It was the second season for the UNOH Battle at the Beach on the makeshift short track on Daytona International Speedway's backstretch. The slate on Tuesday night consisted of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East running a points race and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour running an exhibition race.
Daniel Suarez backed up his win on Sunday night at New Smyrna Speedway by controlling the K&N Pro Series East 150 lap event and taking his second checkered flag in as many races. Doug Coby was able to take advantage of the late trouble encountered by Ryan Preece to win the Modified 150 lap race.
The second race of the night was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race which was the first time a Battle at the Beach race had been contested as a championship points paying race for a series. Thirty cars attempted to qualifying for the 26-car field which would run around the 0.37 mile flat oval. It was Ben Rhodes who won the pole and he had Austin Hill starting alongside him in second.
It was Gray Gaulding, who started third, that grabbed the lap 1 lead in Turn 3 and on lap 10 he led over Rhodes, Brennan Newberry, Daniel Suarez, and Brodie Kostecki. On lap 11 Suarez got to deep into Turn 1 and turned Newberry into the tires lining the inside of the corner to bring out the first caution of the night.
The race restarted on lap 18 and Cameron Hayley, who won last seasons K&N Pro Series exhibition race at Daytona, was spun out while running ninth. Suarez meanwhile grabbed the second position as Hayley got going not bringing out a caution. Jesse Little would spin on lap 19 again not bringing out a caution.
Suarez began putting immense pressure on Gaulding for the lead and finally on lap 32 Suarez was able to make the pass and take control. The second caution came out on lap 40 when Brennan Newberry was spun by Cory Joyce right ahead of Suarez who was getting ready to lap them.
The race restarted on lap 46 and on lap 47 Gaulding gave up the second position by overdriving Turn 3 and dropped to sixth in line. The third caution then came out on lap 56 when Scott Heckert spun. On the lap 63 restart Kenzie Ruston moved into second place but the fourth caution flew on lap 64 when Gaulding spun out David Garbo Jr and also Lee Pulliam was spun by Nick Drake as things stacked up. Gaulding was penalized by having to start in the rear for the spin of Garbo.
Suarez again was able to hold the lead on the lap 74 restart and on lap 75 Ruston overdrove Turn 1 and dropped to fourth. One lap later Ruston was spun by Kostecki but no caution came out as both drivers got back going. The fifth caution did fly on lap 85 when Jerry Dawson was spun by Jesse Little right in front of the leaders of Suarez and Rhodes. Unfortunately for Ben Rhodes he had nowhere to go and slammed the spinning Dawson with his right front. He lost a lap as his crew tried to clear the damage.
The race restarted on lap 94 but the sixth caution flew right away. Nick Drake was slow from third on the restart which stacked everything up in Turn 1. Patrick Staropoli and David Garbo got the worst of it as they were the two cars that spun out. The race restarted at lap 100 and Suarez was able to keep the lead. Austin Hill controlled second and Brandon McReynolds third. Garbo again spun on lap 108 but the caution did not come out. It finally did on lap 131 when Garbo's hood which was damaged in his earlier spin flew up and blocked his windshield.
After that seventh caution the race restarted on lap 138 and Cameron Hayley was spun for the second time on the night, this time while running fifth by Brandon Gdovic. No caution came out and McReynolds completed the pass for second on Hill. The eighth caution came out on lap 141 when Mackena Bell was spun by Jay Beasley.
With four laps to go the race restarted and Suarez was able to jump to a lead leaving Hill and McReynolds battling for second. With two laps left Hill cleared McReynolds on the low side. The race stayed clean over the final lap and Daniel Suarez locked up his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win in three nights to start the 2014 season out strong.
"I have no words to explain what I feel right now," Suarez said in a post race interview.
It is the Mexican drivers third career win in the East Series.
Austin Hill took second, Brandon McReynolds third, Nick Drake fourth, Lee Pulliam fifth, Kenzie Ruston sixth, Gray Gaulding seventh, Patrick Staropoli eighth, Scott Heckert ninth, and Kaz Grala tenth. Brandon Gdovic was 11th, Jesse Little 12th, Sergio Pena 13th, Cameron Hayley 14th, Ben Rhodes 15th, Jay Beasley 16th, Mackena Bell 17th, Brodie Kostecki 18th, Eddie MacDonald 19th, and Ryan Gifford 20th. David Garbo Jr was 21st, Brennan Newberry 22nd, Ronnie Bassett 23rd, Brandon Jones 24th, Jerry Dawson 25th, and Cory Joyce 26th.
The next race on the K&N Pro Series East schedule is the PittLite 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15th.
The evening started with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers from both the northeast tour and the southern tour participating. The 26 car field was led by Ryan Preece who won the pole. Last season it was Steve Park who won a thrilling event with a last lap bump and spin pass of Mike Stefanik. Both drivers were not in tonight's field.
With no points on the line more contact was expected. Timmy Solomito took second place behind Preece on the start of the race as he got past Donny Lia. Dave Brigati spun on lap 2 but no caution came out. He would retire his car after only 10 laps and finished last. On lap 6 John Beatty Jr spun but again it did not warrant a caution.
The first caution came out on lap 18 for a spin in Turn 4 by Rob Fuller. On the lap 25 restart Solomito dropped back to eighth after Doug Coby made contact with him. The second caution flew on lap 30 when Beatty stopped on the track. A restart occurred on lap 36 but the third caution came out right away when things stacked up in the front when Eric Goodale got into Preece and Lia. It was Johnny Kievman who suffered damaged from the stack up back further which ended his race.
Solomito pitted to fix suspension issues and he ended up finishing three laps down in 15th. The race restarted on lap 43 but again the caution flew right off the bat when Beatty and Fuller were stuck together after heavy contact. Jimmy Zacharias also experienced issues and stopped on the track with mechanical issues that ended his race.
The race restarted on lap 49 and Donny Lia gave Ryan Preece a run for his money. The two ran side-by-side for two laps until Preece prevailed. Kyle Benjamin meanwhile lost laps while his car was being fixed for a suspension issue. It was his Whelen Modified Tour debut and he eventually finished out of the race in 20th.
By lap 70 Preece held a two second lead over Lia. On lap 71 the fifth caution flew when AJ Winstead stopped on the track with a mechanical issue that ended his night in 22nd.
On the lap 80 restart it was Jason Myers who moved up into second place. Preece and Myers pulled away as Lia was holding up the rest of the field. On lap 118 Doug Coby passed Justin Bonsignore for fourth and then on lap 120 he made the move on Lia for third.
Lia brought out the sixth caution on lap 122 when he spun on his own entering Turn 1. Lia would finish in 11th. On the lap 129 restart Jason Myers got caught on the outside and dropped to sixth behind Preece, Coby, Patrick Emerling, Ron Silk and Tommy Barrett Jr. Bonsignore also had a major issue and he retired from the race and finished 18th.
The seventh caution flew on lap 132 when Cole Powell had an issue with the rear end of his car. He was in the top 10 but finished 19th.
On the lap 137 restart Emerling moved into second place behind Preece. Preece was still in control and getting ready to lap Dave Sapienza with eight laps to go when Sapienza took a bad angle into Turn 1 and slammed the left rear tire of Preece. Sapienze spun and brought out the caution. He would finish in 17th. But the real damage was done to Preece who had a visibly bent left rear wheel. He did not pit and held the lead for a restart with three laps to go.
Emerling knew he could try to take advantage but overdrove Turn 1 and went high. Preece did struggle also to turn in Turn 1 and 2 and it was Doug Coby who took advantage and exited Turn 2 with the lead. Jason Myers also took advantage and moved to second. The two would drag race the next two laps and in between Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap Myers gave Coby a shot in the back bumper but Coby held a steady wheel to take the checkered flag.
"It doesn't matter what you race here, to be a winner at this speedway and to be able to grab this trophy and bring it home to a brand new team, first time out in the car, it is a really great feeling for us," Coby said.
Jason Myers finished second, Luke Fleming third, and Ryan Preece, who led 147 laps, finished fourth. Rounding out the top five was Burt Myers. Tommy Barrett Jr was sixth, Cody Ware seventh, Ron Silk eighth, Eric Goodale ninth, and JR Bertuccio tenth. Patrick Emerling meanwhile finished 12th.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which Coby was the champion of in 2012 and Preece in 2013, will start its season with the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on April 6th. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will begin its season on March 9th at Caraway Speedway.
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