For Immediate Release
NASCAR’s Next Generation Has Arrived
Infusion of legacy drivers in K&N Pro Series East
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 16, 2011) — The phrase “NASCAR’s Next Generation” has been bandied about for a decade, if not longer. Perhaps at no time has that term taken on a more literal meaning than when referring to the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East newcomers.
No less than eight drivers with family ties to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are expected to participate in the K&N Pro Series at some point in the coming season. Two have Hall of Fame lineage, one has seen his famous father hoist the Sprint Cup and another is the son of a multi-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion.
The first sign of such a movement came late in the 2010 season when Ben Kennedy participated in the K&N Pro Series East event at Gresham Motorsports Park under the Mark Martin Performance banner. While a mechanical issue ended the night early for the son of NASCAR Vice Chairwoman and Executive Vice President Lesa France Kennedy – and the great grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. – the writing was on the wall that was a test run for a full campaign in 2011.
A similar litmus test was made by Chad Boat, son of former Indy racer Billy Boat, when he participated in the fall race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The indication again was that this was setting the stage for a full season when the calendar turned, and indeed he will compete in a car fielded by Mike Curb.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson then founded Junior Johnson Motorsports late in 2010 to field a car for his son, Robert Johnson, for the full 2011 K&N Pro Series East season. Since the calendar turned, however, the flood gates have opened for the sons racing families that are now turning to NASCAR’s top developmental series to take the next step.
Chase Elliott will be the first driver to take advantage of the lowering of the minimum competition age to 15 for 2011. The son of 1984 Sprint Cup Series Champion Bill Elliott signed a multi-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports and will now compete full-time – a year ahead of schedule – out of the family garage in Dawsonville, Ga.
The K&N Pro Series East will also see a handful of legacy drivers get their toes wet on a part-time basis this year. Ryan Blaney, the son of current Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, plans to make spot starts in a family-owned ride while longtime national series driver Robert Pressley’s son, Coleman Pressley, will compete in a number of events with the newly-formed X Team Racing. Announced just this week, Brandon McReynolds, son of former Sprint Cup Series crew chief and current NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds, will run with longtime K&N Pro Series East team Spraker Racing Enterprises. And Clay Alexander, the son of 1983 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion and former national series driver Mike Alexander, also hopes to make his debut in the series this year.
Not to be forgotten is a pair of drivers who also watched their fathers compete at the touring level. Ryan Reed, the son of former K&N Pro Series West competitor Mark Reed, has moved his operation from California to North Carolina in the offseason and plans to compete part-time in the K&N Pro Series East while ASA Late Model driver Yale Conley hopes to see his son, Cale, get some action in the K&N Pro Series East in 2011.
This group of racing sons just adds to those of a similar background that have already been running in the K&N Pro Series East. Two-time Nationwide Series titlist Randy LaJoie’s son, Corey LaJoie, has made seven starts in the series in the two previous season and plans to run for the championship in 2011. D.J. Shaw, the son of longtime K&N Pro Series East driver and 1994 champion Dale Shaw, will also be back for his sophomore campaign and expect to see Ty Dillon, son of former Nationwide Series driver Mike Dillon and grandson of Sprint Cup Series car owner Richard Childress, also return for a few spot starts.
As the 2011 schedule opens at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on Saturday, March 26 with the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150, this group of racing offspring will just be a portion of the new faces that will take to the track as three-quarters of the starting grid figures to be rookies or second-year drivers.
And evidenced by the national series success of recent graduates Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Carmichael, Austin Dillon and now Cole Whitt, the K&N Pro Series East has become the destination for the best up-and-coming prospects to launch their NASCAR careers, and the destination for fans to get a glimpse of the starts of tomorrow.
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