The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returned to Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday with two of the sport’s emerging stars locked into a tight championship battle. At the end of the night, Todd Gilliland celebrated his fourth victory of the season and left the State of Virginia with the lead in the championship standings.
Gilliland made his way to Langley less than 24 hours after running a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Canada and was the fastest car from the get-go. He was fastest in practice and won the pole for the race.
Gilliland relinquished the lead early on to Dillon Bassett who charged to the point from his third starting spot and took the lead on lap 15. From there, Bassett took the lead and started to run away to a big lead that at one point stretched to a full straightaway over Gilliland.
Bassett held the lead until lap 111 when Gilliland got around Bassett, and he didn’t look back as Bassett fell back through the field. For Gilliland, it came down to his early-race tire conservation.
“I think about the whole race it was hard to judge how hard we were going to go because we were riding at the beginning, our riding pace turned into as hard as we could go really,” Gilliland told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The 44 (Dillon Bassett) started backing up into us and I knew we would be in really good shape to get by him and be the leader.”
Chase Purdy brought his car home in second after starting fifth. Purdy was up-and-down for most of the day and had a late shot at Gilliland when a restart came with 15 laps to go, but could not capitalize.
“(The car) was pretty good, we finished second for the fifth time, but my guys gave me a very fast Textron, Bama Buggies Toyota Camry. We had really good speed but just fell short again.”
The surprise of the night came from Canada’s Dominque Van Wieringen, who was called in to drive the Rette-Jones Racing No.30 while she was shopping for groceries Thursday night. A strong run had her emotional as she exited her car as a podium finisher, finishing third after starting 12th.
“I really wanted to be competitive. I wanted to win, but I got third and I’m happy with third anyway because we started 12th and I didn’t even know if we would make it work,” Van Wieringen said. “Every time I was like “I gotta be the one winning at the end of this.”
Prior to Monday’s race, Van Wieringen hadn’t been behind the wheel of a race car in about a year. She has been in school and interning at Joe Gibbs Racing, but still felt the itch to drive.
“It tore me apart, seeing the cars, and seeing them race and going, ‘I can do that, I can run as good as these guys out here.’ So when I got the call Thursday while I was at Harris Teeter, I cut all my plans to make sure I could race here.”
Harrison Burton, the incumbent points leader, had to settle for a seventh-place run and lost the points lead to Gilliland, who now has a six-point lead over Burton with two races remaining.
“It (Langley) is just a rough, rough place; it’s like Bowman Gray for the K&N cars. We just got moved around a bit and didn’t get aggressive enough but I drove my race and had to save tires,” Burton said. “We have to look ahead and look forward to the next two weeks. It’s do-or-die time for sure.”
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Monday’s race at Langley by clicking here.
-By Reese Nobles, Speed51.com Mid-Atlantic Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Results
Langley Speedway (VA) – September 4, 2017
|3||30||Dominque Van Wieringen|
|4||04||Ronnie Bassett Jr|
|6||6||Ruben Garcia Jr|