WATKINS GLEN – As part of NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series, drivers Ander Vilarino and Frederic Gabillon are not exactly household names to Western New York race fans. But their car owner – Arcade native Troy Williams and his Troy Willimas Racing contingent – for this weekend is well known to many veteran area fans.
Williams and his team – featuring Vilarino of San Sebastian, Spain, driving the No. 12 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Dodge, and Gabillon from Uzes, France, steering the No. 86 Tepac/NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Chevrolet – came here Friday seeking a victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 125.
Unfortunately, due to a late morning practice crash Friday, Vilarino’s weekend was stopped before it barely began. Gabillon qualified 24th out of 26 cars for the Bully Hill Vineyards 125 and finished 12th. Scott Heckert won the race.
“Through NASCAR I’ve been doing a lot of driver development for three different countries – Mexico, Brazil and France,” said Williams. “This is all through contacts within NASCAR. We’re big on diversity projects and driver development. Ander and Frederic are talented drivers.
“I remember many years ago when I drove my local asphalt Late Model at Holland, Lancaster and Lake Erie. I did it for 15 years and won a lot of races.”
Williams also ran a limited K&N Pro Series East schedule from 2002 through 2005, running in 10 series races over that time. He had an overall K&N Pro East Series career average finish of 23rd. He retired as a driver a few seasons ago.
The TWR team held a test session on Wednesday at Holland Motorsports Complex for both drivers in preparation for The Glen.
Before his crash Friday, Vilarino talked about his association with Williams and his experience at Holland.
“I like being here with Troy Williams Racing,” said Vilarino. “They are open and nice. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series director chose the Williams team to race with here for us. I think he chose well. Troy is working very hard for us. I liked the high banking at Holland too.”
Friday’s appearance of the K&N Pro Series East was the first here since 2009. No driver entered in this year’s Bully Hill Vineyards 125 has ever raced previously with this series at The Glen.
Over on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side (NSCS) at The Glen, this season 16 NSCS drivers who have at least one win and are in the top 30 in points after the 26th race of the season at Richmond, Va., Sept. 6, will make the final 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Cup. If there are not 16 winners at that point, those non-winning drivers who are highest in points will complete the Chase field.
If there is a repeat 2014 season winner in Sunday’s race here, which is the 22nd NSCS point event of the season, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch would clinch Chase spots.
“No doubt, we want to definitely get locked in,” said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry.
“I feel like we’re sure enough to make the Chase, but like I said, I think that just us, we want to be able to win.”
Drivers who have already clinched their Chase spots coming to The Glen are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
A.J Allmendinger is racing in the NSCS this weekend in the No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet. With a win in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen Sunday, Allmendinger would put himself into a Chase qualifying position. What would he do if he were running a very close second coming into the last lap of the race Sunday?
“I’ve been doing this for a while, and it’s a tough sport unless you’re Jimmie Johnson or someone like him,” said Allmendinger. “I don’t get that many opportunities to win a race. I’ll do whatever I have to do to win, but I’ll be the first one to say that I don’t want to win in any controversy either. I want to go out and say I earned that win the right way.”
The NSCS held a pair of practice sessions Friday. In the initial practice Harvick was best, hitting 68.652 seconds at 128.474 mph. In the second practice Allmendinger emerged with the best recorded lap of 68.538 at 128.688.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) also held two practices sessions Friday. Keselowski was best in the first session at 72.123 at 122.291 mph. Marcos Ambrose, at 71.595 at 123.193 mph, was at the top of the time chart in the second NNS practice.
Today’s schedule here is highlighted by NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 qualifying at 9:40 a.m. followed by NSCS qualifying at 11:40 a.m. The Zippo 200 gets the green flag at 2:15 p.m.