Toyota All-Star Showdown: Travis Pastrana Makes Most of First NASCAR Opportunity
Jason Bowles ran away with the race late in the 225 lap K&N Pro Series after pole sitter Derek Thorn was kicked to the back of the field for a rough driving infraction with just 10 laps to go in the event. Bowles made the most of the opportunity and held off the field to win the Toyota All-Star Showdown hardware and the prize money that comes with it.
There were plenty of winners and losers in the eighth installment of the Toyota All-Star Showdown but the biggest winner was extreme sports star turned NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana. Expectations were tempered by the Pastrana's co-owner Michael Waltrip before the event.
Waltrip joked with his new business partner and driver Pastrana while talking with a group of reporters amid crew. "Hopefully the other drivers don't know that Travis has no idea what he is doing out there."
Pastrana joked on Friday night after qualifying for the field, "I will play the part of the moving chicane tomorrow night."
Pastrana capped the night by walking up into the stands and thanking the fans that hung out waiting to see him. A recent innovation started by the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver of the No. 99 Carl Edwards.
The night was action filled, and there were plenty of drivers that disappointed when it came to expectations. The Drive for Diversity drivers Sergio Pena and Darrell Wallace Jr. both failed to finish as did veterans Erik Holmes (crash) and Augie Vidovich (blown engine).
Travis Pastrana Sixth Place Impressive In Debut
Travis Pastrana's sixth place finish in the Toyota All-Star Showdown may have been one of his most impressive accomplishments of his career.
The multi-talented extreme action sports star is on the verge of breaking into the elite NASCAR Nationwide Series in July on a track similar to Irwindale Speedway. Pastrana will race O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, a flat short track which is also an action packed track to get his feet wet.
Pastrana had a nondescript first 175 miles as he putted along in the top 20 most of the early going. Pastrana did have to take evasive action several times in the first 100 laps of the Toyota All-Star Showdown to avoid the various collisions.
In the second 100 laps, almost all of which were green flag laps, it was a different story. Pastrana was under pressure late in the long run to keep peddling and stay ahead of the leader. Pastrana did get lapped but maintained contact with the leaders and eventually got his lap back in the impending chaos.
Pastrana also pulled off the move of the race late in the 25 lap segment dive bombing the low groove and passing two cars for position. The move was made all the more impressive since many drivers could not make passes on the low groove stick on the tight race track.
Pastrana was elated when he exited his car and expressed relief more than pride at what he and his new team had accomplished. "Our goal was to make laps and get track time and we did that."
Andrew Myers: Heartbreaking Loss
Andrew Myers was disconsolate after the 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown, and with good reason. He was on the verge of a career altering win in the premiere short track race in the country, and a cut tire swept away all chances for a career best achievement.
Myers had the field covered in the second segment after watching pole sitter Derek Thorn dominate the first 100 lap segment. Myers was busy lapping the field, including Travis Pastrana and NASCAR Nationwide star Steven Wallace, when he cut down a tire on the long run and was forced to pit.
Myers was optimistic before the race began, noting that he had finished fifth in the Toyota All-Star Showdown last season. Myers will now have to wait another year to vie for a chance to hold the Showdown hardware over his head.
Paulie Harraka Struggled As Leader and Eventually Is Dumped
Paulie Harraka ascended to the lead of the Toyota All-Star Showdown with a solid run through the field, but his inexperience was his undoing. Harraka struggled entering turn three on several entries, and it allowed pole sitter Derek Thorn to get to his back bumper as they exited turn four.
A nudge from Thorn ended both Harraka and Thorn's chances to take home the Toyota All-Star Showdown hardware. Harraka went sideways in front of the entire field. The result was a major pile up that eliminated five cars at the front of the field.
Thorn was penalized for the altercation and placed at the rear of the field, and Harraka contemplated retaliation before the red flag was lifted, but cooler heads prevailed.
Sergio Pena Has Rough Return to Toyota All-Star Showdown
Sergio Pena was all smiles before the Toyota All-Star Showdown. He and Darrell Wallace Jr were riding around the grounds in golf cart joking on their way to their second autograph signing of the day at the Toyota display inside Irwindale Speedway three hours before the start of the race.
Three hours later, a dejected Pena was climbing out of his Revolution Racing No. 01, his head down as he consulted with his crew. The car was terminal for the evening and so were Pena's chances for a repeat performance of his first place battle with Joey Logano in 2010.
Pena's return was rough from the beginning. He struggled with the slick conditions during qualifying and placed 29th, but he was optimistic for his second opportunity in the "Daytona 500 of Short Track Racing".
Darrell Wallace Jr. Looks Strong Early, Then Loses Motor
Drive for Diversity driver Darrell Wallace Jr. was a popular interview subject in the infield on Friday and Saturday as well as popular with the autograph hounds at the fan autograph session on Saturday afternoon.
Wallace Jr. qualified decent on Friday on the slick half mile and nabbed a seventh row starting position. Wallace Jr. was not happy with the run when he emerged from his car, but he did well from the spot on Saturday night.
Wallace Jr.'s best position held on Saturday night was second place but he was involved in an incident early in the going and then blew an engine while out in front, and he was jacked up by cars trailing him to add insult to injury.
Veteran Greg Pursley Tastes Agony of Defeat
Greg Pursley's Toyota All-Star Showdown was falling into place nicely with just a few laps to go on Saturday night. He had avoided most of the incidents throughout the night and was out front for the final restart.
As he was about to take the green, Pursley realized he may have a tire going down. As he went through the gears to get up to speed for the re-starting coming off turn four, he knew he was right, and a tire was down on his No. 26 Ford and his Showdown was history.
Before the race, Michael Waltrip may have given Pursley the kiss of death. Waltrip was telling anyone that would listen, "I'm pulling for Greg Pursley to win. He's an old guy like me."
Jonathan Gomez Unsung Hero of 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown
Jonathan Gomez pulled off a third place finish with a car that was smoking from the early going of the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Gomez was impressive during the long 100 lap middle segment of the Showdown and made his case for more consideration for a possible Nationwide or Camping World truck opportunity later in the NASCAR season.