By Tommy Bowman
Published: June 4th, 2011
Matt DiBenedetto had perhaps the best car in Saturday night's K&N Pro Series East race at Bowman Gray Stadium . He most certainly kept it in the best place.
DiBenedetto took the lead at the start and remained up front — where it was safe — avoiding the carnage behind him in a wreck-filled Army Strong 150.
"I had no strategy other than staying out front," said DiBenedetto , a test driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing , who won for the third time in the K&N series. "It was a wild night for sure, but we just stayed out of trouble."
In a 100-lap race for Bowman Gray's weekly Modified Division, it was Chris Fleming who extricated himself from trouble. Fleming, the pole sitter, lost the lead in the 34th lap, but got it back with just 15 laps remaining and went on to his fourth career victory.
DiBenedetto , from Grass Valley, Calif. , outmaneuvered teammate and pole sitter Coleman Pressley at the start, moving past him on the outside after a one-lap duel. From that point, it was a matter of DiBenedetto enduring double-file restarts, using the preferred inside position, after 15 caution periods.
With the race extended to 156 laps as result of a final late caution, DiBenedetto fended off a final challenge from Corey LaJoie .
"I was having a ball, going for the win, but (DiBenedetto) was better than us," said runner-up LaJoie , son of two-time Nationwide Series champ Randy LaJoie. "I'd like to go for a win at a place where you actually have some room, but that's the nature of the beast here. I think driving a Modified here would be pretty fun."
But it was the opening lap that was as much of a key as the final ones for DiBenedetto .
"It was a blessing to be out front like that from the beginning," DiBenedetto said. "My spotter came on the radio and said, 'You're in the catbird's seat because it's wild behind you.'
"There were a few more wrecks than I thought there would be. I just hung on, and really focused on treating every restart like a green-white-checkered."
Ben Kennedy finished third. He is a great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who brought stock-car racing to Bowman Gray Stadium in 1949 with Alvin Hawkins .
"Patience and being sharp on restarts — we just took our time, stayed out of trouble and moved up," said Kennedy, a University of Florida student, who started 11th. "It was great to race here, and it was a big night for our whole family."
Kennedy's grandmother, Betty Jane France, a former "Miss Bowman Gray Stadium" and widow of former NASCAR president Bill France Jr., was on hand and gave the traditional call for the drivers to start their engines. Kennedy's mother, Lesa France Kennedy , the CEO of International Speedway Corp. and vice-president of NASCAR, also attended the race along with Jim France, Kennedy's great uncle, the board chairman of ISC.
Eighty-seven of the 156 laps were under caution in the K&N race, the first visit to Bowman Gray by the NASCAR Late Model series. By the 100th lap, only two drivers who started in the top 10 were still in the top 10.
Darrell Wallace Jr. finished sixth and regained the season points lead from Brett Moffitt, who finished 16th. DiBenedetto moved into second in points.
Pole-winner Pressley, son of former NASCAR driver Robert Pressley , finished 22nd after cutting a tire and falling off the pace midway.
In the Modified race, Fleming drew the pole position and stayed up front until Jonathan Brown passed him in the 34th lap. Brown led until the 85th lap, when he slowed on a restart and triggered a multi-car pileup .
Fleming slipped past and led the rest of the way. Joseph Brown finished second and Burt Myers , who retained his lead in the season standings, was third. Jonathan Brown finished fourth.
Myers was the fastest in qualifying with a lap of 13.278 seconds (67.8 mph) on the quarter-mile track, but drew the 23rd starting position in a 24-car field.
K&N EAST RESULTS
|1||2||15||Matt DiBenedetto||Gear Wrench Toyota||156||190||10||Running|
|2||13||07||Corey LaJoie *||Thermal Control/Sims Metal Mgmt. Ford||156||170||Running|
|3||11||96||Ben Kennedy *||Biscuit King Chevrolet||156||165||Running|
|4||6||18||Max Gresham||World Crown 300 Toyota||156||160||Running|
|5||18||37||D.J. Shaw||Precision JLM/Spraker Racing Chevrolet||156||155||Running|
|6||9||6||Darrell Wallace, Jr.||U.S. Army Toyota||156||150||Running|
|7||25||12||Chad Finchum *||Telmex/TWR/Pure Water Dodge||156||146||Running|
|8||22||03||Cody Hodgson *||Ocala Gran Prix Chevrolet||156||142||Running|
|9||16||98||Chad Boat *||Curb Records Chevrolet||156||138||Running|
|10||12||2||Ryan Gifford||Toyota Racing Development Toyota||156||134||Running|
|11||15||32||Dale Quarterley||Van Dyk Baler Chevrolet||156||130||Running|
|12||17||16||Alex Bowman *||Greg Paul Produce/Line-X Toyota||156||127||Running|
|13||21||71||Eddie MacDonald||Grimm Construction Chevrolet||156||124||Running|
|14||23||8||Michael Cherry *||Fueling Dreams Tour Toyota||156||121||Running|
|15||27||33||Kevan Combs *||Crossroads Harley-Davidson Chevrolet||156||118||Running|
|16||4||00||Brett Moffitt||Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota||155||115||Running|
|17||10||46||Brandon Gdovic *||Aquis Communications/ComServe Dodge||153||112||Running|
|18||7||9||Chase Elliott *||HendrickCars.com/Aaron's Chevrolet||152||109||Running|
|19||24||27||Cale Conley *||PMC/Health Bridge Imaging Chevrolet||151||106||Running|
|20||19||62||Andrew Smith *||SavannahPawn.com Chevrolet||150||103||Running|
|21||20||64||Rick Gdovic *||Aquis Communications/ComServe Dodge||144||100||Running|
|22||1||14||Coleman Pressley||AW North Carolina/Aisin Toyota||125||97||Oil Leak|
|23||14||66||Benny Gordon||Varischetti & Sons Chevrolet||102||94||Accident|
|24||3||11||Robert Johnson *||NASCAR Hall of Fame Chevrolet||100||91||Overheating|
|25||26||08||Clay Campbell *||Mountain Dew/Spraker Racing Chevrolet||98||88||Overheating|
|26||5||4||Sergio Peña||Freightliner Toyota||87||85||Engine|
|27||8||51||Brandon Haley *||Carter's Royal Ford||79||82||Overheating|
Fastest Qualifier: Coleman Pressley, Time: 14.772 Seconds, Speed: 60.926 mph
Time of Race: 1 hrs., 22 mins, 25 secs Average Speed: 28.392 mph Margin of Victory: 0.384 Seconds
Caution Flags: Laps 10-14 (Car #32 spin in Turn 4); 21-25 (Cars #32, 27, 9 spin in Turn 2); 28-33 (Multi-car accident in Turns 3 & 4 [Red Flag: 3 mins.]); 39-47 (Car #66 spin in Turn 2); 62-65 (Car #27 spin in Turn 4); 68-75 (Cars #16, 03, 51 spin in Turn 3); 77-81 (Car #64 spin on frontstretch, Cars #2, 18 spin in Turn 4 [Red Flag: 2 mins.]); 86-90 (Multi-car accident in Turn 2 [Red Flag: 2 mins.]); 93-96 (Car #98 spin in Turn 2); 104-108 (Cars 26,66 spin in Turn 4); 111-119 (Cars #00, 2 spin on frontstretch); 123-131 (Multi-car accident in Turn 4); 136-138 (Car #16 spin on backstretch); 142-146 (Car #2 spin in Turn 2); 149-153 (Car #33 spin in Turn 4). 15 for 87 laps.
Lap Leaders: Matt DiBenedetto 1-156.
Total Laps Led: Matt DiBenedetto 156. 0 changes involving 1 drivers.
COCA-COLA MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: Chad Finchum *, 12 Telmex/TWR/Pure Water Dodge
COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD: Coleman Pressley, 14 AW North Carolina/Aisin Toyota
FEATHERLITE MOST IMPROVED DRIVER AWARD: Corey LaJoie *, 07 Thermal Control/Sims Metal Mgmt. Ford
SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE RACE AWARD: Corey LaJoie *, 07 Thermal Control/Sims Metal Mgmt. Ford
* Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender