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Harrison Burton will look to be the first driver to win back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races at Bristol Motor Speedway. (NASCAR via Getty Images)

PIT BOX: Harrison Burton & Co. Rumble Into Thunder Valley

After opening up the season during Speedweeks with an exciting race at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East had a little time off. But that vacation is over, as the series returns to action this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. “The Last Great Colosseum” will kick off a stretch of five races in Virginia and Tennessee over the next month and a half.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It’s hard to bet against Harrison Burton. The Mooresville, North Carolina, driver is running a handful of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races in addition to his NASCAR Camping World Series schedule, and the defending champion has the trip to Thunder Valley circled on his schedule. Burton won the pole and led 13 laps in the 2016 event before being sidelined with engine issues. Last year, he won the pole again and led 68 of 70 laps to win the rain-shortened affair. The six K&N Pro East races at the high-banked .533-mile oval has had six different winners and Burton will look to break that trend.

If he does so, he’ll have to out-run a loaded field. Defending K&N Pro West champion and Burton’s Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate on the Camping World Truck side, Todd Gilliland, will be looking for back-to-back wins. Gilliland held off Burton in a frantic final lap dash to win at New Smyrna. In addition to his son, David Gilliland’s team will include up-and-comer Tyler Ankrum as well as NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rising star Noah Gragson.

Cole Rouse and Derek Kraus finished second and fourth, respectively in that race. And the pair of Bill McAnally Racing drivers finished first and third — with Kraus taking home the win — in the K&N Pro Series West opener in Bakersfield, California, last month.

Ruben Garcia Jr. will lead a Rev Racing contingent looking to break through. Garcia, the 2015 NASCAR Mexico Series champion, finshed second to Burton at Bristol last year.

RACING-REFERENCE: Previous K&N Pro Series East races at Bristol | K&N Pro Series East drivers’ career stats at Bristol

Ten of the 28 drivers entered in Saturday’s race are members of the NASCAR Next program or alum of the industry initiative developed to identify and support the sport’s top young drivers.

RACE FACTS

RACE ZOMBIE AUTO 150
PLACE Bristol Motor Speedway
DATE Thursday, March 15
TIME 4 p.m. ET
TELEVISION NBCSN, Friday, April 20 – 1 a.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT Half-mile oval
2017 WINNER Harrison Burton
2017 POLE Harrison Burton
EVENT SCHEDULE Friday — Garage opens: 8:30 a.m. ET; Practice: 2:30-3:30 p.m.; Group qualifying: 6 p.m.

Saturday — Garage opens: 11:30 a.m.; Driver autograph session: 11:30 a.m.; Zombie Auto 150: 4 p.m.

TWITTER @BMSUpdates
HASHTAG #ZombieAuto150 #KNEast

RACE CENTER | ENTRY LIST | TICKETS

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The maximum starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals.

Qualifying groups will be determined by each vehicle’s overall fastest single lap from the official practice sessions.

The first 32 cars will secure starting positions based on the two-lap qualifying session. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process.

The ZOMBIE AUTO 150 will be 150 laps (80 miles) to be run in three (3) segments. The five (5) minute breaks will occur at or near the conclusion of Laps 50 and 100. At the conclusion of the break, lead lap vehicles that elected to pit will line up – in the order they were running at the beginning of the break — behind the lead lap vehicles that elected not to pit in order of running. Fuel may only be added during the breaks.

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is as follows: Four (4) tires for practice, four (4) tires for qualifying, and four (4) additional tires to use during the race for a total of eight (12) tires.


LOCAL FOCUS

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series hits the dirt this weekend.

Three NASCAR-sanctioned dirt tracks will feature their opening nights on Saturday: Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa; Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisconsin; and Coos Bay Speedway in Oregon. The Division I Poet Biorefining Modifieds will headline Casey’s General Store Opening Night at Adams County, a .375-mile clay oval that has been a NASCAR Home Track since 1984. Cedar Lake had it’s opening night originally postponed due to weather  and will kickoff its Fourth annual NASCAR Dash on the .375-mile clay oval this weekend. Coos Bay, which joined NASCAR last year, is headlined by its Super Late Model Division on the high-banked .375-mile oval.

Also slated to kick off their race seasons are Idaho’s Magic Valley Speedway and Meridian Speedway. Magic Valley is a .333-mile oval in Twins Falls and has the Cactus Pete’s Super Late Models as its Division I. Meridian is a quarter-mile asphalt oval just west of Boise, and will host double features for its Division I PitstopUSA.com Modifieds as part of its Pepsi Season Opener.

MEDIA CENTER

RaceDayCT: Fast Start: Keith Rocco Rolls To SK Modified Victory At Thompson Speedway Icebreaker

Speedway Digest: Max Tullman adds Bristol K&N Pro Series East race to increasing schedule

 

Worcester Telegram: Justin Bonsignore snaps drought, wins Icebreaker 150 at Thompson