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Dillon Bassett Fighting for K&N East Success

Dillon Bassett, who may be one of the most underrated drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, is fighting for everything he can get.

The 20-year-old driver from Winston Salem, North Carolina is a former champion in the now-defunct UARA Late Model Series and has one career win to date on the K&N East tour. Now, Bassett is hoping for more success with hopes of moving up the ranks.

“We can only be focused on what we’re doing right now,” Bassett told POPULAR SPEED. “We have a lot on our plate right now with trying to run the East series. Always looking for sponsorship. That’s one of the main things to move up nowadays. Just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got and, if an opportunity presents itself, then we would be more than willing to take it. Just trying to focus on what we’ve got now.”

Bassett scored his first and, to date, only K&N East Series win at Motordrome Speedway in Pennsylvania back in 2015. The following year, he had a strong start in the K&N East Series, but his family owned and operated team suffered a devastating setback in May 2016 when a fire ripped through their Winston Salem race shop.

“Yeah, it happened about halfway through the season last year, and we lost a lot of our stuff, but the good Lord was good to us, and we bounced back,” Bassett said. “We’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”

This season, luck has not been on Bassett’s side with only two top-five finishes in the K&N East Series. Most recently, Bassett led the most laps at Langley Speedway in Virginia, but faded late in the race before being involved in an accident.

Bassett won’t let bad luck keep him down. He’s still determined to show that he has the talent to win races and possibly compete in NASCAR’s upper echelons one day.

“All I can do is I can place 110 percent of my trust in the guys that work in my car in the shop,” Bassett remarked. “Be there when I can. I’m in school full-time as well. Just put my trust in them and when we show up to the racetrack, be as much prepared as we can and give our best effort week in and week out and never give up. That’s where we’ve been at this year. We’ve had a lot of bad luck but we still just been fighting away at it trying to get the best finishes that we can even though things haven’t gone our way a lot.

“All we can do is keep fighting and hope that somebody sees and is willing to give me a shot.”

Bassett credits some of his success in the K&N East Series to what he learned racing Late Model Stock Cars in the Carolinas and Virginia. However, the younger of the two Bassett brothers also sees a difference – primarily in the advantage gained through technology and resources by the well-funded teams.

“We learned a lot,” Bassett explained. “A lot of stuff transfers. It seems to me like Late Model racing is a lot different than these things. It seems to me that even the guys with a lot of money in late models don’t always run as good but, if you have a lot of money in this series or so on, it seems to benefit them more. I don’t really understand (why), but all we can do is keep fighting for what we’ve got and just try to compete with these guys on a weekly basis and try to win races.”

While Bassett is looking ahead in his career, there is still one thing he would like in Late Model Stock Car racing – redemption in one of the biggest races, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

In 2013, Bassett was involved in a thrilling duel for the win with Lee Pulliam, Deac McCaskill, Matt Waltz and Tommy Lemons, Jr., but a series of late cautions changed the complexion of the race. Bassett had the lead coming to a green-white-checkered restart, but Lemons ended up taking the top spot in the most controversial restart in the event’s history and scoring the victory, while Bassett came away with a heartbreaking runner-up finish.

Feeling like he is owed one, Bassett would love to compete in this year’s race, which will be held on September 23rd – the first event under Martinsville Speedway’s new permanent LED lighting system.

“I don’t know if Martinsville owes me one but NASCAR sure as hell owes me one,” Bassett stated. “I’d love to man. I’ve been talking about it all year. Under the lights, that’s just something that any driver would want to experience. Especially since it’s new and the Late Model race is going to be the first one to do it. Don’t really have a car or ride set for that race but with it being this close, it probably won’t happen, but I would love to do it.”

This weekend, Bassett will turn his attention to the twists and turns of the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Saturday’s JustDrive.com 125.  It will be Bassett’s first start at the New Jersey track.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

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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Intensity Level Rising in K&N Title Fight

HAMPTON, VA – Two of NASCAR racing’s hottest prospects are locked in a tight championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in what could be a preview of future title fights in NASCAR’s upper echelons.

After picking up a win at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland took over the K&N East points lead. Gilliland has a six marker advantage over his main championship rival, 15-year-old Harrison Burton, and both drivers have been relatively evenly matched.

On Monday, Gilliland, the son of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland, made a late race pass on Dillon Bassett and pulled away from the Chase Purdy in the final laps to score his fourth K&N East victory of the year – tying Burton in number of wins in the eastern tour.

“This is a crucial part of the season overall,” Gilliland said afterward. “With there only being 14 races, all of them are very important. This one is huge for us, taking the lead. We had some bad luck to start the year off but, man, we’ve come on strong in these summer months. We’ve just got two more races to go get it.”

While Gilliland lavished in victory lane, Burton languished.

Burton, son of NBC Sports broadcaster and former MENCS racer Jeff Burton, struggled throughout much of the day. During the race, Burton fought valiantly, but was only able to come away with a seventh place finish and, as a result, watched his four point lead become a six point deficit.

“It was a tough race for us,” Burton remarked. “We didn’t have the handle on the car all week. We’ve got to win the next two, that’s what we have to do. It’s something we’re really capable of. We’ve got to go to the road course and win and I know I’m capable of it. I believe in my team, and we’re going to have a great car. Then we’ve got to go to Dover and take care of business there.”

With two races remaining, the K&N Series standouts will now turn their attention to the 2.25-mile road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 16th, and both drivers are confident entering the event.

Todd Gilliland has fared well at the road courses so far in 2017. In the most recent road course race at Watkins Glen International, Gilliland finished second to Will Rodgers. Heading to New Jersey, Gilliland is already looking to gain an advantage.

“We’re driving all night after this race to go test at New Jersey,” Gilliland said. “We’re going to try to give ourselves the best chance we’ve got. That’s all we can do.”

Harrison Burton, who finished third at Watkins Glen, is equally optimistic about the New Jersey race.

“That’s my best road course I run at,” Burton remarked. “Really excited to get going to New Jersey. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of fun. We get tires at the halfway break, so that plays into my favor. I’ve never been too good at saving tires. I like going 100 percent, but, we’ve got to go and do what we’ve got to do.”

Both drivers come from NASCAR pedigree and have had plenty of success in short track racing – Burton in Super Late Models and Gilliland in Late Model Stock Cars.

Burton recently won the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt championship as well as the Speedfest 200 Super Late Model race in Georgia.  Gilliland, who won last year’s K&N West championship and is poised to defend that title, won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour in North Carolina back in 2015 before moving up the ladder and into the K&N Series. Both drivers have also made starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and are members of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

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.