DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With only two races left in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East headed into the UNOH 100 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, 17 year-old-rookie William Byron is narrowing in on the championship title.
The Charlotte, N.C., native is leading the series standings by 15 points over HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammate Scott Heckert (471-456 points). His lead is the highest in all of NASCAR’s Touring and Weekly Series, not including the NASCAR Mexico Series or the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which have playoff rounds.
The 2015-16 NASCAR Next member has had a challenging, up-and-down season. He had a significant lead in the standings after winning four of eight races to start the season. After earning his fourth victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he was up 29 points over Austin Hill and 33 points over Heckert.
Byron went on the finish 13th in the East (19th overall) at Iowa Speedway in July to carry a 25-point lead over Heckert and 33 over Hill. The first road course of the year, New York’s Watkins Glen International, proved to be the turning point for Heckert’s championship push. Heckert won the race at the famed road course and Byron finished seventh, to cut his lead over his teammate to just 14 points. An eighth place finish for Byron at Pennsylvania’s Motordrome Speedway and a fourth place finish for Heckert cut Byron’s lead to just 12.
The series last race at VIRginia International Raceway allowed Byron to leave with a 15-point lead over Heckert, despite his 10th place finish. Heckert led three times for 36 laps before rear end issues ended his day on Lap 46 to finish 15th.
Headed into Richmond, Byron is ready to finish the season on a high note.
“Richmond is an important race for our Liberty University/HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks team. We still have personal goals that we want to accomplish before this season is over. I’m looking forward to racing for two more wins and finishing off my first year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series well.”
Race: UNOH 100
Place: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Date: Thursday, September 10
Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: NBCSN, Thursday, September 17, 7 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .75-mile, D-shaped asphalt oval
2014 Winner: Cole Custer
2014 Pole Winner: Nick Drake
Event Schedule: Garage opens: 10 a.m.; Practice: 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; Rookie Practice: 12:30-1:00 p.m.; Final Practice: 1:15-2:00 p.m.; Driver/Crew Chief Meeting: 2:15 p.m.; Qualifying: 4:05 p.m.; Autograph Session: 5:05 p.m.; Driver Introductions: 6:10 p.m.; UNOH 100: 6:40 p.m.
Event Hashtag: #UNOH100
The Race: The UNOH 100 is the 12th race of the season for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It’s the 10th of 12 oval track events and 14 races, overall on the 2015 schedule. This is the series’ first time competing at the Virginia track in the fall as a companion event with NASCAR’s national series.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 100 laps covering 75 miles.
The Track: Richmond International Raceway, known as “America’s Premier Short Track,” opened in October 1946. Lee Petty won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event in April 1953. The track operated as a half-mile oval through spring 1988 before being reconfigured to its current .75-mile, D-shape for the September 1988 date. Lights were added in 1991. The track is 60 feet wide with a 10-foot apron. There is 14 degrees of banking in the turns, eight degrees of banking on the 1,290-foot frontstretch and two degrees of banking on the backstretch that measures 860 feet.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the series at Richmond of 21.948 (123.018 mph) is held by Max Gresham and established on April 28, 2011. The 100-lap race record of 55 minutes, 20 seconds (81.325 mph) also was set on April 28, 2011 by Darrell Wallace Jr.
RICHMOND RACE NOTES:
A New Victor Will Be Crowned: There will be a new victor celebrating in Victory Lane Thursday night. None of the previous eight race winners are scheduled to compete in the UNOH 100 at Richmond. Three of the last four winners (Darrell Wallace Jr., Brett Moffitt and Cole Custer) are now competing in a NASCAR national series.
2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update: William Byron is leading the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings over HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammate, Dalton Sargeant, by only one point (86-85). Their fellow teammates Rico Abreu and JJ Haley are tied with 76 points, with Abreu gaining the lead due to his July victory. Kyle Benjamin rounds out the top five with 64 points.
Staropoli to Make Season Debut: Patrick Staroploi will be back in the driver’s seat this weekend making his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start of the year. In a combined seven races in the K&N East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, the 25-year-old Plantation, Fla., native (and Harvard grad) has recorded one win, three top fives, six top 10s and 1 pole.
Preece to Make Series Debut: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece will be making his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut Thursday in the UNOH 100. The 24-year-old from Berlin, Conn., has earned 15 wins, 54 top fives, 76 top 10s and 14 poles in 120 Whelen Modified events since 2007, including the 2013 season championship.
Gragson and Raz Head East: Jefferson Pitts Racing Teammates Noah Gragson and Gracin Raz are headed to Richmond International Raceway. The NASCAR K&N West teammates are slated to make their second and first starts, respectively, in the K&N East. Gragson, 17 from Las Vegas, Nevada, leads the West with 438 points after earning two wins, seven top fives and 10 top 10s. Gragson finished seventh in his East debut at Watkins Glen last month. Raz, 18 from Lake Oswego, Ore., is fourth in the West after tallying five top fives and 10 top 10s.
Little Back In the Car: Jesse Little is returning to the K&N East Thursday for his first start since his 13th-place finish at Watkins Glen and his sixth start of the season overall. Little has earned one win, two top fives and one pole in the K&N East this season.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Brenda Meserve