A Final Look Back on the NASCAR All-Star Showdown
Thoughts From a Pair of Our Short Track Observers
By Bob Dillner - Reprinted from SpeedTV.com
A couple of things jumped out at me last weekend in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale, California. NASCAR may have unintentionally set a precedent and we may have discovered a slight flaw in the all-star system.
The made-for-television event pitted the all-stars of the NASCAR Camping World East and Camping World West Series against each other in a race with no points on the line. Bragging rights were the only thing up for grabs in the “Daytona 500 of short-track racing.” It was a terrific race all the way down to the few moments afterwards when NASCAR took the win away from Joey Logano.
While Logano would probably disagree, I think NASCAR made the right call by penalizing him for rough driving and stripping him of the win. I’m a big fan of Logano’s and I think the kid has a good head on his shoulders, but he made a mistake and took the leader out on the final lap.
What Logano did was wrong. Originally I asked myself, “Joey, why did you do that?”
But after speaking with him this week, I realize there was some pent-up frustration. Everybody looks at the last-lap incident, but as Joey pointed out to me, they fail to consider what happened six laps prior when Sellers booted Logano out of the lead.
On the last lap, Logano drove his car in as hard as he could and knew it would wash up the track. He was expecting some contact with Peyton Sellers and an ensuing, heated battle to the finish. But he put Sellers in the wall and took the checkered flag first, although he didn’t have it for long.
Logano’s move was reminiscent of Carl Edwards’ run on Jimmie Johnson last year at Kansas, but the difference was that Johnson hit the brakes when he saw Carl drive it in that deep. Had Edwards crashed Johnson, it would have been the same situation we saw at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. In the same vein, Logano wouldn’t have been penalized if Sellers hadn’t smacked the wall, just as Edwards wasn’t.
But since the Irwindale race was a non-points event sanctioned by NASCAR, if the same situation arises in the upcoming Bud Shootout or the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, NASCAR needs to be prepared to make the same call. They’ll have to follow precedent because they just set it. If a driver takes out the leader on the last lap of a non-points Cup race and NASCAR doesn’t penalize the guilty party, everyone will point to last weekend.
But along with the precedent set for wrecking the leader, another issue arose from the race. The “big guns” – Logano, Ron Hornaday and Matt Crafton – all compete in NASCAR’s top three divisions. They participated because they love to race, but also because they fill the grandstands and I understand that from the track’s perspective. It’s a catch-22 because while it was nice to attract a large crowd, the spectacle was intended as an all-star race for the East and the West Series and their guys like Matt Kobyluck, Mike David and Trevor Bayne, to compete against each other to determine the best of the best.
The guys like Logano had nothing to lose whereas Sellers, Bayne, Kobyluck and a bunch of those guys poured their own money into that race. These guys are racing to make a living. It might not be much to the Cup guys, but it’s a lot to the ones trying to pay their bills and make a name for themselves. I can appreciate Logano, Hornaday and Crafton’s passion for the sport, but at the same time, their actions cost the regulars much more.
In fact, Hornaday not only took someone out of the All-Star Showdown, he also was involved in two wrecks during a 15-lap Super Late Model show later that evening. According to reports, Hornaday definitely caused one of those wrecks that took out more than a dozen cars.
At the risk of losing some fans in the grandstands, the Toyota All-Star Showdown should be limited to the series regulars. Neither the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway nor the qualifying race provide these short-track racers an opportunity to compete and they couldn’t afford it even if allowed. And you don’t see a guy like Tom Brady from the NFL go down and play in the Blue-Gray game in college football.
If these bigger stars must play on the smaller stages, they should do it in the same fashion Kyle Busch did last week at Lanier National Speedway in Georgia. While he came in and kicked everyone’s butt, including my team’s (although we had the honor of out-qualifying him) with Michael Pope, he drove a smart race and didn’t do anything stupid to jeopardize the regulars’ night. Busch’s presence brought in a huge crowd, which was good, but he was respectful. If he had gone out and plowed over everyone, we’d be having the Irwindale conversation again.
A couple of years ago, who would have thought we’d be pointing to Kyle Busch as the model of perfect behavior on the race track? He has matured into one of the best in business, whether on a big track or small.
...Because These Weren't All-Stars
By Jim Blacroch
The Toyota All-Star Showdown is truly intended to be a premier event at a premier facility with NASCAR’s elevated minor league system. The Toyota Speedway at Irwindale is anything but minor league, it could be ranked as one of the top facilities in all of American sports, let alone motorsports, with that said, it’s multiple grooves and wide girth make it perfect for racing, however, when people utilize all that room and then some it leaves a little to be desired in how things end up.
The aftermath of two key developments in the Showdown leave you wondering, where the line is drawn in the sand. When Ron Hornaday got into Brian Ickler it seemed pretty senseless and still, nearly a week later, it seems even more senseless, however there was no penalty issued.
The last lap with Joey Logano charging into turn three and tried to slide job and clear Peyton Sellers will be one of the wilder moments of the 2009 season, even though the event really upon the 2008 season (we’ll get into that in a little bit).
Logano was penalized for his move, but if you look back at it, his move wasn’t any different than Hornaday’s. Both of their moves began entering turn three and were completed in a parking lot full of carnage upon exiting turn four. Matt Kobyluck was smart and lucky enough to miss both opportunities to wreck.
The challenge becomes the penalty call. If a penalty is called on Hornaday, does the last lap incident happen or is it a race to the checkered flag like it should have been in the first place?
The lack of respect because the cars have fenders is sometimes uncalled for in my opinion. When the race went back to green with just a half-dozen or so laps remaining there was a time when the top three or four raced three-wide all the way around the race track. Sure there was contact made and Logano got in the wall, but the bottomline with that is that Logano had a chance to recover, regroup and make another bid to win.
It is a special race – I’m not going to call it an All-Star race (we’ll get to that…) – and I can appreciate the ‘go for it’ mentality, but to just flat wreck someone is wrong.
The finish was out of control and Peyton Sellers is a better man than I could be because I’m pretty sure there would have been more than a talking to, if I was in his shoes, but all that is hindsight.
The thing that needs to be put back in place in these type series is respect. They are developmental series and things are definitely going to happen, but the guy that let the horses run free from the barn doesn’t really need a lot of development, he should have been out there teaching the younger competitors about respect. He didn’t and in my opinion, at that time, NASCAR should have showed everyone there that things wouldn’t be handled differently.
It didn’t go down that way and it is always easy to Monday morning quarterback, but you have to wonder if the outcome of the race would have been different if things were handled in a different manner.
For the track, the move to January was key. Even with inclement weather, fans turned out to see the race, which had to please Jim Williams, Bob Defazio and the Irwindale management. The weather was just plain awful for Southern California, but still the planning and rescheduling, with a lot of pressure from television and all of the challenges that surround an event of that magnitude fell way short of where they should have been.
To be there on three consecutive nights past 10:00pm, with Friday and Saturday reaching 12am or later, is really just uncalled for, when the garage opens at 7am or before the next morning. That puts a serious strain on the event staff, the officials and the teams. It is something that definitely needs to be addressed going forward.
Perhaps several different plans heading into the weekend need to be completed. An – A-B-C-D- if you will – that is distributed to the teams so they understand what happens when things change.
From Wikepedia; "All-star" as a sports term can refer to an "all-star" team selected as the best players at particular positions in team sports, or a list of top participants in individual sports such as golf and automobile racing. Events limited to all-stars in the field of individual sports are referred to as "all-star events"; in team sports the premier all-star games are the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Game, Pro Bowl, NHL All-Star Game, and the MLS All-Star Game.
Why is that definition there? In my mind the event at Irwindale should be an invitation only event. No offense to the guys who came out to compete, but even in Little League you had to earn your way to the All-Star game, you didn’t get a free pass, just because you had some money laying around and you bought your way in, which is seemingly becoming the normal route in our business.
If the event been a true All-Star race that rewarded people who supported the NASCAR Regional programs on a continuous basis, some of the weather and practice issues may have been avoided. Time could have been saved on qualifying to give the Late Model and Super Late Model teams ample opportunity to sort their fields out and get a manageable starting grid. I applaud the fact that they did start over 50 cars in both the Late Model and Super Late Model races, but that is a challenge in creating chaos on a half-mile.
In the end, I just feel you need to earn the right to be called ‘All-Star’ to participate in an event that is an ‘All-Star’ caliber event.