NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Post Race Report: JEGS 150

COLUMBUS, Ohio (July 20, 2014) - Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) had a strong outing overall at Columbus Motor Speedway in a race that looked like it might end with one of TSM's five Chevrolets in victory lane. Scott Heckert got the night started off in the right direction, winning the 21 Means 21 pole award, his second of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) season. It was Cameron Hayley, however, that led the charge for TSM, bringing home a second-place finish while leading the most laps. Ben Rhodes finished third following his TSM teammate. Kaz Grala and Heckert were both able to bring home top-10 finishes, while Brandon Jones suffered some mid-race adversity but battled back for a top-15 finish.

Cameron Hayley:

Hayley came into this weekend's JEGS 150 looking to capture his first-career NKNPSE victory. This goal looked very achievable early on, as Hayley started the race in the 10th position and showed early on that the No. 98 Cabinets by Hayley Chevy was one of the fastest cars on the racetrack. Picking up position after position,  he finally got to the top spot on lap 61, staying out front for 59 circuits, the most on the night. Hayley's run for the victory was halted as the field returned from caution on lap 119, only to have the 17-year-old lose the lead to the eventually race winner on lap 120. Hayley tried to take advantage of some late-race restarts, however, the outside line wasn't working to the advantage of the No. 98. Hayley battled strong in the race's closing laps and brought home a second-place finish, tying his career-best finish in the NKNPSE. Hayley sits second in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings following the JEGS 150, 62 points behind TSM teammate Rhodes with five races remaining.

Cameron Hayley on his second-place finish:

"We were so close yet again this year. My No. 98 Cabinets by Hayley team and I ran a perfect short-track race and should've ended up with the win had it not been for that late-race restart. Our car just wasn't the best on restarts and we needed a couple laps to get going, which really hurt us there at the end. This race was definitely a great momentum boost for the team though, and I think we've got something we can really build on for Iowa."

Ben Rhodes:

Rhodes entered the JEGS 150 looking to get back into victory lane following a disappointing finish at New Hampshire a week earlier. The night started off promising as Rhodes qualified sixth for the race. When the race began, Rhodes quickly settled into the top 10, looking to work his way up into the top five. By lap 50, Rhodes had fallen to the 10th position, although the 17-year-old still looked poised to put together a top-five run as the No. 41 Chevrolet wasn't lacking speed. By lap 70, it was evident that Rhodes was going to be in contention all night as the NASCAR Next driver worked his way up to sixth and was looking for more. By lap 100, the Kentucky native was into the top five. Rhodes remained in the top five for the final 50 laps, working his way up to third place where he would eventually finish. It marked the ninth top five for Rhodes in 2014, as he continues to lead the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings by 62 points.

Ben Rhodes on his run at Columbus Motor Speedway:

"My Turner Scott Motorsports team goes to each track with the goal of winning, but today we just couldn't get my Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet to the front. A third-place finish wasn't what we wanted, but at the end of the day, a podium finish is still a solid result. Now we switch focus to Iowa Speedway."

Kaz Grala:

The JEGS 150 was quite similar for Grala to the past few races. The 15-year-old started the race in the 17th position, knowing there would be carnage ahead allowing the No. 31 NETTTS/Kiklos Chevrolet to take advantage and move forward. When the race began, Grala settled in while gaining more valuable information as the young rookie has all season. It didn't take long for Grala to crack the top 15, and by lap 20, the youngest full-time driver in the NKNPSE was up to 14th. By lap 50, Grala was up to the 11th position and looked poised to put together another solid top-10 run. By lap 100, Grala was able to break into the top 10, and the he wouldn't look back from there. Grala ran inside the top 10 for the remaining 50 laps, just missing multiple wrecks ahead of him in the race's closing laps. Ultimately, Grala finished eighth, earning his sixth top-10  finish in 2014 and marking the third straight top-10 run for the No. 31 team. Grala heads to Iowa Speedway in two weeks sitting ninth in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.

Kaz Grala on his run at Columbus Motor Speedway:

"It was a great day for the No. 31 NETTTS/Kiklos Chevy at Columbus Motor Speedway. We qualified 17th with the car set up more for race trim than qualifying trim. We worked our way up in the 150-lap race into the top 10 to finish eighth. It was a solid points day for us as we continue to work our way higher in the standings. I'm very excited to bring an awesome car back to Iowa in two weeks to hopefully have some better luck than the last time we were there."   

Scott Heckert:

Heckert put together what was his strongest overall run of 2014 at Columbus Motor Speedway. The 20-year-old began the night capturing his second-career 21 Means 21 pole award. The Connecticut native used that momentum to dominate the early portions of the JEGS 150, as he led the race's opening 56 laps. Heckert surrendered the lead on lap 57, but still looked poised to put together a run at his first-career NKNPSE victory as he slid to third looking to regain the race lead. By lap 75, Heckert was back into second looking to get past TSM teammate Hayley for the race lead. Heckert held strong in the second position until lap 111, when he got turned around while battling for the race lead. The incident forced the 20-year-old one lap down to the race leaders. Heckert battled the remaining 30 laps, finally catching a break with the free pass on the lap 127 caution. Heckert used the free pass to his advantage, working back into the top 10 and bringing home a tenth-place finish. The top 10 was the fourth of 2014 for Heckert,  moving him to 12th in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.

Scott Heckert on his run at Columbus:

"What an up-and-down weekend we had at Columbus. I'm so proud of the entire No. 34 Project Lifesaver team; we had a blazing fast Chevrolet and it showed, not only with us winning the pole, but also leading the early portions of the race in the way that we did. It was an unfortunate deal what happened on the racetrack and I'm upset we weren't able to stay up in the top five and race for the win like we should've. All in all, I love the position our team is in and I think we are only going to continue getting faster in the final races of 2014, especially at Iowa, where I think we will once again contend for that first victory."

Brandon Jones:

Jones came into the JEGS 150 looking to rebound from a tough finish at New Hampshire a week prior. The weekend didn't get off to the start the No. 33 team was hoping for, as Jones qualified 20th for the race. This didn't stop his enthusiasm, however, as Jones looked to work his way towards another top-10 finish. When the race began, Jones quickly settled into the 16th position by lap 20. By lap 40, Jones was up in the top 15 and looking for even more. He continued to hold strong in and around the top 15, looking to make a move towards the top 10 as the laps wound down. This charge was slightly halted on lap 104, as Jones was penalized one lap for aggressive driving. This penalty would be a setback  that the No. 33 team spent the rest of the night looking to overcome. Finally, on lap 141, Jones received the break needed, earning the free pass and getting the No. 33 Wolfpack Energy Services Chevy back on the lead lap. Jones battled during the remaining three green-flag laps to bring home a 14th-place finish at Columbus. Jones heads into Iowa Speedway in two weeks sitting fifth in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.

Brandon Jones on his run at Columbus:

"Overall, it was a tough weekend for this No. 33 Wolfpack Energy Services team. Our qualifying run put us back there at the start of the race and it was just really hard to make up track position on the racetrack. Unfortunately, we had a penalty midway through the race as well that put us behind and made us play catchup the remainder of the night. Although the result wasn't what we wanted, I can't thank all my guys at Turner Scott Motorsports enough for the hard work they put in week in and week out. I'm really looking forward to getting back to Iowa Speedway in a few weeks."

The NKNPSE heads to Iowa Speedway on August 1 for the 12th race of the 2014 season.