NASCAR K&N East Returns To Action at Richmond
A year ago Ryan Blaney and Travis Pastrana made their NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debuts at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. This time around they’ll rely on the experienced gained in the last year competing in NASCAR’s top development series to step up to the next level.
In the past decade the NASCAR K&N Pro Series has become a successful feeder system to the upper levels of NASCAR. Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon became championship winners in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, respectively. Recent K&N Pro Series graduates Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne have also become race winners at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level.
This weekend in Richmond, Blaney and Pastrana will continue their development in the K&N Pro Series while also hoping to make a successful leap to the Nationwide Series.
Both Blaney and Pastrana said their experience in the 2011 Blue Ox 100, as well as a return appearance in this Thursday’s K&N Pro Series East event, was a deciding factor in designating Virginia 529 College Savings 250 as the perfect opportunity to make their Nationwide Series debut.
“I loved the place when we ran K&N there last year and I'm really excited to go back there,” Blaney said. “We wanted to go to a track that I was really comfortable with, and that the teams run good with [for the Nationwide debut]. So hopefully we can get a good result.”
“We’re starting with Richmond, which is close to my house, and race as we did last year in the K&N Series,” Pastrana said. “We’ll also will do it [the K&N race] this year on the Thursday before the Nationwide debut, so it's a really good place to start.”
Whether it’s on a part-time basis - like Blaney - or competing the full season - like Pastrana - many developing drivers are turning to the K&N Pro Series as a place to get valuable track time and experience with the hope of moving up through the ranks. Blaney hopes to lean on the experience gained, specifically in Thursday’s Blue Ox 100, to get prepared for his Nationwide Series debut.
“It's going to be a big help for me, a big learning experience to see what will help us out later in the race,” Blaney said of competing Thursday night. “So it's definitely an advantage having to race the night before.”
For Pastrana, while Thursday’s Blue Ox 100 will be crucial for his Friday outing, it is more of a total learning experience that he is gaining by competing week-in and week-out in the K&N Pro Series East along with a whole host of young developing talent.
“The K&N race [last year at Richmond] was a very humbling experience,” Pastrana said. “You look and there are so many guys out there. People say NASCAR is an older demographic and this and that. I've gotten my butt kicked by 15, 17, 18-year-olds that kill me on a weekly basis.
“So there is definitely a lot of young talent coming up, and I'm super excited to kind of learn with them, even though I've been always one of the younger guys in everything I've done. Now I definitely came in and I'm one of the older guys for sure.”
Wallace looks to defend win: Victor of the inaugural Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway in 2011, Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back to defend his checkers this week. Wallace led 45 laps around the .75-mile facility a year ago, and as the winner of the previous NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race this year at Greenville Pickens Speedway, he’ll also look to become the first repeat event winner since Brett Moffitt won two races in a row at Dover International Speedway in 2009 and 2010.
Peña looking for home state trifecta: Third-year driver Sergio Peña will be looking for his third career home state win this week at Richmond. A resident of Winchester, Peña won last year at Hampton’s Langley Speedway as well as South Boston Speedway. He finished ninth in his first start at RIR in 2011.
Hunting for a hometown win: Sam Hunt will live the dream when he takes the green flag at Richmond. A high school senior from nearby Midlothian, Hunt has grown up attending races at his home track. The rookie is one of four Virginians on the Blue Ox 100 entry list along with Brandon Gdovic (Yorktown), Michael McGuire (Vinton) and Peña, but the only one from the greater Richmond area.
Little looks to make history: Should he qualifying in for the Blue Ox 100, Jesse Little will become the youngest driver in the 26-year history of the K&N Pro Series East to compete in a race. Little, the son of former NASCAR driver Chad Little, will be 15 years and 11 days old on race day at Richmond. Blake Jones set the current mark of 15 years, two months and five days in the 2012 season-opener at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ten Latino drivers on entry list: A total of 10 Latino drivers – representing five different countries – are pre-entered for the Blue Ox 100, one of the largest contingents in K&N Pro Series East history. Jorge Arteaga, Enrique Contreras, Jorge Contreras Jr., Daniel Suarez and Rafael Vallina all hail from Mexico. Carlos Iaconelli and Nelson Piquet Jr., come from Brazil while Bryan Ortiz is from Puerto Rico and Duarte Ferreira grew up in Angola. Peña is also of Columbian heritage.
Live coverage: The Blue Ox 100 will be carried live on SPEED, which will mark the first time since the 2008 season that the K&N Pro Series East has had a points-paying race broadcast same-day. The exhibition Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown will also air live from Richmond following the Blue Ox 100.
|Place:||Richmond (Va.) International Raceway|
|Date:||Thursday, April 26|
|Time:||7 p.m. ET|
|TV Schedule:||SPEED, live|
|Track Layout:||.75-mile,D-shaped asphalt oval|
|2011 Polesitter:||Max Gresham|
|2011 Winner:||Darrell Wallace Jr.|
|Event Schedule:||Practice 12-1 p.m., Final Practice 1:30-2:30 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 3 p.m., Qualifying 4:30 p.m.|
|Track PR Contact:||Aimee Turner, 804-228-7645, email@example.com|
|NASCAR IMC Contact:||Jason Cunningham, 704-201-6658, firstname.lastname@example.org, @NASCAR_NE|
The Race: The 2012 Blue Ox 100 will mark the second year in a row the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East has traveled to Richmond International Raceway. It will be the first of two events for the series in the state of Virginia this season.
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 100 laps (75 miles).
The Track: Nicknamed “America’s Premier Short Track,” Richmond is a .75-mile banked, D-shaped asphalt oval. The track opened in 1946 and held its first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1953.
Race Winners: Darrell Wallace Jr. won the inaugural Blue Ox 100 on April 28, 2011.
Pole Winners: Max Gresham took the inaugural series pole at Richmond in 2011 with a fast lap of 21.948 seconds (123.081 mph).
In addition to the aforementioned Ryan Blaney and Travis Pastrana, who will attempt to make their NASCAR Nationwide Series debuts as well as competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, there are three other planned double-duty drivers this week at Richmond International Raceway.
Defending Richmond winner Darrell Wallace Jr., as well as fellow K&N Pro Series East drivers Sergio Peña and Chase Elliott, will also compete in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown following the Blue Ox 100 at RIR. Wallace, Elliott and Pastrana all participated in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned charity Late Model race a year ago.
Elliott is the most accomplished in a Late Model of this year’s trio of Blue Ox 100-Showdown double-duty drivers. While Wallace and Peña had limited time in Late Models before their K&N Pro Series careers began, Elliott already has 28 career LM triumphs early in his age 16 racing season.
Last Time Out: Greenville
• Darrell Wallace Jr. captured his first win of 2012, his second at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway and the sixth of his career overall. Also the pole winner, he led all but one lap in the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.
• Wallace became the first two-time winner in the series seven-year history of racing in Greenville.
• Wallace’s victory made him the first K&N Pro Series East locked-in driver for the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach during February 2013 Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
• Corey LaJoie, still looking for his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win, settled for his third career runner-up finish.
• Brandon Gdovic earned his first career podium finish with a third-place effort.
Up Next: Iowa
The sixth annual NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway will be the fourth event of the season following Richmond International Raceway. The Iowa 150 presented by Graham Tire Company is slated for Saturday, May 19, and will be the first of two combo races in 2012 for the K&N Pro Series East and West at the .875-mile tri-oval in Newton, Iowa.