MILLVILLE — The sound of auto engines filled New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday as the racetrack hosted its second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event.
Fans of all ages came out on the sunny afternoon to enjoy the race and surrounding festivities.
“This is just an awesome event,” said Ocean City resident Brain Hartley, who brought his wife, four kids and best friend out to watch the JustDrive.com 125. “It’s a beautiful day and an incredible complex, and being close to home makes this a great family outing. The fact this comes here is just great!”
Located adjacent to the Millville Airport, NJMP has more than 500 acres of land, including two top-notch tracks where fans can either sit in bleachers, tailgate in designated spaces or walk around while taking in the action.
There are also other sections for fan enjoyment, like a bar and restaurant and autograph sessions with drivers.
“I was here last year, and it was so much fun,” John Mikusa said under his tailgate tent. The Marlton native added it was his son, Joseph’s, 17th birthday, and he intended on celebrating it with a large group of family at the racetrack. “The facility is great and very much family-oriented.”
The K&N Pro Series East is a developmental circuit that helps train young drivers to climb higher in the NASCAR ranks. It has produced many stars, including 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and 2015 champion Joey Logano.
But you wouldn’t know it was a series for young drivers based on the electric atmosphere and the crowd around the complex.
“The attendance looks great,” Director of Marketing and Communications at NJMP Ashley Freas said a few hours before the race began. “The race is a little later (Saturday) than it was last year. But compared to last year, we are seeing the same amount of fans, if not more.”
The fans watched as Will Rodgers won the 55-lap race on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway. It was his second K&N Pro Series East event and his second victory, following his win at Watkins Glen in August.
“It feels really great. There is still a steep learning curve for me, but the East has always been the series to beat, so it feels really good to come out here and dominate and get a perfect record this season.”
Rodgers, 22, expects to be back at NJMP next year.
“It’s a great facility with great fans,” Rodgers said.
Michelle Loeser traveled from West Deptford to attend the race. She said the event itself is fantastic, but it would be better with more high-profile drivers.
Freas said the schedule for next season is unknown until it’s finalized in the winter, but there’s always a possibility more NASCAR events come to NJMP.
“Last year was the first time (K&N Pro Series East) came to New Jersey, and we were really happy to have them,” Freas said. “It’s really great for the fans in the area that they came back, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds with this partnership.”