JEFFERSON, Ga. – In racing, the only lap that counts is the last one at the checkers. Pole-sitter Cale Conley found that out Saturday in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Slack Auto Parts 150 at Gresham Motorsports Park.
Through 9 cautions and 3 red flags, Conley held a firm grip on the lead for 146 laps of the 150 lap event. But on the final restart, Kyle Larson lined up on the inside as Conley took the preferred outside line.
"Restarting on the bottom really hurts you here," Larson said. "You could restart on the bottom in the front row and fall back to fourth or fifth. It's really tough. You had to make sure you could be really aggressive into one and find a hole to get up but luckily there at the end I found the holes I needed."
The Elk Grove, CA driver stayed door-to-door with Conley, finally passing him with four laps to go for his first career victory. "Nobody knows me in the stock car world yet so hopefully this puts me on the map," Larson said. "I'm really excited to get my first (NASCAR) K&N East win in front of a great crowd."
He is the sixth different race winner in six K&N Pro Series East events this season and third consecutive first-time winner.
A frustrated Conley, had to settle for second place. "You just can't spin the tires," he said. "That's what we did. We spun the tires. That's how you lose 'em and that's how I gave it away. I'm going to think about this one all the way home. This is going to be frustrating."
Despite the only one lead change, the packed house of 5,000 or so fans saw action-packed racing from start to finish. Two and three-wide battles for position took place throughout the entire field. Even with the hard racing there were only two major incidents.
The first crash involved Ryan Gifford and Bryan Ortiz, the second involved Akinori Ogata, Jorge Arteaga, and Enrique Contreras III. After a red flag to clean the debris from the track, Contreras was taken to an area hospital for observation.
Brett Moffitt finished third, followed by last week's race winner Corey LaJoie and Bill Elliott Racing driver Ben Kennedy. Sergio Pena, Darrell Wallace Jr., Eddie MacDonald, Andrew Smith, and CJ Faison rounded out the top 10.
Smith, who hails from Pooler, Georgia near Savannah, races for his family-owned team with a limited budget. His strategy of taking care of his equipment has paid off two years in a row at Gresham. After starting 23rd, he worked his way through the field to finish 9th. Last year, a similiar stragegy paid off with a third place finish.
Dawsonville's Chase Elliott had his hands full with an ill-handling racecar late in the race and pitted during a caution for adjustments, dropping to 21st on the restart. Elliott worked his way back up to 14th by race end to maintain his championship standings lead. Elliott's lead is now just three points over race winner Larson. LaJoie is six points back of Elliott in third, followed by Moffitt and Kennedy.
UNOFFICIAL NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST-Slack Auto Parts 150 Results
Saturday At Gresham Motorsports Park, Jefferson, GA
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (4) Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, CA, Toyota, 150 laps, 57.410 mph.
2. (1) Cale Conley, Vienna, WV, Toyota, 150.
3. (3) Brett Moffitt, Grimes, IA, Toyota, 150.
4. (5) Corey LaJoie, Concord, NC, Ford, 150.
5. (8) Ben Kennedy, Daytona Beach, FL, Chevrolet, 150.
6. (7) Sergio Pena, Winchester, VA, Toyota, 150.
7. (6) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Concord, NC, Toyota, 150.
8. (27) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, MA, Chevrolet, 150.
9. (23) Andrew Smith, Pooler, GA, Chevrolet, 150.
10. (24) CJ Faison, Seaford, Del, Chevrolet, 150.
11. (25) Carlos Iaconelli, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Toyota, 150.
12. (22) Sam Hunt, Midlothian, VA, Dodge, 150.
13. (29) Rafael Vallina, Chihuahua, Mexico, Toyota, 150.
14. (12) Chase Elliott, Dawsonville, GA, Chevrolet, 150.
15. (26) Akinori Ogata, Kanagawa, Japan, Dodge, 150.
16. (19) Jimmy Weller, Hubbard, OH, Toyota, 150.
17. (13) Jesse Little, Sherrils Ford, NC, Chevrolet, 148.
18. (2) Dylan Kwasniewski, Las Vegas, NV, Toyota, 140, handling.
19. (15) Daniel Suarez, Monterrey, Mexico, Toyota, 139, accident.
20. (9) Brandon Gdovic, Yorktown, VA, Toyota, 137, accident.
21. (20) Dylan Presnell, Sevierville, TN, Toyota, 137, accident.
22. (18) Stephen Nasse, Pinellas Park, FL, Toyota, 131, engine.
23. (14) Jorge Arteaga, Aguascalientes, Mexico, Toyota, 124, accident.
24. (21) Enrique Contreras, Mexico City, Mexico, Toyota, 124, accident.
25. (16) Chad Finchum, Knoxville, TN, Chevrolet, 116, accident.
26. (28) Clay Campbell, Martinsville, Va., Chevrolet, 82, handling.
27. (10) Bryan Ortiz, Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Toyota, 74, accident.
28. (17) Ryan Gifford, Winchester, TN, Toyota, 74, accident.
29. (11) Chad Boat, Phoenix, AZ, Chevrolet, 10, accident.
Time of Race: 1 hour 18 minutes 23 seconds
Margin of Victory: .375 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: C.Conley (102.934 mph, 17.487 seconds)
Caution Flags: 9 for 48 laps.
Lead Changes: 1 among 2 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Conley 1-145; K. Larson 146-150.
Standings: 1. C. Elliott, 230; 2. K. Larson, 227; 3. C. LaJoie, 224; 4. B. Moffitt, 218; 5. B. Kennedy, 208; 6. B. Gdovic, 199; 7. E. MacDonald, 197; 8. B. Ortiz, 192; 9. D. Wallace,Jr., 187; 10. S. Pena, 174.
Racing action returns to Gresham Motorsports Park on July 4th for the World Crown 300 Super Late Model race and the local division races. For more information visit www.RaceGMP.com.