When Brandon McReynolds won at Iowa Speedway in May, it took everybody, including McReynolds, a little by surprise. McReynolds had been a highly touted prospect since his Late Model Stock days, but a disappointing first season and a half in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season had some questioning if McReynolds had a future at NASCAR's top levels. That May victory wound up at times feeling more like a prolonged apology than a coming-out party.
No such sentiment remained Friday night, when McReynolds dominated from start to finish to sweep the Iowa Speedway K&N Pro Series combination events for the season. With his dad, legendary Larry McReynolds, able to be in attendance and confidence on his side from May, McReynolds left little doubt from the first lap of practice that he would be the one to beat.
"The first one to get was really tough," said McReynolds after a prolonged victory lane celebration. "But I was so excited to come back. In fact, I was maybe a little too picky in practice about my car. Maybe got us sidetracked a few times. But Ty Joiner [crew chief] and the NAPA team were really good about keeping me focused."
While McReynolds' led the most laps and cruised in the final laps to victory, it was another driver finding more confidence after a recent stock car win – dirt graduate Rico Abreu – who provided McReynolds most of the competition he would face all night. Abreu led both practices in the heat of the day and started third in the event, moving to the lead for a few laps in the first half of the race after running down McReynolds on a long run.
"I knew this hot, greasy track was going to fall into Rico's hands coming from the dirt tracks," remarked McReynolds. "And I was right. He really pushed us at the start there. He kind of forced me to start moving up to the top, and once I got up there I could tell it was really coming in. It was game on from there. Ty made some good adjustments at halfway to help us out even more."
Abreu ultimately slid to fourth after a series of restarts inside 20 to go cost him some track position. Abreu's car seemed to really struggle on the bumps in turns 1 & 2 and McReynolds used some restart tactics to force Abreu's car where it didn't work well. The late slide allowed Jesse Little to finish second. As the highest finishing East driver, Little would be awarded credit for his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory.
It came in an unique situation for Little. His HRE Racing Team hosted six high-performing college students and three instructors from Toyota Technical College in Japan at Iowa. After two weeks of bringing them to the NASCAR Technical Institute in Charlotte, Iowa was the team's first race together.
"It was just great to come with a new group of guys and find so much success off the bat," said Little. "To be honest, at first I was a little skeptical. But they shopped up in the shop at the start of last week from 7 to 5, just like we did. They learned a ton. They are very intelligent, but there's a little bit of a struggle on the linguistics side. But once we got over that linguistics barrier, once they learned something, they just got it. It was awesome."
Spencer Davis rounded out the podium in just his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. After a year in a half of driving in the NASCAR Whelen Modified division, Davis says that he's still just a step behind the others in learning how to drive a K&N car but that already he feels like the division is a more natural fit than the Modifieds were for his driving style. His next race in the series will be at Richmond in September.
Abreu finished fourth while Noah Gragson finished fifth to reclaim the West points lead. Despite an off night for William Byron, his points lead remains at a comfortable 25 points on new second-place man Scott Heckert.
The race was named the #ThanksKenny 150 in honor of Kenny Wallace, running his last NASCAR race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday evening. Speed51.com Powered by JEGS took some time Friday to talk to Wallace about his short track memories and passion for the grassroots level of racing and will have that feature later next week on Speed51.
-By Tim Quievryn, Speed51.com Southeast Editor - Twitter: @thethirdturn
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
NASCAR K&N Pro Series #ThanksKenny 150 Unofficial Results
|7||5||J J Haley||150|
|17||36||David Garbo Jr||150|
|20||23||Trey Hutchens III||150|
|32||84||Rich DeLong III||139|
|37||04||Ronnie Bassett Jr||30|