NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Set to Return to Irwindale
Big Changes Are in Store for This October's Event
In only five short years, the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown has become the pinnacle of short-track racing.
The special event at the half-mile Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway was designed to bring together the top drivers in the NASCAR Grand National Division from across the nation. Each of the first four events have resulted in remarkable races that have elevated the Showdown to the status of “the Daytona 500” of NASCAR’s Developmental Series.
Winning last year's Showdown was a big deal for Matt Kobyluck.
2007 champions from each of the NASCAR Developmental Series will also be eligible for “protected spots” in the starting lineup. Invitees will include the champions of the NASCAR Grand National Busch East Series, the NASCAR Grand National West Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, the NASCAR Mexico Series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion.
Also new for 2007 is the addition of a 150-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model race on Friday night, providing an opportunity for some of the nation’s best short track drivers to shine on a national stage. Many of the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars got their starts at their local short track. At the Daytona 500, NASCAR launched a comprehensive awareness campaign, “NASCAR Hometracks,” to spotlight racing on the grassroots level.
“Late Model racing opened up a lot of doors for me and it gave me the opportunity to try my hand at the next level and for that I will always be grateful,” said Denny Hamlin, the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
“I remember my Late Models days as some of the best times I have had in racing. It was a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice, but you were doing it with your friends and family and it was worth it because we really just wanted to race.”
Time trials and the last-chance “Open” will be held Friday, Oct. 19. Top qualifiers transfer to the Showdown until the top 30 starting positions are filled. The remaining 10 starting spots will be determined by the finishing order of the last-chance Open.
“We’ve upped the bar for 2007”, said George Silbermann, NASCAR Managing Director of
The fifth edition of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, to be held Oct. 19-20 at Irwindale, will continue the tradition.
“Everyone looks forward to it,” said Matt Kobyluck, the 2006 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown winner. “When you go to that event, you know you’re competing against the best that there is to offer at the level we’re racing. You’re also competing against guys that are going to be moving up to the next level. There’s a lot of potential for recognition for both the drivers and the teams.”
Changes to the format will up the ante:
- The top 15 drivers in the final championship point standings for the NASCAR Grand National Busch East Series and West Series will receive invitations and be eligible for bonus awards. However, only the 2007 champions have “protected” starting positions in this year’s Showdown. All other competitors must attempt to qualify for the race through the new time trial procedure or the last-chance 50-lap “Open.”
- Any driver approved to compete in the NASCAR Grand National Series at tracks of half-mile or greater may also enter and attempt to qualify for the race.
- The starting field has been increased to 40 cars and the race lengthened to 250 laps.
- One of the biggest changes will be the procedure for drivers to be “locked into” the event. Any driver who wins a Grand National race overall in 2007 will automatically qualify for the race. In addition, the
Teams will have to race their way into this year's
Racing Operations. “The enhanced NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will again feature the best and brightest talent from the NASCAR Grand National series. The format changes will make for even more compelling drama and excitement. The new eligibility criteria place a greater emphasis on race wins during the season, provide opportunity for the champions of all NASCAR developmental series to participate in this marquee event, and open the door for any bona fide competitor approved to compete at the Grand National level.”
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will air on SPEED, which has featured the event in each of its first four years.
Irwindale Speedway, located 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles, is one of the premier short-track facilities in the country. The half-mile surface features graduated banking between six- 12 degrees with multiple racing grooves that make for exciting side-by-side racing.
“We’re honored to host this event,” said Bob DeFazio, Irwindale Speedway track operator. “It’s a prestigious event. It’s important to us, and we know it’s important to NASCAR. We think with this year’s format, it’s going to be even more exciting.”
Past winners of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown include Austin Cameron, Mike Johnson and David Gilliland. Cameron’s emotional win in the inaugural event capped a season in which he missed four races while undergoing cancer treatments. In 2004, Johnson drove from 24th starting spot to the front. Gilliland’s victory in 2005 started him on a road that has led to a seat with Robert Yates Racing’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team.
And then came the 2006 classic, when the 36-year-old Kobyluck emerged the victor of a spirited duel over the final laps with young superstar Sean Caisse and West Series champion Eric Holmes. Twice a Showdown runner-up, Kobyluck finally earned a career-defining victory.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career,” Kobyluck said. “I’ve won a lot of races at other places. That was the best of the best.”