Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Battle at the Beach ends with a bump and a spin, Park and Hayley win


The stars of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series took to Daytona International Speedway to conclude the two-day, three-race spectacle known as the Battle at the Beach. The field for the final 150-lap feature was filled with young racing talent; names such as John Hunter Nemechek, Corey LaJoie, and Kyle Larson (yes, that Kyle Larson.)

Michael Self and Gray Gaulding were top contenders and were the favorites to win as the race drove on. Unlike the previous two races, tonight’s K&N race featured only a handful of cautions. Cautions were spared because most drivers were able to get their cars back on track and in the pack after being spun out.

The race ended with a bump, dump and spin as a wreck in turn one (apparently the bump and dump is now known as "Larsoning") collected a few cars, namely that of Michael Self and Kyle Larson. With Self left behind in Turn 2, Gray Gaulding held the first position, but going through Turns 3 and 4 locked his brakes and slid up, allowing Cameron Hayley to pass him. Gaulding fought back, bumping alongside Haley in an attempt to regain the lead, but Hayley held on for the win. 

In the end, Cameron Hayley took the checkered along with a winner’s purse of $20,000. He also received the Battle’s most coveted prize: a unique trophy designed to replicate those received by winners of the classic beach races back in the 1950s.

The first race on the night's schedule, the Whelen Modified Tour race, featured a number of cautions as the frantic action seemed cramped on the small track. Steve Park, whose NASCAR Cup career was cut short by a freak accident in 2001, took the victory with a bump and run that initially looked to be as controversial as Larson's. Upon review, Park was pushed into leader Mike Stefanik by Eric Goodell, unintentionally spinning Stefanik, who expressed displeasure at the way the race ended.

Larson, who hoped to sweep all three events missed a shift and hit the outside wall, resulting in a flat tire that would have put him laps down. His group decided to park it for the night.

Earlier in the Modified race Danny Bohn gave spectators a scare when he flipped and landed on the roof of the car, which caught fire. Fortunately the safety crew arrived quickly and Bohn walked away from the accident.

The inaugural Battle at the Beach got people talking about the sport. Fans and NASCAR personalities alike showed pride via social media. Following each race, debates raged over passes, which driver should have won, etc.

Those of us who have been around the sport in recent times know that NASCAR is hurting for fans. With the conclusion of this race, NASCAR accomplished exactly what they set out to accomplish. The Battle gave young up-and-coming drivers the chance to shine on NASCAR’s biggest stage, Daytona International Speedway, all the while, getting fans and people talking about the sport.  

The inaugural Battle at the Beach proved to be nothing short of thrilling and exciting. It’s one small step for NASCAR and one giant step for NASCAR’s rise in fan base and popularity. If NASCAR is smart, it will keep the Battle at the Beach as a featured event in the Daytona SpeedWeeks agenda for years to come. 

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