Fireworks in Irwindale at NASCAR all-star race
Promoters of the Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale advertise the event as the Daytona 500 of short-track stock car racing. And on Saturday night, at least, the showdown lived up to the hype.
The race brings together the top drivers in NASCAR's various minor-league series, but this year it also featured Joey Logano, the 18-year-old budding superstar for Joe Gibbs Racing known as "Sliced Bread," as in "the best thing since . . . "
Logano won the previous Showdown before being promoted to drive in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series this season. His next stop is the Daytona 500, but first he wanted to defend his win at the half-mile Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
After the near-capacity crowd of roughly 6,000 saw actor Kevin James lead the 40-car field through a pace lap on a Segway (a blatant promotion for his new movie "Paul Blart: Mall Cop"), the race unfolded into a three-hour-long crash fest that required more than a dozen caution periods.
But the fireworks weren't over. On the final lap, Logano and Peyton Sellers -- who had unfinished business with Logano, having placed second to the teenager last time -- were battling for the win again. Matt Kobyluck was third, knowing something was about to happen in front of him.
It did. Logano hit Sellers on the final turn as the crowd erupted, Sellers crashed and Logano drove across the finish line first, followed by Kobyluck. But Logano soon was penalized for rough driving and the victory went to Kobyluck, an Uncasville, Conn., native who also won the Showdown in 2006.
"I saw it coming," Kobyluck said. "I laid up a little bit, got on the brakes early and slowed up so I could cut to the bottom and miss it all.
"Joey's a great kid and he's got a bright future ahead of him," said the 38-year-old Kobyluck. "Was he going for the win? Sure. It's an all-star race, and there are a lot of bragging rights and a lot of money on the line. Everyone's just going for it."
Top photo: Actor Kevin James leads the field on a warm-up lap at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale on Saturday night. Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
Bottom photo: Joey Logano (No. 08) leads Matt Kobyluck (No. 40) across the finish line in the Showdown but Logano was penalized and Kobyluck was awarded the victory. Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR