Race Date: May 6, 2017
For the first time since 2011, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East came to South Boston Speedway, and for the first time in that series’ history ran twin 100 lap events.
South Boston’s local divisions run twin events all the time, usually with the starting lineup based on an invert for the first race. In this setup for the K&N Pro Series, the fastest lap in the first race sets your qualifying time for the second race. While this seems like a pretty great idea, I do run into issues with it. Normally, your fastest lap of a race in this kind of setup is going to be one of your first few laps. On a tight track like South Boston, the front row drivers have a distinct advantage with cleaner track than the drivers mid-pack. What’s the fix for this? I have no idea, but it worked relatively well all things considered.
So onto the racing.
The track was expectedly quick, with the pole time almost a second faster than the existing K&N Pro Series track record (a 14.711 to the 15.582 set by Peyton Sellers in 2007). Unfortunately, I don’t know that the outer groove came in as much as anyone had hoped, and it certainly didn’t come in as much for these cars on the Goodyear tires as they have for the Late Model Stocks on the Hoosier F50s. That said, the racing was pretty great.
In the first 100 lap event, Travis Miller took the lead on a Lap 59 restart and immediately had a mirror full of Taylor Purdy. Purdy gave a very late charge off Turn 4 on the last lap, and managed to get a bumper to Miller, but Miller held his own to take the checkered flag. The race saw a lot of great racing throughout the 18 car field, with the basically 1 1/2 groove track leading to a few bump and run moves from 2nd on back. Todd Gilliland, Dillon Bassett, and Harrison Burton rounded out the top five in the first half of the Twin 100s.
The second half of the K&N doubleheader managed to actually be more exciting than the first, with even more beating and banging throughout the field. At any given time there were two and three car battles between Purdy, Burton, Bassett, Gilliland, Ronnie Bassett Jr., and pole sitter Chase Cabre. Bassett Jr. brought out a late caution re-racking the field and leading to what you thought would be a duel between Purdy and Gilliland. Purdy, however, jumped the restart something awful (seriously, he was about 5 car lengths ahead of everyone else at the line), giving the lead to Todd Gilliland. Gilliland and Harrison Burton battled for the lead over the last three laps, with Burton eventually taking control for his second win in three K&N East races. Gilliland finished second, with Vinnie Miller, Cabre, and Ruben Garcia Jr. rounding out the top five.
On top of the great racing in both K&N East races, we also had some pretty impressive racing (as usual) from both the Hornets and Southern Ground Pounders divisions. In the Hornets division, Drew Dawson scored a win, passing track champion Kenny Mills Jr. early and holding onto the lead after a few caution flags. In the SGP race, James Turner won his first race in seemingly forever driving Mack Tatum’s familiar #0 machine. That race was slowed by one long red flag thanks to a sizable pileup on the front stretch early on.
There was some issue that some on social media took with the shortening of the two support classes in the middle. The issue was that two races were shortened due to “time constraints” while a national touring event was in town. While I fully understand the frustration, there’s a much more logical issue at play: The NASCAR national tour events are all set on a pretty schedule for various reasons including TV. So when one of the support divisions has a rather lengthy cleanup, it cuts short the rest of the time available. And not to get all “people should be thankful for what they have” here, but many tracks across the country keep their support divisions on a time limit, with races being either 25 laps or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. The fact that South Boston otherwise doesn’t implement that for any of their divisions should mean more than one race cut short due to time.
My overall take on the night: I was impressed with the race that the K&N Pro Series put on, especially for being the first time in a half of a decade. While there’s rumblings throughout social media that the series “isn’t what it once was”, for two races on a Saturday night in South Boston, it was a heck of a show. As usual, the Hornets put on a great show, with all the beating and banging that comes with them, and I was disappointed as to the amount of metal that got torn up with the Southern Ground Pounders. Hopefully they’ll get those put back together relatively soon.