DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Based on the way the first two events during the UNOH Battle at the Beach ended, it was almost a given that Tuesday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series event would end in a controversial manner.
Cameron Hayley came out on top of a wild green-white-checkered restart to win Tuesday’s UNOH Battle at the Beach finale despite not even being in the top five during the final restart.
Michael Self held the lead when the green flag waved for the final restart with rookie Gray Gaulding to his outside. Self made it back to the white flag, but just like Monday’s late-model race and the modified race earlier in the evening, Self didn’t make it back to the finish line with the lead.
Entering turn one Gaulding spun Self out, blocking the track for nearly everyone except himself and Hayley. Gaulding looked like he had the race one, but entering turn three Gaulding slid high and opened the door for Hayley to dive below Gaulding.
The two young drivers banged doors coming to the finish line, but it was Hayley who somehow got their first.
“I don’t even know what to say. This is the most incredible moment ever,” a stunned Hayley said in victory lane. “It is incredible here at Daytona. I don’t even know what to say. This is amazing.
“Gene Price and this Gene Price Motorsports team gave me a heck of a piece. All night it was back and forth back and forth, but he gave me the car to do this,” Hayley said.
Fifteen-year-old Gaulding, making his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, settled for second.
“It was just one of those racing deals. You hate seeing that,” said Gaulding, referencing the contact he made with Self on the last lap. “It was a great race coming to the line. I think I slipped in something. It was really slippery down there. I just hit the marbles and it was too late to come back.”
Self, who finished seventh after the last-lap spin, said he knew the contact with Gaulding was coming on the last lap. There was just nothing he could do about it.
“That was the same thing that has happened all weekend. You saw it in the late model race and you saw it in the modified race,” Self said. “It’s short track racing. You come in here and you’re racing for $20,000. That is huge.
“We knew it was coming. I hated to see that caution (with two laps left). We had a really good, solid lead there with about three to go,” Self said. “It’s just guys going for it. To be honest if I were in second or third I probably would have tried to dive bomb them too.”
Most of the event was dominated by NASCAR K&N Pro Series West veteran Greg Pursley, who led most of the race before getting spun out during a restart on lap 127 by Cale Conley. He recovered to finish ninth.
The spin by Pursley gave the lead to Self, who pulled away on the restart as Conley missed a shift. Conley’s mistake allowed Gaulding to move into second behind Self.
It looked like that was how the race would end as Self held a comfortable lead with two laps left, but a spin by Conley in turn four brought out a caution flag and forced the green-white-checkered restart that led to Hayley’s victory.
Bryan Ortiz, Ryan Gifford and Ben Kennedy completed the top five at Daytona Tuesday evening.
Cameron Hayley, Gray Gaulding, Bryan Ortiz, Ryan Gifford, Ben Kennedy, Derek Thorn, D.J. Kennington, Michael Self, Greg Pursley, Kyle Larson, Cale Conley, Noel Dowler, Jorge Goeters, Tyler Reddick, Dalton Zehr, Martin Roy, Austin Self, Chuck Buchanan Jr., Daryl Harr, Dylan Presnell, Sergio Pena, Corey LaJoie, Ander Vilarino, David Mayhew, C.J. Faison, Carl Harr, Dylan Kwasniewski, John Hunter Nemechek.