Knowledge is power.
For NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ronnie Bassett Jr., the confidence level rises on a daily basis as he and his team learns more and more about the cars and tracks that make up the series.
“It’s been really different. Everything that I’ve ever learned in a late model, I can throw out the window,” said Bassett. “It’s like the other side of the coin and starting brand new.”
The learning curve, while steep, has been managed by the Bassett bunch. In six starts this season they have scored top-five finishes at Greenville and Richmond. Add in another two top 10s and that’s good enough for ninth in the championship standings.
I’ve learned a lot. The team has learned a lot,” he said. “I feel like it’s coming together and we’ll just keep digging.”
Coming into the season, the Winston-Salem, N.C., driver had just two series starts to his credit and making the adjustment from part-time to full-time competitor is rarely easy despite expectations to the contrary.
“It’s definitely been harder than I expected. The competition level is crazy in this series,” he said. “There’s a bunch of great drivers. Everybody brings their ‘A’ game.”
Next up for the K&N Pro Series East is the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 on Saturday, May 31 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, one of the most historic tracks in all of racing. The younger generation’s perceived lack of appreciation for history doesn’t apply to Bassett as far as Bowman Gray is concerned.
“It’s a special place, for sure,” said the 18-year-old Bassett. “My father has raced and won there. It’s a unique place and one that should be appreciated.”
Bassett has raced at the nearly 70-year-old facility but in nothing with the size and power of a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car. His only experience on the quarter-mile track was a test session earlier in the month.
“I thought the test went really well,” he said. “We were good in the heat of the day and it got a little snug later in the day, but I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Even without a lot of experience on the track, Bowman Gray is Bassett’s home track by default which is sure to draw a slew of friends and relatives.
“Having this deal close to home is great. So many places of where we race are far away and this one is right in our back yard,” said Bassett. “The chance for friends and family to come out and see what we do is special. I’ve tried to explain it, but now they can experience it firsthand. It’s going to be a fun night.”
The Race: The NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 will be the fourth NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at historic Bowman Gray Stadium. It’s the seventh of 14 oval track events and 16 races, overall, on the 2014 schedule.
The Procedure: The starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 20 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (37.5 miles).
The Track: Nicknamed “The Stadium” and “The Madhouse,” Bowman Gray is a flat quarter-mile asphalt oval. The track opened in 1946 and held 29 races from 1958-71 for what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The first NASCAR-sanctioned event took place on May 18, 1949 and was won by Fonty Flock. The first Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) event took place in 1958 and it was won by Bob Welborn. It is one of stock car racing's most legendary venues, and is NASCAR's longest-running weekly race track. Bowman Gray Stadium is part of the Winston-Salem Sports and Entertainment Complex and is home of the Winston-Salem State University Rams football team. It was also the home of the Wake Forest University football team until Groves Stadium (later BB&T Field) opened in 1968.
The Records: The one-lap series qualifying record at Bowman Gray was established by Brett Moffitt on June 1, 2013 at 62.193 mph (14.471 seconds). The 150-lap race record was set by Corey LaJoie on June 2, 2012 at 38.346 mph (59 minutes 51 seconds).
BOWMAN GRAY RACE NOTES
Trending: Three different drivers have won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at Bowman Gray Stadium with Matt DiBenedetto (2011), Corey LaJoie (2012) and Ben Kennedy (2013) and that trend will continue in 2014 since none of those three competitors are entered in the race. Additionally, each of those drivers is an alumnus of the NASCAR Next program. Six members of the current NASCAR Next class – Gray Gaulding, Ryan Gifford, Austin Hill, Jesse Little, Ben Rhodes and Kenzie Ruston – and three alumni – Cameron Hayley, Sergio Peña and Daniel Suárez – are entered into the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.
Elder Statesmen: In their early 20s, Brandon Gdovic and Ryan Gifford have the most experience with starts in each of the three previous series events at the quarter-mile bullring. More than 10 drivers will be making their first Stadium start including points leader Ben Rhodes.
Rare Success: Just three of the entered drivers have top-five finishes at Bowman Gray. Gdovic has the highest finish with a third-place effort last year. Little and Ruston followed across the line in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Busy Weekend: The cozy confines of Bowman Gray Stadium will have a full schedule on May 30 and 31. The famed modifieds will be on the track for a 100-lap feature on Friday along with showings from the sportsman, street stock and stadium stock divisions. The modifieds will return on Saturday for another 100-lapper along with the K&N Pro Series East 150-lap feature.
Stadium Home Tracks Update: Defending champion Burt Myers has an early eight-point lead on Chris Fleming in the modified division with Tim Brown in third at 10 points off the pace. Ryan Robertson tops the sportsman standings while David Sumner leads the street stock division. Chuck Wall and Daniel Yates are tied atop the stadium stock standings.
LAST TIME OUT: Casey’s General Stores 150 at Iowa Speedway
Ben Rhodes led the final 115 laps after getting past pole sitter Brodie Kostecki in traffic. It was the second win of the season for Rhodes and the first career pole win for Kostecki.
• Nick Drake and Scott Heckert crossed the line in second and third, respectively, to record their best series finishes.
• Drive for Diversity and Rev Racing’s Jay Beasley scored his first series top five with a fourth-place showing.
• The 35 laps led by Kostecki were the first of his series career.
• With is fourth consecutive top-three finish, Rhodes extended his points lead to 38 over Cameron Hayley, who leapfrogged Gray Gaulding into the second spot.
NEXT TIME OUT: Pensacola 150 at 5 Flags Speedway
After opening the 2014 campaign with a pair of Florida dates, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to the Sunshine State on Friday, June 13 for the Pensacola 150 at 5 Flags Speedway located in suburban Northwest Pensacola, Fla. Last season in the series’ inaugural visit to the half-mile oval, Ben Kennedy claimed his first series win while Gray Gaulding and Johnny VanDoorn finished second and third, respectively.