With the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season on the backstretch of its 2011 schedule after a month break, the New England 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is up next on Friday, July 15.
With his sixth-consecutive top-five finish last time out at Langley Speedway on June 18, Max Gresham took the points lead for just the second time in his career. Unlike the previous instance, however, Gresham hopes to make it stick longer than one race. The recent high school graduate will have his work cut out for him though. Despite a ninth-place effort in his debut at NHMS in the 2009 fall race, and a successful 2011 campaign thus far, Gresham will have to overcome the two finishes outside the top 20 that he registered in Loudon a year ago.
In Gresham’s rearview in the standings – 17 points out – is Matt DiBenedetto, who is 1-for-1 in his career at the ‘Magic Mile’ thanks to a win in the New England 125 two years ago. After splitting the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with Gresham in 2009, DiBenedetto has enjoyed a successful return to the K&N Pro Series East this season with the No. 15 X Team Racing Toyota. He’s recorded top 10s in all but one race and reached Victory Lane at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Third and fourth in the standings are Darrell Wallace Jr. and Brett Moffitt, 27 and 79 points out of first, respectively. Still well within the title hunt, Wallace and Moffitt will attempt to better position themselves for the stretch championship run with their first career win at NHMS. Wallace finished in the top 10 both times during his rookie year last year while Moffitt has top-fives in his last three outings in Loudon.
Pressley goes from seat to atop pit box: Coleman Pressley, who ranks fifth in points with four top-10 finishes, will move from behind the wheel to crew chief of the No. 14 X Team Racing Toyota starting at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Dylan Presnell, who made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut with an eighth-place finish at Gresham Motorsports Park, will be in the driver’s seat this week.
McReynolds to run final five races: Brandon McReynolds has inked a deal with Blanton Motorsports to run the final five races of the K&N Pro Series East season in the No. 42 Chevrolet starting with the New England 125. McReynolds made his first two series starts earlier this year with Spraker Racing Enterprises and recorded finishes of eighth at Greenville Pickens and 16th at Richmond.
Loudon attracts a crowd: A season-high 43 entries – the most at NHMS since June, 2007 – have been received for the New England 125, including a number of drivers that hope to make their first start of 2011. Jeff Anton, Keith Flach, Joey Polewarczyk and Jonathan Smith will make their first appearance of the year. Late Model drivers Jimmy Weller and Corey Williams will attempt to make their K&N Pro Series East debut along with Spencer Gallagher, who has made for K&N Pro Series West appearances this year. One of the biggest events of the year, the New England 125 has also attracted the prominent part-time drivers like Travis Pastrana and Andrew Ranger.
First-time winners: The stage is set for there to be a first-time NHMS winner this week with only Matt DiBenedetto, Eddie MacDonald and Dale Quarterley having won previously in Loudon among the 43 entrants. In fact, there will be only eight drivers that have a win to their credit in the series overall. The last time a driver’s first NHMS win was also their first overall career victory was in 2000 when Martin Truex Jr. won the ThatLook.com 100.
Top 10 to be unveiled: The Top 10 drivers of the first 25 years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will be released on Wednesday, July 13. The honorees will also be in attendance for the New England 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to participate in various activities, and fans can come and meet them at the K&N Pro Series East driver autograph session at 1 p.m.
“NASCAR Night” at Lowell: The third annual “NASCAR Night” at the Lowell Spinners game is on tap for Wednesday, July 13. K&N Pro Series East drivers that are slated to be on hand this year are points leader Max Gresham, rookie Chase Elliott and Eddie MacDonald of nearby Rowley, Mass. Elliott's No. 9 Chevrolet will also be on display. The East drivers will also be joined at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. – home of the Boston Red Sox Class A affiliate – by representatives from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The Race: The New England 125 will be the eighth of 12 races on the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule and the first of two events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 125 laps (132.25 miles).
The Track: NHMS, a 1.058-mile slightly-banked asphalt oval, is the largest track the K&N Pro Series East races at. The track has played host to the K&N Pro Series East in each year of the track’s existence and has held more East races than any other facility.
Race Winners: There have been 23 different winners in 54 all-time stand-alone races at NHMS. New Hampshire native Brad Leighton has the most series wins at the ‘Magic Mile’ with eight. Ryan Truex won both events in 2011.
Pole Winners: Of the 27 different drivers to earn a Coors Light Pole Award at NHMS, Kelly Moore has the most in K&N Pro Series East history with six. Brett Moffitt earned both poles at NHMS a year ago and he set the track qualifying record at 29.836 seconds (127.542 mph).
Home Tracks: Helliwell Looks To Defend Title
Reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series New Hampshire State Champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. is off to a solid start in his title defense.
Although he had yet to earn a victory, Helliwell ranked third in the latest New Hampshire standings published on July 6 on the strength of top-five finishes in each of his five races at Lee USA Speedway in the Small Block Supers division. Helliwell trailed leader Todd Patnode from Monadnock Speedway by 36 points.
Lee contests five divisions on Friday nights as part of the Whelen All-American Series throughout the race season while Monadnock, located in Winchester, runs six divisions on Saturday nights.
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 week we will take a look back at those moments and figures that have defined the series.
New England’s Home Track: The New England 125 will be the 55th running of the K&N Pro Series East at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Although the K&N Pro Series East was in its fourth year before it went to Loudon for the first time, NHMS has become the home track of the series through the years. The 54 previous events since 1990 are 20 more than any other track has played host to.
The first NASCAR event at NHMS was the Budweiser 300 on July 15, 1990, a NASCAR Nationwide Series race that included 10 K&N Pro Series East drivers that ran in combination. There were a total of nine combination races at NHMS from 1990-95. The highlight of those nine events came in 1991 when Ricky Craven took the checkered flag as a representative of the K&N Pro Series East.
The inaugural K&N Pro Series East stand-alone race, the Peak Antifreeze 125, took place on Sept. 2, 1990 and was won by Mike McLaughlin. McLaughlin, who also won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race that same day, went on to earn three more East wins at the ‘Magic Mile.’ Since McLaughlin’s historic first triumph, 22 other drivers have found Victory Lane on the series’ biggest stage through the years.
Brad Leighton proved to be the master of the ‘Magic Mile’ during his decorated career. From Center Harbor, N.H., Leighton took the checkered flag at his home track eight times. The winningest driver in K&N Pro Series history, Kelly Moore was also no stranger to success at NHMS with five triumphs. And the track’s winningest driver across all series, Ted Christopher nabbed five of his 10 total East career wins there.
Last Time Out: VisitHamptonVA 175
The inaugural visit for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to Langley Speedway saw Sergio Peña gain a hard-earned second victory of the season.
Coleman Pressley was the pole winner at the .396-mile oval in Hampton, Va., but it was Peña and Max Gresham that proved to be the class of the field as the race progressed. Gresham muscled his way past Peña on Lap 84 and held on to his position at the front until Peña was able to skillfully use lap traffic to his advantage and make the decisive move back to the lead on Lap 117.
Brett Moffitt, who cut a tire on the first lap and found himself playing catch-up the entire night, put on a furious rally in the last quarter of the race to finish second. Gresham wound up third followed by Matt DiBenedetto and Chase Elliott in the top five
Up Next: Jegs 150
For the fourth time in 2011, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will make its inaugural appearance at a new venue as the Jegs 150 will be contested on July 23 at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway.
Columbus, which originally opened in 1946, was a charter member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and has sanctioned weekly racing in each of the 30 years since. The Jegs 150 will be just the third event in K&N Pro Series East history in the Buckeye State following a pair of races at Mansfield Motorsports Park in 2007-08.
Raceday will include a pair of practice sessions starting at Noon and qualifying is scheduled for 6 p.m. The Jegs 150 is slated for a green flag at approximately 8:45 p.m.