Defending series champion has won past two road course events
Ryan Truex (No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) heaved a huge sigh of relief as he sat down for the post-race press conference this past Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
While Truex had entered the race weekend leading the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in points, he was still searching for his first win.
Truex dominated the New England 125 en route to his first victory of 2010 and the first at the ‘Magic Mile.’ Now he heads to Lime Rock Park this Saturday with another goal: successful repeat of his trip to Victory Lane from a year ago.
Truex enters the K&N 100 as the defending race champion — a victory that came as a mild surprise considering the now 20-year-old’s lack of road course experience.
He served notice earlier in the season when he out-dueled noted road-course ace Patrick Long in the closing laps to win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. But it was his follow-up victory at the historic 1.53-mile course in northwestern Connecticut that really confirmed his ability to adapt quickly.
“You don’t know what to expect from him because he never talks about himself in ‘I’m going to do this …’ ” said Truex’s crew chief, Mike Greci.
Truex was fast in practice, but got behind when he stalled the car on pit road. Undeterred, he put himself in position to benefit when race leader Matt DiBenedetto was involved in a wreck with lapped traffic. Truex led the final 18 laps and won by 1.481 seconds over Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet).
“When you put the window net up, nothing he does on the race track surprises me any more,” Greci said. “There’s not a place that he doesn’t seem to adapt to.”
Greci had won previously at Lime Rock as crew chief for Mike Stefanik in 1998. It came during Stefanik’s second straight East title. Truex is halfway toward joining Stefanik, Jamie Aube (1988-90), Dick McCabe (1992-93), Brad Leighton (1999-2000), and Andy Santerre (2002-2005) as repeat champions in the series.
Truex holds a 33-point lead over second-place Darrell Wallace Jr. (No. 6 Revolution Racing Chevrolet). Ryan Gifford (No. 2 Revolution Racing Chevrolet) and Brett Moffitt (No. 20 Game Plan For Life Toyota) are 89 and 90 points back, respectively.
Truex felt he had run well enough to win prior to New Hampshire. He led laps in four of the first five races, including a race-high 127 laps at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway. However, he was involved in several late-race incidents and limped home with a season-worst 14th. Truex also lost the lead at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway just before the rain shortened the race and he settled for a second-place finish.
Greci admits they were cautiously optimistic last year when they arrived at Lime Rock, and then again when they entered this season as defending champions.
Truex has done his best to erase any doubts.
“I think just about every place we’ve gone this year, we’ve been better than we were last year,” Greci said. “We’re so much more competitive now than we were last year, but the competition is so much better than it was last year. I think the race programs — across the board — are so much stronger than they were. We’re racing against some really good race teams.”
One area they have picked up on is bringing the chassis program in-house. Last year, Truex’s title run was in cars the team bought from Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
“We’re just plugging along and I’m taking it one race at a time. I know how humbling this sport can be,” Greci said. “I’ve got a great race team, and I’ve got great people working for me.”
The Race K&N 100
The Place Lime Rock Park
The Date Saturday, July 3
The Time 2:15 p.m. ET
TV Schedule SPEED, July 8, 6 p.m. ET
Track Layout 1.53-mile road course
Race Purse $120,788
2009 Winner Ryan Truex
2009 Polesitter Matt DiBenedetto
Event Schedule Friday, July 2: Practice 10:40-11:25 a.m., 2:10-2:55 p.m.; Qualifying 4:55 p.m.
Track Contact Rick Roso, (860) 435-5000, firstname.lastname@example.org
NASCAR PR Contact Jason Cunningham, (704) 201-6658, email@example.com
The Race … The K&N 100 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., is the sixth event in a 10-race schedule this year for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and the only road course race in 2010. This year’s edition will mark the 18th season in a row that Lime Rock has played host to the K&N Pro Series East.
The Procedure … The starting field is 32 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions based on road-race style (group) qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 66 laps (101 miles).
The Track … Lime Rock is a 12-turn, 1.53-mile road course. The K&N Pro Series East has competed at Lime Rock every year since 1993. The track opened April 20, 1957 and has held sports car events throughout its history. The K&N Pro Series East will run the “Optional Uphill” for the first time in 2010.
Race Winners … Ken Schrader won the first K&N Pro Series East race at Lime Rock in 1993. Matt Kobyluck and Butch Leitzinger are the only drivers to win three times. Leitzinger won from 1994-96, while Kobyluck won in 2005, and 2007-08. Dale Quarterly (2001 and 2003) and Bryan Wall (1999 and 2000) each have two wins. Ryan Truex is the defending winner of the race.
Pole Winners … Wall has won the most Coors Light Pole Awards with four: 1997 and 1999-2001. Kobyluck is second with three (2005-2007). He also started on the pole in 2008 when rain washed out qualifying. Matt DiBenedetto was the pole winner in 2009.
Holehouse leads road-course experts
Every road course event brings out drivers who specialize in turning right and left, and Lime Rock Park is now different.
Leading the way are a trio of drivers who have a history of road course success.
Jason Holehouse (No. 81 Kowabunga Bounce Houses Chevrolet), an instructor at Monticello (N.Y.) Motor Club, had been an instructor at Skip Barber School at Lime Rock for 22 years and drove to a third-place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race last year.
“We were surprised coming right out of the trailer fast,” Holehouse said of last year’s top-five run. “I thought things were okay, because we hit on a good setup last year at Watkins Glen. We ended up learning a lot, and that set the tone for Lime Rock.”
Holehouse believes his experience will pay off against a field that’s tilted more toward youth than experience.
“I don’t think Lime Rock is that difficult to drive,” Holehouse said. “It’s a right-hand oval, so the kids go pretty quick right off the bat. But there’s a whole bunch of little subtle things to do with Turn 2 and Turn 4, and the uphill and downhill, that I benefit by knowing the track real well. It’s easy to go fast; the last few tenths are probably the hardest ones to get.”
Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Resort Chevrolet) ran into mechanical issues last year, but is one of the most successful road-course drivers in the series. He had three wins and a second-place finish at Lime Rock between 2005-08.
Two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger (No. 35 Waste Management Chevrolet) will be another early favorite. He won in the West earlier this month at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Race Review: Truex Joins Family In Victory Lane
The fifth race of 10 on the 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule took place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 18. The New Hampshire 125 marked the 45th event at the ‘Magic Mile.’
Truex Makes Victory Lane A Family Tradition … Ryan Truex, who will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut later this season, got the New Hampshire victory he badly wanted. When he lost a last-lap battle for the win with Matt DiBenedetto last year, Truex was more than disappointed with his second-place finish. New Hampshire was the one place on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule he really wanted to win. After all, both his father and older brother won at the 1.058-mile oval. Martin Sr. earned the victory in July of 1994. Martin Jr. picked up wins in July of 2000 and again in July of 2003 on his way up the ladder to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Wallace, LaJoie Come From The Back … Both Darrell Wallace Jr. (No. 6 Revolution Racing Chevrolet) and Corey LaJoie (No. 07 LaJoie Auto Wrecking Ford) had top 10 finishes after going to the back of the field to start the event — Wallace for an engine change and LaJoie for unapproved adjustments. Wallace took home his third straight third-place run, while LaJoie came home eighth.
Tardiff Bounces Back … Alan Tardiff (No. 38 Bestway Disp./Ironclad Energy Drink Chevrolet) bounced back from a disappointed 25th-place run at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to finish seventh and pick up the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award.
Moving Foward … While Eddie MacDonald and Drew Brannon (No. 11 RaceDrewHome.com Chevrolet) didn’t have the qualifying runs they hoped for, they showed plenty of speed in the race. MacDonald qualified 21st and moved up to seventh by Lap 110. He wound up finishing 10th. Brannon qualified 24th and steadily worked his way up 13 spots to finish 11th and take home the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award.
Moffitt Back In Front … Brett Moffitt earned his second career 21 Means 21 Presented by Coors Light Pole Award. His first was in his series debut on April 11, 2009.
Up Next: Lee USA
The next stop for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will take place at an old familiar facility.
Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H., has returned to the schedule for the first time since the 2004 season. The .375-mile banked oval played host to the K&N Pro Series East 16 times from 1992-2004.
Brad Leighton has the most career K&N Pro Series East race wins at Lee with four. Current Revolution Racing Director of Competition Andy Santerre earned three wins behind the wheel.
Among the full-time competitors in 2010, only Matt Kobyluck and Eddie MacDonald have career top fives at Lee.
Lee is where MacDonald made his K&N Pro Series East debut in 2001. The facility is owned and operated by his father, Red MacDonald.
The July 30 race will be 125 laps.
Lee will also hold a ‘Busch North’ Reunion along with its regularly-scheduled NASCAR Whelen All-American divisions that evening. Defending track champion Wayne Helliwell Jr., is the current E Keys 4 Cars Late Model division points leader by 30 over Mile Chipman and 35 over J.R. Baril. Helliwell has three wins, while Chipman and Baril have one apiece. The track also runs Small Block Super and Late Model Sportsman divisions.
COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD
Cole Whitt, 2
Ryan Gifford, 1
Max Gresham, 1
Brett Moffitt, 1
COCA-COLA MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD
Drew Brannon, 1
Ty Dillon, 1
Zach Germain, 1
Eddie MacDonald, 1
Beto Monteiro, 1
FEATHERLITE MOST IMPROVED DRIVER AWARD
Max Gresham, 1
Jody Lavender, 1
Jason Patison, 1
Kevin Swindell, 1
Alan Tardiff, 1
WIX FILTERS LAP LEADER AWARD
Ryan Truex, 2
Ryan Gifford, 1
Max Gresham, 1
Brett Moffitt, 1
SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE RACE AWARD
Max Gresham, 2
Darrell Wallace Jr., 2
Kevin Swindell, 1
SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDINGS*
Darrell Wallace Jr., 38
Ryan Gifford, 32
Cole Whitt, 28
Kevin Swindell, 25
Max Gresham, 23
D.J. Shaw, 23
Ty Dillon, 23
Andrew Ranger, 15
Drew Brannon, 13
Corey LaJoie, 13
Sergio Pena, 13
Zach Germain, 10
Miguel Paludo, 10
Ruben Rovelo, 8
Derek Ramstrom, 7
Jake Crum, 6
Mackena Bell, 5
Joey Polewarczyk, 5
Andrew Smith, 5
* Final standings based on best 75-percent of 2010 race finishes
Sources: Jason Christley/NASCAR PR