Jason Bowles survived more than he won the first NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown race of his career, a crash-filled affair that was red-flagged three times and took nearly three hours to complete.
NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Winner Jason Bowles
Jason Bowles Wins at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale
Bowles was in a four-driver dog fight at the end of the race that included Derek Thorn, Paulie Harraka and Greg Pursley.
Thorn, the surprise pole winner, and Harraka crashed in the final 25 laps of the race. On the final restart, with Bowles and Pursley fighting for the lead, Pursley's car got a flat tire and he faded out of contention.
Bowles led the last eight laps of the race and took the checkered flag. It was his fourth win for Bowles at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. The three previous wins came in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
"I think the 44 (Thorn) probably had one of the best cars, but he was using his equipment up pretty good," said Bowles, driver of the No. 75 Toyota for Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. "I think it's probably due to a little bit of his lack of experience. He just got into Paulie. He was going to hit the wall if Paulie wasn't there. He was in a little bit over his head on that one. It's racing.
Everybody's going for that big win. I can understand it. It was unfortunate for those guys. It's fortunate for me. I put myself in that position. If you're not that position to win the race then you're never gonna."
Bowles started the race in ninth and ran conservatively through the first 200 laps. The drivers had to make mandatory pit stops on laps 100 and 200. Thorn led the first 100 laps of the race. Andrew Myers was out front for most of the second 100 laps of the race before running into tire trouble on lap 190 and dropping back. Harraka took over the lead just before the second break in the race.
Thorn, Harraka, Pursley and Bowles battled for the lead over the last 25 laps of the race. Thorn and Harraka crashed on lap 206 and both drivers dropped out of contention. The race was red-flagged for the second time to clean up the mess. Eight laps later, the race was red flagged again when Dale Quarterley was involved in a three-car crash in turn 2. When the race resumed, Bowles and Pursley ran 1-2, but Pursley cut a tire on the restart and had to pit.
"This is the biggest win of my career for sure," Bowles said. "I've been trying to win the Showdown in 2007, 2008, 2009. I'm came close in 2008, got third, but it's definitely the biggest win of my career. Race wins are huge right now for me, trying to put my name on the map and get a job doing this for a living. The more name-recognition I can get, the more I can go out there and put the car in victory lane, the better it's going to be."
DJ Kennington, the NASCAR Canadian Series champion, rallied late in the race and finished second.
"It was awesome for us," said Kennington, driver of the No. 17 Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing. "We knew we had a pretty good car in practice. I wasn't sure if it was going to be that good. We avoided the wrecks, and we were able to be there at the end."
Jonathon Gomez finished third. He was followed Luis Martinez in fourth and Johnny Borneman in fifth.
"It's the best way to start off the beginning of a new year," Gomez said. "The best is with a win, but a top-three, you can't complain. It's a good confidence builder for the whole team. Get everybody motivated to head to Phoenix and try to get our win."
Travis Pastrana, the action sports and X Games star making his NASCAR debut, finished sixth.
"I just had an ear-to-ear grin. I'll tell you that last green, it was just chaotic," said Pastrana, driving the No. 99 Toyota for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing. "We were four-wide, three-wide. I just really want to thank (spotter) Matt (Crafton) for keeping me out of most of the trouble. We started pushing on people there at the end and I was getting pushed on. I'll tell you what, I couldn't say enough about the Waltrip Racing team, Boost mobile, all the guys that helped me get here."
Bowles won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship in 2009. He spent 2010 piecing together a NASCAR schedule that included races in the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series and K&N Pro Series West and East.
He will be in the ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway in February. He will be racing with the Rusty Wallace team in select K&N Pro Series events in 2010. He said after the race, his team had to use a back-up car because he crashed the primary car in testing.
"We had this one in the trailer as a back-up," Bowles said. "We pulled it out and went to work on it. I knew we had a good car (Friday) in practice. It's the best car I've had here at the Showdown in race trim. I was real happy. We just bided our time. I've been here four times and I've seen guys wreck on lap 50, lap 25, lap 100 and they never make it to the end. I know you got to make it to that lap 225. We just kind of kept our nose clean and when the green came out for that last 25, it was time to go."
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