DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Four races, four different winners. Could a fifth be in the cards Saturday?
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to VIRginia International Raceway for the Biscuitville 125, and the 17-turn, 2.250-mile road course promises to throw the championship contenders for a loop.
Kyle Benjamin looks to maintain his championship lead. The NASCAR Next driver was originally planning on running a partial schedule, but a strong start — four top-six finishes in four starts and first place in points — changed that. The 18-year-old from Easley, South Carolina, is coming off a runner-up finish at Bristol Motor Speedway and holds a three-point lead over Justin Haley and a nine-point edge on his Ranier Racing with MDM teammate Spencer Davis. In 22 career K&N Pro starts, Benjamin has run just one road course; he finished 14th at Watkins Glen International.
VIR is one of three road course on the 14-race K&N Pro East slate this year, joined by Watkins Glen and New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Haley, 16, led six laps at VIR last year before finishing fifth. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Davis, 17, will be making his first series road course start this weekend. If either falters, Haley’s teammate Tyler Dippel is within striking distance of first, trailed closely by veteran drivers Kaz Grala and Ronnie Bassett Jr.
Defending race winner Sergio Pena and Grala look to lead the field based on their road-course experience. Pena is making his first start of the season, while Grala has finished fifth and second in his previous two races at VIR and is seeking his first series victory.
Of the 24 cars entered at VIR, only five drivers (Dippel, Haley, Pena, Collin Cabre and Noah Gragson) have previously won in the K&N Pro Series. In fact, the four different winners this year all four celebrated their first career K&N Pro East win, and three of them have been Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates.
PLACE: VIRginia International Raceway
DATE: Saturday, April 30
TIME: 3:45 pm. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.250-mile permanent road course (North Course)
2015 WINNER: Sergio Pena
2015 POLE SITTER: Scott Heckert
EVENT SCHEDULE: Garage opens – 7 p.m.; Practice – 9:30 to 11 a.m.; Qualifying – 1 p.m.; Driver/Crew Chief Meeting – 2:05 p.m.; Driver Autograph Session – 2:35 to 3:15 p.m.; Driver Introductions – 3:20 p.m.; Biscuitville125 – 3:45 p.m.
TRACK TWITTER: @VIRNow
EVENT HASHTAG: #Biscuitville125
The Race: The Biscuitville 125 will be the fifth of 14 races and the first of three road courses on the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule. It will be the series’ fourth visit to the Virginia track.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through NASCAR road course style group qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 55 laps (123.75 miles).
The Track: VIRginia International Raceway originally opened in 1957 and was closed from 1974 to 2000, when it was reopened by Harvey Siegel. VIR offers five track configurations. The Full Course is 3.27-miles in length while the Patriot Course stretches for 1.1-miles entirely inside the Full Course. The North Course measures 2.250-miles in length and the South Course covers a distance of 1.65-miles. The Grand East Course is the longest at 4.2-miles and is made up of the Full and Patriot courses. Overall, the facility includes three separate paddocks with timing towers, separate skid pads, covered tech bays in the North Paddock, classrooms, full service restaurants, a pro shop and several lodging options. The Biscuitville 125 will be contested on the North Course.
VIR RACE NOTES
Pena to Make His Return: Sergio Pena will make his 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut. The 23-year-old from Winchester, Va., is the defending race winner. Pena, has competed in 59 series events, has earned five wins, 10 top fives and 28 top 10s. Should Pena pull off a win, he will be the first series repeat winner at the track.
Martin-McClure Racing Looks to Continue Success: In their season debut at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Martin-McClure Racing and Chad Finchum celebrated their first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory. The team will look to collect their second win of the season this weekend at VIR with a new driver behind the wheel. Seventeen year-old Austin Cindric will be making his series debut for the team this weekend. The son of Team Penske President, Tim Cindric, has some prior NASCAR experience, with two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts with a best finish of 14th in his debut at Martinsville.
Positioned To Win: After Dylan Kwasniewski (2013) and Scott Heckert (2014) won from the pole in the first two series races at VIR, Pena proved you can win from the back, too. Pena started last year’s race in 13th and didn’t take the lead until the final lap of the race. Three of the top four finishers all started among the last five cars in the field.
Multiple Award Winners Trending: In addition to four different race winners, the 2016 K&N Pro East season has seen four different pole winners. Only Todd Gilliland (New Smyrna) has won the race after winning the pole. Davis, Benjamin and Harrison Burton have also won pole awards. There have been four different drivers to win the Autolite Iridium XL Lap Leader Award for leading the most laps in a race, and four different drivers have collected the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award for advancing the most positions.
Rookie Race: Three of the last four NASCAR K&N Pro East champions have also won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award that same season, and Davis is looking to continue that trend. In addition to being third in overall points, he leads the rookie standings by four over Dippel and 14 over Hunter Baize. Davis was the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
Chevrolet Is the Manufacturer to Beat: Chevrolet has proven to be the car to beat at the VIRginia road course. In the previous three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events at the track, Chevrolet has ended up in Victory Lane two times with Dylan Kwasniewski (2013) and Scott Heckert (2014). Sergio Pena broke the trend last year when he piloted his Toyota to the winner’s circle.
-NASCAR Home Tracks Press Release
-Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR