Gaylord, Holmes, Williams, Bennett, Norris, Michaels, Ickler & More

If you would have talked to Eric Holmes on Friday night at Irwindale and told him that he was going to finish fourth and 19th in the feature races on Saturday, he probably would have told you he’d finish fourth in the Grand National race and 19th in the Elite race, as that is about how well his two cars were running.

However, the actual finishes were switched.  Holmes finished fourth in the Elite division event and 19th in the Grand National event.

actually battling for the win on the final turn of the final lap when he got together with Sean Caisse and hit the wall. 

“We had the best car,” said Holmes, who was the West Series champion.  “The transmission broke.  When we came in for the break, it was stuck in high gear.  They tried to pop it back out.  It shifted really nice.  I got the lead and was cruising.  The caution had came out and I went to grab the shifter and it was in third gear.  The shifter had broke.  I had fourth gear only.  The restarts killed me.  If I would have had a tranny, I don’t think anyone could have touched me.  The car was that good.

“It’s disappointing to do all that work and not have the finish.  I’m happy though because we had a good car, the best car, and put on a show.  Just upset that we crashed this car.  We ran this car all year and never put a scratch on it.  Now, we wrecked it.”


Thomas Martin came into the Toyota All Star Showdown as a virtual unknown.  He also came in looking for a ride in 2007.

“The car was a lot better than last night,” said Holmes of his Elite Southwest Series car.  “We still have some things we could have done to make it better, but it was a lot better than (Friday) night.  It would have been nicer to start closer to the front after the improvements we made on the car.  I think I would have had a chance with it then.  I’m happy to get fourth.  I would have liked to have got third and got a trophy, but we’ll take it.  It’s good for where we were last night.”

Holmes’ Grand National finish might be a bit deceiving.  If he could have won in either race, it would have been the Grand National event.  Holmes led late and was
Thomas Martin
Eric Holmes  (51 Photos)
Martin ran second for most of the night, but lost that spot to Dan Fredrickson in the late going.  However, the Auburn, California native didn’t give up and passed Fredrickson back for second coming to the line.

“I thought I was going to have to settle for third.  When I started sliding up the track, I thought I was going to have to back out of the gas.  Then I got the clear and I looked in my mirror and saw him dive-bomb down to the bottom.  We just raced it to the line side-by-side.”

It was a big night for Martin, who’s 2007 plans are up in the air.

“I don’t have a ride for next year.  I got the TV cameras so I could get all of the exposure we can.  I want to show someone I can do it.”

Without a budget able to compete in the upper divisions, the 2007 season is looking dim. If anyone has any information and would like to be part of Thomas Martin or Martin Motorsports can send an e-mail to


Rip Michaels is one of the most colorful, energetic guys in all of short track racing.  He’s also the same way, even when he “sucked.”

The driver that finished eighth in the Southwest Series point standings finished second in the 125-lap feature on Saturday night.

“I just can’t believe this right now,” said Martin on the frontstretch holding his trophy on Saturday night.  “These guys are some of the best racers in the world.  To come out here and finish in the front with these guys is unbelievable.  In this group of guys, this is a great finish.  I wanted to win more than anything in the world, but this is my best-career finish.  I was sitting third with one lap to go, with one corner to go.”
“We had some issues with the car and I think I just tried to drive it harder than the car was capable of doing.   Toward the end there, I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know if the differentials were loosening up or what, but it was just doing weird stuff.  

“The car just stopped going then.  Thank god it stopped going, or I probably would have wrecked her.”


Busch East Series Champion Mike Olsen went into Irwindale with high hopes.  After winning the title, having a career year and taking the checkers first last year at Irwindale (Olsen was later DQed in post-race tech), Olsen was looking for big things in this year’s Showdown.

And things looks good as Olsen was up to the top-five with as much as 25 laps to go.  However, following a restart, Olsen’s car began to slow.  Then, the #61 Yellow Trees car pulled behind the wall. Olsen ended up 25th in the final rundown after losing fourth gear.
The Southwest Series Champion was one of the favorites to win on Saturday night after finishing third in his qualifying race on Friday night after starting dead-last.

However, things went very bad for Rip on Saturday night.  He charged up to the front in a hurry and was battling for the lead already on lap three when he looped his bright green #12 coming off of turn two.  After that, the “Ripster” just never looked the same.   He eventually fell out of the event with mechanical problems and finished 33rd.

“I don’t know if I tried too hard or what, but I sucked tonight,” said Michaels.  “My car wasn’t able to hang with me… or actually, I think I wasn’t able to hang with my car.”

Mike Olsen's championsihp-winning mount
Fans flocked to the "Ripster" at Irwindale.

Tracy Gordon is no slouch on the racetrack.  Everyone knows that.  But he really wasn’t looked at as one of the favorites to win the Grand National portion of the All Star Showdown on Saturday.
“At one point, it did jump out of fourth on me in the 100 lap race, but other than that there was no warning that we were going to lose the gear,” said Olsen.  “On the restart I went to go and it was just gone. I’ve never had any problems with the gears or transmission so this is unusual for us. In fact, I just had them redone before Loudon. It happens I guess.

“I was really confident because I could drive the wheels off that car and it stuck to the bottom.  I thought we had a real shot at winning the race with how the car felt in just those first few laps.
“We didn’t make any changes because I didn’t want to screw the car up.  But with new tires, I should have taken some wedge out of it.    Hindsight is 20-20 though.  I feel like I let these guys down.  We had an awesome car.”


Dan Fredrickson made quite the impression on the Midwest Series this year.  Running full-time in the series for the first time, Fredrickson just missed winning the championship, coming in second by a mere three points to Tim Schendel.
However, after 100-laps of the event, a lot of people were looking at the #33 as one of the favorites.   Gordon started the 150-lap feature event from 12th and worked himself to second as the caution came out on laps 98.  On the restart, Gordon got held up by another car and fell back to seventh. But in the final 10 laps, Gordon raced back towards the front, avoiding a last-lap tangle among some of the leaders to get fourth.

“The car was awesome in the first run,” said  Gordon.  “The second run it was good too, but the first run, it was the car to beat I think.  I probably should have had them take some wedge out of it and it would have been real good in the second run.  

Tracy Gordon (#33) races fellow Busch East driver Bryon Chew (#99)
Things then looked as if it was going to turn into a regular Midwest Series race in the late stages of the All Star Showdown.  Fredrickson moved from his 13th-place starting spot to run second behind eventual winner Schendel for much of the final 50-lap segment.

“The race was good,” said Fredrickson.  “We had a couple of restarts there where he’d come into the corner there and he’d protect the bottom so I was trying to get to the outside of him.  He’d come up and make sure I couldn’t do that.  He did everything right and I did everything right.  We just didn’t have it for him tonight.  Then, I hit the damn wall and that messed my car up a little bit and I got passed for third.”

Fredrickson (red car on outside groove) chases down Tim Schendel in the Elite Series feature.  (Getty Images Photo)
For just finishing third in one of the biggest short track races of the year, and in front of a national television audience, you would think that Fredrickson would be a little bit happier.

‘I never thought I’d be so mad to get third.   I thought I still beat (second-place Thomas Martin).  I knew he was going to dive down in there and give me that slide job.  So I turned under him and we drag raced to the line.   We lost by nine-one thousandths of a second.   That can’t be much.  Maybe if we had riveted the transponder forward one inch, we would have gotten second.

“I had a pretty good running car and I came from a ways back, so I’m happy with it I guess.”


Dusty Williams has always struggled at Irwindale Speedway.  He’s one of the few drivers that have made every trip out West since the Showdown started. 
changes.  But it totally changed the car.  It was a totally different car.  We looked about as bad in the second half was we looked good in the first half.   I was still happy though, because that proved that we can run good on this track against these guys.   I’m really disappointed in the finish though.  I wish we could have made better out of a bad situation.  I take full blame for it though.”


Just like every other year in Irwindale, there wasn’t only driver wins, but also team wins.  In both the Grand National and Elite divisions, the first half of the races were to determine a team champion.  The drivers that scored the most points (based on where they finished at the end of the first segment and the points that would go along with those positions if the race were to end then) for their teams earned an extra $20,000.

In the Elite Division race, the Southwest Series won the team title for the third-straight year, with each of the 10 drivers splitting the $20,000.   The Midwest Series finished second, with the Northwest and the Southeast Series rounding out the divisions.

In the Grand National Division, the West Series took the win for the first time in the four-year existence of the Showdown.  The Busch East Series had previously won each of the last three years.
This year, Williams proved to be the strongest of the Southeast Series cars, running in the top-five for much of the night.  However, following the lap 75-break, Williams went from one of the best to one of the worst cars on the track.  Eventually, Williams ended the race in 17th spot.

“The first 75, I was really shocked at how good our car was,” said Williams.  “I made some pretty aggressive moves on the tires.  Normally, with 125 laps, you stay conservative, but I was trying to be aggressive.  Me and (crew chief) Gary (Crooks) talked about it and we decided to make some real minor changes during the break.   They were so what seemed to be minor
Dusty Williams

Scott Gaylord finished fifth in the Friday night qualifying race at Irwindale, but handling problems forced the team to a ninth-place finish on Saturday night.

But all weekend long, Gaylord’s focus was on his departing sponsor of 20-plus years, Oliver Gravity Separators.

"It was nice to be able to finish out this season with a top-10 finish," said Gaylord. "It was good to be able to cap off a remarkable 20-year partnership with a strong finish in such a competitive race."

Scott Gaylord had a thank-you message for his longtime sponsor on the hood of his car in Irwindale.

In a race that rewarded Matt Kobyluck with the largest single-race payout of his career, new lower-cost technology helped drive him to victory.  Kobyluck’s triumph in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale netted him $30,000.

However, the win was even bigger for the new spec engine introduced by NASCAR this season, which powered him to the victory. 

“I kept [the engine RPMs] wound up on the high side [of the race track]. That thing pulled down the straightaway, just like people have read about. The thing was flawless. I loved it.”

The engine was introduced as a cost-saving measure this year and used by 11 of 30 Grand National drivers in the Showdown. Led by Kobyluck, spec engine-powered cars took four of the top-10 positions in the race.  The spec engines are approximately half the cost of traditional-built engines, yet provide competitive power, acceleration and durability.


The Toyota All-Star Showdown didn’t exactly go as planned for JR Norris.  He headed there as the 2006 NASCAR Southeast Series Champion and had high hopes of being able to bring home the ultimate victory of the final season of the Elite Division, but those hopes went up in fumes so to speak.

the exhaust kept coming into the car with me, and that made me a little bit lightheaded while we were out on the track.  I just tried to hold on to what I had. I couldn’t really drive the car like I needed to be doing and like the car was good enough to be driven but over all to finish 15th wasn’t too bad.”


Travis Bennett’s finish in the final Showdown for Elite cars will show a 27th-place finish.  But the Northwest Series can be rather proud of the youngster, as he made huge gains between his ugly run on Friday night, where he got lapped, and where he ran on Saturday night, running as high as the top-10 at one point.
“The weekend wasn’t too bad,” said Norris.  “We just had some bad luck. We had a really good car, I was pretty happy with it when the time came.  We had to start in the back even though we qualified fourth in our heat race because of some engine trouble.  But we came from 38th to 15th pretty quickly in the first segment.  I actually got up to 11th after we went back green after the break.

Norris planned on continuing to work his way through the field and moving up to the lead but bad luck eventually found him out on the track.

“I got together with another guy out on the track,” added Norris.   “It knocked the exhaust system loose and all
JR Norris has fans even across the country in California.
“We didn’t make any changes because I didn’t want to screw the car up.  But with new tires, I should have taken some wedge out of it.    Hindsight is 20-20 though.  I feel like I let these guys down.  We had an awesome car.”

“Every car here, you have to race them like it’s the last lap.  They are just that good of a car.  You have to race them like you are going for the win when you are racing for 20th-place or something.  Every car here was fast and every car here was good.”


Finishing third in the All Star Showdown is something anyone could hang their hat on.   However, Mike David wasn’t overly excited when he climbed out of his car on Saturday night, having just finished third in the Grand National Division 150-lap event.
Bennett’s secret was a different engine.   One that was actually much older and that he put in the car after Friday night’s qualifying race.

“I wish I would have come here with this motor.  This is old faithful in there now,” said Bennett.  “It’s got a ton of laps on it and always runs so good.  Of course, we got a fresh one for this deal.  We had a great racecar.  We were really moving forward and I’m still happy.  Everyone knew we were here for sure.”

Bennett’s night ended when he got together with Ryan Lawler and the two wrecked late in the race.  But Travis was still happy.  

Travis Bennett's machine gets towed back to the pit area on Saturday night.
“I’m frustrated,” said David.  “I know I have the car and team to win these races.  It’s just frustrating when you drive harder to come in third than you do to win some of these races.   It just wasn’t our day.

‘We got to adjust on the car well.  We didn’t adjust enough.  The car was loose in the first 100.  It was still a little loose in the second 50.”

David also wasn’t thrilled with the driving of some of the racers, including the #44 of Sean Caisse.

“That was more than just aggressive racing.  That was a little uncalled for.  Even after he about got tangled up (with Eric Holmes), he about put us in the fence too.  You can tell he doesn’t have to pay for his own stuff.”


If anyone didn’t know who Brian Ickler was before Irwindale… they know now.
Mike David
The Bill McAnally Racing rookie driver started on the pole in after winning first qualifying race for the Grand National Division on Friday night.

After Ickler took the green flag Saturday night, he showed his power by leading the first 20 laps.  Despite falling back, Ickler was able to regain the lead on lap 69 until the field stopped on lap 100.
After the break, Ickler’s car wasn’t nearly as good and he finished fifth.

“At the start, we were just so good,” said Ickler.  “It was the same car we had last night.  We came in and made a little adjustment and tried to tighten the car up and went too far.  I guess we got over-confident in the car I guess and over-adjusted.  But to come out of here with a top-four car with this caliber of cars here is impressive. 

“It felt good to get up there and lead a majority of the first 100 laps.”

Brian Ickler