NASCAR stock car touring racing will return to historic Bowman Gray Stadium for the first time in 15 years with the Army Strong 150 as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East makes its debut at the venerable quarter mile on Saturday, June 4.
With a NASCAR sanction that dates to 1949 - the longest association running - Bowman Gray overflows with history. The flat track played host to 29 races from 1958-71 for what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The winners list from those events includes NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Richard Petty.
While the track's relationship goes back to the beginning, the Army Strong 150 will mark the first time in a decade and a half that a NASCAR stock car touring series has visited 'The Madhouse.' The last was a NASCAR Goody's Dash Series event on July 27, 1996 that saw Darryl Murray take the checkered flag.
The main stronghold of open wheel Modified racing in the south for decades, Bowman Gray has welcomed the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour since 2005.
From a historical perspective, more than one connection to the track's famed past will collide with the first appearance of the top developmental series in the present-day NASCAR structure.
The link from the first generation of stock car racing at Bowman Gray to NASCAR's next generation is made
through the Johnsons. Junior's son, Robert, will attempt to make his K&N Pro Series East debut at Bowman Gray with his famous father there to impart knowledge on how to navigate the tight track. Robert, 17, began racing in 2009 in the Sportsman division at Caraway Speedway.
The historical roots run even deeper for Ben Kennedy. The 19-year-old K&N Pro Series East rookie's great-grandfather, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., was instrumental in starting racing at Bowman Gray. Kennedy's grandparents, Bill Jr. and Betty Jane France, also met at Bowman Gray where he was helping run the shows and she was "Miss Bowman Gray." The K&N Pro Series East's first race at Bowman Gray will occur on the fourth anniversary of Bill Jr.'s passing, June 4, 2007.
In addition to the historical significance and ties of two of the most prominent families in the history of NASCAR, there are numerous other drivers that will lead the current class of K&N Pro Series East competitors into the series' debut at one of the most hallowed racing facilities in the nation.
A field of first-timers ... Barring a last-minute entry from any Bowman Gray regulars like Burt Myers or Tim Brown, the Army Strong 150 will be the first time that any of the K&N Pro Series East drivers have competed in a full-bodied race car at 'The Stadium.' Eighteen drivers tested the tight confines on May 11.
Back in North Carolina ... The appearance at Bowman Gray will mark just the second stand-alone race in K&N Pro Series East history in 'The Tar Heel State.' The only other one took place at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson on April 25, 2009. The East did participate in six combination races with the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Rockingham Speedway from 1987-92.
Win the race, take the points lead ... Following each of the season's first four races, the winner left the track with the season points lead. Brett Moffitt was the default points leader after he won the opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway and Sergio Peña went to the top following his win in the next event at South Boston Speedway. Darrell Wallace Jr. won Race No. 3 at Richmond International Raceway and took the points lead, only to see Moffitt's win last time out at Iowa Speedway move him back ahead of Wallace, albeit by a single tally.
Competitive season ... The first four events of the 2011 season have produced three different race winners and four different pole winners. The season points standings is also very tight, with the top seven separated by only 78 tallies.
Toyota stands alone ... All four races this year have been won by a Toyota, and each of the top seven drivers in the season standings pilot a Camry. The manufacturer entered K&N Pro Series competition in 2008 and has gained more of a foothold every season since.
Tune-In Reminders ... The Army Strong 150 will be broadcast live on NASCARHomeTracks.com via Speed 51 Radio ... The Pork 'Be Inspired' 175 East-West combination race held on May 21 from Iowa Speedway will air on SPEED on Thursday, June 2 at 6 p.m.
Home Tracks: Bowman Gray Stadium
Auto racing at Bowman Gray Stadium dates back more than five decades, and it is one of nine tracks that is an inaugural and continuous member of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series through each of its 30 years of competition.Bowman Gray supports four racing divisions on its regular Saturday night card: Stadium Stock, Street Stock, Sportsman and the headliner Modifieds. Burt Myers, the defending track and North Carolina state champion, is once again atop the Modified standings with a two-point lead on Jonathan Brown after five events in 2011.
25 For 25
The 2011 season is the 25th in series history. From its days as the Busch North Series, to the present-day NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, there are countless moments that have come to define the series. Each race week we will take a look back at those moments and figures that have defined the series.
The Quarter Miles ... This week's Army Strong 150 will mark the first time the K&N Pro Series East has contested an event on a .25-mile track since 2003. The series has visited 38 different tracks in its 25 years of competition, but Bowman Gray Stadium will become just the sixth that measures a quarter of a mile.
The inaugural season of 1987 featured just one quarter-miler: Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. Star went on to play host to the K&N Pro Series East 20 times until 2001, more than any other quarter mile in series history. Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, N.H.) and Riverside Park Speedway (Agawam, Mass.) joined the schedule in 1988 and would hold nine and 12 races, respectively, over the years. White Mountain Motorsports Park (North Woodstock, N.H.) held two races from 1993-94 and famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl (Barre, Vt.) played host to seven events from 1997-2003.
While there were a number of drivers that found Victory Lane at the quarter miles, no one driver proved to be the dominant one in the history books. Jamie Aube, Robbie Crouch, Bobby Dragon and Kelly Moore each earned four wins on the quarter-mile ovals.
Last Time Out: Pork 'Be Inspired' 175
The fifth annual NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race saw hometown favorite Brett Moffitt take home the checkered flag in the Pork 'Be Inspired' 175 on May 21 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Matt DiBenedetto captured the pole earlier in the day, and looked to be about the only car in the field that could have challenged Moffitt. The two swapped the lead five times in the first half of the race, but DiBenedetto cut a tire on Lap 84. After the pit stop cycle, Moffitt regained the lead for the final time on Lap 106 and cruised to the victory by nearly four seconds.
It was the sixth career win for Moffitt and the first in three races at his home track, Iowa Speedway.
NOTES: The race attracted 59 entries between the East and West ... East drivers have won all five of the combination events ... Greg Pursley, fourth overall, was credited with the West win ... Defending race winner Max Gresham finished second and Eddie MacDonald crossed the line third.
Up Next: Slack Auto Parts 150
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to beautiful half mile at Gresham Motorsports Park for the second year in a row with the Slack Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, June 11 in Jefferson, Ga.
Ty Dillon was victorious in the K&N Pro Series East's debut at Gresham on Aug. 28, 2010. Pole winner Kevin Swindell led a race-high 128 laps, and Ryan Truex also appeared to be a strong contender for the checkered flag, but it was Dillon who took the lead for the first time on Lap 138 and held on for his only career win in the series.
The 2011 edition will have two afternoon practice sessions and qualifying at 4:30 p.m. The Slack Auto Parts 150 is set to go green at 8:30 p.m.