First, of Two Road Courses Comes at Crucial Time
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will begin the final stretch of the season with the Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y., on Friday, August 4th at 4:45 pm ET and will air on NBCSN. Wednesday, August 9th at 6 pm ET. The road course event will cap off a furious midseason for teams that will have raced five times in a six-week span beginning on July 1st.
Two drivers, NASCAR Next members Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland, have emerged from the busy summer with their sights set firmly on the K&N Pro Series East championship. Gilliland, 17-years-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, has won two races in a row entering Watkins Glen — including last week’s combination race at Iowa Speedway, his second straight win at the track — and trails Burton,16, by just six points atop-the championship standings. The Huntersville, North Carolina, native has four wins this season and nine top-fives in ten races to hold the point lead.
Burton and Gilliland are the only two series drivers to finish in the top-ten in every start this season.
But Watkins Glen, the first of two road course races over the final four races of the season, throws a new wrinkle into the championship picture. In three career road course starts, Burton has never finished higher than 11th. He finished 12th at Watkins Glen a year ago, in his only series start at the track. Gilliland, on the other hand, finished second out west at the two road course events at Utah Motorsports Campus last year en route to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title.
The Race: The Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 will be the 11th of 14 races on the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 32 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions through group qualifying and the remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 41 laps (100.45 miles).
The Track: This is the 24th K&N Pro Series East race to be held at Watkins Glen, dating back to 1993 — including 17 previous standalone events and six combination races with the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Vermont’s Bobby Dragon won the first series race held at the track on June 6, 1993. After a four-year absence from Watkins Glen, the series returned to the track in 2014 and has raced there once each season ever since. Watkins Glen International was established on the streets of Watkins Glen, New York, in 1948 when law student Cameron Argetsinger dreamed of bringing European-style competition to the village where he spent his summer vacations. He drew up a challenging course that encompassed asphalt, cement and dirt roads in and around the village of Watkins Glen.
Race Winners: There have been 17 different winners in the 22 previous K&N Pro Series East races at Watkins Glen, including Scott Heckert, who won back-to-back races on the road course in 2014 and 2015. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Terry Labonte won there twice, as has four-time series champion Andy Santerre and Canadian driver Ron Fellows. Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each have K&N Pro Series East wins at the Glen.
Track records: The qualifying record was set in 2015 by Brodie Kostecki at 121.039 mph (72.869 seconds). Last season, Austin Cindric set the 100-mile race record of 90.586 mph (1 hour, 6 minutes, 32 seconds) as the defending race winner and pole sitter.
FINGER LAKES WINE COUNTRY 100 NOTES:
Welcome Back: One driver will make a notable return to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Ryan Truex of Mayetta, N.J., a two-time series champion, will compete at Watkins Glen with Hattori Racing Enterprises. In his only start at the Glen in 2009, Truex won en route to his first of back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series East titles. He made his first K&N Pro Series appearance of 2017 at Bristol Motor Speedway in April — his first series start since 2010.
Western Wear: One of the most accomplished road racers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will compete at Watkins Glen this weekend.
Will Rodgers, who finished second to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick at California’s Sonoma Raceway in June, will make his K&N Pro Series East debut this weekend. Rodgers, who has an average finish of 5.33 in his last three career road course starts in the West, made his K&N Pro Series debut at Sonoma in 2016.
The Murrieta, California, driver came to NASCAR from the world touring road racing ranks. He is fourth in the K&N Pro Series West standings with one win, six top-fives, and seven top-tens through nine races.
Canadian Representation: NASCAR Pinty’s Series driver Gary Klutt will make his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut Friday at the Glen.
The 24-year-old from Halton Hills, Ontario, has an average finish of 10.3 on road courses up north, including a win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in 2015 after starting from the pole.
The NASCAR Next alum will also make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend with Premium Motorsports in the I Love New York 355 Sunday.
Seat Time: A pair of NASCAR national series drivers will be in the Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 at Watkins Glen.
Matt Tifft, who is seventh in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings, will make his first K&N Pro Series East start since 2014. He last competed in a K&N Pro Series West race in 2015, at Sonoma and finished 15th. Brandon Jones, who sits 17th in the XFINITY Series, is also entered in Friday’s event. He finished 13th last season in his only XFINITY Series start at Watkins Glen.
Proving Ground: Over the years, there have been fewer and fewer part-time drivers hopping into NASCAR’s national series to make road course-only starts. Where drivers like Ron Fellows and Boris Said started out with rides only at Watkins Glen or Sonoma, now full-time national series drivers are finding their own success at turning right.
Current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standouts Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano all have either a XFINITY Series or Truck Series road course win on their résumé, and each spent time on road courses at the K&N Pro Series level to gain experience. The K&N Pro East will make its second road-course start in the JustDrive.com 125 on Sept. 16 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.