The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, an annual event at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale that started in 2003 and attracted the top developmental drivers in the country, has been canceled.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and David Gilliland have won the All-Star Showdown before moving up the stock car ladder. X-Games star Travis Pastrana made his NASCAR debut at the All-Star Showdown this past January.
Bob DeFazio, the vice president and chief operating officer of Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, said he was not surprised that NASCAR cancelled the All-Star Showdow.
"It didn't come out of nowhere," DeFazio said. "Negotiations have been ongoing with NASCAR and Toyota. I'm sure the economy had something to do with this."
The Showdown was one of the more popular events at Irwindale, attracting sell-out crowds. It was televised nationally on Speed. The Showdown started as a one-day, two-race event and was eventually expanded to three races over two days.
The Showdown started in 2003 as a two-race event for the defunct NASCAR Grand National Series and Elite Divisions. Austin Cameron won the inaugural Grand National Showdown race in 2003.
Gilliland won the Grand National Showdown race in 2005. The driver from Riverside moved on to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and eventually to the Sprint Cup Series with Robert Yates Racing. He drives the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports.
In 2008, the format changed with the elimination of the Elite Division race and the addition of a late model race. It was expanded to a two-day event. Matt Kobyluck from the East Series won the Showdown race.
The following year, Logano won his second Showdown race. He won his first Grand National Showdown race in 2007 and narrowly missed winning the race in 2008. He was disqualified for intentionally crashing into Peyton Sellers, who was leading the race, on the final lap.
Logano is the driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
There were eight Showdowns at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. Koblyluck and Logano were the only two-time winners of the Showdown.
The next Showdown was scheduled for January 27-28, 2012.
"I'm glad they got the word out now," DeFazio said. "At least now they know."
DeFazio added that the contract between Toyota and NASCAR expired at the end of the Showdown in 2011. The two sides were negotiating a deal before the Showdown race in 2011. Ultimately, NASCAR could not work out a deal with Toyota and no other sponsor stepped forward to take its place, DeFazio said.
"The Showdown has been an exciting showcase event for us, but at this time the right elements are not in place to run the event this coming January," said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. "We want to give competitors and teams plenty of advance notice, and let them know that we are now focused on exploring other special event opportunities."
Tim Haddock is the author of the Haddock in the Paddock motorsports blog. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.