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OBSERVATIONS: New Smyrna 175 (and World Series Night 4)

The cleanest race for NASCAR during Speedweeks is in the books, and it didn’t even happen on the biggest stage. While the restrictor plate events at Daytona International Speedway will be mired with crashes, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East took center stage at New Smyrna Speedway.

And frankly, they put on the better show with what they delivered.

Although it appeared as though Colin Garrett and Drew Dollar were going to battle it out for the win, neither of them accepted the accolades in victory lane as Derek Kraus took those honors instead.

The 27-years-old has raced in the K&N Pro Series ranks for the past two years with top-five points finishes, and the experience showed. Despite starting 16th on the grid, he conserved his tires while slowly making his way to the front, choosing to ride just inside the top-five. 

Then 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.”

While the pass highlighted the night, the field was arguably calm throughout without any serious wrecks, except for Brittney Zamora collecting Tanner Gray in her second spin on debut night. However, that doesn’t mean that the fans were not delivered a show. The drivers raced for positions door-to-door all night long within and outside of the top-five, sometimes making light contact along the way – but hey, rubbin’ is racing on the short tracks. 

There have been concerns about the state of NASCAR with some of the rule changes and an array of talented, experienced drivers stepping away over the past couple seasons. However, the next generation is there ready to take their place, and that was on display Monday night.

There are several drivers in the field that could easily make an impression in NASCAR’s top-three ranks down the road. Ty Gibbs proved himself with a runner-up in his K&N Pro Series debut, while Sam Meyer placed fourth in just his seventh start. 

– Although some of NASCAR’s rule changes recently haven’t gone over well, the decision to go to competition cautions with five minute breaks is very welcoming.

Essentially, when the caution comes out and if you choose to pit, you can take your time with your service, before returning on the track. If you chose to stay out, you get to start ahead of those who pitted; the cars that pitted then follow behind, in the order they were in entering pit road for service.

As a result, you keep the balance of strategy onto whether to pit or not, while not having to worry about possible consequences of a bad green flag pit stop. 

Kraus was one of the several drivers who elected to pit under the first caution, while four other drivers stayed out. Dollar and Garrett were among those who did not get service under either yellow flag, and it showed with the handling going away as laps were ran. Meanwhile, Kraus’ adjustments kept the No. 16 Toyota underneath him so he could make the move when it counted.

– 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. 

Hailie Deegan has been regarded as one of the top up-and-coming female drivers, with plenty of media shined her way. She has also backed up the talk by winning a K&N Pro Series West event last year, too. Unfortunately after starting on pole, mechanical issues plagued her night all the way to a 16th-place finish.

Her evening continued to get worse, as she also wrecked out of the Pro Late Model event at New Smyrna following the K&N Pro Series race after getting loose off of the corner. Look for her to bounce back and prove herself in the upcoming races.

While the focus for many is the action at Daytona International Speedway, February in Florida is busy with racing events. Bubba Raceway Park and Volusia Speedway have something for dirt fans each night, while New Smyrna Speedway hosts their World Series.

If you want to get a glance at the next generation, checking out any of these events is a must as they always put on a good show. The best part? Fanschoice.tv is live streaming each night for free for your viewing pleasure. 

– Deegan wasn’t the only driver to find trouble during the Pro Late Model event. The Mike Skinner-owned team saw both of their drivers black-flagged for jumping the restart, with the second call being gut-wrenching as it saw Jamie Skinner go from victory lane to last car on the lead lap. 

The Pro Late Models have been putting impressive side-by-side racing together on-track, while stealing the headlines. The restart controversy follows up the first night where Colin Kravil and Derek Griffith wrecked racing for the lead, and Deegan called out Jeremy Miller for a motor advantage. For the record, while Deegan wrecked out, Miller drove from the back to third after blowing his engine in practice; for Kvapil and Griffith, neither was able to rebound as they would have hoped on Monday.

– The Florida based modifieds are causing fans to talk for all the wrong reasons. The racing was pretty much strung out single-file, with the race experiencing a lengthy delay at the end to clean up fluid. It would’ve been better to call a time limit on the end of the event, and move on. Thankfully Bob Dillner eased some of the pain with his interviews and commentary for those at home.

Doug Coby may say that he is just down there testing, but he’s doing a fine job in the process as he put together a dominating performance in pacing every single lap en route to victory. Despite the races getting longer in the coming days, he’ll be a threat to sweep them all – but don’t start engraving the trophy yet.

Patrick Emerling and Matt Hirschman put together an impressive battle for second through the final 10 laps, with Hirschman looking for every way possible around for second. While it seems worth nothing now after Emerling was disqualified for a left-side weight violation, they could easily give Coby a run for his money over the next couple nights.

Ryan Preece is another name that can’t be forgotten. He had the speed to race up through the pack and could’ve been right there with the top-five, but an unscheduled pit stop for the car being stuck in gear put him behind. 

– The Super Late Models didn’t have the smoothest night of competition, with a couple big accidents eliminating drivers from the event. The frustration was echoed by the drivers, with Ryan Moore saying, “They have enough trouble lining up. You can’t expect them to know how to race.” 

At the front of the field, talent was the name of the game with arguably the best Super Late Model driver across the country Bubba Pollard conserving his equipment through the first half, before scoring the victory. Despite having won practically every big event across the United States – well, except the Snowball Derby, this marks his first win down at the World Series. 

He isn’t driving his own car, though, as he was asked to drive Dave Rogers’ entry with Rogers having surgery. The first night it seemed that Pollard was out of place, scoring a fourth-place finish by mere luck after the leaders got together. Now that he has the No. 11 driving as he wants, this may be the start of a dominating run from here on out.

Dan Frederickson led the first half of the event, and appeared set for a strong podium performance. However, with Pollard closing in, he made a mistake and got up into the wall. Ultimately, that caused him to drop through the running order. Heartbreaking.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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.

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OBSERVATIONS: Canadian Stock Car Nationals at Jukasa Motor Speedway

HAGERSVILLE, Ontario — When Alex Nagy took the position of Track Position at Jukasa Motor Speedway alongside track owners Kenny Hill and Jerry Montour, the goal was to return the famed track back to being Canada’s crown jewel once again. They’re only in their second season, but the goal has been succeeded.

The facility looks amazing, from a perfectly paved 5/8 mile, to a beautiful tower with sponsor suites. The campground is even laid out nicely to where you can find your spot via reciting the street name that you’re on, named after Canadian greats. Beyond that, they’re also putting their money where their mouths are.

While the first annual Canadian Stock Car Nationals had a purse of $174,000 with $50,000 going to the winner, that is set to increase over the next three years. Next season, the best pro late model drivers will vie for a purse worth $300,000, followed by $500,000 in 2020. If that wasn’t enough, the dollar value will be set to $1 million in 2021. As Bubba Pollard said, there’s no way he’s missing the event in the years to come.

The speedway also announced over the weekend that they will building a bridge over the backstretch for easier access to the infield, as well as improving the grandstands for easier viewing. 

Their hard work paid off across the board as 44 drivers from across North America attempted to qualify for the 40-car field on Sunday night, along with 39 competitors taking part in the Super Stock Saugeen Shores Transmission 50 beforehand. In a season where we’ve only seen fields reach mid-20’s, you have to be doing something right.

The amount of competition produced great racing across both days of Labor Day weekend, with the cream rising to the top in each of the events. There was also no shortage of action, with late-race battles in all the races as both Late Model race winners never just ran away and dominated.

Certainly, it’s not perfect yet as there were some delays with technical inspection that caused them to go slightly off schedule on Sunday. There were also longer cautions than fans would like to clean up wrecks, an issue that was fought during both previous events at the facility. But for a second year open, they’re catching everyone’s attention.

After taking some time to reflect about the action, here are some observations from the action….

– Bubba Pollard has made a name for himself in Late Model competition across the United States, and that has now grown to Canada in being the inaugural race winner. If you were watching during practice, though, you wouldn’t had believed that he had the car to win, stuck in the 30s all day. However, he told POPULAR SPEED post-race that the team was fighting brake issues, and he normally doesn’t run a lot of practice laps anyway. When you have hundreds of races under your belt across the country, it’s easy to see why.

– Carson Hocevar could be the next driver to watch if you’re looking to see what talent is headed for NASCAR. The 15-year-old impressed everybody in the crowd on Sunday night with his charge through the field. He would start on pole after setting the quick time in qualifying, but a problem on Lap 43 relegated him to the back. He immediately made his way through the traffic, back up to sixth shortly after the halfway break, en route to a runner-up finish. 

– Canadian Brandon Watson showed he could run right up front with the best from the United States, leading several laps before fading back to a sixth-place finish. It should be no surprise as he has ran CRA Super Series events in the past, and won the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Tour Championship last season. Oh, and he won the APC race the night before at Jukasa.

– J.R. Fitzpatrick was the highest finishing Canadian in fifth, as he played his cards right throughout the event, running solidly in the top-seven as he just worked at conserving his equipment. He has experience with long races, though, given his success in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.

For the record, it would’ve been interesting to see no points on the line on Saturday night for him in the APC Series as the battle between him and Watson was just heating up. However, having an advantage on the field with one race to go, not pushing the envelope was the smart move.

– Taylor Holdaway is worthy of a shout-out after driving from 39th starting spot to a top-10 finish.

– The Canadians to watch when it comes to the next generation have to be Treyten Lapcevich and Jake Sheridan. 

Although everybody knows Cayden Lapcevich, his little brother has made the climb through the ranks even quicker, scoring victories in Mighty Mini and Super Stock competition at Sunset Speedway before making the jump up to Late Models. He finished fifth in the APC race the night before, and was running up in the top-10 on Sunday before a power steering issue saw him fade back to 12th. 

Meanwhile, Sheridan is impressing everybody in his first year of Pro Late Model competition, currently ranked fourth in the APC standings following his six straight top-eight finish with a fourth on Saturday night at Jukasa Motor Speedway. 

– Speaking of Cayden Lapcevich, he showed a lot of speed in the Outlaw Super Late Model event the day before, setting the quick time in qualifying. If not for the engine blowing up, the battle between Tyler Roahrig and him for the win would’ve been entertaining.

– Tyler Roahrig may have gotten his second straight Outlaw Super Late Model victory at Jukasa, but this one didn’t come easy. While he dominated in 2017, this year saw him make a pit stop at Lap 17 for adjustments. He would then make his way back through the field, taking the lead with 15 laps to go to score the win. 

Coming down pit road while running fourth may not had been a decision that many would make, but Roahrig told POPULAR SPEED that his team comes to win races, and he didn’t have a car at that point to score the victory.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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.