MERIDIAN, Idaho — The man to beat all season was the man to beat on Saturday night.
Derek Kraus charged up through the field from seventh to lead 100 laps and earn his fourth K&N Pro Series West victory this season, 12th overall of his career and first at Meridian Speedway in the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208.
“Finally,” Kraus said with a smile. “It’s been a good year so far and tonight was just another short track race. There was lots of beating and banging, there were lots of yellows for sure. There were a lot of restarts, and I was able to get the lead over Jagger (Jones) about halfway through the race and I was able to keep it. That was really good, I’m really proud of how tonight went and I can’t thank these guys enough.”
Last season, Kraus led 189 of 208 laps from the pole, only to finish third after a late race incident with a lapped car. In three of his four K&N West wins this season, he’s led 100 laps or more.
But Kraus’ main competition was the man who led the most laps (121) on the evening from the pole: Jagger Jones.
With three laps to go in regulation, Kraus opted for the high lane on the restart, allowing Jones to take the bottom. The two made contact in Turns 1 and 2, and Kraus tapped Jones in Turn 3, sending him spinning, causing a massive pileup involving almost half the field.
“I’m sure he’s not very happy with me, but that’s racing,” Kraus said of the incident. “I’ve been on the other end of that and I know how it feels with Colorado. I’m sure he’s mad, and I’m sorry about it, but I guess that’s short track racing.”
Jones, understandably, wasn’t in the mood for apologies.
Following Kraus to the checkered flag was Todd Souza, who cleared the smoke to come home runner-up, his second-best career result. Trevor Huddleston did the same to finish third.
Josh Jackson, making his K&N debut, finished fourth after earning three free passes throughout the race, with Brad Kossow (also making his debut) rounding out the top five.
At the time of the green/white/checkered overtime restart, Josh Fanopoulos was running fourth, the highest he’s ever ran in a K&N Pro Series race. Despite being spun on the frontstretch on said restart, he earned his career best finish in sixth. Travis Milburn, Brittney Zamora, Zach Telford and Keith McGee completed the top 10.
Telford, a 15-year-old from Middleton, Idaho, was running second on the final lap before contact from Souza sent him spinning in Turn 2. He was making his first series start, as well.
The defending winner of the race, Hailie Deegan, got into some trouble of her own on Lap 132. After racing hard with Souza, she and Huddleston got together, giving her Bill McAnally Racing machine heavy nose damage. She ultimately finished 13th, 13 laps down.
Devin Dodson, who started a career-best fourth, finished 17th, 71 laps down after an accident on Lap 153 with Takuma Koga damaged the radiator.
In total, 12 caution flags flew for 70 laps, falling one yellow shy of the track record in 2016.
With the win, Kraus extends his championship points lead from 29 to 40. With his podium run and Deegan’s troubles, Huddleston now sits second in the standings, with Deegan third, Jones fourth and Zamora fifth.
The NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Friday, October 4 at 6 p.m.
The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place at All American Speedway in Roseville, California on Saturday, October 12.