Joey Logano got his second NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown trophy and Sergio Pena nearly made a historic debut on the national stage.
Logano, 19, held off the 16-year-old Pena and two-time race winner Matt Kobyluck for the victory in the 225-lap race Saturday before a sold-out crowd in Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It was Pena's first career race in NASCAR's top developmental series and it came in the non-points, postseason event, which has earned the moniker the "Daytona 500 of short-track racing."
Logano made his mark by winning as a 17-year-old rookie in the 2007 edition; Pena, who only has one year of Late Model racing on his resume, nearly out-did that.
“He was really good,” Logano said of Pena. “I had to really be methodical in every move I made.”
Logano and Pena waged a race-long battle for the lead from drop of the green. For most of the race it was the Pena in heated pursuit of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Pena was able to grab the lead on several occasions. Logano, however, got the best of two late-race restarts to pull away for the victory.
Kobyluck got by Pena briefly on lap 218, and by the time Pena got back to second four laps later, he didn't have enough time to track Logano back down.
“I had a blast,” Logano said. “I have fun every time I come out there to Toyota Speedway [at Irwindale], and obviously these wins make it a lot more fun.”
Logano joined Kobyluck as the only two-time NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown winners in the seven-year history of the event. He crossed the line first in the 2009 race, but was penalized to last place for aggressive driving on the last lap. Logano paced a race-high 171 laps Saturday night and has led 341 in his three NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances.
It was a whirlwind weekend for Pena, from Winchester, Va. Driving for Revolution Racing and Drive For Diversity, Pena beat out three teammates Thursday in a race-off for a chance to qualify for the Showdown. He easily did that, earning the pole in Friday's qualifying. Then, in Saturday's race, he was involved in five lead changes with Logano.
“We had a really good run at the start, and strong car throughout on both the long runs and the short runs,” Pena said. “This has been a huge learning experience for me, and I enjoyed every lap of that race.”
Following Logano, Pena and Kobyluck in the top five was Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Matt DiBenedetto and Andrew Myers. Eric Holmes, David Mayhew, Eddie MacDonald, Paulie Harraka and Steve Park rounded out the top 10. Reigning NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion Jason Bowles finished 11th while K&N Pro Series East 2009 titlist Ryan Truex was relegated to 26th after a late-race accident.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver – and California native – David Gilliland had a top-five car early in the event, but an electrical issue on the restart following the first competition caution ended his day prematurely. Richard Childress Racing's Sean Caisse, who was also looking at a top-five run, exited the race shortly after as well with mechanical issues.
Nick Joanides, the defending Irwindale track champion in the Super Late Model and Late Model division, was the biggest mover in Saturday's NASCAR K&N Pro Series race as he finished 14th after starting 36th.
In Saturday's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model portion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Tim Huddleston took home the checkered flag. He led 39 of the 55 laps and outdistanced runner-up Sean Woodside, Joanides, Mike Johnson and Dallas Colodny for the win.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model race took place on Friday night. In that 66-lap contest, multi-time Toyota Speedway at Irwindale champion Rip Michels earned his first career victory in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown as he bested Gilliland, Andy Allen, Derek Thorn and Kevin Thompson.
The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown was a postseason event that concludes the 2009 racing season for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West. The 2010 season will officially open for the K&N Pro Series East at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway and for the K&N Pro Series West at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., both on March 27.