Up next for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is the Blue Ox 100 at famed Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Thursday, April 28.
The first two races of the 2011 season have produced two different winners, and there will be plenty of candidates to make it three-for-three when the series heads to 'America's Premier Short Track' this week.
Following strong performances in each of the first two outings this year, the three-car contingent of X Team Racing looks primed to break through sooner rather than later. Coleman Pressley may have a leg up on the field with three previous starts in NASCAR Nationwide Series action at Richmond, highlighted by a best finish of 18th in the April event last year. In his first two starts in the K&N Pro Series East with X Team, the son of longtime NASCAR driver Robert Pressley has finishes of second and fourth.
Pressley's teammates Matt DiBenedetto and Alex Bowman have been impressive in the season's first two
outings as well. DiBenedetto was fifth in the opener at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway and was the runner-up last time out at South Boston (Va.) Speedway while the rookie of the group, Bowman, finished third and eighth, respectively.
The X Team contingent will undoubtedly have competition from fellow Toyotas driven by Brett Moffitt and Max Gresham. Moffitt, with the two-time defending champion No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing team, has been dominant so far this year as he led flag-to-flag at Greenville Pickens and was cruising toward a second-straight win at South Boston, but was wrecked by a spun lap-down car. Gresham, meanwhile, recovered from a late-race spin in the opener to finish a split-second behind DiBenedetto last week at South Boston. Gresham piloted his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Camry to a win in last year's race at Iowa Speedway, a track that was built in Richmond's likeness.
While he has yet to record a podium finish in 2011, Darrell Wallace Jr. also figures to be a threat to take the checkered flag at Richmond. Wallace has recorded sixth-place finishes in each of the season's first two races for Revolution Racing, and he'll have an advantage on many of his fellow competitors as he's participating in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown and is allowed to test and practice in advance on the .75-mile circuit.
With a high level of interest in the event, the Blue Ox 100 could very well attract the largest entry list of the 2011 season. There is also a historical angle to it, as this will be the first stand-alone race at Richmond in the series' 25 seasons of competition. The K&N Pro Series East participated in five races in combination with the Nationwide Series at Richmond from 1988-92.
Peña a Surprise Points Leader ... After finishing 12th in the final 2010 standings, Sergio Peña may not have entered the current campaign with the expectation of contending for a title, but he's in just that position, albeit after only two races. Peña, from Winchester, Va., crossed the line seventh in the season-opener at Greenville Pickens on April 2, then registered his first career win last time out at South Boston on April 17. He heads to Richmond with a one-tally advantage on Pressley.
Pastrana, Blaney to Attempt Debuts ... A pair of notable up-and-coming stock car drivers hope to make their K&N Pro Series East debut in the Blue Ox 100. Action sports star Travis Pastrana is entered in the No. 99 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing while Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, also hopes to make his first start in the family-owned No. 10. Pastrana finished sixth in January's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown and was involved in an accident three laps shy of the finish in the K&N Pro Series West opener at Phoenix International Raceway.
Showdown Winner Headed to RIR ... The reigning champion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Jason Bowles will attempt to make his first K&N Pro Series East start of 2011 at Richmond. The 2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, Bowles has made spot starts across five different NASCAR national and regional touring series the past two seasons. His only previous K&N Pro Series East start was the 2010 opener at Greenville Pickens.
Busy Weekend for Pursley, Ranger ... A pair of K&N Pro Series drivers will attempt to compete in both the East and West events this week. Current K&N Pro Series West points leader Greg Pursley will attempt to make his K&N Pro Series East debut at Richmond while two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion Andrew Ranger hopes to make his East season debut after he started eight races in the series a year ago. They'll both then fly to Utah to compete in the K&N Pro Series West race at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday. Pursley is also slated to compete in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in Richmond before departing Friday morning.
Sellers' Return ... Former K&N Pro Series East competitor Peyton Sellers will attempt to make his first start in the series since he won the 2008 season finale at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. Sellers, from Danville, Va., registered 16 top 10s in 29 East starts from 2006-08.
School Visit ... On Friday, April 16, Wallace and Revolution Racing teammate Michael Cherry visited with automotive program students at Hermitage Technical Center and Highland Springs Technical Center in the greater Richmond area. The drivers shared their background in racing and education, and talked about the many facets of the racing industry.
Tune-In Reminders ... The Blue Ox 100 will be broadcast live on NASCARHomeTracks.com via Speed 51 Radio ... The season-opening Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 from Greenville Pickens will also air on SPEED on Thursday, April 28 at 6 p.m.
Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown
The fourth edition of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown will share the racing card at Richmond International Raceway on Thursday with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. One of the premier charity racing events in the nation, the Showdown benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation and proceeds from the race will help raise awareness and funding for the specific needs of individuals afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis as well as other programs that support chronically ill children and underprivileged youth.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will have a significant presence in the event. Those who will attempt to pull double-duty that day include: Clay Campbell, Max Gresham, Brandon McReynolds, Travis Pastrana, Greg Pursley, Peyton Sellers and Darrell Wallace Jr. The entry list also includes former K&N Pro Series East drivers Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Curtis Markham.
The Hamlin Showdown is a sanctioned NASCAR Whelen All-American Series special event.
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.
Combo Races ... From 1987-200, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East - then known as the Busch North Series - competed in a total of 72 races in combination with the NASCAR Nationwide Series - then known as the Busch Series - at tracks ranging from superspeedways like Daytona International Raceway to road courses like Watkins Glen International. In these races, East drivers competed alongside their Nationwide counterparts for overall position and purse in the race, but for points in respect to their fellow East drivers. During these seasons, an East driver was allowed to count his two best combo race finishes toward his point total for the East championship standings.
Site of this week's Blue Ox 100, Richmond International Raceway played host to five such combo races from 1988-92. Among the K&N Pro Series East contingent that participated in those races, Joe Bessey registered the best finish, 10th, in 1992. Current two-time defending K&N Pro Series East champion car owner Michael Waltrip took the checkered flag for the Nationwide Series in the 1990 race.
Sergio Peña and his Revolution Racing team celebrated in South Boston Victory Lane. Getty Images for NASCAR
Last Time Out: South Boston 150
The second race of the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season started out like the first; with a postponement due to rain.
Once the sun came out in South Boston, Va., however, the K&N Pro Series East was able to put on a show at South Boston Speedway that saw Revolution Racing's Sergio Peña earn his first career win.
The race was dominated through the first half by one of Peña's teammates - Darrell Wallace Jr. - who earned his first career pole earlier in the day and led the first 73 laps. Brett Moffitt then went door-to-door with Wallace for a couple of circuits before he wrestled the lead away.
Moffitt appeared to be in position to cruise to a third-straight series victory with a full three-second lead on the rest of the field, but Michael Cherry's spun car was in the middle of the groove coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 141 and Moffitt - with no escape route - T-boned him. Peña then inherited the lead and fended off Matt DiBenedetto and Max Gresham for the win.
Up Next: East-West Challenge at Iowa
The fifth edition of the K&N Pro Series East-West Challenge at Iowa Speedway is slated for Saturday, May 21 with the Goodyear Tire Dealers of Iowa 175 presented by Tompkins Industries.
It will be a natural transition for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to go from Richmond International Raceway to Iowa Speedway for the next event, as the later was patterned after the former by the track's designer and owner, Rusty Wallace.
While the set-up of the event doesn't change this year, there are a few differences between the 2011 race and the first four runnings at the Newton, Iowa oval. This year the K&N Pro Series race will be held on Saturday instead of Sunday, and the two development series will be joined at the .875-mile track by the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which will now race on Sunday. Additionally, the K&N Pro Series race has been shortened from 200 to 175 laps.
The first four K&N Pro Series East-West races have produced a different winner, and each time the victor piloted a car representing the East. Three of the four winners - Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Max Gresham - took the checkered flag in Joe Gibbs Racing cars.