DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — There will be plot twists, literally, to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship chase in 2016. Two of the season’s final four races will be held on road courses, including Friday’s Bully Hill Vineyards 100 at Watkins Glen International Raceway in Watkins Glen, New York.
Justin Haley heads into the weekend with a 32-point lead atop the championship standings over Kyle Benjamin, and last year Haley posted a podium finish at Watkins Glen that helped keep him in the title hunt until the end. Benjamin, on the other hand, finished only 14th and saw his bid to chase down the series championship derailed.
The potential for a big points swing always looms on any road course, and Watkins Glen is no different. Not only are right hand turns out of the norm for most stock car drivers, but with long straightaways, heavy braking zones and elevation changes, road courses offer a number of challenges for both driver and machine alike. Add in starting field that is typically larger than your average short track field, and a bad day can quickly turn into a very bad day in the standings.
Both Haley and Benjamin finished in the top five at Virginia International Raceway in April, the first of three road courses on the 14-race schedule this season.
RACE: Bully Hill Vineyards 100
PLACE: Watkins Glen International Raceway, Watkins Glen, New York
DATE: Friday, August 5
TIME: 6:15 p.m. ET
TV SCHEDULE: NBCSN, Thursday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.45-mile road course
2015 WINNER: Scott Heckert
2015 POLE WINNER: Cole Custer
EVENT SCHEDULE: Friday, August 5 – Garage opens: 7 a.m.; Practice: 8:30-9:55 a.m.; Driver autograph session: 11 a.m.; Qualifying: 2 p.m.; Bully Hill Vineyards 100 : 6:15 p.m.
EVENT HASHTAG: #BullyHill100
The Race: The Bully Hill Vineyards 100 will be the 11th of 14 races on the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule and will be the series’ 23rd all-time visit to Watkins Glen.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 32 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions through group qualifying and the remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 41 laps (100.45 miles).
The Track: This is the 23rd K&N East Pro Series race to be held at Watkins Glen, dating back to 1993 — including 16 previous standalone events and six combination races with the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Vermont’s Bobby Dragon won the first series race held at the track on June 6, 1993. After a four-year absence from Watkins Glen, the series return to the track in 2014 and has raced there once each season since. Watkins Glen International was established on the streets of Watkins Glen, New York, in 1948 when law student Cameron Argetsinger dreamed of bringing European style competition to the village where he spent his summer vacations. He drew up a challenging course that encompassed asphalt, cement and dirt roads in and around the village of Watkins Glen.
Race Winners: There have been 16 different winners in the 22 previous K&N Pro Series East races at Watkins Glen, including Scott Heckert, who has won each of the last two races on the road course. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte won there twice, as has four-time series champion Andy Santerre and Canadian driver Ron Fellows. Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each have K&N Pro Series wins at the Glen.
Records: The qualifying record was set in 2015 by Brodie Kostecki at 121.039 mph (72.869 seconds). In 2003, Ted Christopher set the 100-mile race record at 56.468 mph.
Bully Hill Vineyards 100 Notes:
Road Course Ringer: Austin Cindric’s one and only career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start came this season at VIRginia International Raceway, where the McClure Motorsports driver started on the pole and won the Biscuitville 125 in April. The Mooresville, North Carolina, driver is a road racer by trade and the son of Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing.
Grooming The Future: Over the years, there have been fewer and fewer part-time drivers hopping into NASCAR’s national series to make road course-only starts. Where drivers like Ron Fellows and Boris Said started out with rides only at Watkins Glen or Sonoma, now full-time national series drivers are finding their own success at turning right. Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano all have either an XFINITY Series or Truck Series road course win on their resume, and each spent time on road courses at the K&N Pro Series level to gain experience.
Solid Returns: Justin Haley has made three career road course starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and has finished in the top five in all three. The Winamac, Indiana, driver finished a road-course best second at Virginia International Raceway this season.
As Good As A Win: Kyle Benjamin, second in the standings, is the K&N Pro Series East’s most recent race winner after taking down top honors last weekend at Iowa Speedway. Benjamin finished second on the track to Todd Gilliland, but as the highest-finishing East driver, Benjamin was credited with an East victory picked up the five bonus points for a win.
Theriault Climbs Higher: Austin Theriault has climbed to third in the series standings on the heels of a strong second-half performance. Theriault finished second at Iowa to equal the career-best finish he set two races prior at Columbus. Theriault, of Fort Kent, Maine, has posted three consecutive Top-5 finishes and five Top 5s over his last six races. He finished third in his only previous road course start, at VIR in April.
Feels Like The First Time: Through the first 10 races of the season, there have been eight different NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winners — including seven first-time winners. Noah Gragson became the seventh first-time winner added to the list when he won the Stafford 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway in June. Gragson used a bold three-wide move on a green-white-checkered restart to claim his first career win in his 19th career start.
NASCAR Home Tracks: Companion event at Watkins Glen
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series joins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Watkins Glen this weekend. The XFINITY Series Zippo 200 is Saturday afternoon, while the Cheez-It 355 At The Glen is Sunday.
-NASCAR Home Tracks Press Release
-Photo Credit: Kirby Gordan