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OBSERVATIONS: WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s Race 1 at South Boston

As the fans continue to preach for more short tracks on the NASCAR National touring schedules moving forward, the NASCAR Home Tracks divisions are continuing to showcase why this needs to happen.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series has proven to be a great division for young stars to showcase why they should compete against the stars in the national tours. As they’re pushing those envelopes, they are continuing to put together stellar finishes.

A late caution set-up a green-white-checkered finish to the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100 Race 1 for the K&N Pro Series East at South Boston Speedway, and it impressed every fan watching the free stream on FansChoice.tv.

After giving up the lead to Sam Mayer over the course of the long run, Tanner Gray took full advantage of the restart, with a well-timed bump to the back of the No. 21 Chevrolet, followed by some rubbing well alongside on the tight track to take over the lead. He then held on through the final lap for the victory.

It’s always been stated that “racecars have bumpers for a reason,” as well as the classic stories of the “chrome horn.” Gray perfected the move in that moment as he got the position on Mayer, however he didn’t go over the limit by wrecking his competitor. 

Gray’s transition into stock cars has been interesting to watch thus far as Saturday’s event only marked his third career series in the start. He also does not have an asphalt oval background like many of his competitors, coming from the drag racing world into NASCAR. His quick ability to adapt to stock cars could prove critical moving forward.

If the caution does not fly, Mayer easily had the event in hand as he had been able to put a couple car lengths on Gray after taking the lead with a stronger car on the long run. Meyer has been equally as impressive as his counterpart, as evident by his dominating performance at Bristol Motor Speedway a couple weeks ago. 

Although everyone looked forward to seeing both of these young drivers go head-to-head once again in the second event starting up front, they also showed why they still have things to learn. Gray jumped the initial start, while Meyer made contact with the outside wall. With both being in the title fight, being able to gain ground when the race does go back green on Sunday could be a pivotal part of the season.

Certainly the youth and needing to learn showed through with other drivers, as well.

Drew Dollar gave up a top-five run in the first 100-lapper following contact with Chase Cabre as they both fought for the same piece of real estate.

Hailie Deegan may be applauded for her aggressive ability, but she showed the need to learn patience in driving over Colin Garrett in the first 18 laps of the second event before it was postponed to Sunday due to weather. Garrett showcased his frustration to his fellow competitor, resulting in shock from the fans in not being able to see a replay of the incident despite FansChoice.tv using that feature for other previous incidents. 

Garrett is not totally done for the weekend, as the rain will see him jump behind the wheel of Ruben Garcia‘s entry when the field goes back green as Garcia travels to Mexico to race in the NASCAR Mexico Series. With some time to think over what happened and running for a different team than his own, does revenge happen?

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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OBSERVATIONS: New Smyrna 175 (and World Series Night 4)

The cleanest race for NASCAR during Speedweeks is in the books, and it didn’t even happen on the biggest stage. While the restrictor plate events at Daytona International Speedway will be mired with crashes, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East took center stage at New Smyrna Speedway.

And frankly, they put on the better show with what they delivered.

Although it appeared as though Colin Garrett and Drew Dollar were going to battle it out for the win, neither of them accepted the accolades in victory lane as Derek Kraus took those honors instead.

The 27-years-old has raced in the K&N Pro Series ranks for the past two years with top-five points finishes, and the experience showed. Despite starting 16th on the grid, he conserved his tires while slowly making his way to the front, choosing to ride just inside the top-five. 

Then when the opportunity presented itself with the youthfulness of Garrett and Dollar getting together on a restart with 44 laps to go, Kraus did what he had to do, splitting the middle between the pair to drive by and cruise away en route to victory. Arguably, it was probably one of the best textbook restart passes that you will probably see all season. As he said post-race, “I might’ve gotten in the grass, but I got it done.”

While the pass highlighted the night, the field was arguably calm throughout without any serious wrecks, except for Brittney Zamora collecting Tanner Gray in her second spin on debut night. However, that doesn’t mean that the fans were not delivered a show. The drivers raced for positions door-to-door all night long within and outside of the top-five, sometimes making light contact along the way – but hey, rubbin’ is racing on the short tracks. 

There have been concerns about the state of NASCAR with some of the rule changes and an array of talented, experienced drivers stepping away over the past couple seasons. However, the next generation is there ready to take their place, and that was on display Monday night.

There are several drivers in the field that could easily make an impression in NASCAR’s top-three ranks down the road. Ty Gibbs proved himself with a runner-up in his K&N Pro Series debut, while Sam Meyer placed fourth in just his seventh start. 

– Although some of NASCAR’s rule changes recently haven’t gone over well, the decision to go to competition cautions with five minute breaks is very welcoming.

Essentially, when the caution comes out and if you choose to pit, you can take your time with your service, before returning on the track. If you chose to stay out, you get to start ahead of those who pitted; the cars that pitted then follow behind, in the order they were in entering pit road for service.

As a result, you keep the balance of strategy onto whether to pit or not, while not having to worry about possible consequences of a bad green flag pit stop. 

Kraus was one of the several drivers who elected to pit under the first caution, while four other drivers stayed out. Dollar and Garrett were among those who did not get service under either yellow flag, and it showed with the handling going away as laps were ran. Meanwhile, Kraus’ adjustments kept the No. 16 Toyota underneath him so he could make the move when it counted.

– Can we also applaud NASCAR for their cost-saving measure in only allowing one single set of General Tires for the event? On top of the money not being spent, it also teaches the drivers about conserving equipment – something we know can come in handy when they move up the ranks. 

Hailie Deegan has been regarded as one of the top up-and-coming female drivers, with plenty of media shined her way. She has also backed up the talk by winning a K&N Pro Series West event last year, too. Unfortunately after starting on pole, mechanical issues plagued her night all the way to a 16th-place finish.

Her evening continued to get worse, as she also wrecked out of the Pro Late Model event at New Smyrna following the K&N Pro Series race after getting loose off of the corner. Look for her to bounce back and prove herself in the upcoming races.

While the focus for many is the action at Daytona International Speedway, February in Florida is busy with racing events. Bubba Raceway Park and Volusia Speedway have something for dirt fans each night, while New Smyrna Speedway hosts their World Series.

If you want to get a glance at the next generation, checking out any of these events is a must as they always put on a good show. The best part? Fanschoice.tv is live streaming each night for free for your viewing pleasure. 

– Deegan wasn’t the only driver to find trouble during the Pro Late Model event. The Mike Skinner-owned team saw both of their drivers black-flagged for jumping the restart, with the second call being gut-wrenching as it saw Jamie Skinner go from victory lane to last car on the lead lap. 

The Pro Late Models have been putting impressive side-by-side racing together on-track, while stealing the headlines. The restart controversy follows up the first night where Colin Kravil and Derek Griffith wrecked racing for the lead, and Deegan called out Jeremy Miller for a motor advantage. For the record, while Deegan wrecked out, Miller drove from the back to third after blowing his engine in practice; for Kvapil and Griffith, neither was able to rebound as they would have hoped on Monday.

– The Florida based modifieds are causing fans to talk for all the wrong reasons. The racing was pretty much strung out single-file, with the race experiencing a lengthy delay at the end to clean up fluid. It would’ve been better to call a time limit on the end of the event, and move on. Thankfully Bob Dillner eased some of the pain with his interviews and commentary for those at home.

Doug Coby may say that he is just down there testing, but he’s doing a fine job in the process as he put together a dominating performance in pacing every single lap en route to victory. Despite the races getting longer in the coming days, he’ll be a threat to sweep them all – but don’t start engraving the trophy yet.

Patrick Emerling and Matt Hirschman put together an impressive battle for second through the final 10 laps, with Hirschman looking for every way possible around for second. While it seems worth nothing now after Emerling was disqualified for a left-side weight violation, they could easily give Coby a run for his money over the next couple nights.

Ryan Preece is another name that can’t be forgotten. He had the speed to race up through the pack and could’ve been right there with the top-five, but an unscheduled pit stop for the car being stuck in gear put him behind. 

– The Super Late Models didn’t have the smoothest night of competition, with a couple big accidents eliminating drivers from the event. The frustration was echoed by the drivers, with Ryan Moore saying, “They have enough trouble lining up. You can’t expect them to know how to race.” 

At the front of the field, talent was the name of the game with arguably the best Super Late Model driver across the country Bubba Pollard conserving his equipment through the first half, before scoring the victory. Despite having won practically every big event across the United States – well, except the Snowball Derby, this marks his first win down at the World Series. 

He isn’t driving his own car, though, as he was asked to drive Dave Rogers’ entry with Rogers having surgery. The first night it seemed that Pollard was out of place, scoring a fourth-place finish by mere luck after the leaders got together. Now that he has the No. 11 driving as he wants, this may be the start of a dominating run from here on out.

Dan Frederickson led the first half of the event, and appeared set for a strong podium performance. However, with Pollard closing in, he made a mistake and got up into the wall. Ultimately, that caused him to drop through the running order. Heartbreaking.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Colin Garrett

After scoring five top-10’s last year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Colin Garrett will return for a sophomore season partnered up with Sam Hunt Racing. The Virginia native recently took some time to share his thoughts on the upcoming campaign with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?

COLIN GARRETT: It’s going to be my sophomore season in the K&N Series, and it’s my first time going to New Smyrna and Bristol – I missed those two races last year. I think we’re going to have a pretty good shot to be competitive this year and run up front. Last year, you know we didn’t have the best equipment but we were able to work with what we had and kept on chugging on through the year I guess is the right way to put it.

But this year, we had the winter reset and just get everything sorted out so we don’t have as many mechanical failures and stuff. We’re just trying to cross our Ts, dot our Is – all that kind of stuff.

PS: What are your goals and expectations?

Russell Labounty | NKP

COLIN: Well I’d like to definitely win a few races this year. Last year was a really long year between all of my cars. I ran late models, supers, K&N – and we only won one race last year. So it really sucked. Last year was a really long year, but overall, it was an overall good learning year.

So if we take everything that I learned from last year and put it into this year – and like I said, having the winter to reset, I think we can be a contender to win and hopefully go for the championship. We just need to get to that point throughout the season. It’s only 14 races, but it’s a long eight months.

PS: What’s the biggest thing you learned last year that you feel will benefit you this year?

COLIN: Really, just how to race these cars. These cars have 650 horsepower, but they’re so heavy and really tall; it’s kind of like racing a school bus with a jet engine. It’s just a really big bulky car so you have to learn how to drive it, especially on these short tracks. It’s all about who has the most speed through the center; it’s a big long drag race down the straightaway with whoever can get the power down.

We ran several short track races and we qualified third at Thompson, but we ended up having a really loose car. I think just from everything I learned from that will help for New Smyrna. For the big tracks, I’ve been to the big tracks now so I can be able to use that knowledge with how the air works, how not to use much brake, and that stuff, and going to these tracks for the second time is going to help a lot.

First time I went to New Hampshire, we qualified 13th or something like that. But the next time we went, I qualified sixth, a tenth off the pole. So it definitely helps going to these tracks for a second time.

PS: So having said that, what track are you most looking forward to?

COLIN: As much as I hate this track, probably New Hampshire. We ran really good there last year. So I really don’t like New Hampshire, but it’s probably my favorite track with the success there now. That’ll be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to getting back there. Thompson is going to be a really fun track – like I said, we qualified third there. Then of course my hometown track, South Boston.

PS: How did you get started in racing?

COLIN: We really don’t know. We’ve been trying to figure that out because none of my family races. It was all me that started it. We think maybe back to a family reunion 15 years ago or whatever it was, I was watching a race or something; we don’t know. Like, I’ve just always loved racing. Jeff Gordon was my favorite driver growing up. It’s just something that I’ve always loved since I was a kid – NASCAR, Formula 1, all that kind of stuff. Formula 1 is my more favorite, but we’re not really in a place where Formula 1 is so NASCAR is definitely the bigger way to go around here.

PS: What’s been the most memorable career moment to date for you?

John Harrelson | NKP

COLIN: Probably my championship from a couple years ago – the 2017 Limited Sportsman Championship at South Boston. That was really big for my team and for me. I just got into racing two years prior and to go out there and win five races or something like that, plus winning I think two late model races and two poles. I think that was the biggest – that whole year was pretty big. 

PS: What is your advice to others looking to get started in racing?

COLIN: Start your expectations low, especially if you haven’t been racing a lot. Just set goals for yourself every week. Maybe just like top-10 this week, top-eight the next week, top-six the next week and so on and so forth. That was my biggest thing. I came off the 2017 year having just won the championship at South Boston and that was pretty big, and it just kind of went down hill rapidly. We got one other win in 2018 at the beginning, but when it came down to it a couple races later, we were struggling really bad.

So that’s the biggest thing – just set each goals each week for yourself. I was entered the year expecting to win every week, and then when we weren’t able to do that, it really sucked.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.