The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East field made right and left turns this past weekend in the Fingerlakes Region of upstate New York, as Watkins Glen International played host to the 11th race of the 2018 season.
And although a series regular may not have visited Victory Lane, the championship picture became a bit more clear, the road course king was dethroned and rules are, well, rules.
Here is everything we learned from the Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 at The Glen.
Ankrum’s Title to Lose
It’s becoming more and more clear each week that a DGR-Crosley car will win the 2018 K&N East championship. And in the last four races, Tyler Ankrum has set himself apart from teammate Tyler Dippel in the title battle.
Ankrum has had finishes of first, first first and seventh, while Dippel came home third, fourth, sixth and 15th. Although road course racing isn’t the San Bernardino, Calif. native’s bread and butter, he used a first-place start (qualifying was cancelled due to rain) to his advantage, made minimal errors and brought the No. 17 Modern Meat Company Toyota home without a scratch in the top 10.
Dippel, on the other hand, encountered some issues early on. He was forced to pit road to repair damage suffered on track battling for the lead on lap three, wound up speeding on pit road to make his bad day worse. One week after running out of fuel while leading at Iowa, the No. 54 TyCar Trenchless Technologies team was looking to rebound and cut into Ankrum’s championship lead.
But leaving WGI heading to Gateway, the deficit is now 45 points for Dippel, as high as it’s been this season. Juding by the way Ankrum has been running this season, it’s his championship to lose with only four races remaining.
Takeaway from @WGI: @DGR_CROSLEY @Summerbrooke23 #17 team is awesome. I made mistakes, I will take what I learned and will make those improvements !!! Thank you #17 Modern Meat @DGR_CROSLEY @ToyotaRacing you’re the best! Off to Gateway pic.twitter.com/dou5oUWjQK
— Tyler Ankrum (@TylerAnkrum) August 4, 2018
Rodgers’ Impressive Streak Ends
Will Rodgers had won four consecutive K&N Pro Series road course events coming into Friday’s event at Watkins Glen and was a favorite to make it five. He looked to have the victory in the palm of his hand, until NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Brett Moffitt stole it from him.
Rodgers was leading coming to the white flag in his No.7 Kelly Benefit Strategies Jefferson Pitts Racing Ford. But a slip up in Turn 6 left the door open for Moffitt in Turn 7. The No. 1 of Moffitt was able to clear Rodgers exiting Turn 1 on the final lap and drove to the win.
“I think that if I hadn’t had slipped, he would have been there. The spotter and the Crew Chief were saying ‘get all you can get, because the No. 1 is coming’ and I knew he was wicked fast.”
“I think all in all it was a great race,” Rodgers said. “Almost made it five in a row but happy with the four wins we’ve got in the last year on the road courses. Yeah, it hurt. But I’m thankful to be right where I am.”
Losing one in the final laps stings 👎🏻 Had a wicked fast car from JPR, just made one mistake. Can’t thank KELLY Benefit Strategies & @TeamDrydene enough for all their support though! Congrats on the win, @Brett_Moffitt 🏁
— Will Rodgers (@willrodgers65) August 3, 2018
The NASCAR NEXT driver led 23 laps, the most on the afternoon, and drove from his 17th-place starting spot to the top three in less than five laps. This was his fourth top five and fourth top 10 in K&N Pro Series East competition.
Pit Blunder Ruins Jones, Gragson’s Chances
Erik Jones and Noah Gragson were a couple big names in the stacked field participating in the Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 on Friday. Running for DGR-Crosley, we knew they would have stout cars. And during the first half of the race, they proved it.
After starting dead last, Jones drove up to the lead in 11 laps, showcasing his No. 20 DEWALT Toyota’s raw speed. But when a caution came out on lap 18, it went downhill fast.
NASCAR deemed the caution period the halfway break, where teams are allowed to come to pit road to change tires, make adjustments and re-fuel. Everybody in the field did so, besides Jones and Gragson, who were running 1-2 at the time.
There was some confusion on the team radios as to whether or not that caution period would serve as the five-minute halfway break. Due to the confusion, the No.’s 20 and 98 stayed out on the racetrack maintaining the top two spots.
Only there was one problem: they didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end of the 41-lap, 100.45-mile event. And pitting for fuel at any point besides the halfway break, per the rulebook, is a one lap penalty.
Following the ensuing restart, both cars ducked down pit road for a splash of fuel, giving up their positions and being held for one lap. To make matters worse, both cars were caught speeding on pit road, putting them two laps down and effectively, ending their races.
Team owner David Gilliland was visibly frustrated at the situation, as well as crew chiefs Kevin Manion and Ryan Fugle. Jones and Gragson went on to finish 19th and 20th, respectively.
- In his first K&N Pro Series East start in five seasons, Brett Moffitt’s victory was the 10th of his career and first at Watkins Glen International. He overcame a 21st-place starting spot and early spin, which gave his No. 1 Toyota slight damage. His previous best finish on a road course in four starts the K&N Pro Series was a third at WGI (2009) and VIR (2013). RACING-REFERENCE: Brett Moffitt’s K&N Pro Series East starts
- Scott Heckert, two-time WGI K&N Pro Series East winner (2014, 2015) evaded trouble and a minor engine issue which forced the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet to pit under caution to come home in third place.
- After practicing in the wet, qualifying being cancelled due to rain and the field starting the race on rain tires, NASCAR called the field down pit road before the initial green flag. Due to the track drying out rapidly, the entire field put on dry tires and started the race on them.