Rodgers avoids final corner disaster to secure first K&N Series win

By Tyler Head
August 5, 2017

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.–During a red flag before the final restart in Friday’s Finger Lakes Wine Country 100, there was only one thought going through 22-year-old Will Rodgers’ mind.

“I knew I needed to do a good restart,” Rodgers said.

The young driver from California said restarts have been a struggle for him since he transitioned to stock car racing.

With Turn One at Watkins Glen International being one of the main passing opportunities on the track, Rodgers knew there was no room for error.

“(I) needed to barrel it into the corner pretty deep to keep those guys somewhat behind me,” he said.

On the final restart with two laps to go, Rodgers cleared second-place runner Ruben Garcia Jr. and maintained a narrow lead entering the race’s final corner.

That’s when Garcia tried to make a pass for the lead, but instead slid wide into the wall, clipping the rear-end of Rodgers’ No. 7 Ford.

The contact was enough to peel away part of the rear bumper on Rodgers’ car, but Rodgers was able to maintain control and secure his first career K&N Pro Series East victory.

“I didn’t even know it happened,” Rodgers said with a chuckle after the race. “I was just focusing on the flag.”  

Garcia limped to the line in fourth place after hitting the wall in the final corner.

Ryan Truex and the No. 01 Gunma Toyopet Toyota started on the pole and led through the race’s halfway intermission, but a promising run turned into disappointment shortly after the race resumed.

While racing side-by-side with Todd Gilliland for the lead on lap 27, an apparent tire failure sent Treux’s car into the Armco barrier in the esses, abruptly ending his day.

He finished 19th.

Six points separated NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship leader Harrison Burton and second-place Todd Gilliland entering Watkins Glen.

The gap between the two drivers was similar when the checkered flag dropped at The Glen; Gilliland finished second and Burton followed right behind him in third.

With just three races remaining, Burton’s championship lead is unofficially just four points. Both drivers are confident about their chances.

“We both think we’re gonna win,” Gilliland said after the race. Burton quickly quipped, “What else do you expect us to say?”

The next race for the K&N Pro Series East is September 2nd at Langley Speedway. IMAGES Tyler Head/The Racing Experts