Dalton Sargeant and the No. 55 GALT machine with newly formed Jefferson Pitts Racing accomplished a long list of firsts on Saturday night, March 28. In Sargeant’s very first K&N Pro Series West event, the 17-year-old took home the victory in the Napa 150 at Kern County Raceway Park, after scoring his first ever pole position in qualifying. The No. 55 GALT machine lead the final 60 laps en route to the historical win, and joins a prestigious list including drivers like Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Brian Vickers that were able to pick up a win in their first K&N Pro Series West start.
Track activity began on Friday, March 27 with an open practice session to allow teams on-track time to dial in their machines after the long winter off season. Dalton Sargeant was able to acclimate himself with the new Jefferson Pitts Racing team and post some of the fastest lap times of the day. That momentum transferred into Saturday, March 28 when Sargeant and crew chief Kris Bowen mostly worked on a good long run setup and utilized old, worn tires to get the No. 55 GALT machine comfortable for the 17-year-old rookie driver. Sargeant was able to set the second-fastest lap time in final practice, only .001 seconds off from Brandon McReynolds who set the fastest time. In qualifying those roles were swapped, with Sargeant and the No. 55 GALT team setting the fastest lap of the entire weekend with a time of 18.01 seconds with McReynolds in second position with a time of 18.04 seconds.
The green flag flew on the NAPA 150 and Dalton Sargeant chose the outside line, leading the first 16 laps before veteran and 2014 Kern County Raceway Park track champion David Mayhew took the lead on lap 17. With a halfway break coming on lap 76, Sargeant and the No. 55 GALT team knew they needed to conserve the tires for them to last all 150 laps. By lap 38 he was back to third position and by lap 54 Sargeant had dropped to the fifth position. Lap 76 saw the halfway break and the No. 55 GALT machine came in for tires, fuel, a spring rubber and track bar adjustment to tighten up the car as Sargeant started to complain of a loose condition. As the field was about to go back to green-flag conditions, crew chief Kris Bowen told his driver that he didn’t have to conserve his tires anymore and that it was time to head to the front of the field. By lap 78 Sargeant had made his way back to fourth position and with a caution coming out on lap 81, the young driver decided it was time to make his move. On the ensuing restart Sargeant made his way to the second position, and ultimately took the lead on lap 100 from Mayhew. After holding off the field on two different restarts in the final ten laps, including a green-white-checkered finish Sargeant was able to cross the finish line in first place, his first ever NASCAR sanctioned win.
“What an amazing day here at Kern County Raceway Park, and I cant thank Jefferson Pitts, crew chief Kris Bowen and all my guys from HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks for making this dream come true. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a winning NASCAR driver and it’s a great feeling to finally accomplish that goal. We had a great car and a great team behind me, we were really fast all weekend and qualifying proved that thinking. From that point on, Kris Bowen and I discussed tire management and how to conserve for the end of the race. We dropped back a little farther than what I wanted and had to make a few adjustments on the halfway break. As soon the green flag came out I knew it was time to go and get back to the front and conserving our equipment for the first half of the race really paid off. We were just able to roll the bottom line of the race track so much better than anyone else on those newer tires, and that was the main difference. The last two restarts made me nervous because Mayhew was really good for the first few laps as his tires had cooled off, but I’m definitely happy we were able to hold him off. I feel like we’ve got a lot of momentum right now, but we need to carry it into Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule, hopefully we can extend our new winning streak!”
The NAPA Auto Parts 150 will be televised on NBC Sports Network on Friday, April 3 at 6:30pm EST. The next event for Dalton Sargeant will be the Kevin Whitaker 150 from Greenville-Pickens Speedway on Saturday, April 4.