Will Rodgers Earns First K&N East Victory At Watkins Glen

Will Rodgers celebrates in victory lane after winning his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on Friday at Watkins Glen International. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It was a day of firsts for Will Rodgers. In his first ever NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start, he became a first-time winner.

The Murrieta, California, native wheeled his No. 7 Solvang Brewing Company Ford to Victory Lane for the first time in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series career, holding off Ruben Garcia, Jr. and Todd Gilliland on an overtime restart.

“We fired off right off the truck really well,” Rodgers said post-race. “I knew we were going to have a really good piece for the race. It was just a matter of making the right moves at the right time.”

With three laps to go, Max Papis blew an engine and left oil down on the track before the bus stop. The race ultimately had to be red flagged for extensive clean-up, so Rodgers had a lot of time to think about the restart that ultimately changed his life.

“We’ve been struggling all year on restarts,” Rodgers, who is competing full-time in the K&N Pro Series West this season, said. “It’s still something I’m trying to learn. This is my 14th or 15th stock car race, so I’m still learning. I needed to get a good restart and barrel it into the corner pretty deep to keep those guys behind me. That’s what happened, and we were able to clear them coming out of turn 2.”

Rodgers finished second to 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 from Sonoma Raceway last month. Harvick joined Rodgers in the winner’s circle after the win, and Rodgers said he took some lessons learned from Harvick that day in California he applied at Watkins Glen.

“That race last month was pretty surreal,” Rodgers said of the battle with Harvick. “Being able to run wheel to wheel with Kevin, I think I learned a lot of things I applied here. After we had that great run (at Sonoma), we decided we absolutely have to go run road courses. And that was one of Kevin’s suggestions to me…my first time here to win it, it’s pretty great.”

Todd Gilliland came home in second, 1.493 seconds behind Rodgers while and Harrison Burton finished in third place.

“We had a pretty good run from being ninth in practice,” Gilliland said. “We picked up a little from qualifying to qualify in the fifth position. And from there, we kind of rode for the first few laps and then those guys got off line and made a few mistakes and were able to slide by them. Just a little more mistake free than those guys I was racing.”

Burton maintains his championship series points lead over Gilliland by five points, unofficially.

“Battling back was the biggest deal,” Burton said. “We just had an ill-handling race car in the first segment there. Fought back from that, got a little better at the break and had to capitalize on the restarts and cautions that came out….solid points day, but we just got to look ahead.”

Ruben Garcia, Jr. finished in fourth, with Jay Beasley in fifth.

Ronnie Bassett, Jr. came home in fourth place and Ruben Garcia, Jr. finished in fifth. Garcia, Jr. tried a dive-bomb move in turn 7 on the final lap, but fell just short of Rodgers’ bumper. Jay Beasley finished in fifth.

Ronnie Bassett, Jr., Chase Cabre, Dylan Murry, Dillon Bassett and Matt Tifft rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Polesitter Ryan Truex saw his promising day go south in a hurry on lap 28. While leading Gilliland, the left front tire appeared to go flat, sending him hard into the guardrail. He ultimately finished in 19th-place, 16 laps down.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to action on September 2 at Langley Speedway

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, NY
Finger Lakes Wine Country 100 – August 4, 2017

Fin Str Car Driver Team Laps Points B/Points Status
1 2 7 Will Rodgers * Solvang Brewing Company Ford 42 47 4 Running
2 5 16 Todd Gilliland NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 42 43 1 Running
3 3 12 Harrison Burton Dex Imaging Toyota 42 41 Running
4 14 6 Ruben Garcia Jr. Sunoco Toyota 42 40 Running
5 7 42 Jay Beasley Honda Generators Toyota 42 39 Running
6 11 4 Ronnie Bassett, Jr. Bassett Gutters and More Toyota 42 38 Running
7 12 4 Chase Cabre * Max Siegel, Inc. Toyota 42 37 Running
8 15 28 Dylan Murry * Turtle Wax Ford 42 36 Running
9 10 44 Dillon Bassett Bassett Gutters and More Chevrolet 42 35 Running
10 9 27 Matt Tifft Surface Sunscreen@Fanatics Toyota 42 34 Running
11 16 40 Brandon Jones Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet 42 33 Running
12 6 30 Tyler Dippel TyCar Ford 42 32 Running
13 19 43 Gary Klutt * Color Compus Toyota 42 31 Running
14 20 32 Robert Pawlowski * Channel/JD Equipment Chevrolet 42 30 Running
15 13 17 Chase Purdy * Bama Buggies/Textron Off-Road Toyota 42 29 Running
16 4 2 Collin Cabre UTI/NTI Toyota 42 28 Running
17 8 31 Scott Heckert Whelen Engineering Chevrolet 42 27 Running
18 17 13 Max Papis Overstock Mercantile/Sport Clips Toyota 35 26 Engine
19 1 1 Ryan Truex Gunma Toyopet Toyota 26 27 2 Accident
20 18 5 Enrique Baca * Nextgen Motorsports Chevrolet 9 24 Transmission

RACE STATISTICS

Fastest Qualifier: Ryan Truex, Time: 73.345 Seconds, Speed: 120.254 mph

Time of Race: 1 hrs., 14 mins, 7 secs Average Speed: 83.301 mph Margin of Victory: 1.493 Seconds

Caution Flags: Laps 22-23 (Break – FP #13); 27-29 (#01 in the esses – FP #30); 36-39 (#13 before the inner loop – FP #31).  3 for 9 laps.

Lap Leaders: Ryan Truex 1-26, Todd Gilliland 27-30, Will Rodgers * 31-42.

Total Laps Led: Ryan Truex 26, Will Rodgers * 12, Todd Gilliland 4.  2 changes involving 3 drivers.

Top 10 Driver Points: Harrison Burton 468, Todd Gilliland 464, Chase Purdy * 406, Ronnie Bassett, Jr. 404, Ruben Garcia Jr. 393, Chase Cabre * 388, Jay Beasley 367, Dillon Bassett 350, Tyler Dippel 346, Collin Cabre 338

* Denotes Sunoco Rookie of the Year

 

About Davey Segal-NASCARHomeTracks.com