Charlotte, N.C. (February 18, 2015) – Dalton Sargeant and the No. 51 GALT HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks Chevrolet started the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series season off on the right foot Sunday, February 15 by finishing in the second position in just their first outing together. The Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 from New Smyrna Speedway was filled with adversity for Sargeant, as it was his first ever NASCAR K&N Pro Series start and the team experienced motor issues in practice, forcing them to go to a backup power plant before qualifying. The 16-year old put the issues behind him and drove from his ninth starting position to finish just feet behind the winner, Austin Hill.
On track activity began on Saturday, February 14 and included a four-hour practice session for the entire NASCAR K&N Pro Series competitors. Sargeant, and crew chief Kris Bowen worked diligently on different setups and attempting to get the driver comfortable as it was the first day he had ever piloted a NASCAR K&N Pro Series machine. The team searched for speed all day, but still weren’t happy with the cars performance, the rookie driver complained of a lack of horsepower and acceleration coming off the tight corners of New Smyrna Speedway. A total of 83 laps were made, but the No. 51 team had a small inclination that something was wrong. Those perceptions were proved correct as Sargeant made just three laps in the first practice session on Sunday, February 15 before the engine expired. Bowen and the team jumped into action and were able to change the engine in a mere hour and a half but had lost most of their practice time. The No. 51 was able to make just 13 total laps over three practice sessions, but proved they were contenders by setting the second-fastest lap in the final practice session. Sargeant and the No. 51 team then immediately moved to qualifying, which proved to be a highlight for the team, as they set the ninth-fastest lap in qualifying, a mere .16 seconds from first place.
The green flag flew on the Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 from New Smyrna Speedway and Sargeant immediately began making his way to the front of the field. On lap 12 he had moved his way up to the sixth position, but was experiencing a tight condition and began saving his tires for later in the event. As Sargeant began to conserve, he dropped all the way back to his original starting position, ninth by lap 44. After two daring restarts by the 16-year old rookie, Sargeant made his way up to the fourth position by lap 94, passing veterans of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series like Gaulding, Bassett, Grala, Heckert and Drake all within 50 laps. Caution flew again on lap 105 with Sargeant starting in the fourth position, but had another phenomenal restart and moved into the second position in a mere two laps after the restart. Over the course of the last 45 laps Sargeant made repeated attempts to take the lead away from eventual-race winner Austin Hill but was unsuccessful. The 16-year old rookie drove like a veteran, never making contact with the leader and trying to race him clean for the win. After numerous restarts and a green white checkered finish, Sargeant was unable to get around the leader and settled for a finishing position of second, behind Austin Hill who picked up his third consecutive NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory.
“What a great finish for everyone on the No. 51 GALT HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks team, we all overcame a lot of adversity this weekend and proved that we will compete for the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship. The engine mishap really hurt us, I think if we would’ve had an engine that was at full song on Saturday and participated in all the practice on Sunday, we would’ve qualified better and won this race. My crew chief Kris Bowen and the guys worked harder than any team here at New Smyrna and changed the motor and took a wild guess on setup for qualifying and the race, it just goes to prove how strong this team is and what we’ll be capable of during the season when everything goes right. The car was really good for the race, but starting on the bottom while running second really hurt us each time, there just wasn’t the same kind of grip on the bottom and each restart we spun the tires. That allowed Hill to get a few car lengths ahead of us and the last 50 laps we never saw a long enough green flag period to get back to him. We’ll take what we learned in our first race together and head to Greenville in a few weeks and hopefully finish one position better.”
After the second place finish, Dalton Sargeant has claimed the second position in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East point standings, and leads the rookie of the year point standings and is also the highest ranked HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks driver. The Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation 150 from New Smyrna Speedway will air on NBCSN on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 10:30 p.m. ET. Round 2 of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will be in Greenville, South Carolina on April 4.