NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown: 10 Things We Can't Wait to See at Irwindale

Todd JacobsCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown: 10 Things We Can’t Wait to See at Irwindale

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    Last years Toyota All Star Showdown was a classic battle between young Serigio Pena' and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    The Toyota All-Star Showdown has been tabbed the Daytona 500 of short track racing, and with good reason. The race brings together all of NASCAR's regional series for one big race to open the season.

    The Showdown was once held at the end of the season, weeks before the long-running open wheel season-ending event, the Turkey Night Grand Prix.

    The event has added spice in recent years by allowing NASCAR veterans to compete alongside the champions and contenders of the various series. This year there are no major names, but there will be one driver, Steven Wallace, that is locked into the Daytona 500.

    Wallace has a reputation in his young career as a reckless driver that has wadded up his share of sheet metal. This is an opportunity for the young Wallace to shed his reckless image and make a statement in this race against the best short track racers in the country.

    Making his debut for Michael Waltrip Racing will be Travis Pastrana. Pastrana has made his name racing two-wheels in his early career and for his daring extreme stunts on two wheels and four wheels. Pastrana has become known as a world-class rally racer in recent years and now will try his hand at NASCAR.

No. 10: A Short Track Race to Get the Blood Flowing Early in Season

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    Irwindale Speedway is the fastest half mile paved track on the West Coast & racing at it's best grass roots level.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Daytona is a great place to get NASCAR's top three series under way in February, but the new tradition of the Toyota All-Star Showdown is quickly becoming a signature event that gets NASCAR fans' collective blood flowing.

    Irwindale is the perfect setting on the West Coast that combines the deep tradition of Southern California racing and the excitement of all the competing NASCAR short track series meeting for one big race.

    All of the traditional Los Angeles-area circle tracks have established the traditions of racing in the shadow of Hollywood until Ascot Park closed in 1990. Irwindale is not as close as the early Los Angeles area half-mile tracks. Gilmore Stadium stood where CBS Television Studios now stands, and Ascot Park was located in Gardena.

No. 9: New Format with Heat Races Adds Excitement to the Late Model Series

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    Ryan Truex will be looking to win the qualifying heat race as well as the 225 lap Toyota All-Star Showdown.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The new format of the Toyota All-Star Showdown will include two qualifying heat races, much like the Daytona Gatorade Duel qualifying races for the Whelen All-American Series.

    The top 15 drivers will be automatically in the field based on times, but the drivers will compete for starting positions of Friday night in two heat races.

    This is no doubt a test to see if it will be viable to use in the K&N Pro Series for the starting positions for the Toyota All-Star Showdown 225-lap event next year. If that is the case, it will add more buzz to next year's event.

    The following is the schedule of events for this year's Toyota All-Star Showdown.


    Friday, January 28th

    2:30 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model Qualifying
    3:30 p.m. K&N Pro Series Qualifying (2 Laps) (Impound Open Cars)
    4:30 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model Qualifying Race No. 1 (25 Laps or 30 Minutes)
    5:05 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model Qualifying Race No. 2 (25 Laps or 30 Minutes)
    5:45 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Late Model Qualifying
    7 p.m. SPEED Broadcast begins
    7:15 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model Race (75 Laps or One Hour)
    8:30 p.m. K&N Pro Series Open (50 Laps)

    Saturday, January 29th

    12:05-3 p.m. Fan Walk
    2 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Late Model Drivers Meeting
    3:15 p.m. K&N Pro Series Drivers Meeting
    4:30 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Late Model Qualifying Races (20 Laps or 30 minutes per race)
    6:35 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Late Model Driver Introductions
    6:45 p.m. K&N Pro Series Driver Introductions
    7 p.m. SPEED Broadcast begins
    7:15 p.m. Whelen All-American Series Late Model Race (50 Laps or One Hour)
    8:30 p.m. K&N Pro Series Race (225 Laps)

No. 8: Everyone Curious to See Joe Gibbs Protege Darrell Wallace Jr.

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    Many think Darrell Wallace Jr. (on dolly) will match Sergio Pena's (standing) performance in Showdown.Tom Whitmore/Getty Images

    Who is Darrell Wallace Jr.? The question will be answered on the Speed coverage of the Toyota All-Star Showdown this weekend. Darrell Wallace Jr. is the next young phenom being groomed by Joe Gibbs.

    Last year Sergio Pena was the hot prospect that came out of nowhere to battle Joey Logano for the 2010 Toyota All-Star Showdown. The battle between Logano and Pena was the buzz among many as everyone arrived in Daytona for Daytona Speedweeks.

    Darrell Wallace Jr. is looking to create a buzz for himself to launch his career in the upper ranks of NASCAR, and this weekend is his perfect opportunity.

No. 7: Will Paulie Harraka Answer His Critics in Toyota All-Star Showdown?

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    Paulie Harraka will be under the spotlight in the Toyota All-Star Showdown.Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    Paulie Harraka has been talked about as the next driver expected to make the jump to the next level, but he has disappointed when the spotlight has been shined on him.

    Harraka is a competitor in the Camping World West series and a student at Duke University—not an average path to success for the typical NASCAR phenom.

    Harraka's one win last season came in the first points event of 2010 on the third-of-a-mile Roseville, California All American Speedway. Harraka also notched an impressive third-place finish on the tough road course in Portland. Harraka must prove himself this season, starting with the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

No. 6: Will Ty Dillon Perform Well Under Pressure?

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    Ty Dillon and Ryan Truex battle for position in recent East Coast action.Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Ty Dillon begins his season with the added pressure of his brother Austin's success. Ty Dillon has been successful in his own right, and everyone is looking forward to see what he has for the country's most talented NASCAR short track drivers.

    Dillon notched two ARCA Series wins and one Camping World East Series win in the 2010 season, and he will be looking to improve on those numbers in 2011.

    Dillon is aggressive, but he takes care of his car. The grandson of Richard Childress will have one of the best pieces on track when the green flag falls for the Toyota All-Star Showdown, but it will be on him to have a strong showing.

No. 5: Will Chili Bowl Champ Kevin Swindell, Red Bull Phenom Cole Whitt Compete?

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    Kevin Swindell raced for Mike Curb in 2010 and may be in Irwindale for the Showdown.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Open wheel sprint car stars Kevin Swindell and Cole Whitt were expected to be in Irwindale for the Toyota All-Star Showdown, but they have not been confirmed.

    With less than a week remaining before the race, this year's Chili Bowl champion and open wheel driver extraordinaire Kevin Swindell has not confirmed, but many feel he will be on track Friday.

    Swindell would be one of the only drivers in the field with a win under his belt this early in the season. Swindell won his second "Golden Driller" in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he won a second consecutive Chili Bowl Nationals in January.

    Cole Whitt is another exciting open wheel driver that is driving under the auspices of Red Bull Racing. Whitt has shown well in NASCAR equipment of late and could be an exciting addition. Look forward to both of these talented drivers clearing their obligations and showing up this weekend.

No. 4: Travis Pastrana Doing Heel Clickers Before the Event?

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    Travis Pastrana announced his sponsorship deal with Boost Mobile with a wild heel clicking celebration January 21st.Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    Travis Pastrana may have set the bar too high for himself when he unveiled his sponsor for his NASCAR Nationwide venture with Michael Waltrip Racing. Pastrana will be part owner and driver of the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota.

    Pastrana performed his famous motocross tricks and stunts high above his new race car, which begs the question for Travis: What will you do for an encore at Irwindale this Friday?

    Pastrana will be making his official NASCAR debut in the Boost Mobile No. 99 for the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

No. 3: A French Driver in NASCAR? What Will Ricky Bobby Have to Say?

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    Sasha Baron Cohen played a French NASCAR driver in the movie Talladega Nights.Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Sacha Baron Cohen played a French driver that joined the ranks of NASCAR in the movie parody Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Life imitates art with Lucas Lasserre entering the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

    Lasserre is a French-born driver that has won several titles in Europe and is now jumping into NASCAR in the United States. Lasserre could be on the fast track to a seat in the Nationwide Series if he performs well in the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

    Other drivers competing from outside the United States will be Canadians Andrew Ranger and D.J. Kennington, along with Mexican champion Germán Quiroga. Quiroga is accompanied by two more citizens of Mexico, Rubén Rovelo and Daniel Suárez.

No. 2: Will Steven Wallace Keep His Car in One Piece and Impress?

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    Steven Wallace was a magnet for trouble in 2010. He will be looking to keep his nose clean in Irwindale.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Steven Wallace has a reputation for finding trouble in his short career. Some of the incidents he has been involved in have been his fault, and others he has drawn to him. 2011 is a new season and a new opportunity for Wallace to shed his image as a crash magnet.

    Wallace will show up with one of the best pieces in the pits, and it will be up to him to show he can keep it in one piece and bring home the hardware.

    Wallace will be competing in the real Daytona 500 in a few short weeks, but make no mistake: This is the most important race Steven Wallace will drive in all season.

No. 1: Can't Wait to See an Unknown Burst onto Scene and Surprise Everyone

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    Sergio Pena burst onto the scene in 2010 with an amazing performance as a 17 year old unknown at the Toyota All-Star Showdown.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Last season it was Sergio Pena that burst onto the scene as a young 17-year-old challenging NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano for the win. This season, who will break out and become the new hot commodity?

    David Gilliland landed a ride with Robert Yates Racing based on his performance in the Toyota All-Star Showdown when he won in 2005. Who is next? Will it be a virtual unknown like Paulie Harraka or Russell Wallace Jr.? Will Steven Wallace blow out the field?

    One fact is certain: No one can wait to kick off the 2011 NASCAR season with a good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out short track battle.