It was just six short months ago, before the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season ever took the green flag, that NASCAR Hometracks and their elite team of series analysts and experts named Max Gresham, Brett Moffitt and Darrell Wallace Jr. the three drivers to watch in this year’s title hunt for the K&N East crown. (click here for 2011 preview story)
And now with one race remaining in the 2011 season, like clockwork, Gresham, Moffitt and Wallace are the three drivers mathematically eligible to take the championship trophy home after this Friday afternoon’s Dover 150 at Dover International Speedway.
After 150 laps at the fastest, most thrilling, and at times most intimidating venue, the K&N East Series visits, who will take home the trophy and the title of 2011 NASCR K&N Pro Series East Champion?
Here’s a look at the title contenders by the numbers:
Leader - Max Gresham (1767 points)
Gresham grabbed the lead in the K&N East Series standings following a third-place finish in the VisitHamptonVA 175 at Langley Speedway. Up to that point in the season, Gresham had already posted five top-five finishes, two pole positions at Richmond International Raceway and his home track of Gresham Motorsports Park, where he parlayed his pole into a victory. From there, Gresham dominated the New England 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July to stretch his point lead to 94 points over Brett Moffitt and his Michael Waltrip Racing #00. Although it does seem that Gresham hit his stride early as his next three finishes were seventh, fifth and seventh with Moffitt placing higher than him in all three of those events.
Still, the Georgia native has grabbed a season-high four pole positions, 10 top-10 finishes, eight top-five finishes the two wins at Gresham and New Hampshire. Gresham has only finished outside of the top-10 once in 11 races thus far in the 2011 season.
Heading into the season-ending Dover 150 at Dover International Speedway, Gresham is sure to have plenty of confidence on his side as he dominated the event in 2010 by sitting on the pole and leading a race-high 84 laps before blowing an engine on a green-white-checker restart.
After completing every lap the series has run thus far in the 2011 season, 18-year-old Max Gresham currently leads the series standings with 1767 points.
Second - Brett Moffitt (1746 points, -21)
After teaming with Andy Santerre Motorsports in 2009, Joe Gibbs Racing in 2010 and now Michael Waltrip Racing in 2011, some thought that starting the 2011 season with yet another new team might put Moffitt at a disadvantage, but he and his back-to-back championship winning team silenced all the nay-sayers by taking the pole and leading every lap of the season-opening Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.
Although he’s been a contender for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title since he first entered the series in 2009, it looks like 19-year-old Brett Moffitt has started his hot streak at the perfect time this season. Just as point-leader Max Gresham’s finishes have started to slip out of the top-five, Moffitt has been stealing poles, leading laps and winning races every chance he gets – exactly what he needed to do to overcome a 94-point deficit after the series first trip of the season to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Following his win in the K&N East season-opener, Moffitt also posted wins at his home track of Iowa Speedway in May and the series’ most recent event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last week. He has posted eight top-10’s as well as eight top-five finishes and one pole this year. Moffitt’s run at the championship title really started to take shape after falling 94 points behind Gresham in the July event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Moffitt set his sights on the big prize and shrunk his deficit to 65 points following the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in September and now with his latest win, just a slim 21 points out of the lead.
As the only multi-time winner at Dover International Speedway, with back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010, Moffitt is surely ready to return to the Monster Mile. At Dover, he will have the momentum of his last win just one week prior and his trek to close Gresham’s points lead to a gap of only 21 points on his side, plus the advantage of Mike Greci on the pit box as his crew chief and the two-time defending MWR team dialing in the #00.
After leading a series-high 447 laps this year, Brett Moffitt sits second in the standings with 1746 points, just 21 markers out of the lead.
Third - Darrell Wallace, Jr. (1686 points, -81)
If there is anyone that is at may have an advantage in the 2011 K&N Pro Series East title chase, it is Darrell Wallace. Jr. With everyone focusing on Gresham and Moffitt, who are separated by just a small margin in the top-two spots, Wallace is able to focus on the goal at hand without having to deal with the media, questions and constant pressure that is being forced on Gresham and Moffitt.
With two wins in the 2011 season at Richmond International Raceway and Columbus Motor Speedway as well as two poles at South Boston Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Darrell Wallace, Jr. is in a great position to capitalize on being away from the Gresham/Moffitt spotlight.
And it is certain that Wallace will be looking for redemption in this year’s Dover 150 as an accident took him out of his Monster Mile debut early in 2010 and relegated him to a 25th- place finish.
With 10 top-10 finishes in 11 races so far in the 2011 K&N East season, Darrell Wallace Jr. now sits lurking with 1686 points, just 81 points out of the lead. And although, compared to the 21-point gap between Gresham and Moffitt, that may seem like an insurmountable deficit. But don’t forget that there are 130 points to be gained or lost in a single event which could easily put him right up in contention at the end of Friday’s K&N East season finale.
For all of the action from the 2011 Dover 150, tune into the NASCAR Home Tracks Radio broadcast, produced by Speed 51 Radio, on Friday. SPEED’s Bob Dillner and Matt “Duke” Kentfield will be on the call for the championship-deciding race beginning at 4:30pm ET, with the green flag at 4:45pm on NASCARHomeTracks.com