Story By: JASON CHRISTLEY / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – On opposite coasts, two more of NASCAR’s regional series take the green flag this week.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West kicks off Thursday with the Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets underway Saturday night with the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Doug Coby’s first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start at Myrtle Beach Speedway was a forgetful 13th-place finish. But the Milford, Connecticut, driver closed the season strong to collect his fifth title in six years. He’ll look to get off to a faster start Saturday as the tour’s 34th season gets rolling in South Carolina.
Timmy Solomito capped a late-race charge to win the Whelen Modified Tour’s inaugural visit to Myrtle Beach last year, and came within six points of winning the championship. The Islip, New York, driver lead another strong crop of drivers looking to unseat four-time defending tour champion Coby.
There will plenty of contenders Saturday evening including Matt Hirschman, who is coming off a championship run in the tour-type Modifieds at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, and former tour champions Burt Myers and Andy Seuss.
Six-time race winner Jimmy Blewett will be filling in for Ryan Preece in the No. 6, while championship contender Rowan Pennink will miss the race after having offseason surgery.
|RACE||PERFORMANCE PLUS 150 presented by SAFETY-KLEEN|
|PLACE||Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway|
|DATE||Saturday, March 17|
|TIME||5:35 p.m. ET|
|TELEVISION||NBCSN, Wednesday, March 21 – 6 p.m. ET|
|TRACK LAYOUT||.538-mile oval|
|2017 WINNER||Timmy Solomito|
|2017 POLE||Rob Summers|
|EVENT SCHEDULE||Saturday— Garage opens: 9:45 a.m. ET; Practice: 1:05-2:30 p.m.; Group qualifying: 4 p.m.; Driver autograph session (on track): 4:30 p.m.; Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen: 5:35 p.m.|
CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The maximum starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals.
Qualifying groups will be determined by each vehicle’s overall fastest single lap from the official practice sessions.
The first 24 cars will secure starting positions based on the two-lap qualifying session. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process.
The PERFORMANCE PLUS 150 presented by SAFETY-KLEEN will be 150 laps (80.7 miles). Maximum of three (3) crew members permitted over the wall at any time during the event. Teams may only change one (1) tire on a single pit stop. Teams will be permitted to swap/move tire locations.
The maximum tire allotment available for this event is eleven (11) tires per team. Four (4) tires used for qualifying must be used to begin the race. The tire change rule is four (4) tires, any position.
NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST at KERN
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
It’s been 19 years since Kevin Harvick has been to Victory Lane in a NASCAR race in his hometown, and he’s looking to go back.
The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion returns home to compete in the K&N Pro Series West opener, as a lead-in to the national series doubleheader weekend down the road at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick, who will pilot one of the four Jefferson Pitts Racing entries, ran at the old Mesa Marin Speedway in the West Series as well as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the former NASCAR Southwest Series. While he had a best finish of third in six West starts and runner-up in five Truck starts, he won the final two of his 12 Southeast Series races at the now bulldozed half-mile.
The fast half-mile, state-of-the-art Kern facility now resides in Bakersfield, and Harvick will head a field of talented young drivers looking to make their own name.
Jefferson Pitts Racing will have a trio of rising stars as Harvick’s teammates, led by 24-year-old Will Rodgers, who impressed in a runner-up finish to Harvick in the West race at Sonoma last year. Austin Herzog, 15, will make his series debut, while Reid Lanpher, 19, is making the trek from Maine to get additional seat time prior to running in the K&N Pro East race at Bristol in April.