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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Following a season in which he visited Victory Lane three times, including at Langley Speedway, Sergio Peña expected to be a championship contender in 2012. As the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to Langley this week, Peña hopes to repeat his previous success there and get one step closer to title contention.
Peña, from Winchester, Va., had a rookie season of ups and downs in 2010, followed by the breakout campaign a year ago in which he finished fifth in the standings on the strength of wins in his home state at South Boston Speedway and Langley, as well as Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway.
The success he had in 2010-11 as part of Rev Racing and NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative afforded Peña the opportunity to land a ride with Hattori Racing Enterprises for 2012.
His third season in the K&N Pro Series East did not get off to the start he had planned, however. Finishes of 20th and 29th in the first two races had him buried in the standings. The season has started to turn around for the driver who recently completed his freshman year at Radford University, however, as he’s posted top 10s in three of the last four races and heads to Langley a season-best 10th in points.
“At the beginning we were having trouble with motors blowing up - we blew a tire at Bristol - just a lot of bad luck,” Peña said. “That’s all starting to fade away now and I think we’re right back on track with where we need to be, up there finishing good like with my teammate Brett [Moffitt] and all the other guys that are running up front every week.”
Peña turned in a dominating performance in the inaugural Visit Hampton VA 175 a year ago when he led a race-high 99 laps for his second career victory. While Peña is with a different team this year, his crew chief, Matt Goslant, made the move over to HRE with him from Rev Racing. The pairing hopes to rekindle their 2011 success at Langley this week as the K&N Pro Series East heads back to the venerable Hampton, Va.
“Hopefully that will be the place we can turn our luck around this year,” Peña said. “We’ve always been fast in practice and qualifying. We’ve had fast cars, we just can’t seem to put together a finish due to luck, or whatever the case may be. [But] I have a good feeling about Langley for sure.
“We just need to put together a run and finish it off. We practice good and we qualify good, we just need to finish one off.”
Six Races, Six Winners: Through six races this year, there have been six different winners. That type of parity to start a K&N Pro Series East season was last seen in 2002 before Andy Santerre became that year’s first two-time winner. If a different winner takes checkers at Langley it will be the first time there were seven in seven races since 1995, which also occurred in 1993. The mark to beat is 10 winners in 10 races to start the 1989 campaign. It should be noted that the previously-mentioned 1989, 1993 and 1995 marks apply to stand-alone races only, and not the events run in combination with the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Gdovic Heads to Home Track Following an Impressive Start: From nearby Yorktown, Va., Brandon Gdovic heads to his home track on a sophomore surge. The 2010 Rookie of the Year in Late Models at Langley, Gdovic moved up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last year and recorded four top-10 finishes in 11 starts. In just six starts so far this year Gdovic has posted the same amount of top 10s and sits sixth in the season standings.
Season Points Tighten Up: As the 2012 campaign reaches its midway point at Langley, the top four drivers in the standings are separated by just 12 points. Following his victory at Iowa Speedway on May 19, Chase Elliott had a season-high lead in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings of 20 points. Subsequently his finishes of sixth and 14th have reduced his lead to just three tallies entering this week’s event at Langley Speedway.
|Race:||Visit Hampton VA 175|
|Place:||Langley Speedway, Hampton, Va.|
|Date:||Saturday, June 23|
|Time:||8:30 p.m. ET|
|TV Schedule:||SPEED, June 28, 3 p.m. ET|
|Track Layout:||.396-mile banked asphalt oval|
|2011 Polesitter:||Coleman Pressley|
|2011 Winner:||Sergio Peña|
|Event Schedule:||Practice 12-12:45 p.m., Final Practice 1:15-2 p.m., Qualifying 4:30 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 5:30 p.m.|
|Track PR Contact:||Chuck Hall, 757-865-7223, firstname.lastname@example.org|
|NASCAR IMC Contact:||Jason Christley, 386-301-6094, email@example.com, Twitter: @jay_christley|
EVENT SCHEDULE | ENTRY LIST
The Race: The 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule will reach the midway point of the 14-race slate with the Visit Hampton VA 175 at Langley Speedway on June 23 in Hampton, Va.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 175 laps (70 miles).
The Track: On property that was originally a .8-mile horse track, the racing distance was cut in half and made exclusively an auto racing facility in 1950. The track, which played host to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 1964-70, was converted to asphalt in 1968 and currently runs as a slightly-banked .396-mile oval.
Race Winners: Sergio Peña was the inaugural Visit Hampton VA 175 winner on June 18, 2011.
Pole Winners: Coleman Pressley turned a fast lap of 16.439 seconds (86.721 mph) to take the inaugural pole at Langley in 2011.
Home Tracks: Langley a Charter NWAAS Member
Langley Speedway is one of the oldest weekly racing facilities in the nation, and is one of nine tracks that have been a sanctioned member in each of the 31 years of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Langley has a total of 11 divisions that compete throughout the season on alternating weeks, headlined by the Late Models. C.E. Falk III, the defending track champion, once again led the current season standings through the June 9 races. Between Langley, Motor Mile Speedway and South Boston Speedway, Falk also led the Whelen All-American Series Virginia state standings and ranked second nationally. There are four divisions that will share the race card with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on June 23.
Last Time Out: Gresham
The most recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race was held on June 9 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga. Here are some highlights:
• Kyle Larson passed polesitter Cale Conley on Lap 146 of 150 for his first career victory. It marked the 12th triumph for a Drive for Diversity participant since 2009.
• The pole for Conley was the first of his career. The 145 laps led were also a career-first.
• Points leader Chase Elliott finished 14th and saw his lead in the standings shrink from 16 points to three. Larson also leapfrogged Corey LaJoie into second place in the standings with the win.
• Larson’s performance locked him into the 2013 UNOH Battle at the Beach as well as moved him into the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
• Akinori Ogata became the first driver from Japan to compete in a K&N Pro Series East. His start also marked the 13th different country to be represented in series’ history of competition.
Up Next: Raceway Park
For the first time since 1988, and just the third time in series history, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will compete at CNB Bank Raceway Park in Clearfield, Pa., with the Samuel 150 on Saturday, July 14. The recently-renovated .625-mile facility in central Pennsylvania was a half-mile oval when the K&N Pro Series East visited in the late 1980s. The Samuel 150 will be the first race in the Keystone State since 2006 at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa. The one-day show will see early afternoon practice followed by evening qualifying and the green flag at 8 p.m.