Virginian driver takes Hampton 175

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sergio Pena, center with the trophy, and his crew celebrate winning the VisitHamptonVA 175 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Saturday night at Langley Speedway in Hampton. Pena, from Winchester, was one of four Virginia drivers competing on Saturday.

By Gary Daughtrey
Special to the News-Herald

HAMPTON — Sergio Pena, of Winchester, took the lead for good on lap 117 and rolled on to his second victory of the season as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East made its Langley Speedway debut with the running of Saturday’s VisitHamptonVA 175.

Third-generation driver Coleman Pressley started on the pole. Alex Bowman gained a slight edge over Pressley and swiped the lead at the end of lap 1. Pressley battled back to the inside of Bowman and seized the advantage next time through Turn 4.

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By lap 11, Pena, who started on the second row, was in the runner-up spot and half a car-length behind Pressley.

Pena pushed his machine to the front for the first time on lap 44.

Series leader Max Gresham gained the lead from Pena on lap 84 and Pena fell back as far as fourth place.

On lap 103, Pena scooted by Matt DiBenedetto on the backstretch to reclaim second place.

On lap 116, Pena nosed under Gresham on the back straightaway. The two went side-by-side for a lap before Pena used lapped traffic to his advantage and regained the lead on lap 117.

Pena held off Gresham despite four cautions and four restarts from laps 119-147. Back under green, at lap 148, Pena quickly cleared Gresham, who was left in a side-by-side battle with DiBenedetto.

Brett Moffitt, rallying from suffering a cut tire and falling two laps down in the early laps, took second from Gresham on lap 165.

Over the closing laps, Moffitt trimmed a car-length or two from Pena’s advantage, but Pena strolled to the checkered flag, winning by 1.430 seconds, about six lengths.

Gresham was third, while DiBenedetto and Chase Elliott completed the top five.

“If you haven’t driven here (Langley), it’s just hard to explain how to get around here. It’s really tough, especially on those restarts,” Pena said.

“Not only can you pass on the inside, but you can pass on the outside here. It was just an awesome race, an awesome track,” he said.

Both of Pena’s wins have been in his home state as he won at South Boston Speedway earlier this season.

In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings, Gresham moved into the top slot, 17 points ahead of DiBenedetto. Darrell Wallace Jr. dropped from first to third. Pena vaulted from 12th to sixth.

Highlights from the VisitHamptonVA 175 will be broadcast on SPEED on Thursday, June 30, at 6 p.m.

The Modifieds ran a pair of 25-lap sprints and Mike Rudy swept the doubleheader to notch his first two victories of the season.

In the 40-lap Pepsi Grand Stock race, Mark Claar assumed the lead on the third circuit and sped on to the victory, becoming the division’s first two-time winner this season.