Getting There is Half the Fun, Phoenix/Irwindale Doubleheader and Much More

David Gilliland won practice in the second of two sessions for the Grand National division teams of the NASCAR Busch North Series and NASCAR West Series.  He didn’t stick around very long to relish in his accomplishment though.  Immediately after the second practice session Gilliland left the track to head to Phoenix, Arizona where the NASCAR Busch Series is in action this weekend.
“We’ve got a busy couple of days ahead of us.  I’m going to go now and practice the Busch car tomorrow at Phoenix.  I’m going to be racing the Busch race [at Phoenix] on the same day as the Showdown. 

Gilliland will be driving at Phoenix for car owner Clay Andrews and the Andrews Racing team.

“We’re going to be flying back and forth.  It’s not a problem, we’ll make it all happen.  I’m going to miss one practice here, Burney Lamar is going to practice my car.  We’ll just have to scuff some tires.”
29-year-old Gilliland is considered a rising star in racing, so this weekend’s hectic schedule could pay off big in the future.

“You’ve got to do this kind of stuff when you can and you have the opportunity because someday, you won’t have the opportunity anymore.”

As he left the Irwindale track, Gilliland was happy with the handling of his #88 car.

“It’s running really well,” said Gilliland.  “This is our home track and we always enjoy racing here.  It’s always good to come here and run well.  The car is awesome and we were really good today.  I feel good putting this away being on top of the charts.”


Things didn’t exact go according to plan for Busch North Series driver Ryan Moore on Thursday, but the young driver and his team took a practice crash in stride and posted some respectable numbers in the next practice session.
Moore backed his #74 into the wall during the first practice session after getting crowded by Dale Shaw.

“I just messed up,” said Moore.  “The #15 car [actually renumbered as #17 for this race] ran down across the racetrack and I’d been real good in the corner all day.  I was just trying to hold it off of him so I wouldn’t get into his fender or door.  I don’t know why he had to run down the racetrack so far.  I’m not blaming it on him, but my car just snapped around sideways and backed into the wall.  It hadn’t been loose at all.”

It took less than 10 minutes for Moore’s team to unload their back-up car and they were eighth quickest in the second practice session.
it’s definitely a top five car, but we’ll see where we stack up tomorrow.  I think that we’re going in the right direction and we have a couple of more tricks up our sleeve, so we’ll see what happens.”


You can’t get much further away from two points in the continental United States than New England and Southern California.  That’s why several Busch North Series teams doubled up to get to California.
David Gilliland brings his #88 in after practice. 
(51 Photos)
“It messed us up a little bit.  The primary car that we brought was a little bit better racecar, obviously that’s why we brought it.  But the guys dug it really hard and we’ll be okay.”

Moore and his team obviously did a good job, but that wasn’t due to getting much practice of dealing with a back-up machine.

“This is the first time that I’ve had to unload a back-up car since I’ve been racing,” said Moore.  “It’s tough, but the guys won’t give up and we’re going to get it better yet.  It was in the top 10 for that short practice there and we’ve got a bunch of stuff to do to make it even better.  This just makes me even more hungry to get them tomorrow night.”


The Elite Series side of the pit area at Irwindale looked a little bare on Thursday.  That’s because that series had their season finale on Thursday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.  Teams will truck through the night and sign in to the Irwindale pit area on Friday morning. 

Several Southeast Series teams decided to double dip as well.  Jeff Fultz, J.R. Norris, Dusty Williams and Greg Pope all raced at Phoenix. 

Also making a pit stop in Phoenix before going to Irwindale was Midwest Series driver Tim Schendel. 


Midwest Series champion Justin Diercks topped the speed charts in the second Elite Series practice session – and he wasn’t even in the best position to set the fastest lap.
“The first session, the car was…well, it was alright…the second session, we got a lot better,” said Diercks.  “We didn’t put any tires on the whole session and we actually were still on top of the leaderboard over guys who were putting stickers on.  That’s pretty good.”

Diercks is careful to read too much into his performance though since so many top Elite division teams were AWOL on Thursday and racing at Phoenix instead.

“We’ve got another 15 cars coming tomorrow, so I’m not really looking too much into it right now.  Fultz, Vidovich, Pettit and Burney Lamar will all be here, so we’ll see what happens.  I think that we have a real good car and
Harr ran into a problem in the first practice session, but recovered to post the 23rd quickest lap in the second session for the Grand National teams.

“We didn’t make it out in the first session because our motor had some weird noises coming from it and we wanted to be sure that it was good,” said Harr.  “We spent some time going through it.  We’re about an hour or so behind everyone else when it comes to testing time.  In the second session, we got a lot of good numbers and readings from the car, so we’re going to go home and try to outthink our competitors tonight and put a good set-up in the car tomorrow.”
serving as the Grizco Racing headquarters for the weekend.  The dually pick-up and trailer that usually hauls Brad Leighton’s car made the trip West with a back-up machine in the event that Santerre or Stefanik need one.


One of the drivers missing from the Showdown is the top Southeast Series rookie, Gary Helton.  The Tennessee driver was injured in a four-wheeler accident and reportedly broke his collarbone.  His absence set up some fancy footwork for the competitors of the Southeast Series.

Originally, Jason Hogan, Dusty Williams and Allen Karnes turned down their invitations to the Showdown, putting Chris Davidson, Terry McMahan and Eddie Stivers in the show.  Williams had declined to run the Busch Series race at Phoenix, but when that deal fell through, he reconsidered and entered the Showdown as a substitute for Helton.


The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown features some of the best short track racers from all across the United States – and one from Canada.
Daryl Harr and his #71 team compete in the NASCAR West Series out of Alberta, Canada.  Just getting to the track every week is quite an accomplishment for the team.

“It was about a four-day drive, but we’ve done it about 15 times before this season and lots more the years before,” said Harr.  “It’s become the norm.  Our closest race is 14 hours away and our furthest is Texas, which is just over 45 hours away.  This one is in the middle.  It’s between 33 and 36.

“We get a few less days to work on the cars than other guys, but I think that we’re doing pretty good considering where we are coming from.  The knowledge that is required to make these cars go fast is down in this area and on the East Coast.  There’s not a whole lot of it in Canada, so I think that we’ve been pretty successful.  I’m real happy with the direction where we are going so far.”
Last weekend, Midwest Series competitor Eddie Hoffman was in Nashville, taking part in the All-American 400.  This weekend, he’s out in California competing at Irwindale.  It’s been a very busy week for his team, but Hoffman said his team was up to the challenging schedule.

“It hasn’t been bad,” said Hoffman.  “It’s been a little bit tough on Bruce, my crew chief because he drove from Nashville and drove out here, so he’s had a lot of driving.  It’s a different car and we actually had both cars ready before Nashville, so we went back to the Chicago area, unloaded and loaded.  We came on out here and now we’ll look forward to a couple of months off when we get back.”

Hoffman was fourth quickest in the second practice session for the Elite teams.

“It seems real good, we had a good car here last year and we’ll
Daryl Harr.
Sean Caisse and his Barney McRae-owned #5 team sent their racecar out West on the hauler of Jerry Morello’s #77 team with driver Eddie MacDonald.  Kip Stockwell’s car hitched a ride with the Mark Willoughby-owned team that Dale Shaw drives for and John Salemi’s racecar rode along with Jeff Anton’s #30 team to California.

Even the Grizco superteam of the Busch North Series made a change from the norm to go to California.  Andy Santerre’s #44 hauler stayed home for the trip with the big rig of Mike Stefanik’s #55 Burnham Boilers bunch
pick up where we left off.  I think that some other guys have caught on.  There are some other cars here that look real good as well, so we’re not out there by ourselves, but right now it looks real good.”

Ryan Moore goes to work to switch parts from his wrecked car to his back-up car.
The haulers of Grizco at Irwindale.
Eddie Hoffman and his team.
Justin Diercks unwinds after practice is finished.