ALTON, Va. — Audio and recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Chris Seelman photo —
Saturday afternoon’s Biscuitville 125 at VIRginia International Raceway was the race that no one wanted to win.
But after three lead changes inside the final 10 laps, including two in the final three miles, Virginia native Sergio Pena powered through the smoke and chaos to score his fifth-career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory and first of the season in thrilling fashion.
Pena took the point after race leader Dalton Sargeant ran wide and spun through the grass coming to the white flag, and then held off a hard-charging Kaz Grala over the final 2.25 miles to nose out the win by 0.212 seconds at the checkers.
“This was an awesome race, completely crazy at the end,” Pena, who lead only the final lap, said in Victory Lane. “I grew up racing on road courses, and didn’t have a full season lined up this year, so to come out and get a win like this was huge today.”
“I restarted fifth and I was just trying to stay as calm as possible in the final laps and luckily was able to take advantage of all the chaos. When the 51 [of Sargeant] went off and all of a sudden we were in the lead, I couldn’t believe it. I’m still speechless.”
The biggest twist of all? Pena was not even scheduled to drive the No. 42 Toyota on Saturday, but due to illness that kept regular driver Jay Beasley out of the seat, the former Rev Racing pilot got a chance to shine for his team once more.
“Obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with Jay — he should have been in the car today, but he was under the weather and Rev Racing asked me to step in — but I’m hoping he gets well and can be back in the car soon. This win’s for him. His time is coming soon — I’m sure of that.”
While Pena was the story in the end, the driver to beat across qualifying and the first two-thirds of the event was HScott Motorsport’s Scott Heckert.
Heckert started from the pole, opened up a 1.2 second lead in just two laps and dominated the opening stages of the event before the Ford of Austin Hill came calling at lap 14 to take the top spot. The deficit was short-lived, however, as Heckert powered through the dirt to take the lead back three laps later and led all the way to the halftime break at lap 29.
Following the resumption at lap 32, Heckert continued his march out front but began to fade at lap 39, allowing Sargeant to grab the point in the No. 51 GALT Chevrolet. As Sargeant began to power away, Heckert continued to struggle before finally limping to a halt at lap 47 at the entrance to pit road.
The Connecticut native, who led 34 laps and had the car to beat, ended up watching the finish from the sidelines — a broken rear end the spoiler in his bid for a fourth-straight K&N East road course win.
“It broke while I was following Dalton — I don’t know what caused him to go off course, but that gave us the lead back — and with how few laps there were to go I was hoping it would move back and forth and we could stay [up] there somehow… It just got worse and worse and worse and I couldn’t keep J.J. behind me, and it finally just broke.”
“It sucks. This was an amazing car and we deserved a win today, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
With Heckert out of the race, that handed the top spot to his protege J.J. Haley, who ducked around Sargeant after the Floridian overshot turn seven on lap 45. Haley looked to be on his way to his first-career K&N East win, but was overhauled by Austin Hill on a lap 52 restart and faded after contact with Sargeant while racing for second.
A caution for debris on the same lap would set up the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, which was compounded into a second attempt after Brandon Gdovic spun twice on lap 57 to bring out the sixth and final caution of the race and set up the run to the finish.
Sargeant got past Hill after the latter spun on the first lap of the second green-white-checkered attempt before his misfortune in the closing stages of the lap cost him his shot at the win. The NASCAR Next driver was unavailable for comment following the checkered flag.
Grala fought back from a failed dive-bomb move for the lead at lap 32 that sent him to the tail of the field and chased Pena all the way to the finish, but didn’t have enough steam to bump him out of the way for the win.
“[Sergio] really ran me wide off the track there the lap before [the white flag], and if I could have gotten back to him I was going to repay the favor,” Grala admitted. “I felt like it was a little bit of a dirty move personally, but he won the race, so I’ve gotta give him respect for that.”
“I tried to knock into him and just did it one corner too soon — at the finish I just needed about one more corner. He’s not running for points though, so this is a great day in the standings for us. It hurts to finish second, but we were close, so we’ll take it today.”
David Garbo Jr. scored his best finish of the season in third, with Collin Cabre notching a career-best run in fourth to give Rev Racing two cars in the top four at the finish. Haley rebounded from the contact with Sargeant to round out the top five, with Hill just behind him.
Sargeant ended up ninth after his spin in turn seven and points leader William Byron was 10th — mired in traffic after an early spin at lap nine and later damaged in a late-race skirmish with Grala on the second green-white-checkered.
Rico Abreu lost the right rear wheel of his Chevrolet at lap 34 and nosed into the turn four tire barriers. The two-time pole winner in 2015 was credited with 16th in the final rundown.
In total, the race saw six yellow flags and one red flag period — coming at lap 48 when Kenzie Ruston lost her brakes and plowed the tires in turn four at almost the same spot Abreu hit. She was unhurt in the crash.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to action on Thursday, Sept. 10 for their penultimate event of the 2015 campaign at Richmond International Raceway.
Audio with race winner Sergio Pena:
Audio with runner-up Kaz Grala:
Audio with third-place David Garbo Jr.:
Audio with fourth-place Collin Cabre:
Audio with fifth-place J.J. Haley:
Audio with Kenzie Ruston following lap 48 crash:
Audio with Scott Heckert following rear end failure at lap 47:
Audio with Rico Abreu following lap 34 crash:
RESULTS: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East; Biscuitville 125; VIRginia International Raceway; August 29, 2015
- Sergio Pena
- Kaz Grala
- David Garbo Jr.
- Collin Cabre
- J.J. Haley
- Austin Hill
- Nick Drake
- Dale Quarterley
- Dalton Sargeant
- William Byron
- Christian Celaya
- Brandon Gdovic
- Charles Buchanan Jr.
- Kenzie Ruston
- Scott Heckert
- Rico Abreu
- Devon Amos
- Zeb Pixley
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: email@example.com