Heading into the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, Scott Heckert had an opportunity that he knew he needed to capitalize on. The 21-year-ol d from Ridgefield, Connecticut was presented with an opportunity to race the full season for series powerhouse Turner Scott Motorsports. Although he had gotten his feet wet competing on the series full-time in 2013, racing the TSM No. 34 gave him the sense of a new beginning.
Heckert used his new beginning to the best of his advantage. He battled at the front of the field, qualified well, led laps and won races to put himself on the map during the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season.
“We kind of were a late addition to the roster,” Heckert told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Our goal, just like any other race team, was to go win races and prove that we should be out there. I think we did a spectacular job of that, especially during the last part of the season. We really started putting together all the good runs that we deserved even in the first part of the season.”
Throughout the 2014 campaign, Heckert consistently showed speed and proved he was a contender to win races. Unfortunately for him, “Lady Luck” wasn’t always on his side. From tangling with teammate Cameron Hayley while battling for the race lead at Columbus Motor Speedway (OH), to being collected in an incident while battling in the top-five at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Heckert’s first series win eluded him during the first half of the season.
Heckert’s season would end up getting a big boost during an event in June at Langley Speedway in Virginia. During that event, he captured his first career Pole Award and lead his first ever laps in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition.
He picked up another Pole Award at Columbus and lead 56 laps before the racing incident with Hayley erased his chances at a win. A top-five during the combination K&N East and K&N West event at Iowa Speedway set Heckert up for what would end up being the biggest race of his young career.
After competing in 26 NASCAR K&N Pro Series events, Heckert picked up his first career series win on the road course at Watkins Glen (NY) on August 8. He didn’t waste any time pocketing his second series win either. One week later he used his momentum at Watkins Glen to pick up his second straight win on the road course at Virginia International Raceway.
Needless to say, Heckert was enjoying his time on the road courses.
“It’s been a while, but I grew up doing some road course racing,” said Heckert. “All my karting was on road courses. I even did some Skip Barber stuff, but that was more of open wheel cars, before I moved to Super Late Models.
“I think that gives me a little bit of an edge in some of the more finesse parts of the road course racing, which some people sometimes under estimate how much finesse you need to have in some of the corners so I think that gives me an edge, although it really ended up being a close race in both races. So definitely the competition had the talent there to beat us. We just had the right plan at the end to win those races.”
Now that he has his first (and second) road course wins in hand, Heckert is hoping to add a few oval wins to his resume in 2015. After coming close on a few occasions this past season, he is confident that he can accomplish that goal next season.
“We were really close there a couple times, especially at Columbus where we led a lot of laps and had a really good car, but just got tangled up while leading the race,” said Heckert. “That’s sort of the difference between oval and road course racing. If you have the best car on a road course you can sort of manage it and you can win pretty easily if you have the right plan. Where on an oval it feels like even if you have the best car things can not fall your way, so I think I just need to keep running up front and things will eventually fall our way at tracks like Iowa, Columbus, tracks we’ve been really fast at.”
At the end of the season, Heckert reflects on his year and considers it to be a season in which he met and exceeded his own expectations going in. Two wins, three poles, six top-fives and eight top-10s in 16 races is certainly a feat for the Connecticut native to be proud of.
“Certainly it was nice to get in victory lane,” said Heckert. “That was the big thing. Perhaps even more important than that was running really well on those oval tracks because the last half of the season getting a whole bunch of top-fives and a couple poles on those oval tracks really felt good to prove that even on the oval tracks we can run up front.
“We came out with a couple wins, so I definitely think it was a good season on track with our expectations.”
Moving forward to 2015, expectations have risen substantially for Heckert. Like most drivers attempting to use the NASCAR K&N Pro Series system to climb through the racing ranks, he is ready to compete for a championship.
“For us next year we are still looking at a season in K&N and trying to get that championship,” Heckert said. “I think that’s really important to moving up the ranks as has been shown in previous years with past champions getting a shot in the higher ranks of NASCAR. I think that’s still our plan. Nothing confirmed yet, but definitely that’s the hope is getting another shot at the K&N title.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com