The Granite State 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11 had all the makings of a happy New England homecoming for Scott Heckert. His Turner Scott Motorsports No. 34 Chevrolet was fast, he had a number of family and friends cheering him on from the grandstands and his confidence was at an all-time high with some strong runs, including his first K&N East pole award last time out, on his side.
Had it not been for one unfortunate incident late in the 100-lap event at NHMS, the 20-year-old’s return to New England would have been a glorious one.
Heckert found himself in the middle of a three-wide situation as he pursued a top-five run, leaving little room for himself, teammate Ben Rhodes and Ryan Gifford to navigate through turn one. Contact was made and Gifford went into the wall. The incident forced Heckert to pit road and halted what appeared to be a strong run. When the checkered flag fell, Heckert’s 25th-place finish did not even come close to showing the speed he had for much of the Granite State 100.
“I thought our car was really good. We lost the battle of track position a little bit. We’d lose some spots on the restarts if we were in a line that didn’t go. We had to battle back from that, but it was a pretty good race. We made a few changes before qualifying that seemed to make the car a little bit better, but I wish I could’ve qualified even better than sixth because track position was so important. It’s pretty hard to pass there.”
Heckert recalled the incident that put him on pit road for a one-lap consultation from NASCAR officials.
“My spotter was calling three-wide for me off of turn four because Ben got a good run and Gifford was on the outside of me. I knew it was going to be three wide going into one and it was one of those deals where if I backed off, I would’ve been three-wide another row behind. I tried to drive it in my normal amount and keep my normal line to leave a little bit of room for Ben on the inside. I’m not sure if Ryan’s spotter didn’t call three wide or not, but it seems like he was treating it like a two-wide situation when I had someone underneath me. I couldn’t go much lower than I was. It was just a tough racing deal in my opinion.”
The fact that Heckert was even in position for a strong run in New Hampshire, a tricky and flat one-mile oval, was impressive considering the factors that kept him on his toes for much of the race.
“Right after halftime, I lost my spotter for 20 or 30 laps. I was mirror driving a little bit more than usual just to be sure I didn’t get in a wreck. Luckily when the caution came out, I was able to jiggle some things around and got him back for the last couple restarts, but it was tough in the middle for sure.”
Heckert will look to capitalize on the speed he showed at New Hampshire and other recent races when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East makes a stop at Ohio’s Columbus Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 19.
“We were pretty good in the test at Columbus a few weeks back,” said Heckert. “Obviously conditions will be different on race day, but I’m happy with where we were. It reminds me a little bit of Langley in that it’s pretty small and you’ve always got some wheel into it. I have some experience there, so hopefully that will lead us to a strong run this weekend.”
-51 Sports Press Release. Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com Photo