May 19, 2012
By Donalde z Smith
If you are anywhere near Newton, Iowa this weekend and love racing; NASCAR Race Mom (NRM) recommends that you check out the first of two East versus West K&N Pro Series combination races of 2012.
This event marks the sixth year for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway. However, this is the first year that the two factions of this upper level NASCAR developmental series reunite to do battle for both points and glory twice in one year.*
Iowa Speedway is a state-of-the-art 7/8 mile asphalt paved tri-oval race track and motorsports facility located just 30 miles east of Des Moines. The turns are banked 12-14 degrees with four degrees banking in the backstretch and 10 degrees banking in the frontstretch. It is a fast and exciting track.
With an entry list forty-nine racers deep with eager talent, the event promises to be electrifying. Only thirty-six of the hopefuls will take the green flag on Saturday (May 19th) at 7:00 p.m. The fastest twenty-eight cars in qualifying plus eight lucky provisionals (four from the East and four from the West) will battle for 131.25 miles in the Graham Tire “150.”
The event is unusual in that will count for the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship and separately for the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Championship. This means that the highest finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car will receive 1st place NASCAR K&N Pro Series East owner/driver points and the highest finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car will receive 1st place NASCAR K&N Pro Series West owner/driver points.
However, you know that for the drivers, the overall win will be the ultimate objective. To reinforce that goal, only the overall winner for the event will be eligible for the designated NASCAR Special Event starting position available to the winner of each 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series event.
The Graham Tire “150” will be run in two segments. There will be a ten minute break at or near the conclusion of lap 75. No work is to be performed at the break until the last car in the field is in its assigned pit stall and the red flag is displayed at the starters stand. All participants in the event will then be allowed to make changes that would normally occur during a routine pit stop.
Now where is all that excitement NRM promised? Why don’t we start with Travis Pastrana? Pastrana best known as an action sports star (eleven time X Games Gold Medalist) will be doing double duty in Iowa. He is confirmed for both the Graham Tire “150” NASCAR K&N Pro Series race and the Pioneer Hi-Bred “250” NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Fans attending Saturday’s race should keep their eyes open for other NASCAR celebrities in the pit area. Pastrana will be running for Car Owner Michael Waltrip, two-time winner of the Daytona 500. The ties to upper level NASCAR clans do not end there.
Chase Elliott, current point leader in the K&N Pro Series East, is the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott. Father Elliott has been to all the races that I watched Chase run. Chase drives for Hendrick Motorsports.
Ben Kennedy’s racing roots go back three generations. Kennedy is the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. and son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France. He is currently second in the East points.
Ryan Blaney is also a third generation racer. Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney is his father. Ryan impressed quite a few when he produced a top-10 performance in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Richmond International Raceway last April 26th.
Former Dale Earnhardt Inc. President Max Siegel's Revolution Racing team (Drive for Diversity program) has four drivers in the competition Kyle Larson (fifth in the East standings); Bryan Ortiz (seventh in the East standings); Ryan Gifford (eighth in the East standings); and Jorge Arteaga (twenty-fifth in the East standings).
To this point, NASCAR Race Mom has only commented on racers from the K&N Pro Series East. However, the K&N Pro Series West is where my heart and devotion rests.
Last year’s K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Dylan Kwasniewski is having a dream season. He is coming to this weekend’s activities coming off a win in Stockton, California’s 99 Speedway that vaulted him to first and gave him a six-point lead in the standings for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He has literally dominated the field this year with a win and four top-five finishes in four starts.
David Mayhew is second in the West points and won the season opener at the Phoenix International Raceway from pole. Mayhew made his Nationwide Series debut August 2011 at Iowa and finished tenth. This season he has three top-five finishes and four top-tens in four K&N Pro Series West starts.
Defending series champion and currently third in the points race, 2011 NASCAR West Champion Greg Pursley, is slated to make his 60th career series start at Iowa. The driver made his first series start at Mesa Marin Raceway on Oct. 17, 1999 when team mate Kwasniewski was only four years old! Pursley has one win and three top-five finishes and four top-tens in four starts.
Three-time NASCAR West Champion (2006, 2008, and 2010) Eric Holmes, is set to make his 80th career series start. It will mark the 58th consecutive start for the Escalon, Calif., driver – who made his initial series debut at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California on Oct. 11, 1997. Holmes notched his 50th career series top-five finish with a runner-up finish at Stockton. He also has 16 wins and 13 poles, along with 63 top-10 finishes, in 79 series starts. Wow – what a career!
So who would NASCAR Race Mom recommend that you keep your eyes on? For the East, Darrell Wallace would be my choice. His initial victory – also the first for an African-American in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history – was the first of six for Darrell Wallace Jr. in that series to date. He has a win this year at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. In twenty-five K&N East races, Wallace also has eleven top-fives, nineteen top-tens and three poles to complement his trips to Victory Lane.
As you can see from the stats quoted above, the top West drivers have been consistently successful in their first four races of 2012. This makes it very difficult to pick my West favorite. However, Dylan Kwasniewski’s driving style favors shorter tracks. Eric Holmes highest finish at the Iowa Speedway came in 2010, when he finished third for the West which was tenth overall.
Therefore my pick is restricted to Greg Pursley and David Mayhew. For the West, Pursley won and Mayhew came in second last year. Mayhew won the west portion of the race in 2010 and 2009. He also finished third overall in 2009 and won the overall “Coors Light Pole Award” in 2010. After reviewing both drivers’ season and overall Iowa Speedway performance, Mayhew emerges as the West driver to watch. However, Greg Pursley and his Gene Price Motorsports team is a very close second.
It is interesting to note that a West driver has yet to be able to boast of title to “Overall Winner” in this East versus West rivalry. The winner of the five previous matches claimed the East Series. (2011-Brett Moffitt; 2010-Max Gresham; 2009-Kyle Busch; 2008-Brian Ickler; 2007-Joey Logano).
To be fair however, most if not all of the winning drivers have been assisted by a Sprint Cup Team. Nevertheless, NASCAR Race Mom will be hoping that this weekend breaks that trend.
You can follow the action throughout the race day by going to HomeTrack’s Lap By Lap at NASCAR Home Tracks.
* The second race is scheduled for August 3, 2012.
If you would like to learn more about Donalde z Smith, please check out her web site at NASCAR Race Mom.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.