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.
As the 2011 season winds down, each race becomes more important in defining the championship. Including the Jegs 150, there are just four races remaining on the schedule. With his second win of the year last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Max Gresham took a giant step toward capturing the title by extending his lead in the standings from 17 to 94 points.
Following an up-and-down 2010 season, Gresham and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team have been on-point this year. Following a 21st-place finish in the opener, the 18-year-old from Griffin, Ga., has amassed a run of seven-consecutive top-five finishes to vault to the top of the standings.
While Gresham might have been able to create some separation at New Hampshire, Brett Moffitt also made big strides in getting back in the title hunt. His runner-up effort, combined with misfortune for Matt DiBenedetto and Darrell Wallace Jr., moved Moffitt from fourth to second in the standings. And while Columbus will be wide-open since none of the K&N Pro Series East teams have been there before, Moffitt and the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota team are in good position to challenge Gresham down the stretch. Moffitt won at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway earlier this year and he's 2-for-2 in his career at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Back to the Buckeye State: The Jegs 150 will be just the third event in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history in the state of Ohio following a pair of races at Mansfield Motorsports Park in 2007-08.
Hometown Entry: Ali Kern is expected to attempt to make the Jegs 150 starting grid. From Freemont, Ohio, Kern made her K&N Pro Series East debut in 2010 and competed in this year's opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway.
LaJoie Knocking on the Door: After starting the season with finishes of 20th and 29th, Corey LaJoie has crossed the line in the top 10 in five of the six races since and looks poised to gain the elusive first career win. The rookie's third podium finish of the season last time out at New Hampshire Motor Speedway moved him up to seventh in the overall standings and second in Sunoco Rookie of the Year points.
Home Tracks: Braden Leads At Columbus
A charter member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Columbus Motor Speedway features four divisions as part of its weekly Saturday night program.
In the headline division, the Late Models, Travis Braden led in the standings through July 9. Braden also led the Whelen All-American Series Ohio state standings with 394 points as he also competes at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia. Brandon Oakley and Donald Mahaffey weren't far behind at 366 and 354, respectively.
A .333-mile oval, Columbus also promotes Modifieds, Sport Stocks and Crazy Compacts.
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 Best of the Rest: The Top 10 Drivers of the First 25 Years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was announced on July 13. As with any such list, there were notable names that didn't make the cut. In fact, there were four more series champions than spots available. Dave Dion, Matt Kobyluck and Mike Olsen perhaps had the best argument for inclusion.
The 1996 K&N Pro Series East champion, Dion registered 13 wins and 127 top 10s in 235 races. From Hudson, N.H., he finished in the top 10 in points six times in the 12 years he competed full-time. Dion participated in races in each of the series' first 20 seasons and total 22 career poles, third all-time.
Kobyluck, from Uncasville, Conn., captured the 2008 K&N Pro Series East title and finished in the top 10 in the standings in nine of his 12 full-time seasons in the series. He recorded 16 wins at 11 different venues - including short tracks and road courses - and totaled 95 top 10s in 178 career starts.
Olsen was the only two-time champion to not make the list. His 2001 and 2006 titles bookended the run of four-consecutive crowns earned by Andy Santerre. From North Haverhill, N.H., Olsen registered six career wins, totaled 135 top 10s in 288 races and finished in the top 10 in the final standings in each of his last 11 full-time seasons.
Last Time Out: New Hampshire
There were multiple challengers for the New England 125 win, but when the checkered flag waived Max Gresham ended up where he started at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15.
Gresham earned the pole and led 40 laps early in the race, but miscommunication with his team during the pit cycle saw five other drivers swap the lead before Gresham moved back to the front for the last 13 laps to capture his second win of the season.
Brett Moffitt, Corey LaJoie, Brandon Gdovic and Benny Gordon brought home the top five in the first of two races on the schedule at New Hampshire.
Matt DiBenedetto and Darrell Wallace Jr., who entered the race second and third in points, both had misfortune in the race. DiBenedetto was black-flagged late in the event for dropping fluid and Wallace suffered a broken distributor. They finished 27th and 20th, respectively.
Up Next: Greenville Pickens
Brett Moffitt stamped out the competition in the season-opener at GPS on April 2 when he took the pole and led all 150 laps en route to the first of his two wins so far in 2011. Coleman Pressley, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto brought home the top five.
The K&N Pro Series East has gone to GPS each year since 2006, but this will mark the first time that the half mile has played host to the series twice in the same season.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to historic Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway for the second time in 2011 on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5.