The return of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) lived up to all the hype by the time the checkered flag waved Friday night. Noah Gragson of Las Vegas, Nevada scored his first series victory by going third to first on a thrilling green-white-checkered restart.
Gragson started third on the final restart and saw his opportunity to pounce when Todd Gilliland pulled a crossover move on Dillon Bassett into turn three. That move gave the inside to Gragson who made it three wide with Gilliland and Bassett. Gragson prevailed in the battle and pulled away from Bassett to pick up the win many miles from home.
“I knew the 44 (Bassett) was going to run Todd up there in one and two, three and four as well. I knew I could get under them, they both went high down there, I finally got them down in three and four then down the front straightaway,” explained Gragson after the race. “My spotter Brandon McReynolds did a phenomenal job, got me through all the chaos down there. I didn’t win this race, the team won this race for me. I’m just so pumped up to be in victory lane.”
The win for Gragson comes between two K&N West races at Colorado National Speedway and Sonoma Raceway (CA). Gragson is running full schedules for both the K&N East and West Series’ after running the West as a rookie in 2015. It is the first time Gragson had been to Stafford much less run a race. After taking the checkers, he climbed the catch fence on the frontstrech much to the delight of the crowd. The win produced a lot of emotion for Gragson, who has been pushing hard for victory in 2016.
“I won two K&N West races last year and we made the transition to run both series this year. It’s awesome the history here, Martin Truex Jr. has won here, some other big names. The crowd was awesome, thank all the fans for coming out. It’s a huge opportunity to be racing with all these guys, great competitors and race car drivers. To come home up front with the checkered flag is indescribable. I’m so happy and relieved we got this win out of the way and hopefully we can carry on for the future.”
It was a bittersweet second-place finish for Dillon Bassett who got back by Gilliland when the No. 16 slid up on the last lap in turn one and faded to finish fifth. Bassett started the race 17th and looked to have the fastest car on the track. After the race, Bassett made his opinion of the finish very clear to the media.
“We had a really good car, you don’t see someone run through the field like this in a K&N East or West race,” said Bassett. “We’ve done it two races in a row now. We had a really fast car just haven’t been able to finish. (Gilliland) used us up on the restart, did it several times, it’s not the first time, sure it won’t be the last.”
It was a hard night of racing for Bassett who has been running a car originally from the shop of Rick Gdovic, who provided Bassett the car after the team’s shop went up in flames a couple weeks ago. Bassett went from 17th to 2nd in 79 laps and chased leader Dominique Van Wieringen, who led most of the first half the race after Kyle Benjamin was black flagged for jumping the start of the race.
Bassett tried the inside line for about eight laps, with Van Wieringen shutting the door each time. Eventually the two got too close in turn one on lap 91 with contact being made, and Van Wieringen spinning.
“I gave her plenty of chances; she was trying to block. I get it, it’s for the lead,” Bassett said. “I was all the way up to her door and she still came down, we made contact, obviously it wasn’t too much or NASCAR would’ve said something. Then she spun out.”
Behind Gragson and Bassett, Spencer Davis finished third with points leader Justin Haley fourth and Gilliland rounding the top five.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will turn left and right next Saturday when they visit Sonoma Raceway. Next up for the K&N East is a trip to Columbus Motor Speedway (OH) on July 2 for the series’ final event at the historic oval.
For on-demand coverage of Friday’s K&N East event at Stafford, check out NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live coverage powered by Speed51.com.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen
NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST-Stafford 150 Results
Friday, June 17 – Stafford Motor Speedway
Lap length: 0.5 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
- (7) Noah Gragson, Las Vegas, N.V., Ford, 153 laps, 65.948 mph.
- (17) Dillon Bassett, Winston-Salem, N.C., Ford, 152.
- (5) Spencer Davis, Dawsonville, Ga., Chevrolet, 153.
- (12) Justin Haley, Winamac, IN, Chevrolet, 153.
- (6) Todd Gilliland, Sherrills Ford, N.C., Toyota, 153.
- (22) Collin Cabre, Tampa, FL, Toyota, 153.
- (9) Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, ME, Toyota, 153.
- (21) Christian Celaya, Caborca, Mexico, Ford, 153.
- (19) Hunter Baize, Bremen, Ky., Chevrolet, 153.
- (10) Ruben Garcia Jr., Mexico City, Mexico, Toyota, 153.
- (1) John Holleman IV, Winston-Salem, N.C., Ford, 153.
- (2) Kyle Benjamin, Easley, S.C., Chevrolet, 153.
- (15) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass., Chevrolet, 153.
- (4) Harrison Burton, Huntersville, N.C., Toyota, 151.
- (3) Dominique Van Wieringen, Amherstburg, Ont., Toyota, 151.
- (11) Tyler Dippel, Wallkill, N.Y., Chevrolet, 149.
- (8) Grant Quinlan, Maidstone, Ontario, Toyota, 147.
- (13) J.A. Junior Avila, Alhambra, Calif., Toyota, 146, accident.
- (18) Justin Fontaine, Fletcher, N.C., Toyota, 142, accident.
- (16) Ronnie Bassett Jr., Winston-Salem, NC, Ford, 141, accident.
- (14) Reid Lanpher, Manchester, Maine, Chevrolet, 136, accident.