Park, Hayley Win Daytona Battle

NASCAR

Cameron Hayley came from behind during a green-white-checkered finish to win the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach NASCAR K&N Pro Series race Tuesday night at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2013) – The last lap provided all the drama for the second consecutive night at the UNOH Battle At The Beach.

As a result, NASCAR veteran Steve Park and rising star Cameron Hayley walked off with the winner’s trophies Tuesday in the inaugural non-points event at Daytona International Speedway.

Thanks to a bump from behind from Park, Mike Stefanik looped his car off of Turn 2 on the final circuit of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. That enabled as Park of East Northport, N.Y., drove off to his first career Daytona win Tuesday night. It was the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner's first Modified victory since 1996.

“It was just short-track racing. He probably had a car capable of winning, but we had the luckiest car. I'm just glad we won,” Park said. “It's huge. You can win races all over this country, but you're not going to have a Daytona trophy like we have here.”

Park's first career NASCAR win win came in the first half of a doubleheader of racing on the .4-mile short-track on Daytona's backstretch. In the nightcap, 16-year-old Hayley of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, won the 150-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series event after a similar last-lap, bump-and-run move on race leader Michael Self didn't pay off for Gray Gaulding.

“I went to the outside, and (Gaulding) kind of pushed me to the wall a little bit and I had to back out,” Hayley said of the green-white-checkered restart. “But I just kept on it hard, hard into (Turns 3 and 4), and we ended up with the win. It was pretty crazy.”

Gaulding held on for second with Rev Racing driver Bryan Ortiz third.

The K&N Pro Series race was tame compared to the fireworks from the Modified event, which featured the stars of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Former Modified Tour champion and event pole sitter Todd Szegedy led most of the way before suspension woes sidelined him just a few dozen laps from the finish, while Danny Bohn, last year’s Whelen Southern Modified Tour runner-up, had his race end on his roof following a frontstretch wreck.

But the real drama came in the final lap in the Modified race, when leaders Stefanik, Park and Eric Goodale freight-trained their way through Turns 1 and 2 on the tight oval. Park got into the back of Stefanik to send him spinning, though he felt he'd gotten too much of a push from Goodale.

“I don't know what happened there on those last laps. I just know that guys got aggressive,” Park said. “Mike Stefanik's a good friend of mine, and I got into the back of him but I was getting it from the guy behind me who never lifted through the corner.”

Stefanik wasn't as diplomatic – or as unclear – about what took place. Nor was he buying Park's explanation.

“Yeah, right,” Stefanik said when apprised of Park's summation. “I don't want to say anything. I'm just going to say the wrong thing here.”

Goodale came home second, while Ted Christopher took third following and ending that was similar to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model finish on Monday night. In that race, Kyle Larson moved leader C.E. Falk III out of the way off the final turn en route to victory.

For Hayley, he won the K&N Pro Series race not by being the aggressor on the final lap but by capitalizing on the chaos that was around him.

Gaulding charged into the back of Self with two laps remaining, nearly stopping in the center of the track to avoid the backlash. Once back under acceleration, he bolted to the lead with Hayley – who had been fourth on the restart – in tow.

Gaulding made it to Turn 4 with the lead, but he bobbled on his own and washed up the track to open the door for Hayley to win the drag race to the checkered flag. It was a bit of redemption for Gene Price Motorsports, Hayley's team, which had seen Greg Pursley lead 129 laps from the pole before being booted out of the lead.

With three final-lap passes for the win the first-year UNOH Battle At The Beach got off to a rousing start in typical short-track racing fashion.

Hayley will kick off his second full season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West March 2 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. As a rookie, he was part of the Next 9, an industry initiative designed to spotlight NASCAR’s rising starts. While classmates Darrell Wallace Jr., Dylan Kwasniewski, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson grabbed the spotlight with their success, Hayley admitted he put pressure on himself to prove he belonged.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East gets underway on March 16 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour kicks off its points season on March 16 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., while the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets underway on April 14 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.

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