John Salemi Hopes Third Showdown's A Charm

John Salemi has qualified for the season-ending NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown the past two years thanks to his points finishes in NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series competition. In those two years, Salemi has had a pair of disappointing finishes due to an accident and an ill-handling car. But the Nashua, N.H. driver hopes that the third time's a charm as he heads back to the Los Angeles-area's Irwindale Speedway for his third Showdown.

One change to this year's event is that it's no longer an invitational race. It's open to all comers, which means those who have not won a Grand National race or finish high up in that series' points standings will have to qualify for the feature event through time trials and a fifty-lap last-chance race. The race distance has increased to 250 laps and will start 40 cars rather than the 150-lap distance for 30 cars in previous years.

"I'm confident that we can go to Irwindale and put on a strong performance," he said. "We've had some tough luck during the regular season, but we've been really strong from the start of the season all the way to the end. We were only a few bad breaks away from a top ten finish in the points."

Upgrades to Salemi's No. 63 Chevrolet should ensure a competitive effort in California. A fresh spec engine has been fitted and the bodywork cleaned up before the car was loaded onto Mike Johnson's hauler for the trip west. Salemi will meet the car on Thursday.

"We've got high expectations for the weekend," he said. "We got a new engine, and we'll have good help at the track as Dale Quarterley will be there as well as my crew chief from my first year in Busch North. All we have to do to the car when we get there is put in the brake hoses and we'll be ready to go racing.

"I'm looking forward to being a part of the Showdown," Salemi continued. "I know the track, and if we run as well there as we did at Thompson and Mansfield earlier this year, we'll have a top ten car. There's no points on the line so we're going to just get in there and we're going to go for it. There's no holding back."

The fifth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown weekend begins with practice on Friday, followed by time trials at 5:00 p.m. local time. A fifty lap open race will fill the forty-car field. Saturday's on-track festivities begin with an on-track autograph session at 5:30 p.m., with the 250-lap Showdown going green at 7:30 local time. Both the open race and the feature event will be broadcast live on SpeedTV.

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