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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Feb 1, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

NASCAR DREAMS IN IRWINDALE Words and pictures by Brian Kennedy It was a good idea, moving the Toyota All-Star Showdown from late fall, where it had been for a number of years, to January. Nothing much is on the motorsports calendar then, and the guys who do the prep of the cars for this event are typically short-track competitors, most of whom wouldn't be starting their weekly series until March. But the weather in California didn't cooperate until the very last minute, and so what was to be two days of qualifying and racing in three divisions - Camping World cars, Super Late Models, and Late Models - turned into a hurried-up affair which began late Saturday afternoon at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale and stretched on into the night.

When the drops stopped falling, mercifully, Saturday around three in the afternoon, the cars were uncovered. Most had had some practice in the gaps between storms in the prior twenty-four hours, but none had had the kind of time they typically would on a Saturday night. And for everyone, the track was completely washed clean of rubber, and thus became devoid of grip. That's perhaps why the events, starting with the one featuring weekly series champions from around the country, Canada, and Mexico, and some special guests (Ron Hornaday, Jr. among them), were all marred by cautions. The first event, featuring the Camping World Series cars, was 250 laps, and it was punctuated by cautions early, a long green run through the middle, and a bang-up at the end which saw the apparent winner moved back in the field. Following that, the Late Model cars took off, forty-eight of them. It was already 10:54pm, and they saw their race go green for just a lap before they piled up. After a long green-flag run, the cautions came again, and when the leader hit the wall on lap fifty-one and brought out another yellow, the stewards gave up. The race was checkered at fifty-five laps of seventy-five, due to time constraints. It was 11:32pm.

The last event was for the Super Late Models, including one Scott Dodd of Riverside. Dodd is a relative kid, at twenty-one, but one with the typical big dreams. He's been racing since he was eight, and Irwindale is his home track. He was one of fifty-two cars starting his event. Because qualifying had been rained out, NASCAR decided to let everybody go, rather than the forty who would normally have earned their spots. Dodd started nineteenth in deference to his good finish in the 2008 season. Doing well in this event is nothing new for Dodd. He displayed his promise by leading the last version (2007) of the Showdown in his class for seventy-five laps. He got his tires oiled coming back up through the field after they were inverted at the mid-way point and didn't win, but he did catch the eye of some people who matter. "I and got a hold of me. I went out to California Speedway when they [NASCAR] were out here, and snuck into the pits. I sat with him in his hauler for an hour. He said he'd like to try to get me into the trucks [NASCAR truck series]. Who knows?" he explains.

Hence, his high expectations for 2009's version of the race. "It's for bragging rights" he said, "But there's also ten thousand bucks to win." At his budget, that matters a lot. He and his small crew do all of their own work, and his investment in his team has stretched everything he and his family have. He never sends anything out to be done that the crew could do themselves, he says, because that costs more. As Dodd explained it before the race, "I've gone as far as I can with my parents helping me. For me to move forward to a bigger series, I've got to have sponsorship." He has help, for now, from Craig Fire Protection and Lucas Oil. Last year, he went down to North Carolina and met with about fifty teams. Each one asked the same question: "'How much you got in your back pocket?' It's all about the sponsorship at this point" he says.

So in his quest to once again put himself on the radar of someone who might be able to help him fulfill the promise of his talent, off he went, with the green flag coming at 11:46 pm. The race, by this point, had been shortened to thirty minutes due to local noise regulations. It was originally to be 150 laps, and if it had gone green all the way, perhaps they could have completed something over one hundred. But these guys too had a pile-up on lap one. They finally went green again with eleven minutes remaining. When the caution flew again two laps later, it was for the last time. The race went, eventually, fifteen laps. Three were green. Young Dodd took full advantage of the time he had out there, jumping from nineteenth to twelfth. It wasn't the showcase he was hoping for, but he's positive nonetheless. When I asked him before his race whether the crowd would still be there if they got a late start, he grinned, "They'll be here" he said. It's an enthusiasm which should carry him far.

Scott Dodd For more information about Toyota Speedway at Irwindale events, click here. 

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