The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East got its season underway on Sunday night with the inaugural race at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida with the running of the New Smyrna 150 presented by JEGS. At the end of the night, it was NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next member Daniel Suarez who took the checked flag after a close battle with Cameron Hayley in the closing laps.
The win is the second of Suarez's career in the East Series. The 22-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico drives the No. 6 Toyota for Rev Racing and last season got his first win at Columbus Motor Speedway. Dating back to the race before Columbus, Suarez now has scored seven top three finishes in nine races. He finished last year third in points.
After a caution on lap 137 of 150 the race went back green on lap 142 with Suarez leading and two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Lee Pulliam alongside. Pulliam made a mistake that Cameron Hayley took advantage of and moved up to the second position.
With four laps to go Hayley got alongside Suarez and the two banged door-to-door. Suarez led by only inches as the two took the white flag and Suarez battled to hold the 17-year-old off by 0.083 seconds at the line to win.
It was the first trip for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to the 0.48 mile oval and Hayley earned his first career pole in only his second East Series start. Hayley has moved over the to East Series from the West to fill the seat that 2013 East Series champion Dylan Kwasniewski left in the No. 98 Chevrolet.
Hayley did not lead a lap in the race though as it was Austin Hill, who started seventh, who actually led the first three laps. He would end up in 27th of the 30 car field after only completing 116 laps. Kenzie Ruston, who started sixth in the Ben Kennedy Racing No. 96 Chevrolet, took the lead from Hill on lap 4 and led four laps until Gray Gaulding passed her on lap 8. He had started in eighth.
Brandon Jones, who started in tenth, took the lead on lap 13 from Gaulding and he controlled the race until lap 48. That is when Daniel Suarez, who started 11th, took the top spot. Suarez would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the night as he led the final 103 laps.
That did not come without the challenge from Hayley in the closing laps though. Finishing in third was Brandon Jones. Fourth went to Ben Rhodes, Lee Pulliam was fifth, Kenzie Ruston sixth, Gray Gaulding seventh, Mackena Bell eighth, Brandon Gdovic ninth, and Kaz Grala tenth. Twenty one total cars finished the night on the lead lap. Other notables were Matt Tifft in 12th, Brennan Newberry 13th, Brandon McReynolds 14th, Eddie MacDonald 17th, Jesse Little 18th, and Ryan Gifford 23rd.
There were three total cautions on the night and the race was completed in just under 1 hour and 6 minutes.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will run 16 total races in 2014 and the next one is right around the corner. The series heads to Daytona International Speedway for the UNOH Battle at the Beach on Tuesday night. Last season was the inaugural event on Daytona's backstretch during Speedweeks but this season the East Series will race for points. Last season it was an exhibition event between the East and West Series. Also joining the East Series on Tuesday night at Daytona will be the NASCAR Whelen Modified and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tours for a non-points race.
The UNOH Battle at the Beach Modified race can be seen live starting at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2 with the East Series race scheduled for approximately 8:30 p.m. ET.Tags: Austin Hill, Ben Rhodes, Brandon Jones, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Suarez, Gray Gaulding, Kenzie Ruston, Lee Pulliam, Motorsports, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, New Smyrna Speedway