Scott Heckert teamed with Turner Scott Motorsports at the start of the 2014 season knowing it was his best shot to make an impact on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
He made his debut in the series in 2013 driving for startup team BJ McLeod Motorsports, but the new team with a rookie driver wasn’t able to put together the kind of stats needed to compete against K&N superteams such as Turner Scott.
The move, at least the past two weeks, has proven to be a pretty smart one for Heckert.
For the second-straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on a road course, Heckert took his Turner Scott Motorsports No. 34 car to victory lane. This time it was at Virginia International Raceway, just eight days after winning his first-career race at Watkins Glen.
Fittingly, the win came down to two Turner Scott teammates, Heckert and Cameron Hayley. Heckert and Hayley tussled on a lap-52 restart, with Heckert coming out with the lead that he would not relinquish through the final laps and a green-white-checkered restart.
“It took some doing to pass the 98 car,” said Heckert, who earlier in the day earned his third K&N Pro Series East pole award. “I had to vary it up a little bit. At the end, we were coming to the end and I was like, ‘One more lap, keep it clean boys.’ We got the caution and on that last restart it was a lot of work. It was everything I had the last two laps. I’m glad we got the win.”
Hayley, who led a race-high 25 laps, and Heckert, who led 11, have been involved in tangles with one another throughout the season. Contact between the two sent Heckert spinning out of the lead at Columbus Motor Speedway in July and the two again had run-ins at VIR. The last dust-up was the move that put Heckert in victory lane and left Hayley a frustrated second.
“I finally got to lead some laps, but my teammate Scott Heckert used me up and pushed me right in the grass, which really hurt me in the scheme of things,” said Hayley. “It tore up my crush panel and we had a left-front go down there at the end.
“I know I got into him earlier this year. If he wants to use that as payback, it was in the last couple laps and that stings a little more than at the beginning of the race.”
Heckert retorted by citing the Columbus incident.
“Fair is fair,” said the 20-year-old Heckert. “He wrecked us at Columbus while I was leading. What comes around, goes around. I hate to say it. I didn’t think I ran him particularly dirty. If he feels that way, then I’ll have to talk with him, but I thought it was a fairly clean race.”
Heckert can now add the term “two-time” ahead of the title “K&N Pro Series East winner” that he earned last week. While both wins came at road courses, Heckert was quick to point out that was about their only similarity.
“There’s a lot slower-speed corners at VIR,” added Heckert. “You really have to be careful of the back tires burning off. Watkins Glen is very fast, very flowing and easy on the throttle anyways. It wasn’t as much of a tire conservation match today. It was 50 laps of trying to be as easy on the throttle as possible.”
Austin Hill used a late charge to finish third behind the Turner Scott Motorsports teammates Heckert and Hayley. It was a strong run for a family-based crew against the K&N East juggernaut that finished in the two spots ahead of him.
“On a couple restarts I got shuffled into the grass and we got lucky enough to catch a caution and get caught back up,” said Hill. “All in all, my crew did an awesome job. We haven’t got one guy working in the shop and maybe some helpers to get us to the track. We’re a really low budget team and to be able to run with these guys and to show that we have cars that are capable of winning is awesome.”
Gray Gaulding, who also led laps early on in the Biscuitville 125, finished fourth, over Kaz Grala in fifth.
Ben Rhodes entered VIR with chance to clinch the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship, but his 10th-place finish after some late-race shuffling combined with Hayley’s second-place finish bring the championship battle to Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina on September 9. That will be the penultimate event of the K&N East series, with the finale coming on September 26 at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield. Photo credit: Speed51.com