Visit Hampton VA 175 Night At The Races June 21st, 2014
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East &
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
at Langley Speedway - Hampton, VA
Visit Hampton VA Night
Saturday, June 21, 2014
HAMPTON, Va. (June 21) — Seventeen-year-old rookie sensation Ben Rhodes of Louisville, Ky., continued his tear through NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition as he notched his fifth win of the season and fourth in a row in the Visit Hampton VA 175, the featured event of Saturday evening’s racing program at Langley Speedway.
Time trials for last year’s K&N race were washed out, denying drivers a qualifying crack at Langley’s then-newly-paved surface. They more than made up for it on Saturday afternoon, though, as 20 of the 22 drivers bettered the old series record (86.927 mph by Chase Elliott in 2012).
Scott Heckert clocked in with the quickest lap, 89.836 mph, and claimed the pole position. Rhodes was second-fastest, just 97-thousandths of a second off Heckert’s standard. Nick Drake, Cameron Hayley and Kenzie Ruston rounded out the top five on the 22-car starting grid.
As the main event got under way, Heckert and Rhodes dueled door-to-door until they reached Turn 4 for the first time. Heading back to the flagstand to complete lap 1, Heckert surged ahead to take the early lead. Rhodes settled into second, followed by Drake, Ruston and Hayley. By lap 4, Heckert had opened a three-length advantage over Rhodes, who had a mirror-full of Drake and Ruston.
The first caution flag flew on lap 7 for a five-car snarl in Turns 1 and 2. Involved were former Langley winner Sergio Pena, Mason Massey, Brandon Jones, Mackena Bell and Brennan Newberry. Of the group, only Massey was relegated to the sidelines.
On the double-file restart, to begin lap 14, Rhodes remained on Heckert’s outside flank and nosed ahead at the end of the circuit, gaining the clear-cut edge on lap 15. Behind the lead duo, Ruston swiped third from Drake, then zeroed in on Heckert.
Over the next 30 laps or so, Heckert lingered two or three car-lengths behind Rhodes. Closing in on lap 50, though, he began to narrow the gap. By lap 55, he was parked on the leader’s bumper, while third-place Ruston enjoyed a front-row seat as the front three started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
After posing a brief challenge to Rhodes, Heckert seemed to run out of steam. Working lap 72, Rhodes had extended his margin to better than four lengths, while Heckert was in danger of falling into Ruston’s clutches.
The second yellow flag waved on lap 78 when Chuck Buchanan Jr. spun in Turn 2.
Back under green, Rhodes immediately cleared Heckert at the start/finish line and left the inside lane open for Ruston, who grabbed second place off Turn 2. Deeper in the field, Hayley inched ahead of Drake to claim the fourth spot.
Just beyond the halfway mark, the third caution flag appeared when Jay Beasley and local favorite Brandon Gdovic tangled in Turn 2, sending Beasley for a loop. For his part in the incident, Gdovic was ordered to the pit lane and held for a lap.
On the restart, at lap 100, Ruston bobbled briefly and allowed Rhodes to rocket out front. Ruston quickly collected herself, however, and hung onto the runner-up position.
On lap 104, Hayley ducked underneath Heckert in a bid for the third spot. He grabbed the position in Turns 1 and 2 on lap 105 and set off after Rhodes and Ruston.
On lap 107, Hayley motored to the outside of Ruston through Turns 1 and 2. The two jousted along the backstretch with Hayley advancing to second off Turn 4. During the exchange, Rhodes opened a two-length lead, but Hayley was on the charge and rapidly closed ground.
Rhodes found a bit of breathing room on lap 115 as he efficiently dealt with Buchanan’s lapped machine. Hayley and Ruston weren’t quite as fortunate and fell a couple car-lengths down to the leader. As lap 118 went up on the leaderboard, Rhodes, Hayley and Ruston were up by nearly half a straightaway over fourth-place Heckert.
By lap 138, Rhodes had stretched his lead to better than six lengths over Hayley. Slower machines loomed ahead, though.
Rhodes waded into traffic on lap 141. He emerged on lap 147 with his lead intact and the margin only grew larger when Hayley and Ruston were briefly stymied by the slower cars on laps 149-151. Rhodes had his own tussle in traffic on lap 158, but gave up only a bit of his healthy margin.
While the top three sorted through the slower machines, Heckert began to creep back into the picture, closing to within three lengths of third-place Ruston. His rally was blunted by a lapped car on the 163rd circuit, though, allowing the leaders to scoot away.
Rhodes’ cruise to the checkers was interrupted on lap 165 when the last of the race’s four caution flags was unfurled for Newberry’s spin in Turn 4. Setting the running order for the final restart, Rhodes, Hayley, Ruston, Heckert and Drake made up the top five.
Back under green, with five to go, Rhodes fought off Hayley through Turns 1 and 2 to retain command of the top spot. Ruston tried to tag along with the race leader, but Hayley gained control of second place on lap 172. Meanwhile, Rhodes was in the wind, up by five car-lengths.
At the finish, Rhodes was the winner by 1.191 seconds over Hayley. Ruston was third, equaling her own series record for the best finish by a female driver. Heckert was fourth, followed by Kaz Grala, who picked up three positions in the closing laps to snag fifth.
Jones headed up the second five, in sixth, followed by Drake, Eddie MacDonald, Jesse Little and Daniel Suarez. Newberry and John Holleman IV were 11th and 12th, respectively, the final drivers on the lead lap.
In Victory Lane after the race, Rhodes noted his crew’s efforts throughout the day: “This is a big win for us. Four in a row, so I never thought we’d be like this in this season. I can’t say enough about these guys. Turner-Scott Motorsports has given me a great Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy every race. Can’t thank them enough. We’ve been working really hard today. Every three laps, we’d come in and make a change. This car was not where we needed it, but they worked hard and, because of that, that’s why we’re standing right here.”
Continuing, Rhodes marveled at the campaign he’s putting together: “All of our guys — not just me and my crew chief — but all of us work really well together. We all complement each other very well. We’re the ‘Dream Team,’ I guess. That’s what I call ‘em anyway. They’re the Dream Team. I’m just the fortunate one that gets to put my butt in the seat.”
With the win, Rhodes extended his points lead to 71 (393-322) over Hayley, who leapfrogged Gray Gaulding for second place. Jones and Suarez are fourth and fifth in the current series standings.
Following Saturday’s Visit Hampton VA 175, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will have a break before returning to action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the “Magic Mile,” in the Granite State 100 on Friday, July 11.
If Rhodes can notch his fifth straight win at New Hampshire, he’ll tie the series record for consecutive victories, which was set by Ricky Craven in 1991 — six years before he was born.
The Visit Hampton VA 175 will air next Friday, June 27, at 12 noon on the FS1 cable channel.
In the evening’s other feature events:
In the Larry King Law Modified race, Shawn Balluzzo started on the pole and led all the way for his second win of the year. Thanks to two late caution flags, the event ran two laps beyond the scheduled 50-lap distance.
Balluzzo claimed the pole, at 88.241 mph, and jumped out front as the initial green flag waved. Outside pole starter Jimmy Humblet settled into second, followed by Chris Johnson, Late Model regular Mark Wertz and Scott Lawrence.
Humblet stayed within a couple car-lengths of Balluzzo in the early going. On lap 12, though, the leader suddenly found a burst off Turn 2 and widened the margin to five lengths.
The first caution flag flew on lap 16 for Jack Sharkey’s spin in Turn 2. During the caution period, Johnson headed to the pits, then rejoined the tail of the field.
Back under green, Balluzzo fought off Humblet, who restarted to his outside, then set sail. By lap 28, his lead had swelled to half a straightaway.
The leader headed into traffic on lap 38 and broke into the clear three laps later with his margin intact. As the laps clicked off, though, wisps of white smoke began to puff from beneath Balluzzo’s #48 machine.
The second yellow flag waved on what would have been the final lap when Jon Largena spun into the infield along the backstretch.
On the restart, the smoke from Balluzzo’s car intensified as he bolted ahead of the pack. Keeping a close watch on the situation, officials could detect no fluid from Balluzzo’s machine on the track.
After accomplishing the “green” portion of the “green-white-checkered” finish, the field went under the yellow flag again for a four-car melee off Turn 4.
The second try at a two-lap sprint proved to be the charm as Balluzzo, smoke and all, held off Humblet by 0.399-second to post the win. Wertz was third, followed by Lawrence, while Johnson rebounded from his early-race setback to take fifth.
Mark Frye scored his sixth victory of the season in a 40-lapper for the Pepsi Grand Stocks. He started on the pole, at 79.517 mph, and led all the way. It was, however, far from a carefree cruise.
First to challenge Frye was Ritchie German, who started third and moved up to second on the opening lap. For the first 28 laps, German never fell more than a couple car-lengths behind the leader. Several times, he was able to sneak a fender under Frye’s rear quarter panel, but Frye held on.
German’s bid for the lead came to an abrupt end when he and third-place Hinson tangled in Turn 3 on lap 29. With German relegated to the rear of the field, the runner-up spot passed to Hinson. During the ensuing caution period, smoke began to trail from behind the cars of Frye and Michael Waters, now in third.
Back under green, Frye pulled away by more than two lengths. Within two laps, though, Hinson had erased that margin and was hunting for an opening.
Hinson went after Frye for the lead on lap 35, ducking under the front-runner in Turn 4. Hinson got the short end of the exchange, though, as he spun to bring out the last of the race’s four yellow flags.
With Hinson retreating to the back of the pack, Waters became the new second-place runner. And, bunching for a restart, German re-entered the scene, pulling to the outside of Frye.
Under green for the last time, Frye and Waters broke away, while German faltered and tumbled back through the running order.
At the white flag, Waters made a strong charge to the inside of Frye. Frye fended him off, though, holding on to win by 0.214-second. Andrew Condrey tailed the top two to the line, in third, followed by Tommy Sweeney and Thomas Marks.
In the 30-lap KeesVacations.com Pro Six race, Bobby Hall regained the lead on the final circuit and posted his second win of the year.
Hall started on the pole, at 82.751 mph, and paced the first 24 laps with Landon Florian in tow. Over the first half of the event, Hall maintained a firm grip on the lead, pulling away by as much as five car-lengths over Florian, who was looking for his fourth straight victory.
Just past the halfway mark, at lap 19, Hall was momentarily flummoxed by a slower car and Florian closed up on his rear bumper. Breaking free, Hall managed to regain a bit of separation.
The complexion of the event took a wild swing on lap 25 when Maddy Mulligan went on an unplanned excursion through the infield grass off Turn 2 and sloshed water up onto the track. Approaching the scene, Hall avoided the liquid debris, but Florian wasn’t as lucky and skidded into the backstretch wall, bringing out the second caution flag and relegating him to a 10th-place result.
On the restart, Cody Carlton, the new second-place runner, latched onto Hall’s rear bumper and rooted him out of the groove in Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead. Travis Wall tagged along with Carlton, grabbing second.
On lap 26, an incensed Hall slipped back by Wall and set off after Carlton, who had forged a five-length advantage. Though he was able to narrow the gap somewhat, it appeared that the laps would simply run out for Hall.
With the white flag in the air, Carlton headed into Turn 1 and his car shot up the track toward the outside wall. While the field streamed by, Carlton continued to limp around the raceway, finally grinding to a halt in Turn 3.
At the checkers, Hall was the winner by 1.324 seconds over Wall. Steve Williams was third, followed by J.B. Sipe and Ben Zoellner. Carlton, who was unable to complete the last lap, ended up seventh.
In the evening’s first race, a 20-lapper for the Rhonnda Claiborne, Realtor HRKC Pro Winged Champ Karts, Tommy Jackson Jr. moved out front on lap 9 and showed the way to his first victory of the year, becoming the fifth different winner in as many events (including an “away” contest at South Boston).
Rookie contender Tyler Stallings was the pole-sitter, at 61.582 mph, and paced the first eight circuits with Jackson in tow. The only caution flag flew on lap 7 for Danny Millard’s spin in the middle of Turns 3 and 4.
Back under green, Stallings led Jackson, Josh Ayer, Charlie-Ray Lorah and Aaron Leach in a five-kart breakaway at the head of the field. Two laps later, Jackson pulled out of line on the backstretch and rocketed past Stallings with drafting assistance from Ayer, Lorah and Leach.
Almost immediately, Lorah and Leach drove to the outside of Jackson and Ayer in a bid for the lead. The double-file jousting allowed a second pack of karts to enter the picture, led by Stallings.
By lap 14, the second draft was there and the shuffle was on. Lorah got the short end of the exchange, dropping to eighth, while Leach moved up to third. The Jackson-Ayer-Leach combo proved to be a potent one. Once they teamed up, the trio easily motored away from the pack.
On the last lap, Ayer and Leach looked to the outside of Jackson in Turns 3 and 4. While Ayer stayed in the high lane, Leach cut to the bottom of the track and drove underneath Jackson with the checkers in sight.
At the line, Jackson held on to win by 12-thousandths of a second — little more than a foot — over Leach. Ayer was third. Jonathan Mullett and Lorah were fourth and fifth, respectively.
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