R.I.P. IRWINDALE — While NASCAR teams and fans are eagerly awaiting getting back on track this week at Daytona International Speedway, there’s lots of other NASCAR-related news early in the week, not all of it good. The highly regarded Irwindale Speedway in Southern California announced Monday that its 2012 racing schedule had been cancelled and the track is being dismantled, according to media reports.
Opened in 1999, the Irwindale complex featured half-mile and one-third mile oval tracks, as well as a dragstrip. From 2003-2011, the track hosted the Toyota All-Star Showdown, which brought together the best NASCAR short-track racers from across the country. Winners of the event included Joey Logano and David Gilliland, now both NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars.
Irwindale also hosted the Turkey Night Grand Prix, a Thanksgiving race for USAC Midgets, as well as drifting, model-car races and other events. Late last year, NASCAR dropped Irwindale from its 2012 K&N Pro Series West Series schedule, an omen of bad times ahead for the track.
STEWART STEPS UP — Last season, Tony Stewart said that winning his first World of Outlaws winged sprint car race over the summer was one of the factors that gave him the confidence to go out and win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship later in the year.
So for Stewart’s competitors, that probably means they ought to be worried about the fact that the driver known as “Smoke” has done it again. Saturday night under the lights at Sylvania, Ga., Stewart took home the winner’s $5,000 purse for capturing the All-Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned 30-lap main event at Screven Motor Speedway. Stewart, the 2011 SPEED Performer of the Year, passed pole-sider Jason Sides in the closing laps to get the victory, much to the delight of the crowd.
LARSON LEAPS AHEAD — Young Kyle Larson, who this year will drive for Rev Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series, won his stock-car racing debut at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway on Saturday. The 19-year-old driver took his first and only lead on the 100th and final lap to win the 10th Annual Pete Orr — Orange Blossom late-model race.
BUD SHOOTOUT TRIVIA — The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway kicks off the 2012 NASCAR season. The race will be 75 laps, 187.50 miles. Here’s some event trivia:
The drivers with the most Shootout appearances:
• Mark Martin had appeared in the most consecutive Shootout races, competing in 20 in a row from 1989-2008. The active leader is Jeff Gordon, with 18. This year marks his 19th.
• There have been eight multiple winners in the Shootout:
• Tony Stewart has won three of the last 10 (2001, 2002 and 2007).
• Dale Earnhardt won six events, most all-time (1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995).
• Dale Jarrett won the Shootout in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Other multiple winners: Neil Bonnett (1983-1984), Ken Schrader, (1989-1990), Jeff Gordon (1994 and 1997), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003 and 2008) and Kevin Harvick (2009-2010).
• Bonnett, Schrader, Stewart and Harvick are the only drivers to win back-to-back races. No driver has ever won three consecutive Shootouts.
• Buddy Baker (1979), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Jeff Gordon (1994), Dale Jarrett (1996) and Denny Hamlin (2006) all won the first Shootout in which they competed.
• Only five times in the 32-year history of the race has the winner gone on to win the Daytona 500: Bobby Allison (1982); Bill Elliott (1987); Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000) and Jeff Gordon (1997).
• There have been three winners from the pole: Darrell Waltrip (1981), Bill Elliott (1987) and Ken Schrader (1989).
• Two drivers have swept the Shootout, Daytona 500 pole and Daytona 500 from 1979-2010: Dale Jarrett (2000) and Bill Elliott (1987).
• One driver has swept the Shootout, Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 from 1979-2011: Bobby Allison (1982).
• Seven drivers have won the Shootout (1979-2011) and the same season’s championship. Dale Earnhardt is the only one to have accomplished it multiple times – four times. Tony Stewart (2002); Jeff Gordon (1997); Dale Earnhardt (1993, ’91, ’86 and ’80); and Darrell Waltrip (1981).
• Four drivers have won consecutive Shootouts (1979-2010). None went on to win that year’s Daytona 500: Kevin Harvick (2009-10); Tony Stewart (2000-01); Ken Schrader (1990-91) and Neil Bonnett (1983-84).
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.