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NASCAR Recap and Photo Essay: Irwindale Nights

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In the words of Reese Bobby, "If you're not first, you're last."

That's how it ended for 18-year-old NASCAR sensation Joey Logano trying to repeat as winner of the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale over Peyton Sellers. The race demonstrated it was worthy of its nickname as the "Daytona 500 of short-track racing" in a wild result that still has both drivers' websites claiming that they "won" the race. The official winner was Matt Kobyluck in the Mohegan Sun Casino #40. Kobyluck is a veteran super late model driver who won the Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2006.

Last year's second-place finisher, Sellers, looked ready to dethrone defending champion, Logano, by leading the last 5 laps of the 250-lap race. Sellers had worked his way up through the field of 40 cars after a wreck on lap 55 that tore up the right side of his #83 car. On the last turn of the race, Logano attempted an inside pass but lost control. Logano's car skidded into Sellers, leaving the #83 car in the wall just before Logano sailed over the start-finish line in first position. As Sellers told Logano on national television (in decidedly non-FCC-compliant terms) exactly what he thought of Logano's racing, officials announced that Logano was disqualified for "rough racing." This left Matt Kobyluck the lucky winner of the night.

The format of the Toyota All-Star Showdown pits the champions of the the developmental NASCAR series (Camping World West, Camping World East, NASCAR Mexican Series and others) again previous Toyota All-Star Showdown champions and the top qualifiers on speed. The rainout on Friday made it an extra-long day, moving qualifying heats to Saturday, and making tempers short. Another factor is the pressure on drivers competing for scarcer and scarcer sponsorship dollars. The field included scrappy unknowns risking their cars against established (and well-funded) Sprint Cup superstars like Logano and Dave Gilliland. Also in the mix was Logano's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and friend Marc Davis, who finished a solid 8th on the night.

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The Sellers and Logano saga will continue this season in NASCAR's Nationwide Series (the level just below NASCAR's top series, Sprint Cup). Sellers is entered in 10 Nationwide races in 2009. Logano will run a full schedule in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Next on the NASCAR schedule is the Budweiser Shootout on February 7, 2009. The official Sprint Cup season kicks off with the Daytona 500 on February 15, 2009.

All photos by Stephen Borodkin for LAist