Who to Watch in NKNPSE Opener at Greenville
Tradition of New Winners May Continue in 2011 Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150
By Ally Fulson Twitter Allyfulson
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will kick off its 25th season this weekend with their sixth annual visit to Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) for the season opening event.  In the series’ past five visits to the historic half-mile, there have been five different winners.  Will that tradition continue?  Who should you watch for on Saturday night? Who should you watch for all season to make a run for the title? 

Now that 2009 and 2010 series champion Ryan Truex has moved up the NASCAR ladder into the Nationwide Series, the title is up for grabs among many strong drivers returning to the series as well as several new faces making their series debuts.

Drivers Returning to K&N Pro Series East in 2011

Max Gresham
Gresham will be back in his familiar Joe Gibbs Racing #18 for his second full season in the NKNPSE division and will run for the series’ title.  Gresham had two wins, one at South Boston Speedway (VA) and the other at Iowa Speedway, in 2010 as well as two poles at South Boston and Dover.  Gresham finished eighth in series standings in 2011.

Darrell Wallace Jr.
Wallace, the 2010 series Rookie of the Year, will return to the seat of his #6 Revolution Racing Toyota for the 2011 season.  Wallace posted two wins last season at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the season opener and at Lee USA Speedway (NH) later in the season.  Wallace is rumored to have sponsorship from the US Army backing his ride this season.  If Wallace could post back-to-back GPS wins, he would be the first driver to do so in the six year history of the series visiting the track.

Brett Moffitt
After finishing second in points in 2010 in the Joe Gibbs Racing #20, Moffitt made a move to Michael Waltrip Racing, in the off season, to fill the seat of the #00 vacated by back to back series champion Ryan Truex.  Moffitt posted two wins in 2010 at Martinsville and Dover.  2011 will mark Moffitt’s third NKNPSE season.

Michael Cherry
Michael Cherry will return to the NKNSPE for his first full season of competition in 2010.  Cherry took over the #8 ride vacated by Mackena Bell just over halfway through the 2010 season and posted a career-best 4th place finish at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA).  Cherry was previously competing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for Revolution Racing before taking the wheel of Bell’s #8.

Ryan Gifford
Also back with Revolution Racing this year will be Ryan Gifford who posted four top-5 finishes last year and took the pole at Martinsville Speedway.  Gifford previously competed in dirt late models for Team Dillon Racing alongside fellow NKNSPE competitor Ty Dillon.  Gifford finished ninth in the NKNPSE points standings in 2010.

Sergio Pena
Sergio Pena, who showcased his talents to the world in the 2010 Toyota All Star Showdown, where he sat on the pole and fought a hard battle throughout the entirety of the event with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano, will also return to the Revolution Racing East Series stables in 2011.  Pena posted four starts of fifth or better and three top-10 finishes in 2010.

Corey LaJoie
With seven previous series starts under his belt, Corey LaJoie, son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion Randy LaJoie, plans to make a run at the 2011 NKNPSE championship.  LaJoie was part of a three-wide battle for the win at Iowa Speedway early last season and continued to back that performance up with solid finishes included a second-place run in the season finale at Dover International Speedway.

Zach Germain
Zach Germain will step back into his Germain Racing #24 Toyota Camry for a full schedule in the NKNPSE in 2011.  Germain finished 16th in series standings after a few brushes of bad luck last year.  Germain has hopes of possibly adding a few K&N Pro Series West events to his schedule later in the season.

DJ Shaw
The son of former series champion Dale Shaw, DJ Shaw will return to his #60 machine and compete in his second full season of NKNPSE competition in 2011.  Shaw posted five top-10 finishes in 2010 and finished sixth in final series points standings.

Eddie MacDonald
A very familiar face in the NKNPSE, Eddie MacDonald, will once again pilot a very familiar car in 2011, which will mark his 11th season competing in the series.  MacDonald will be back behind the wheel of his #71 for another full time run at the series title.  He scored a fifth place finish in the points standings last year. 

Former East Driver Return After Venturing to NASCAR's 'Big Three' in Recent Years

Matt DiBenedetto
Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Matt DiBenedetto will make his return to the East Series in 2011 with the newly formed X Team Racing.  DiBenedetto spent last year as a development driver with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.  This will be DiBenedetto’s first time back with the series since running full time in 2009 where he scored three poles and two wins.

Michelle Theriault
Michelle Theriault will also return to the NKNPSE for the 2011 season after getting her feet wet the past few years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  Theriault ran full time with the series in 2007 where she posted a career-best finish of eighth and finished 13th in the final points standings.

New Faces Running the Full NKNPSE Schedule in 2011

Chase Elliott
15-year-old Chase Elliott, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Bill Elliott, will make the move from Super Late Models to the heavier East cars this year as he runs the full NKNSPE schedule with support from Hendrick Motorsports.  Elliott is already on a winning streak this year after winning three of the four races he’s entered thus far.  Elliott has also secured his familiar #9 for the 2011 season.

Cody Hodgson
2010 US Rotax Grand National Kart Champion, Cody Hodgson, will be in Dave Davis Motorsports’ #03 this season.  This will mark Hodgson’s first season in a full bodied stock car.  Hodgson tested with DDM in recent weeks and they were very happy with what they saw.  DDM finished seventh in points last season with Kevin Swindell behind the wheel of their #9 entry.

Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson, son of NASCAR legend Junior Johnson, will run the 2011 NKNPSE schedule for his father’s newly-formed team, Junior Johnson Racing.  Johnson was the UARA Late Model Stock Rookie of the Year in 2010 and finished fourth in series points.  Johnson will carry his father’s familiar #11 this year.

Chad Boat
USAC National Sprint Car driver Chat Boat, who competed in select NASCAR K&N Pro Series events last season, will return for the full season this year.  Boat posted a career-best finish of 12th at Iowa Speedway in his first season in a stock car.

Ben Kennedy
Ben Kennedy, son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy and great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., plans to make a full run at the NKNPSE schedule this season.  Kennedy ran one NKNPSE event last year at Gresham Motorsports Park.

Alex Bowman
USAC Ford Focus Midget racer Alex Bowman has joined Toyota-backed X Team Racing this year to compete in the full 2011 NKNPSE schedule.  Bowman will have great leadership in his teammate, Matt DiBenedetto, who has found much success in the East Series.

Drivers Making Their Mark in Select NKNPSE Events This Season

Ryan Blaney
CRA Super Series Southern Six-Pack Champion and son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, Ryan Blaney has announced that he will make two starts in 2011 with the K&N Pro East Series.  Blaney plans to run both Richmond International Raceway in April as well as Iowa Speedway in May for his family-owned team, DB Racing.

Brandon McReynolds
Brandon McReynolds, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Larry McReynolds, will pilot the Spraker Racing #37 in the season opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.  McReynolds made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Gateway International Speedway in 2010.

Coleman Pressley
Another rising star in the X Team Racing stable this year is Coleman Pressley, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Robert Pressley.  Pressley will run the season opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and a possible full schedule pending sponsorship.  Pressley ran select NASCAR Nationwide Series events in 2009 and 2010 for R3 Motorsports and JR Motorsports and was the UARA-Stars Late Model Stock Car tour champion in 2010.

Derek Ramstrom
PASS Super Late Model driver Derek Ramstrom will pilot Dale Quarterley’s #32 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in this weekend’s season opener.  Ramstrom has made five NKNPSE starts in the past two seasons.

Ryan Reed
Ryan Reed plans to run both the Richmond International Raceway and South Boston Speedway events of the 2011 season.  Reed was the youngest winner in Super Late Model history at Irwindale Speedway in 2010 as well as the SLM Rookie of the Year.

Clay Campbell
Martinsville Speedway track President, Clay Campbell will run the Spraker Racing #08 in the series’ season opening Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway this weekend.  Campbell got a taste of the K&N Pro Series East when the series visited his track for its first stand alone event at the Virginia half-mile in May of 2010.

Travis Pastrana
After making is NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut in the Toyota All Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in late January, where he posted an impressive sixth-place finish, Travis Pastrana will once again get behind the wheel of is Pastrana Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry for the series’ April event at Richmond International Raceway.

Series Veteran Not Returning in 2011

Matt Kobyluck
The pits of K&N Pro Series East events this season won’t look the same without the familiar Mohegan Sun #40 of Matt Kobyluck present.  Kobyluck’s long-time sponsor Mohegan Sun Casino, the longest running continuous sponsorship in series’ history, has chosen not to return with the 2008 series champion for another season and ended a 15-year partnership between the casino and Kobyluck Enterprises.  Without the support of the Connecticut casino or another full-time sponsor, Kobyluck will not be able to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2011.  However, as race teams always are, Kobyluck Enterprises is still steadily searching for sponsorship although the outlook is grim.

Several Other Drivers Hoping to Make Series Debuts in 2011

Sloan Henderson
Bobby Dale Earnhardt
Clay Alexander
Cale Conley
Cory Joyce

Former Winners Looking to Return for Select Events

Ty Dillon
2010 American Fence Association 150 at Gresham Motorsports Park winner Ty Dillon will be running a full season in the ARCA Racing Series but plans to return to the K&N Pro Series East for a few select events as his schedule allows.

Andrew Ranger
Andrew Ranger sat on the pole and won the 2010 K&N 100 at Lime Rock Park and is hoping to return to the series as opportunities become available throughout the 2011 season.

Current Entry List for the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway

00 Brett Moffitt
2   Ryan Gifford
03 Cody Hodgson
4   Sergio Pena
05 Guy Pavageau
6   Darrell Wallace, Jr.
7   Corey Lajoie
08 Clay Campbell
8   Michael Cherry
9   Chase Elliott
12 Daniel Suarez
14 Coleman Pressley
15 Matt DiBenedetto
16 Alex Bowman
24 Zach Germain
28 Ali Kern
32 Derek Ramstrom
37 Brandon McReynolds
45 Michelle Theriault
46 Brandon Gdovic
51 Brandon Haley
54 Julian Albarracin
60 D.J. Shaw
62 Andrew Smith
64 Rick Gdovic
71 Eddie MacDonald
76 Jerick Johnson
85 Tanner Whitten
96 Ben Kennedy
97 Tanner Berryhill
98 Chad Boat

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opening event this Saturday, March 26th, will kick off with practice at 1:00pm ET, qualifying at 6:00pm ET and the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at 8:00 pm ET.

If you can’t make it to the track tune into Speed51.com’s live Trackside Now coverage brought to you by Competition Auto Supply all day from Greenville-Pickens Speedway as well as live radio coverage of the 150-lap event on NASCARHomeTracks.com Radio as a production of Speed 51 Radio.
Defending, back-to-back champion Ryan Truex will not be returning for another run at the title in 2011.  (Ken Spring Photo)                  
Corey Lajoie will be hoping to post his first series win this season.  (51 Sports Photo)
Brett Moffitt posted his first series win in 2010 in the series first stand alone trip to Martinsville.  (51 Sports Photo)                  
DJ Shaw scored his career-best finish at Greenville in 2010 and will be looking to best that finish this year.  (51 Sports Photo)
Chase Elliott will once again race his familiar #9 machine in 2011.  (51 Sports Photo)
2010 PASS South winner Ryan Blaney will make his NKNPSE debut at Richmond International Raceway.  (51 Sports Photo)
Pastrana Waltrip Racing's Travis Pastrana will make at least one NKNPSE start in 2011.  (PWR Photo)
Matt Kobyluck had a rough winless 2010 season that included a hard hit at Gresham Motorsports Park.  (51 Sports Photo)
Ty Dillon on his way to his first NKNPSE win at Gresham Motorsports Park.  (51 Sports Photo)