Watkins Glen is one of the most historic and prestigious road course circuits in the world. Motorsports legends have etched their name into the upstate New York facility's record books. It's been the place of generations worth of memories for road racing aficionados, NASCAR fans and every type of race fan in between.
Friday afternoon, Watkins Glen became the home of 20-year-old Scott Heckert's most cherished racing memory - his first NASCAR victory.
Heckert made a thrilling three-wide move on a green-white-checkered restart to come away with the victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 125.
The victory was special for Heckert, who is in his second year of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition and first for Turner Scott Motorsports, because of those surrounding him during his moment of glory in victory lane.
"It's an incredible feeling that doesn't really hit you until you cross the line," said Heckert, who will be going back to school at Ohio's Miami University later this month. "I'm just happy because all of the Turner Scott Motorsports guys put in so much work the previous week. They were there at the shop three straight nights almost until 8 o'clock just to get the car ready and perfect. It means a lot to me to get a win for them."
While the Turner Scott Motorsports team, led by crew chief Rich "Fuz" Burgdoff, celebrated with him, Heckert was also beaming with delight over sharing the winning moment with his family.
"There's a lot of history at Watkins Glen with my family," said Heckert. "My dad, Alex, first went there with his dad to watch a race in 1970. We've gone there camping on NASCAR weekends. My dad actually has won there in a vintage race. My mom always is at the track supporting me. Just to add my name to the list of winners there with my team and family is pretty incredible."
Heckert started the Bully Hill Vineyards 125 from the fifth position, but his path to victory wasn't as simple as competing in the top-five throughout the race's 53 laps around the 2.454-mile road course. The Ridgefield, Connecticut native was bounced from a top-five position and dropped mid-pack early on, but he wasn't going to be denied his shot at victory even with the early adversity.
"The race was tough. We started up front, but we got used up once and dropped back to about 12th or 14th. Once you're back there, you really don't have an option but to go. You can't conserve. I was trying to pick up spots, but trying to do my best to save the front tires at the same time because of all the tire issues guys were having. I got into the top five at the halfway break, which was a good place to be."
In the race's second half, Heckert battled in the top five and eventually to third, where he trailed past NASCAR K&N Pro Series winner Cole Custer and road course specialist Andrew Ranger. A late-race caution allowed him to size up his competition, while the race's final caution gave him the shot he needed to drive to victory lane.
"We started the second half and from there just picked up some spots, trying to log some laps. We were trying to run down Custer and Ranger because they kind of got away from us. I thought we may have even had a shot had the race stayed green, but when the yellow came out I knew we had the faster car. I had been planning my move pretty much the entire caution flag period. When the green came out, I executed it in turn one.
"I planned this move because there were two late restarts. On the first one, I thought there may have been room to get inside of Ranger, but I wasn't quite close enough to make the move. Another caution came out and gave me another shot. That gave me another chance to try to out-brake them down into turn one. I made it three wide into turn one and by the entry to turn two we were clear."
Now a NASCAR winner, Heckert will look to add the term "two-time" to that title when he competes in the Biscuitville 125 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at another road course, Virginia International Raceway, this Saturday, August 16.
For more information on Scott Heckert, visit www.scottheckert.com. Follow Scott on Twitter, @Scott34Heckert and "Like" his page on Facebook by searching Scott Heckert Racing.