There wasn’t enough room in New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s turn three for Brandon Jones and Nick Drake to fit into. There was, however, just enough room in turn four for Jesse Little to squeeze through to victory lane.
Drake, who was leading into turn three on the final lap of Friday’s Granite State 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at NHMS, was tagged by second-place Brandon Jones in turn three. As the two spun towards the outside wall, Little found just enough room to squeak by and drove to the checkered flag for his first K&N victory.
“I was too far back to where I could make a move that I could benefit from,” said Little. “I knew my only chance was keeping myself close enough that if they got together, I’d still be in contention. I was going into three and I saw them bump. I saw them both get sideways and I jumped on my brake. They both slid back and it was clear track coming to the checkers. I’ll never forget it.
“It’s a dream come true. I used to dream about this and a couple years ago it was nothing more than a fantasy. Now here I am at New Hampshire, one of our biggest races and I’m amazed.”
When the white flag flew, it was clear that either Little, Jones or Drake were going to win their first K&N East race of their career Friday as they started the final lap in the top three spots. Drake had been checking out over the final laps, but Jones reeled him in from many car lengths back to close up to the back bumper, then the inside door of Drake’s car in turn three on the final circuit.
The two came together, allowing Little to drive through the smoke and to his first victory.
“They were just racing for the last lap,” added Little. “(Jones) went really low trying to make the slide job, doing what we would all do. When they hit, they both got sideways enough to where they broke traction. They got loose and it’s racing.”
Drake, however, didn’t see it as “just racing” after getting spun on the final set of turns as the leader.
“The 33 (Jones) just drove right into us,” Drake told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Jones, who won his first ARCA Racing Series race last weekend with a last-race bump-and-run at Winchester Speedway (IN), was trying to make it two-straight thrilling victories. Instead, he finished 21st after the last-lap tangle at NHMS.
“I was just going for the win,” said Jones. “I definitely didn’t mean to get into him. I hate doing that. It’s not how I race or anything. It’s just two people going for the win, I guess.
“I thought it was going to stick going down there a little bit and I overshot it some. We just got into his door and sent us both around.”
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East point leader Ben Rhodes led early, only to suffer damage as the race neared the halfway point after contact on two restarts with Gray Gaulding. Rhodes was going for his fifth-straight K&N East win, which would have tied Ricky Craven’s consecutive win record set in 1991. Instead, Rhodes finished 22nd and Gaulding was able to recover to finish eighth.
Speed51.com will have more on the run-ins between Rhodes and Gaulding in the coming days.
While the tempers ran hot among other drivers, it was nothing but a big party in the Jesse Little camp. Although, Little’s father, Chad, who was in Iowa Friday night as the Series Director for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, was quick to tell his son on the phone that the party can’t get too big.
“First he told me, ‘No drinking,'” Jesse Little said. “I’m not old enough. No, he was happy. He was bummed he couldn’t make it, but he was happy that I could get here.”
Eddie MacDonald also squeaked through the last-lap melee to finish second. Cale Conley, who started 30th after a mechanical problem prevented him from making a qualifying attempt Thursday, rallied for third. Jay Beasley and Chad Finley rounded out the top five.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director. Twitter: @MattKentfield
Unofficial Granite State 100 Results
|6||04||Ronnie Bassett, Jr.|
|16||1||Dave Garbo, Jr.|