WRECK OVERSHADOWS GN QUALIFYING RACES By Jeremy Troiano
Ickler & Myers Win 50-Lap Races, Others Struggle
BAD NEWS FOR THE REST OF THE COMPETITORS?
Brian Ickler is something to watch. In Grand National practice on Friday, he was always in the top-five. As a rookie, that was quite surprising.
couldn’t wait to race tonight. I can’t wait until tomorrow when we can really run the car.
“Tonight, we just paced ourselves. I can’t wait until tomorrow when we can really work on getting the car better and run it harder.”
Does that mean Ickler can be even better? That could be bad news for the rest of the Grand National field.
“Yeah, we pretty much just light-footed it tonight. I don’t want to tell these guys anything else.”
FROM UPSIDE DOWN TO UP FRONT
Any racecar driver just wants to improve from the start of the year to the end of the year. For Andrew Myers, that wouldn’t be to difficult, considering how he started his 2006 season.
Brian Ickler won the first GN race in an easy fashion. (51 photos)
Myers started the year upside down, sliding in his roof on the frontstretch of Daytona International Speedway, where he was competing in the season-opening ARCA RE/MAX Series event.
Now, he’d finishing up his year by being one of the strongest competitors and one of the favorites to win the Toyota All Star Showdown after winning the second 50-lap Grand National qualifying race on Friday night.
“It was a learning experience this year for sure,” said Myers. “We had some upside downs experience to start the year off with, literally, and got some wins. This is a good way to show the progression we’ve had this year. Now, we are on the front row for a big, big race.”
Myers led all 50 laps. However, he had to hold off Johnny Borneman on a last, green-white-checkered finish.
“I was content with going around,” said Myers. “But this car at this track and the fact that I’ve run at this track for years, I feel pretty confident at this track being up front on restarts. I knew if I got the green and I cleared the guy, I’d be able to hold him off.”
Andrew Myers won the second Grand National race.
But it was no surprise the Ickler won his qualifying race on Friday night at Irwindale Speedway. Ickler dominated the first of the two 50-lap Grand National qualifying races; a race that was marred by an ugly second-lap wreck that delayed the race for nearly half and hour (more on that later).
When things got back going though, Ickler, who started seventh, took the lead from John Salemi and pulled away to an easy, easy victory.
“We run good here at Irwindale every time I come here,” said Ickler. “This is pretty much what I call my home track. I’ve got my most experience here. We knew we had a good car when we unladed off of the trailer today. I
HUGE WRECK SCARY, BUT KEEPS EVERYONE SAFE
For the most part, the NASCAR Toyota All Star Showdown has been absent of any major accidents in its previous three years of existence.
That streak came to a crashing halt on Friday night however.
In the first of the Grand National Division qualifying races, a scary wreck took out several key drivers and left many drivers shaken, but no of the injured.
It started on the second-lap of the first race. West Series rookie Eric Hardin took the lead on lap one and crossed the line, running side-by-side with Busch North drivers John Salemi. Crossing the line to complete late two, the two drivers tangled. Salemi hooked the right rear of Hardin’s car, turn him up the track.
At Irwindale, the cars come off the of track at the entrance of turn one, making there being the blunt-end of a wall at the entrance. The end of the wall is protected by tractor tires and Styrofoam.
Hardin’s car backed it end of the wall at near full speed, completely destroying his car. Hardin came back down the track and clipped the #44 of Sean Caisse, sending him smashing into the outside of the turn one and two wall at near full speed. Ruben Pardo then slammed into Hardin’s spinning car, with all three drivers coming to rest in turn one.
Thankfully, all three drivers climbed out of their cars under their own power. The damage to the wall caused a nearly 30-minute delay.
It is unclear what Hardin’s plans will be and if he had a backup car for Saturday’s feature. Both Caisse’s and Pardo’s teams were busy getting backup cars prepared for Saturday’s feature.
“From what I’ve been told, the 18 (Hardin) and the 15 (Salemi) got together and hit that wall at the entrance of pit road. I was clear of it and had a good area to go, but he hit so hard that his ricochet clipped me and I got into
Ruben Pardo (#12) and Sean Caisse (#44) will go to backup cars, while its unclear what Eric Harden (#18) will do.
the wall hard. There was nothing I could do there. We were moving up fast. I was always up to sixth or seventh by that lap. It is just unfortunate.
“It looked like a lot of those guys were racing for a million bucks in the first two laps. I was just trying to stay out of trouble, but I got caught up in it.”
Caisse, who was the fastest car in both practices on Friday, will now go into Saturday night’s race totally blind to what he’ll have under him.
“Our backup car is actually (team owner) Andy’s (Santerre) favorite short track car he’s run for many years called “Faith.” He’s won most of his races with that car in his short track program with that car. Unfortunately, he never let me test it to try it out or try anything this year. I guess fortunately, I finally get to try it out. I just didn’t want to have to do it in this situation.”
WEST CHAMPION DOING DOUBLE DUTY
It’s not easy to win a championship in one touring series, let alone two. Eric Holmes almost did tat this year, when he won the West Series title while losing the Southwest Series title by a mere one-point over Rip Michaels.
And its really not easy running both the Grand National and Elite Division cars at the Toyota All Star Showdown. But that is exactly what Eric Holmes is doing.
Holmes Grand National car is good… he finished fourth in the first of the two 50-lappers. His Elite car is not nearly as good though and he’ll start 20th on Saturday night.
“We have struggled all day,” said Holmes. “I don’t know. We haven’t struggled all year long, but we’ve just been confused today. Both cars have been loose. The track is different then it ever has been for us. When we were here in August, the track was the same way. This is the setup that we’ve always ran, but we are just missing it come. We’ll have to go and do out homework tonight. I drove my guts out in that Elite race.
Eric Holmes (center) talks with some team members on how to make his car even better.
“The car just wasn’t good,” said Sellers. “We were not good in practice and not good in the qualifying race, but we’ve learned a lot now and we’ve got a good idea of what it is going to do and what it is going to do running behind these elite series cars. We are going to make it a little better and be good tomorrow night.”
Sellers had a good battle with Eric Holmes for the last 20 laps.
“Eric is a clean racer. I watched him race Andrew Myers for the win here earlier this year and he never touched him. I never had a doubt in my mind that he’d race me
clean. If that would have been me on the inside, I probably would have moved him up and went on by him. He is a good racer.”
LOFTIN HOLDS ON DESPITE BEAT UP CAR
Justin Loftin was right in the middle of the big wreck in the first of the Grand National 50-lap races. In fact, the side of his car showed it. The right side of his #66 car was dented in, had holes, and looked like it just came out of a demolition derby.
But the damage was all cosmetic, and Loftin was able to hold onto second in his qualifying race, putting him in the second row for Saturday night’s race.
“It wasn’t he easiest 50 laps for me and not the cheapest for sure,” said Loftin. “I saw the 18 (Eric Hardin) move up the track I guess he thought he was clear. The 15 (John Salemi) just got into the back of him and turned him. I’m not really sure which one of them got me, but I’m glad that is all they did.
“After the accident, you just pay attention during the yellow flag and make sure the car is going straight. You make sure the steering wheel is going straight. When you get to the first turn and hope the thing sticks.”
BORNEMAN HAS SOMETHING FOR SATURDAY NIGHT
“It is frustrating. We’ve been so on far everywhere we’ve been this year. it is just competition is tough. We’re just a little bit off. We’ll figure it out.
“I think our (Grand National) car was good enough to run in the top three, but it was really hard to pass out there. The track is slick. If you are not a lot faster than someone, its hard to pass. We made a lot of gains on this car from this morning. I think we can just fine tune on this one and we’ll be really good for tomorrow. The other car needs a lot of work.”
SELLARS SOLID IN FIRST ALL STAR SHOWDOWN
Peyton Sellers has a lot of eyes on him in the Showdown. The West Series Rookie of the Year is driving for a former Showdown winning team.
He made the most of his debut on Friday night, finishing third in his 50-lap qualifying race.
Peyton Sellers at Irwindale.
Johnny Borneman finished second in his heat race and knows he has something for everyone else on Saturday night.
“I didn’t want to see that last caution because I thought we could get by (race leader Andrew Myers) under the green.
“At the beginning there, I was just watching everyone dicing around. I didn’t want to see what happened in that first race happen again. I was just letting them straighten out. With about 15 to go, I thought to myself ‘ok, here we go.’ I watched them burn their stuff up.
Johnny Borneman (#8) has something for the guys on Saturday night.
GAYLORD HAS EMOTIONAL FINAL RIDE
The Toyota All-Star Showdown is the final race on board Scott Gaylord’s No. 00 Chevrolet for longtime sponsor Oliver Gravity Separators. The two have been together for nearly 20 years.
“They have been in the AutoZone West Series since 1988. We’re really going to miss them. It’s been great,” said Gaylord. “We’ll see what doors open now, but it’s been a great association.”
“I think we’ve got a real good car. We’ve got something for tomorrow night.”
WAVE OF THE FUTURE
Eleven drivers in the Grand National Division portion will be utilizing NASCAR’s new spec engine program. Eight of the contingent are from the Busch East Series. They are: Jeff Anton, Dion Ciccarelli, Bryon Chew, John Freeman, Brian Hoar, Matt Kobyluck, Charles Lewandoski and Ruben Pardo. Those in the West Series are Brian Ickler, Justin Lofton and Peyton Sellers.
Two Grand National Division teams are using the new composite body that debuted this season. Busch East Series driver Ciccarelli joins West Series driver Hardin in putting the latest technology on the race track. Ciccarelli is running both the spec engine and composite body which is the Grand National Division car of the future.
Ciccarelli’s has run the composite body in all but two races, but the spec engine is new, and it was acquired in an unusual fashion. Larry Jamerson bought the unit as an anniversary present for his wife team and co-owner, Beth Jamerson.