Tuesday, July 25, 2017

K&N Pro Series News & Notes: Iowa

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Once again, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series divisions converge on Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for the Casey’s General Store 150 presented by Vatterott College on Friday, July 28. The annual combination event for both the K&N Pro Series East and West features teams from each series going head to head on the .875-mile D-shaped oval, and since its inception, the race has been a proving ground for future NASCAR success.

The West has been on a roll over the last few years in the event. While East drivers won each of the first seven combination races at Iowa dating back to the inaugural event in 2007, West teams have now accounted for three straight victories and four of the last seven overall.

Reigning West champion Todd Gilliland enters the weekend as an early favorite, leading the K&N Pro Series West standings in defense of his 2016 title — which included a win in this event — and heading into the weekend having won the most recent East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Gilliland, of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, has an 11-point lead atop the West standings and is second in the East, just 14 points shy of leader Harrison Burton.

RACE: Casey’s General Store 150 presented by Vatterott College

PLACE: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa

DATE: Friday, July 28

TIME: 7:30 p.m. CT
AIRDATE: NBCSN, Thursday, August 3 at 7 p.m. ET

TRACK LAYOUT: .875-mile banked D-shaped asphalt oval

2016 WINNER: Todd Gilliland

2016 POLE WINNER: Kyle Benjamin

EVENT SCHEDULE: Friday, July 28 — Garage opens: 10 a.m.; Practice: 2-3 p.m.; Final practice: 3:15-3:55 p.m.; Driver autograph session: 4:10 p.m.; Group qualifying: 5 p.m.; Casey’s General Store 150: 7:30 p.m.

TRACK CONTACT: Edward Williams, (641) 791-8038, ewilliams@iowaspeedway.com

TWITTER: @IowaSpeedway


NASCAR IMC CONTACT: Brooke Franceschini, (386) 631-6142, bfranceschini@nascar.com.

The Race: The Casey’s General Store 150 will be the 10th of 14 races on the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule, and it is the ninth of 14 races on the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule.

The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will qualify through the group qualifying process while the remaining eight spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps, spanning 131.25 miles, and there will be a five-minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75.

The Track: This is the 15th combination race for the K&N Pro Series at the .875-mile D-shaped oval dating back to May 2007. There has been at least one race held at the track in each season since. Designed by former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Rusty Wallace, it plays host to NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races annually.

Race Winners: There have been 13 different winners in the 14 combination races held at Iowa, with Brandon McReynolds being the only multi-time winner at the track after sweeping the two races there in 2015. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch won the K&N race there in 2009, while 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano won the inaugural event in 2007, beating runner-up Kevin Harvick.

Track records: The one-lap series qualifying record at Iowa was established by Kyle Busch on May 17, 2009 at 135.484 mph (23.250 seconds). The 150-lap race record was set by Todd Gilliland last season at 98.505 mph (1 hour, 20 minutes, 7 seconds).

New Points System: The K&N Pro Series annual combination event will feature a new rule package this year. For the first time drivers will be awarded overall points based on where they finish rather than in their respective series. This will allow drivers and teams to compete for championship points in both the K&N Pro Series East and West; drivers must designate which series they will receive points (East, West or both) prior to the event and hold the appropriate NASCAR license.

Career Building: Of the 14 previous winners at Iowa Speedway, five went on to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series careers with several others moving into other NASCAR national series.

Current Cup Series driver and 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano won the inaugural event in 2007, while 2015 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch won at Iowa two years later. Brett Moffitt, Corey LaJoie and Chase Elliott all have Iowa wins in the K&N Pro Series on their resumes. In 2012, Elliott held off fellow future Cup driver Ryan Blaney for the victory.

Brian Ickler, Cole Custer, Ben Rhodes and Brandon Jones also won races at Iowa before moving up the NASCAR ladder to the XFINITY Series or Camping World Truck Series.

One Debut, Two Return: Two-time K&N Pro Series East race winner Ben Kennedy returns to the series this weekend at Iowa, driving the Kevin Manion-owned No. 1 Menards Toyota. The former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crew chief enters the K&N Pro Series for the first time after several years of fielding NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars on a part-time basis.

Kennedy, who competed full-time in the Camping World Truck Series from 2014 to 2016, has run part-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season with a best finish of sixth at Loudon in nine starts.

Kennedy isn’t the only driver making a return to his roots this weekend. Jeff Green, the 2000 XFINITY Series champion and longtime competitor in both that series and the Cup Series, will make his first career K&N Pro Series start for owner Eric McClure. Michael Self, who has won twice at Iowa in 2012 and 2013, continues his return campaign in the K&N Pro Series West with Sunrise Ford Racing.

Hot Streaks: K&N Pro Series East point leader Harrison Burton, son of longtime Cup Series driver Jeff Burton, has been the hottest driver in the series this season.

Burton has won four of the nine races this season and has finished outside the top five only once — at Berlin earlier this month, when he finished sixth — to lead the point standings by 14 over Todd Gilliland.

In the West, former champion Chris Eggleston of Erie, Colorado, has been strong in the middle stages of the season. He won back-to-back races at California’s Orange Show Speedway and his home track of Colorado National Speedway, to move within just 11 points of West leader Gilliland with three wins this season. Like Burton, Eggleston has finished outside the top five only once all season, when he was 10th in the most recent event at California’s Sonoma Raceway.

International Flavor: The K&N Pro Series ranks, whose NASCAR Drive For Diversity program produced Kyle Larson — who is second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings — Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr., among others, continues to feature a diverse lineup.

Mexican driver Ruben Garcia Jr. will join Takuma Koga of Japan in Friday’s field. Rev Racing teammates (and brothers) Collin Cabre and Chase Cabre will also compete in the Casey’s General Store 150. African-Americans Jesse Iwuji and Jay Beasley will be in the race, too, as will two women in Nicole Behar and Julia Landauer.

In total, one-quarter of the drivers on the early entry list for the Casey’s General Store 150 are either minority or female drivers.

NASCAR Next: The field for this weekend is packed with NASCAR Next talent. In addition to current members - Harrison Burton, Chase Cabre, Todd Gilliland and Chase Purdy - alumni Nicole Behar, Collin Cabre, Tyler Dippel, Ben Kennedy, Julia Landauer, Jesse Little and Michael Self are all slated to compete in the Casey's General Store 150 presented by Vatterott College.

Since the program's inception in 2011, NASCAR Next drivers or alumni have taken all but one of the overall wins at Iowa Speedway.