IMPRESSED WITH SHOWDOWN BEHAVIOR

The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown was supposed to showcase the best of the NASCAR Touring Series performers.  One of the rising stars of the bunch doesn’t think that the caution-plagued Elite Series and Grand National events really showed that at all.

“It was bad,” said Moore.  “I really honestly can say that I was embarrassed.  Every time that the yellow came out, I was wondering what was going through these people’s heads.  I’ve caused yellows before, so I guess when you get 30 cars together trying to get all of the real estate that they can, this happens.  People just misjudge things and end up getting into each other.
“This isn’t how we race.  That’s what’s bad.  I know that a couple of those series [points to the Elite side of the pit area] are struggling and I know that the Busch North Series is struggling.  The West Series, I don’t know.  But we need to come to places like this and put on a good show.  We need to give and take a little bit.  There needs to be good racing where we aren’t wrecking each other and doing stupid things.”

Moore wrecked his primary car in practice, but finished third in the race without incident.

“At least I can go home and know that I didn’t cause any
Ending the regular season with a victory gave MacDonald and his Jerry Morello-owned team momentum heading into Irwindale.  Wrecking out of the Showdown and finishing 22nd will make for a long winter.

“I feel bad for all the guys and Jerry.  We worked all year, and all this weekend too, and something like this happened.”

MYERS LIMPS HOME TO 12th

Andrew Myers looked like he had a top 10 finish in the bag until late in the race at Irwindale.  He still managed to finish 12th and was happy with the performance of his team.  Getting to the finish was an adventure for the young Newport Beach, California driver.
That was before an 11th hour deal with Lynch Racing as Mike David’s teammate came together.

“It was pretty wild,” said Fisher.  “I was in Indianapolis working with iCan, which is a program that trains dogs with kids with disabilities.  I was in an area where I didn’t have my cell phone, so I didn’t find out until about 3:30 on Wednesday.  Luckily, my fiancée got us on a plane at on a plane at 8 o’clock and we flew out here, got here at two in the morning and the next day started practicing.”

“I didn’t have time to do anything.  I’m just really fortunate that the folks at the Lynch Racing team were on it and had everything ready for me when I got here.  I basically showed up to drive.”
Myers (R) and Jamie Aube (L).
Kobyluck's #40.
MacDonald's #77
Moore's #74.
“Everyone went and they just stopped,” said MacDonald.  “Then they went again and stopped and that second stop is what got us.  Usually after the first stop, everyone gets sorted out and goes, but we ended up getting into the back of someone.

“It’s unfortunate for us because we had a really good car the first 100 laps.  It wasn’t as good the last 50, but I think once it went on, it was going to get better.  It had been getting better at the end of the 100 lap run.  I was really looking forward to getting to the end.”
“We started 29th and the car was working really well,” said Myers.  “We knew that we had to be there at lap 100 and on a restart, I think that it was lap 97, we pulled from 13th to 10th and that’s where we wanted to be.  We changed all four tires and ran pretty decent.  We started running eighth or ninth.

“At that point, we got spun.  I won’t say by who, but they know [Joey McCarthy was running with Myers at the time], I got run into in the front.  That knocked the toe out a little bit.  I was riding around the best that I could, but it got pretty tight.”

Myers rebounded from that and almost pulled out an even better finish.

“At the end there, we had a chance to move up to fifth.  It was very tight and we got hit again, almost knocked down turn four.  But I saved it.  It did knock the rear end over though and I went from fifth to outside the top 10.  It was wild.”

Myers had the advantage of having Jamie Aube in his pit and on his radio during the race.  Aube ran in last year’s showdown as a Busch North driver and has been helping out the #14 team this season.
Fisher's #20 was a team car to Mike David's #2.
“Jamie and I communicate well,” said Myers.  “He knows me as a driver and he’s an excellent driver himself.” 

QUARTERLEY SEEN, BUT NOT HEARD

Jamie Aube wasn’t the only Busch North driver from last year’s race helping out in the pits this year.  Dale Quarterley only ran a limited schedule and was not eligible for entry into the Showdown, but he was on hand to help out the #30 team of Jeff Anton.
 
FISHER TURNS LAST MINUTE DEAL INTO SOLID FINISH

Sarah Fisher was eligible to race in the Showdown, but her ride with Bill McAnally Racing was only for the regular season.  Efforts to find another car to drive were not successful at first and it looked like she would be sitting on the sidelines for this year’s race.
Fisher had accepted that she wouldn’t be racing and was thrilled with the change of plans.

“By Wednesday, I was in the mode that I wasn’t going to be here, so this just goes to show that anything can happen in this sport.” 

MOORE GOES GOOD IN HIS BACK-UP

Ryan Moore ended up racing his back-up car after a practice wreck and he wheeled that #74 to a third-place finish.  Moore also led the most laps during the race.

The rash of caution periods hurt Moore’s chances at winning the race.

“It was frustrating to fall back to fourth [Moore had been credited with fourth unofficially before the Olsen DQ], but on a short run, we had a fourth place car,” said Moore.  “On a long run, we had a winning car.  It wasn’t there for four laps, so I had to give it up and not cause a wreck.

“It took me 10 laps to get going.  If I could run those 10 laps, nobody could touch me and I would run away from everybody.  For some reason, the last 30 or 40 laps, these guys couldn’t go three laps without wrecking each other.”

Moore didn’t think that going to a back-up hurt him much in the feature race.

“This wasn’t bad for a back-up car,” said Moore.  “We had a good run.  My guys dug in with the back-up car and got that really good.  We led the most laps and if we could have run the last 40 laps under green, we would have won it.”

VIPs ON THE SIDELINES AT THE SHOWDOWN

There were plenty of interested observers at this year’s showdown.  A few members of NASCAR’s top brass came to watch the Elite Series race from the control tower.  Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, Brett Bodine and Jim Hunter all flew in from Phoenix to show their support to short track racing.

Truck Series driver David Reutimann was also on hand, as was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress.  The Northeastern open wheel ranks were also represented.  NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Tom Bolles was seen pacing the pit area.