Joey Logano and Peyton Sellers...
Joey Logano and Peyton Sellers raced next to one another lap after lap until the Joe Gibbs driver pulled into the lead and Sellers was unable to mount a successful challenge in the closing laps.
With a half dozen laps to go, Peyton Sellers eased the nose of his white Monte Carlo beneath the rear bumper of Joey Logano's black Chevrolet as the two cars shot down the back straight at Irwindale Speedway.
Then he told his spotter, "I think I can make a run at Logano. I'm gonna give it a try."
Sellers and Logano made an improbable duo racing for the win in the 2007 Toyota All-Star Showdown. It is a no-points, postseason don't-hold-back shootout for NASCAR's junior leagues. Previous winners in what's been called by some the "Daytona 500 of short-track racing" include Austin Cameron, Mike Johnson, David Gilliland and Matt Kobyluck, who won in 2006 after a pair of Second-place finishes.
Logano is the teen prodigy. Noticed a few years ago by Mark Martin, Logano signed on as a development driver with Joe Gibbs Racing and spent last season laying waste to the Busch East NASCAR Grand National Series.
He's backed by a team of highly-trained professionals who maintain and prepare his car, working from a 53-foot-long transporter that carries both a primary and back-up chassis and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spare parts.
Sellers also has a trailer.
It's a fifth wheel he pulls with a Ford 350 crew cab pickup. He owns one car, had to borrow springs to bring to Irwindale and his crew of highly-trained professionals all have day jobs. They work on the car in the evenings and burn through their vacation time to come to the track. Sellers tries to stretch what he gets from sponsors and prize money to cover their expenses. No one gets paid.
"I started the season with nothing in the checkbook," Sellers said. "And I'm going to end it the same way."
Sellers raced in 2006 for...
Sellers raced in 2006 for California team owner Bill McAnally, right, who says the young racer has the talent to compete in NASCAR's Cup Series. Photo by Jerry F. Boone
"I remember when I began racing. It was back in 1991 and it was my mom and dad and my brother, H.C., and I crammed into the front seat of our pickup truck.
"We had two karts in the bed of the truck and we were going racing as a family.
"It's still like that today. Mom and dad couldn't be here this weekend. It's the first race they've missed all season.
"But H.C. is here. He's been with me from the beginning. All except last year, when he kind of held the team together while I was gone."
H.C. is Peyton's older brother and the team crew chief. He is trained as a machinist and has made a career of building and preparing racecars for Peyton and other owners.
H.C.-he's been H.C. for so long that most folks don't know his real name-began the season working on Peyton's car and preparing a Late Model for another driver to run at South Boston Speedway, near their hometown of Danville, Virginia.
"It got to be too much. I had two cars but only one brother," he said. "So I quit my job to help Peyton. This is an important time in his career. I want to be part of it."
Peyton is sandy haired and gregarious. He talks easily and well, is articulate and outgoing. He's a sponsor's dream.
H.C. is quiet and thoughtful, seemingly more comfortable with shocks and springs and tools than he is with people. His eyes go distant as he works through a problem with the racecar, considering all the options before coming up with a solution.
Sellers managed to avoid getting...
Sellers managed to avoid getting the Strutmasters car involved in what was emerging as a weekend wreckfest at Irwindale, with drivers slamming the wall in both practice sessions and in qualifying.
"Sometimes he'll call me at midnight," said Peyton. "I'm already in bed when the phone rings and it's H.C., saying 'I've been thinking about the right-front spring...'.".
The relationship has worked well.
In 2005 Peyton became the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win the Dodge Weekly Racing Series championship. He did it at South Boston, where he had 10 poles and 15 wins in a 28-race season.
The speedway named a grandstand after him, and on the night he races there, it is crammed with fans wearing orange Peyton Sellers shirts.
The following year he was tapped by Richard Childress Racing to be part of the RCR development program run on the West Coast by Bill McAnally Racing.
He finished Fifth in the Grand National West in 2006 after winning at Roseburg, Oregon, and becoming the tour's rookie of the year.
"Peyton can drive and win in anything," said McAnally. "He is a Sprint Cup caliber driver. The problem we had with Peyton is that RCR was funding the program, and when RC decided not to fund it for 2007, we had no money to put Peyton back in a car.
"I got the call from McAnally in November and I didn't know what to do. I could go back and run a Late Model at South Boston, but I didn't figure that was a good career move.
"I finally decided to build a car for Busch East and run it until the money ran out.
"I got this old Busch car in the middle of February from PPI when it went out of business and sold everything off. It wasn't even a roller. It was a bare chassis on a pallet and a crate full of parts.
"We ordered a spec motor and began putting it together with an eye toward making the first West race at Phoenix and using that as a test before the Busch East series opened. But we didn't get it done in time, so we ended up with three extra weeks to work on it before the first race.
"When we showed up at Greenville-Pickens, the only sponsor on the car was Clarence's Steak House, a local restaurant that has helped me out over the years. Nothing else."