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GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series Season

Another year of NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition is in the books, as the transition now begins towards the new era of combining the NASCAR Home Tracks program with ARCA. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: A little bump and banging, drivers making their way up and down the field, and a bump and run for the win – it sounds like the perfect short track event. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was able to check each of those boxes when they visited Bristol Motor Speedway. 

BAD: The field size could certainly use some improvement, as highlighted with just 16 entries at Bristol. Hopefully the new format will allow for that to happen. 

GOOD: Thoughout the season, Sam Mayer was a step above the rest en route to winning the championship – and that was certainly on display at Bristol in August. 

After having to go back to the field at the beginning of the race, he methodically made his way forward, making passes as he went to continue gaining ground. He was then able to catch Davis in the closing laps, perfecting the bump and run to get the lead and cruise to the win.

Not only as he proven to be a master at one of NASCAR’s toughest short tracks, his ability behind the wheel has shined at other speedways. He won at Iowa Speedway, and ran strong in a couple NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts. As he makes his move up the ladder with GMS Racing and their Driver’s Edge Development program, the potential for him to be quite successful for years to come is there. 

BAD: It was not all sunshine for the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet as his day was not clean at Bristol. He got put to the back on the first lap due to spinning fellow competitor Chase Cabre right off the drop of the green flag. 

While these two haven’t had the smoothest season racing each other in 2019 with contact throughout, it’s not a good appearance to be causing trouble right away. It also looks worse when you show no remorse about the contact. Mayer would admit he “didn’t mean it at all,” but went on to add that Cabre “kind of deserves it.” 

GOOD: Bristol wasn’t the only track that the young series shined, as South Boston Speedway’s event was arguably even better. A late caution set-up a green-white-checkered finish to the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100 Race 1, and it impressed every fan watching the free stream on FansChoice.tv.

After giving up the lead to Mayer over the course of the long run, Tanner Gray took full advantage of the restart, with a well-timed bump to the back of the No. 21 Chevrolet, followed by some rubbing well alongside on the tight track to take over the lead. He then held on through the final lap for the victory.

It’s always been stated that “racecars have bumpers for a reason,” as well as the classic stories of the “chrome horn.” Gray perfected the move in that moment as he got the position on Mayer, however he didn’t go over the limit by wrecking his competitor. 

BAD: Hailie Deegan may be applauded for her aggressive ability, but she showed the need to learn patience in driving over Colin Garrett in the first 18 laps of the second event at South Boston before it was postponed to Sunday due to weather. Garrett showcased his frustration to his fellow competitor, resulting in shock from the fans in not being able to see a replay of the incident despite FansChoice.tv using that feature for other previous incidents. 

GOOD: Derek Kraus rarely makes mistakes and appeared to be ready to cruise to another victory at Irwindale Speedway, but he would get outside of the groove in turn three – opening the door for one of the most exciting battles in series history.

Both Trevor Huddleston and Tanner Gray would be able to clear Kraus in the process, with Huddleston beginning to stretch out an advantage. However, as the laps begin to count down, Gray was able to close the gap. Gray would get to Huddleton’s bumper with two to go, diving underneath in both ends as he tried to clear him. The battle would go all the way to the checkered flag. 

https://twitter.com/FansChoiceTV/status/1112191647675117568

BAD: Sometimes it’s best to double check that your microphone is off before you make a candid comment.

Hannah Newhouse was pegged to speak with Riley Herbst following his crash for the at-track public address system at Bristol, and FansChoice.tv’s broadcast. She made the comment in which she wasn’t sure what took Herbst out of the race, to which he replied, “The car is killed. Look at the right side of this thing.”

Although improper etiquette to not fully know what happened entering the interview with a comment like that, the discussion point did not come from there. Rather, she left her microphone open following the interview, calling Herbst a “douchebag.”

Although honesty is appreciated from the on-air talent, that certainly is not the best look to have. 

GOOD: Hailie Deegan is currently regarded as one of the best young talents coming up in motorsports. She proved why on Thursday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track, and the fans were entertained in the process.

She would close the gap between herself and Jagger Jones, despite being just over five seconds behind with 26 laps to go.  Jones would find himself in lap traffic, and those cars would not move out of the way as the driver of the No. 6 would’ve hoped, as the bottom was the preferred line all night and where they tell lap cars to stay other places. Perhaps it was a bit of impatience, or maybe not having the knowledge of how to pinch himself underneath them, a he would get hung up on two occasions. The first would allow Deegan to close to within a couple car lengths, the second cost him the victory.

As Jones got hung up with Kenny Bumbera, a small space opened up between the tractor tire and them. Deegan would stick her nose in the hole, pushing Jones out a little (rubbing is racing, right?), and taking the lead. Although Jones tried to retaliate with the chrome horn going into turn three, it was not enough as Deegan kept it straight to the checkered flag.

GOOD: Anybody remember how the NASCAR K&N season started at New Smyrna? Despite starting 16th on the grid, Kraus conserved his tires while slowly making his way to the front, choosing to ride just inside the top-five. 

When the opportunity presented itself with the youthfulness of Garrett and Dollar getting together on a restart with 44 laps to go, Kraus did what he had to do, splitting the middle between the pair to drive by and cruise away en route to victory. Arguably, it was probably one of the best textbook restart passes that you will probably see all season. As he said post-race, “I might’ve gotten in the grass, but I got it done.”

GOOD: Can we also applaud NASCAR for their cost-saving measure in only allowing one single set of General Tires for the event? On top of the money not being spent, it also teaches the drivers about conserving equipment – something we know can come in handy when they move up the ranks. 

GOOD: The choice to stream the events live for free via FansChoice.tv was probably the best decision made. It allotted fans who may only know of the big three series a chance to get a glimpse at the grassroots action, perhaps resulting in them becoming more interested and wanting to attend an event closer to home.

Furthermore, it gave those short track attendees a chance to check out the middle ground of NASCAR. While they may not be too thrilled by the intermediate tracks, this may be the series level that attracts their interest in being closer to what they’re used to.

They always say the hardest part of advertising a product is getting it in front of fans, and doing that this way probably certainly improved the awareness.

BAD: It’s too bad, though, that the option won’t be there in 2020 with NBC Sports Gold taking over broadcasting the series, and now charging so much a month. Certainly those work to put the coverage together deserve something in return for their hard work respectfully, and the amount being charged is not too far out there.

However, making it only available to those in the United States, whereas FansChoice you could view anywhere around the globe, is ignoring a lot of potential race fans. An example would be the Canadian fan base, which makes up 40% of attendees to both Watkins Glen and Michigan. Now you’re taking away something for them view race fan wise, combined with the truck series just being able on one television provider, how does that make them feel included?

In a time where NASCAR recognizes that their numbers were going down with sponsors harder to find, you would think that we’d be wanting to reach as many markets around the world as possible. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.