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MILLVILLE, N.J. – Will Rodgers continued his road-course mastery Saturday.
The 22-year-old from Murrieta, California, drove away from NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship points leader Todd Gilliland en route to winning the JustDrive.com 125 at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The victory was Rogers’ second career win in the series and his second of the season – both victories coming at road courses.
Rodgers battled Gilliland throughout much of the second half of the race, making his final pass on Gilliland on lap 40 of the 55-lap event on the 2.3-mile road course. He survived a late-race restart and his No. 7 Solvang Brewing Company Ford crossed the finish line 2.430 seconds ahead of Gilliland.
“Todd Gilliland is always great at restarts,” Rodgers said about the duel for the win. “I only have so much time in these full-bodied, solid rear-end stock cars. It’s kind of tough to go from what I’ve been racing before to master restarts but we’re getting there. I’m happy with the ones we had today. I was able to get in front of Todd there and that was the highlight of the race.”
The road-racing ace finished second to 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick earlier this year in a K&N Pro West race at Sonoma and said it was Harvick’s encouragement that convinced him to run the K&N Pro East races at Watkins Glen and New Jersey.
“It was really good advice from him," said Rodgers, "and I’m happy we were able to pull off a sweep.”
Burton finished third, which allowed Gilliland to push his points lead to eight heading into the season finale at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 29.
“I think this was a big step in the right direction with the road course package,” Gilliland said. “Just another solid day for the Bill McAnally Racing team. It’s been a battle for the points lead and it’s nice to add a few points to that. I’m really confident about our Dover package. I was lucky enough to run the Truck race earlier this year and get some laps there. It’s going to be a huge race for us but I have confidence in everyone on our team.
Harrison Burton salvaged a podium finish after falling back to sixth during a restart in the second half of the race.
“I’m with the best team in the business,” Burton commented. “I feel like we had a really good car today, just missing a little bit. I made mistake and got us behind and had to burn the tires off trying to pass everyone back. I felt like we had a good car and were good in practice, I just made mistakes and that’s something you can’t do if you want to win races in this series. It’s so hard to win and if you make mistakes, you’re not going to win. I’ve got to get better and learn from experience.”
Jay Beasley finished in fourth while Ronnie Basset Jr. was fifth.
Chase Purdy, Dillon Bassett, Grant Quinlan, Max Tullman and Ruben Garcia, Jr. completed the top 10 at New Jersey. Purdy, the leading Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, is third in points -- 60 back of Burton and three ahead of Ronnie Bassett. Ruben Garcia Jr. rounds out the top five in points.
Will Rodgers, driver of the No. 7 Solvang Brewing Company Ford, won his second straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series East road-course race. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images for NASCAR photo