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NOTEBOOK: Moffitt Gets A Helping Hand

Lia Scores A Career-First In Modified At New Hampshire
By Travis Barrett, Special To NASCAR Home Tracks
September 21, 2012 - 6:00pm

LOUDON, N.H. – Brett Moffitt continues to make the most of the opportunities put before him.

Just weeks after announcing he wasn't even sure there was enough funding at Hattori Racing Enterprises to complete the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season – despite leading the point standings for most of the second half of the year – Moffitt found an old friend to lend a hand, and he turned it into a shot at New Hampshire Motor Speedway repeat.

Moffitt set a new track record in G-Oil 100 qualifying on Friday afternoon, winning the pole with a speed of 128.467 mph as he seeks his second straight New Hampshire victory.

“For me, I just love the bigger tracks we get to go to – here, Iowa and Dover,” Moffitt said. “I just look forward to them every year, and I have a lot of fun with them. I've just adapted well to them.”

Moffitt is using the same car he won with at New Hampshire in 2011 thanks to an arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing, who he drove for last year.

The Grimes, Iowa, native now has three career New Hampshire poles and owns an average finish of seventh in six career races at the biggest track the K&N Pro Series East competes on.

“We have a really good car, we always do when we come here,” Moffitt said. “MWR put together and gave me the car that I won with last year to bring it back to this race. The race car is just amazing here. I've got to thank Ty Norris and Travis Pastrana for helping me out and the guys at HRE for tuning on it and making it fast.”

CAREER DAY FOR LIA: Donny Lia owns two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships and a pair of race wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he still recorded a career-first on Friday at the track.

Lia set a quick lap of 129.763 mph to earn his first career Coors Light Pole Award at New Hampshire after also posting the fastest time of the 95-minute practice session in the morning.

“Our first win in '07 was more of a dominant deal. Everything went well, kind of like today,” said Lia, the 2007 and 2009 Tour champion, whose NHMS wins came in his championship seasons of 2007 and 2009. “Anytime you can win here – win anywhere – it's special.

“There have been some really exciting finishes in the Modifieds in the last few years, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully, it's not too, too exciting.”

One thing Lia knows is that practice and qualifying speeds mean little when the green flag drops on a Modified race at New Hampshire.

“With the draft and dealing with the way this track changes and everything, it just levels things at the front of the field,” Lia said. “I'd like to win a third (race) here... It would help us out for the end of the year. But we'll try and get the best finish we can and finish (in the points) in a pretty respectable spot.”

MAKING GAINS: It's likely that no one was more surprised to see Kyle Larson qualify third for the G-Oil 100 than Larson himself.

Larson was just 17th-fastest in morning practice in the No. 6 Rev Racing Toyota in his very first visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he improved his speed in qualifying by more than three miles per hour on his qualifying lap. He's hoping to turn that gain into one on Moffitt's point lead as the season starts to wind down.

“It's a bit of a surprise there,” said Larson, who is 20 points out of the series lead with four races remaining. “It was a good run for the Rev Racing team, and we can try and keep close to Brett.. It won't be easy to do, but I think we've got a good enough car and team to get it done, finish a few spots ahead of him and inch toward that points lead.”

Larson, a 2011 SPEED Performer of the Year nominee for his outstanding track record in open-wheel sprints and midgets, has one win at Gresham Motorsports Park and one pole at Bowman Gray Stadium this season.

HEADING EAST: Dylan Kwasniewski makes his New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday in the G-Oil 100, and he'll do so from a Top-10 starting position.

“It's a fun track for sure,” said Kwasniewski, who qualified 10. “It's my first time on it, so I'm still getting acclimated to it. Qualifying wasn't the best. I think we could have done better, but I made a couple of little mistakes. I still think we should be pretty good (Saturday).”

Kwasniewski, one of NASCAR's “Next 9,” finished second in the final K&N Pro Series West standings in 2011, and he has two wins and three poles in the West series this season. The 17-year-old Las Vegas, Nev., native has had his eye on starts on the East Coast and was glad that the schedule lined up for him to make the trip to New Hampshire this weekend.

“It's a little bit like Phoenix, I guess, in the sense that it's big. It's more of a paperclip than Phoenix, which has the dogleg on the backstretch,” Kwasniewski said. “It's one of the biggest races on their schedule, and we wanted to do the ones we could work in with our West schedule. I really wanted to get out on these big tracks out East, like here and Dover.”

CLOSING IN: Doug Coby saw a sizable chunk of his Whelen Modified Tour points lead disappear with a blown engine last week at Riverhead Raceway, and he knows that the championship picture could take another tumble in the F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire on Saturday.

“It's just a wild card race here. You never know what's going to happen,” said Coby, who leads Ryan Preece by nine points with three races remaining in the 2012 season. “The last 10 or 15 laps are just going to be a battle for positioning... Hopefully, we'll be in the Top-5 at the end and give it a shot.”

Coby's New Hampshire resume has its share of ups and downs. He has just an average finish of 16th in 18 career starts at the track, though he also owns nine Top-10 finishes and posted a career-best run of third last time here in July.

With the points battle so tight, though, Coby insists he's not counting points.

“It's anybody's battle right now, it's anybody's game,. If you win, you get bonus points,” Coby said. “I'm definitely not points racing; I'd like to have a New Hampshire win under my belt.”