|Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) kept a good start to the season rolling after driver Ben Rhodes followed up his teammate Cameron Hayley's 21 Means 21 pole award and four of their five cars placed inside the top 15 at Daytona International Speedway in the UNOH Battle at the Beach. Scott Heckert led the charge with his first career top-10 finish with TSM, placing ninth in the event.|
Scott Heckert highlighted the night for TSM by scoring his first-career top 10 on an oval. After starting 12th, Heckert lost a few positions on the initial start of the race, dropping to the 15th position by lap five. During the race's first caution on lap 10, Heckert radioed to his No. 34 crew to let them know the car wasn't bad and that he was just riding for the time being. Heckert remained around the top 15 until, lap 56, when he received contact that caused him to spin in Turn 3. Following the spin, Heckert was scored one lap down, but he was able to get back onto the lead lap when he received the free pass under the next caution. Heckert used a string of cautions to work his way back into the top 15, and was sitting in 11th when the race returned to green on lap 147. He gained two spots to finish ninth in the race. With the ninth-place result, Heckert jumped to 15th in the Driver Point Standings.
Scott Heckert on his top-10 finish:
"I'm really proud of the way my guys fought in last night's race. We struggled some early on in practice, but my Turner Scott Motorsports team never stopped working. The car came to me in the late stages of the race, and we were able to bring home a top-10 finish. I am already looking forward to getting back on the track at Bristol next month."
NKNPSE Rookie of the Year contender Kaz Grala continued to build upon his strong start to the season, recording a second straight top-10 finish for TSM. Grala started the race in the 21st position and held tough inside the top 20 in the early portion of the event. When the first caution flag flew on lap 10, Grala noted to the No. 31 OzLINK team that he felt the race pace was bogging his machine down and that he was just going to log laps to gain more crucial experience. This plan proved vital throughout the race as Grala continued to advance up the leaderboard with each caution flag that flew. By the fourth caution flag on lap 64, the 15-year-old had worked his way into the top 15. By lap 77, Grala was in the top 10, where he stayed until lap 140. After getting shuffled back on a restart, Grala used the poise he learned in the opening portion of the race to work back into the 11th position. On the race's final lap, the young driver made a strong move in the final corner to retake a top-10 position. The 10th-place finish tied his only career start as his best finish, capping off an impressive Florida swing. Grala is currently 11th in the Driver Point Standings following his first two NKNPSE starts.
Kaz Grala on his back-to-back top-10 finishes:
"The Battle at the Beach was a pretty crazy race. I'm thrilled that we were able to get two top 10s this week. It's a huge accomplishment for my team and I, considering the talented field. This week we scored a solid amount of points towards the Rookie of the Year title, and hopefully this will set the tone for us going forward. I want to thank Ray Holm and everyone at the Turner Scott Motorsports shop for all their hard work to give me such great cars this week."
Defending UNOH Battle at the Beach winner Cameron Hayley suffered some misfortunes in the 2014 installment of the race. Despite qualifying 13th, once the race began, it was clear that Hayley had speed, as he cracked into the top 10 by lap 18. When the race went back to green following the first caution, Hayley was hit from behind, causing the No. 98 Cabinets by Hayley Chevy to spin and lose the track position he had gained. When he got his machine going again, he had fallen to the 23rd position and was on the tail-end of the lead lap. Despite the setback, Hayley remained focused on returning to the top 15 on lap 50 before cracking the top 10 on lap 75. On Lap 125, Hayley had worked his way into the top five and looked poised to contend for the race win. However, on lap 139, he was hit from behind and once again spun on the race track. The incident forced Hayley out of the top five and back to the 15th position. With a short amount of laps remaining in the race, Hayley could only work his way back to the 14th position before the checkered flag waved. The result dropped Hayley to fifth in the Driver Point Standings after two races.
Cameron Hayley on the Battle at the Beach:
"This was a tough day for me and all my guys, but I think our Cabinets by Hayley Chevy Impala was the class of the field. If it hadn't been for us getting turned around twice, we would have been up there contending for the win. It's unfortunate that the night didn't go our way, but still I want to thank Mike Curb at Curb Records, Cabinets by Hayley and Turner Scott Motorsports for all they do. A win is on the horizon for this No. 98 team, and I look forward to racing at Bristol in March."
Ben Rhodes used momentum from his strong run two days earlier at New Smyrna Speedway to capture the 21 Means 21 pole award for the UNOH Battle at the Beach. After earning the pole award, Rhodes went into the event looking to save his tires early on. When the green flag flew, Rhodes put this plan into action and dropped from the lead into the second position, where he would ride until the half-way point of the race. Rhodes was trying to hold his position and make a charge for the lead when two laped cars got together and collected the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet. The resulting damage forced Rhodes to bring his car in for repairs, and his TSM crew went to work on his right-front fender. Following the repairs, Rhodes was scored one lap down. Under the race's final caution, Rhodes returned to the lead lap, and he used the last four laps to fight his way back into the top 15.. Rhodes now sits seventh in the Driver Point Standings.
Ben Rhodes on the Battle at the Beach:
"We've already learned that when it comes to racing, there are things you can control and things you cannot. My Team Alpha guys did a great job at and we were fast for both races down here. Unfortunately, wrecks happen in this sport and what happened at the UNOH Battle at the Beach was beyond our control. I'm thankful to my team for their hard work, and it was really cool to see all the TSM teams jump in to help repair my car. I'm glad we could still salvage a decent finish from what it could have been, and we will look forward to Bristol next month."
Brandon Jones looked to gain some momentum following his career-best finish posted in the New Smyrna 150 on Sunday night and continue to gain valuable experience to help him compete for a championship in his first full-time season of competition in the NKNPSE. Jones began the race from the 26th position and looked to log laps early on as many cautions were expected. After losing a lap in the race, Jones's team elected to bring him to pit road on lap 56 for adjustments. After losing another lap during the repairs, Jones was never able to get back onto the lead lap and compete for the win. Following a 24th-place finish, Jones now sits 13th in the Driver Point Standings heading into Bristol.
Brandon Jones on the Battle at the Beach:
"We didn't have the race that we hoped for in the Battle at the Beach, but I really appreciate all of the hard work by my Turner Scott Motorsports team. I'm glad we are able to continue to gain experience, and I'm really looking forward to going back to a track where I have already raced when we return to action at Bristol next month."
After two races in two days, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) gets a small break before returning to action at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15. TSM looks to repeat last year's win at the World's Fastest Half Mile, with all five fulltime entries competing in the PittLite 125.