Toyota Speedway At Irwindale As Good As It Gets

Charlotte, NC (Januaray 31, 2011) – Over the years, we’ve made it a point to avoid anointing someone or something as the ‘best.’ After all, it’s just an opinion and we all know how subjective those can be. That said, a trip to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown this past weekend revealed that this is the best weekly short-track facility we’ve ever been to.

Dazzling is the first word that comes to mind in describing the Iwindale, CA facility. Located in the shadow of the San Bernardino mountain range, the track has everything you could want as both a competitor and a fan.

As a racer, everything from the sign-in process to the racing surface itself is flawless. The entire garage area is paved with room for hundreds of race cars. The drive-through tech building can accommodate two divisions of cars at one time. The safety vehicles are new, plentiful and stocked with professional responders all dressed in the appropriate gear. Even the driver intro stage was classy. If you are a short-track racer, this was a real taste of what it’s like to compete in a Cup race.

From a fan’s perspective, the huge, modern grandstand is as good as anything you’ll see at a Cup track. There are also a dozen or so corporate suites, a media center, and see-all spotter’s stand on top of the main grandstand. Below it, there are enough food and beverage vendors to keep lines short and the variety of selections of both would keep any crowd happy.

Then there’s the racing.

While Saturday’s All-Star Showdown was marred by a number of over-anxious drivers hoping to add their name to the list of winners in the event billed by NASCAR as the ‘Daytona 500 of Short-Track Racing,’ there’s no question Irwindale produces some of the most breathtaking competition anywhere. Thanks to progressive banking in the corners, drivers can compete in three- and even four-wide formations for several laps at a time. It’s amazing to watch. If this place was within 100 miles of Charlotte, we’d be there every Saturday night – that’s how good the racing is.

Built in 1999, it’s amazing it has taken all this time for us to finally visit this track. You can bet it won’t be another 12 years before we go back.

X-Games and extreme sports athlete Travis Pastrana made his NASCAR debut Saturday with the fanfare of a visiting foreign dignitary or monarch. Throughout the weekend, Pastrana was shadowed by a phalanx of camera people chronicling his every move. One group – obviously dedicated to following Pastrana everywhere, literally had a ‘crash cart’ of camera gear that they trudged everywhere on the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale property.

They even filmed him at chapel service before the race.

To his credit, Pastrana somehow stayed out of the wrecks that slowed the race 11 times (two red flags too) and drove from 20th starting position to sixth in the final running order.

Pretty impressive for a guy in his first race and with those kind of distractions.

Mr. Obvious
Upon returning home to Charlotte, we viewed the tape of the television coverage of the Showdown on SPEED. There were tons of great shot angles of the action and the commentary by Rick Allen and Phil Parsons was spot on. Then there was Michael Waltrip. Waltrip talked way too much throughout the telecast and when he did, it was usually about his driver in the race – Pastrana. As mentioned, Pastrana had plenty of coverage throughout the weekend – he didn’t need Waltrip constantly gushing all over him to let the viewers know he was in the event.

Waltrip is a great guy – funny and entertaining. People are drawn to him because he is so engaging. Unfortunately, he has yet to learn that when acting as a member of the media, there needs to be a degree of objectivity in his performance. C’mon Michael, wise up. The TV booth is not the place to constantly hype your drivers and sell sponsorships for your teams. That kind of stuff isn’t what a media job is all about and – by the way – it’s a complete insult to the other drivers in the event and their fans who have tuned in to see them compete.

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