Just as Mario Andretti, Earl Ross and David Hobbs were drawn to the Daytona 500 in years past, several international drivers are targeting the 2011 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, a race that has come to be known as the ‘Daytona 500 of short-track racing,’ on Jan. 28-29 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) as an opportunity to make their mark on the world of NASCAR.
Among the entrants expected are 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 champion DJ Kennington and 2010 NASCAR Mexico Series champion Germán Quiroga. Kennington will be joined in the field by fellow Canadian Andrew Ranger, the 2007 and 2009 Canadian Tire Series champion, while Quiroga will be joined by compatriots Rubén Rovelo and Daniel Suárez. Outside the NASCAR umbrella heading to California is 2010 RACECAR Euro Series champion Lucas Lasserre of France.
“The event is so prestigious that if you get an opportunity to race in it, you have to take it,” said Kennington. “The level and depth of the competition is amazing. Every driver there has had his share of wins.”
As NASCAR touring series champions Kennington and Quiroga have a secured starting spot for the main event. They also will be teammates, of sorts, by driving for Bill McAnally Racing for this special event. BMR is one of the top stables in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and is home to 2010 champion Eric Holmes.
Ranger, a Quebec native, also enters the event with a secure starting spot as a 2010 K&N Pro Series event winner having won at California’s Infineon Raceway in the West and Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park in the East after splitting his season between the U.S. and Canada. He competed in the 2007 and 2010 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdowns after each of his two Canadian Tire Series titles.
Mexican drivers Rovelo and Suárez come into the event with successful 2010 seasons, as well. Rovelo finished sixth in points and won the Aug. 22 race at Autódromo de Monterrey. Suárez, meanwhile, collected rookie of the year honors and finished 13th in the point standings.
France’s Lasserre comes to the event with a championship in hand, but he will have to earn his spot on the starting grid for the main event. The French series competes exclusively on road courses in a car based on a NASCAR stock car. In 2010, Lasserre won three times and notched 10 top fives and 11 top 10s.
“The (NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown) is a great place to get noticed and open some doors if you have some success,” said Kennington. “Just look at the list of past winners.”
David Gilliland won the 2005 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown before embarking on his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in 2007. Two-time and defending race winner Joey Logano won his first NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2007 that preceded his move to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Of the 119 drivers to have started a NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, 68 have made a start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown main event is broken up into three sections – two 100-lap segments preceding a 25-lap dash to the finish. The race features secured starting spots for the 2010 champions of NASCAR’s developmental series and race winners of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series from the 2010 season.
The schedule also includes a 75-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model race and a 50-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model race.
Both nights of racing will air live on SPEED, beginning each night at 10 p.m. ET. The coverage will be anchored by Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the booth, with Dick Berggren and Jim Tretow covering action in the pits.