HAMPTON, Va. — Tyler Dippel had to earn this one.
The 18-year-old Wallkill, New York native completed the weekend sweep, winning his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on Saturday night at Langley Speedway after being quickest in both practice sessions and starting on the pole for the Visit Hampton VA 150.
Dippel was able to hold off eventual second-place finisher Anthony Alfredo in a five-lap shootout to cross the finish line 1.212 seconds ahead of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate.
Although Dippel started and ended up front, the NASCAR Next graduate spent the first 75 laps at the rear.
Dippel, along with eventual third-place finisher and DGR-Crosley teammate Tyler Ankum, fell to the rear immediately after the green flag flew, opting to save their tires for the second half of the 150-lap event.
The No. 54 TyCar Trenchless Technologies/D&A Concrete Toyota ran around 13th-place for most of the first half of the race and was able to stay in front of then-leader Marcos Gomes and remain on the lead lap. Along with the majority of the field, they opted to stay out under the halfway caution.
Slowly and methodically, Dippel worked his way up into the top five. And before long, he was watching Ankrum challenge Alfredo for the lead.
With 11 laps to go, Ankrum squeezed underneath Alfredo for the top spot, before giving it right back in turn one the ensuing lap after overshooting the corner.
That allowed Dippel to close in on Alfredo’s bumper. He made quick work of the Ridgefield, Connecticut, and was scored the leader when the final caution came out moments later when Ankrum spun as he attempted to pass Alfredo once again.
Dippel rocketed clear of Alfredo on the final restart and was able to cruise to Victory Lane for the first time since 2016 (Mobile) and first time in his career at Langley.
"Man, I mean it was just unreal," Dippel said in Victory Lane. "Honestly, if it went green, I didn’t know if we were going to get him. But then we caught lapped traffic and that kind of helped us there. We got really, really loose on that run there and we were able to play with our fans under caution. And after that we just checked out after the caution."
After finishing ninth at New Smyrna and sixth at Bristol earlier this season, Dippel was relieved to finally earn the victory that seemed to elude him this season.
"What a weekend. I can’t thank all my guys enough, all the people that stick behind me," said Dippel, who recently joined DGR-Crosley. "My mom and dad, D&A Concrete, just everyone. It feels so good to be back here. I can’t thank the DGR guys enough. I think we’re just getting started here at DGR. I can’t wait for the rest of the year."
Alfredo was pleased to get a well-deserved finish after coming home 24th at New Smyrna and 18th at Bristol. But wished things fell differently for him as the laps wound down.
"We caught a lot of lapped traffic there, and unfortunately, not all of them got out of the way when we needed them to," Alfredo said. "They were too busy racing each other to realize the leaders were racing each other right behind them. That kind of helped them catch up to us there. And then the caution fell at the end when we about had the race won if it weren’t for that.
"But we had a really strong run and I’m proud of our effort. The guys worked hard all weekend, they always do. We knew we were capable of winning races and we ran up front the first two races of the year but unfortunately we’ve been take out of circumstances that weren’t of our own doing, so we haven’t really had the end results that show what we’re capable of. But to have a good run tonight is solid nonetheless and a little bit refreshing."
Ankrum’s finishes this season keep getting better. Fifth at New Smyrna, fourth at Bristol and now a third at Langley. But having the lead in his grasp at the end made this a tough one to swallow.
"We got a good restart on the outside lane after that last caution with about five to go, and that helped me get to third," Ankrum said of the closing laps. "I couldn’t get to Alfredo enough. Barely lost it by half a car length. Hard racing, no hard feelings, really. It sucks, but it’s part of short-track racing. We had the best car and I felt like we were the fastest guys all weekend."
Dillon Bassett and Grant Quinlan rounded out the top five, with Colin Garrett, Connor Hall, Chase Cabre, Ryan Vargas and Ruben Garcia Jr. completing the top 10.
Ankrum moved to the top of the championship points standings, two in front of Dippel. Ronnie Bassett Jr. is third, 17 back, followed by Ryan Vargas and Todd Gilliland.
The Visit Hampton VA 150 will air on NBCSN on Thursday, May 3 at 11 p.m. ET.
The K&N Pro Series East will return to the track in two weeks in at South Boston Speedway for the Who’s Your Driver Twin 100s on Saturday May 12 at 7 p.m. ET.