Every year, the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway produces high-octane excitement that includes chaos at every end of the track with wrecks and debates. The 2011 showing didn't disappoint as it included controversy, lots of wrecks and a brand new winner.
Jason Bowles has won nine K&N Pro Series races, has come close before - though had never won the overall event to date. That all changed on January 30th as Bowles took the checkered flag after some of the other leaders ran into problems.
"I knew I had a good car going into the race and there were so many things that happened that was I able to avoid," Bowles said after the race. "I just got a huge jump there and that was it."
Being the race leader didn't seem to be the position to be wanted most of the night as most drivers who fell into that sport didn't fare too well.
Pole sitter and series rookie Derek Thorn started on pole and led all the first 100 laps to the first break, though falling back, he got passed for the lead by Andrew Myers. Myers led all the way to lap 191, when he had a flat right rear, causing him to make an unscheduled pit stop. Bowles inherited the lead, though it didn't last long as Paulie Harraka bumped and banged his way past.
"We got a good racecar," Harraka said under the break that followed. "To be honest, I didn't know we had taken the lead. I knew we were marching to the front, I knew we'd be in the top five, but I didn't know we'd be the leader. I'm having a blast. I'm having a lot of fun. We never get a 100 green flag laps ever at Toyota Speedway but I am having a lot of fun."
Harraka then led all the way till 16 to go when Thorn slid up to him, taking him out with others.
"He came down on me," Thorn told his crew on the radio after the incident
"He flat took me out," Harraka told his crew.
As a result of Thorn's intentions, NASCAR black-flagged Thorn for rough driving, sending him to the tail end of the lead. Bowles once again inhereited the lead, though this time it was Greg Pursley passing him with 14 to go. The caution then came out with 11 to go as Dale Quarterly, Troy Ermish and Cole Cabrera got caught up in a wreck, setting up a restart with nine to go.
"We're going to need to pull out nine qualifying laps here," Pursley said under the caution. "This is what we've worked for - staying up front and staying out of trouble so we're going to need nine qualifying laps,:
However on a restart, Pursley's plans fell through as he had a flat tire, pulling out of the racing line to allow the field to past. Bowles then held off a late race charge from D.J. Kennington to win the race.
Kennington, the 2010 Canadian Tire Series Champion, finished second in his first NASCAR outing south of the border.
"Absolutely, really really proud of everybody on this race team," Kennington said afterwards. "All my guys are here - its so amazing. I watched this race last year on my couch, its great to be here."
Meawwhile, Jonathan Gomez finished third after smoking for most of the race due to an oil leak.
"It was a handful out there," Gomez said. "The middle section - 100 laps straight, no cautions, that was a nice break as we know what the last one was going to be. The first run, the car was a little free, made an adjustment and the car was a little tight - didn't have the forward bite for the win."
Luis Martinz Jr. and Johnny Borneman rounded out the top five, while Travis Pastrana finished sixth.
The Showdown marked the first-ever NASCAR start for the 11-gold medal x-game winner as he begins his stint in NASCAR with Michael Waltrip.
"Man, it’s awesome," Pastrana said afterwards. "I can't say enough about the entire Waltrip crew. (Matt) Crafton did an awesome job guiding me through all this chaos. I finally got the car loosened up those last 25. I finally felt that I had something going. Three-wide is awesome - I actually got to go four-wide sometimes. I had an awesome time out there. I am super pumped. This sport is so much fun out there and I've got a lot to learn."
Pastrana went through the learning curve as both times under the breaks, the team made the adjustments on the car that were needed.
"I've been tight so I said I want it loose," Pastrana commented under the second segment. "Harry said loose is fast so I wanted to drop the Days of Thunder on this. So hopefully we don't spin the car out on the first lap as we drop the hammer on this one."
He also fought through the field like a veteran, fighting hard with competitors to stay on the lead lap and get his sixth place finish.
Derek Thorn, Travis Motley, Moses Smith and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Steve Wallace rounded out the top 10.
Read the full lap-by-lap recap of the All-Star Showdown and the Late Model race here: http://newsfromthepits.com/articles/lap-by-lap-jason-bowles-win-the-nascar-toyota-all-star-showdown-at-irwindale