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News

Derek Kraus Celebrates Championship as Ty Gibbs Survives Overtime To Win at ISM

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The 2019 K&N Pro Series West season finale showcased the up and coming talent in NASCAR. And when the lights shined the brightest, the young drivers delivered.

Derek Kraus officially clinched the series championship by taking the green flag, and allowed himself to get a little introspective once the title was finalized.

“It’s a dream come true to become a NASCAR champion and it’s all because of you guys,” he said over the radio.

Dream: meet reality.

After failing pre-race inspection and starting in the rear, Kraus fought his way to finish inside the top five for the 11th time this season. Once he made the trip to Victory Lane, the gravity of what he’d just accomplished began to sink in.

“It feels really good,” Kraus said with a smile ear to ear. “We had a really good season this year. If we had a bad night, we were able to capitalize on it and do as much as we could do make the bad night as good as we could.”

“I really can’t thank all these (Bill McAnally Racing) guys enough. They work their tails off on this race car to get it as good as it is every single race. And to finish the year out strong finishing fourth after starting towards the back of the field, it was a really good night and I’m really excited for the following years.”

Kraus’ third full-time season in the series resulted in seven total wins (five West, two East) and an average finish of 4.0, a series best.

Further up front, Sam Mayer controlled the majority of the race, leading 68 laps total. But restarts plagued the 2019 K&N East champion all evening long, as he lost the lead to Ty Gibbs in Turns 1 and 2 with a little over 30 laps remaining

Gibbs, who didn’t give the lead up after taking it on Lap 71, was able to hold off Mayer for two green/white/checkered overtime restarts and win his first career K&N West race and second this season.

“There was a lot going on there,” Gibbs said of the finish to the Arizona Lottery 100. “Those restarts really kind of got me flustered there. I got nervous for a little bit. I could really set (Mayer) up on the restarts. That’s where I could get him the most. We just persevered, started in the back and the car was so good that we got to Victory Lane, it was a cool day.”

The win for Gibbs came under the Levin Racing banner in a partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing. The win is the team’s second in the organizations history (Sheldon Creed, Las Vegas 2018).

Corey Heim of Chad Bryant Racing crossed the finish line third. He was credited with a 25th-place finish, however. The No. 22 team, at the request of NASCAR Competition officials, ran an Illmor engine. NASCAR officials and the No. 22 agreed the team would be placed last in the official results regardless of their finish in the running order.

Kraus officially finished third, with his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Hailie Deegan fourth and Scottsdale, Arizona native Jagger Jones rounding out the top five.

Brittney Zamora, Trenton Moriarity, Trevor Huddleston, Todd Souza and Riley Herbst completed the top 10.

With his fifth place effort, Jones earned the runner-up spot in the 2019 standings, three points ahead of Deegan, who finished third. Huddleston and Zamora round out the top five.

The Arizona Lottery 100 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Thursday, November 14 at 6 p.m.

The NASCAR Touring Awards Banquet will take place on Saturday, November 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Home Tracks

Jagger Jones Returns Home for First Race at ISM Raceway

AVONDALE, Arizona — The Arizona Lottery 100 at ISM Raceway was the final stop on the circuit for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, but was also the first race in a NASCAR sanctioned series at his hometown facility for Jagger Jones.

“This is my first time racing here at ISM Raceway and it’s obviously so different from watching in the stands,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED.  “Growing up watching the races here and now being able to race here is super cool. I’m looking forward to it, it’s cool to be the local kid for once because usually I’m traveling all around the west coast – all around the country really for races, so it’s cool to race here in my hometown.”

The Scottsdale, Arizona-Native entered the series finale ranked second in the standings – and this was as high as he could soar, being that all points leader Derek Kraus had to do at the 1.5-mile speedway was start the race to lock up the 2019 Championship.

Jones would go on to put down a sixth-best qualifying lap, putting him on the outside of Drew Dollar to start the 100 Lap event.

“We have a really competitive field here this weekend,” the 17-year old admitted. “We’ve struggled a little bit on the bigger tracks for our series, so I think if we can get up inside the top-five it’ll be a good say for us.”

When the green flag waved atop the unique LED-cactus flag stand, Sam Mayer raced from the lead and did not surrender that position until 12 laps remaining – when race-winner Ty Gibbs passed him after the 16-year old made contact with Ty Majeski on a three-wide restart.

A good majority of the race was a product of single-file long-run racing in which Jones saw himself mainly battling with fan-favorite, Hailie Deegan for the eighth-spot.  After a healthy-dose of cautions in the final 30 laps of the race, Jones didn’t quite salvage that top-five he’d hoped to attain in pre-race, finishing sixth.

The driver of the No. 6 was able to hold on to the second-ranked position in the standings. He finished the year with eight top-fives, 11 top-10s, one pole award, 248 laps led and his first win – which came at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.

It’s safe to say that after what can be deemed an incredibly impressive season that Jones will be one of the young talents who will be in NASCAR for years to come.

“We’re setting up things for next season,” said the Arizona-native. “They’re changing the whole series in 2020, so we’re just trying to put everything together for that. Next year I want to run a lot of races and win as many as I can – those are my main goals for he offseason.”

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Cole_Cusumano_

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

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News

Derek Kraus Survives Meridian Carnage, Wins In Overtime

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.

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News

Derek Kraus Dominates Again At Douglas County

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Douglas County, Derek Kraus and dominance. For the second year in a row, the three converged.

After leading 133 laps an route to the win last season, Kraus led flag-to-flag this go around to claim his third K&N West victory of the season and fifth overall in 2019.

“It helps a lot when BMR brings me a great car like they did,” Kraus said. “They prepared me a great car here. We had to push Sonoma behind us from what happened there. Overall, we came to Roseburg knowing that we won last year, kept up the momentum and won this year. They brought me a really great car and I can’t thank them enough.”

The win continues Bill McAnally Racing’s dominance at the 0.375-mile Oregon oval. A BMR car has entered Victory Lane in eight of the last nine trips to Roseburg. Clearly, Kraus, BMR and DCS have a good thing going.

“They know what they’re doing when we come here to Roseburg,” he said. “I’m just fortunate enough to be able to be driving the race car.”

Jagger Jones came home second, 3.158 seconds behind Kraus, tying his career best finish. Hailie Deegan, Kraus’ BMR teammate, finished third. Trevor Huddleston and Brittney Zamora rounded out the top five finishers, putting all three BMR cars inside the top five.

Travis Milburn and Todd Souza finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Kody Vanderwal, John Wood and Takuma Koga completed the top 10.

Vanderwal, who ran as high as second but sustained hood damage when James Cooley slammed on the brakes in Turn 2 as the the caution was out, took the checkered flag in seventh but was rather disappointed in his run.

With the win, Kraus’ championship points lead grew by seven points and now leads Deegan by eight markers at the halfway point of the season.

The Clint Newell Auto Group Toyota 150 presented by ENEOS is scheduled to air on Thursday, July 4 at 6 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place on Friday, July 26 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, the first of two combination events in the K&N Pro Series.

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Trucks

Where does NASCAR draw the line with hard racing?

Over the last two weeks, there has been no shortage in drama between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In both the NAPA Auto Parts 150 and the M&M’s 200, viewers were treated to a wide range of hard racing and it’s end results, which begs the question– where does NASCAR draw the line? 

Hard racing is by no stretch a bad thing for the sport. It provides viewers with excitement and has the ability to boost ratings for NASCAR . Some of the sport’s brightest stars have even made a name for themselves with aggressive racing styles. While this type of competition, is generally a positive thing for the sport, drivers will understandable get upset, and those reactions can lead to boundaries being crossed. 

During the closing laps at Colorado National Speedway on June 9, Bill McAnally Racing teammates Hailie Deegan and Derek Kraus made headlines after Deegan spun Kraus entering Turn 4, coming to the white flag.

Was the move Deegan made on Kraus warranted? It depends how you look at what happened prior to the final contact made.

Kraus, who had been battling adversity since Lap 50 with a broken sway-bar, managed to keep himself in contention for the win in the NAPA Auto Parts 150, restarting third and directly behind Deegan. When the green flag waved on the final restart, the past series champion opted to make the most of his opportunity and took Deegan and Jagger Jones three-wide entering Turn 1, ultimately getting into the left rear of Deegan’s No. 19 Toyota Camry. Deegan, justifiably upset with the move made by her teammate, spun Kraus and his No. 16 Toyota Camry entering Turn 4 to lock down her second win of the 2019 season.

“I think it’s just short track racing,” Kraus told POPULAR SPEED. “She (Deegan) drove it pretty deep on the last restart and drifted up the hill. I saw a hole and I took it of course — like any driver would. I got into her a little bit and coming to the white flag I got loose, then she got into me and everyone saw the end results.” 

Kraus was able to salvage an eighth-place finish and maintain his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points lead after the move made by Deegan. Following the madness at Colorado, Deegan and Kraus were treated to a team meeting the smooth things over and clear the air.

“Everything went alright in the meeting and we’re back on good terms,” Kraus said. “I don’t have any hard feelings, we’ve both moved on and we’re both ready for a clean race at Sonoma.”

The events which took place in Colorado are an example of hard racing done right. Although unfortunate and controversial as this occurred between teammates, this brought tons of exposure to not only NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, but the young up and coming drivers of Deegan and Kraus. In a time where it can argued that NASCAR’s upper divisions are lacking personality, the pair offered fans a possible glimpse into the future.

Exactly one week following the incident between Deegan and Kraus, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series had it’s own share of conflict and drama in the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

Early in the final stage, Johnny Sauter moved the No. 16 Toyota Tundra of Austin Hill out of the way to advance his position. Hill would go on to retaliate on Lap 136, sending Sauter’s No. 13 Ford F-150 into the outside wall. Sauter then took things one step further running down Hill under caution and sending both trucks hard into the wall through Turns 3 and 4.

Sauter would go on to be parked for the remainder of the race. NASCAR then suspended the past series champion for this weekend’s upcoming event at WWT Speedway.

“We were racing hard going into Turn 1,” Hill said. “He (Sauter) got into me a bit and I returned the favor. I don’t race like that, so if you’re going to race me like that, I’m not going to put up with it and I think you saw that.”

If Sauter and Hill ended their back and forth feuds in the closing laps following the caution on Lap 136, this incident would have been perfectly fine. The problem resided in Sauter’s retaliation to Hill under caution. When NASCAR officials throw out the yellow flag, drivers are expected to comply with the sanctioning body’s rules of speed and safety.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to give one another a bump during caution periods to voice their displeasure after the way they’ve been raced on the track. But what Sauter did was unforgivable and punishable, plain and simple. Sauter essentially used his truck as a weapon by intentionally wrecking Hill under caution at high speeds and put not only himself and Hill in danger, but his fellow competitors and safety officials as well.

The argument can be made that Hill was just as much at fault for sparking the initial dust up between the two drivers; after all, his product of hard racing and retaliation is what triggered Sauter. However, this was all done under the green flag and within reason.

NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller said that officials considered handing down penalties to Hill, but they ultimately just opted to punish Sauter for his actions.

“Him (Sauter) driving half a track with a smoking truck, winding through traffic to get to the No. 16 and running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running to into his door was pretty aggressive,” Miller said. “It was definitely not anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”

While suspended for this weekend, this will not effect Sauter’s opportunity to compete for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship with a  playoff waiver issued.

“In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent,” Miller concluded.

While Sauter was the only driver suspended for the incident on Lap 137, Miller stated that NASCAR officials would be keeping Hill “under a microscope” throughout the remainder of the season.

Two of NASCAR’s lower series divisions rose to the occasion when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had a scheduled off-week and all in all brought more exposure when the sport needed it most. There is a broad spectrum for what can be deemed acceptable and what is punishable when it comes to hard racing and fans got just that with the races at Colorado and Iowa.

While hard racing will almost always provide viewers with piqued interest and excitement, it should be done within reason and this should be recognized– not only by the fans– but from the sport’s athletes as well.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.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 to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

Categories
News

Derek Kraus Sweeps Tucson Twins in Dominating Fashion

TUCSON, Ariz. — Tucson was twice as nice for the Derek Kraus Saturday night.

The Stratford, Wisconsin, native swept the Port of Tucson Twin 100s for his third and fourth K&N Pro Series victories of the season and first wins on the West coast.

Coming off a win in the second 100-lap championship race last week at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway — giving him two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East wins — Kraus and the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota established a goal to win both NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races and take command of the championship standings coming into Arizona.

They did exactly that.

“That was the goal coming into this race,” said Kraus in Victory Lane at Tucson Speedway. “Now we got the points lead going into the next K&N West race. That was really good and we’ll look to stay consistent the rest of the season. We just had to stay patient and it paid off at the end.”

In the first Tucson race, Kraus took the lead from pole sitter Tanner Gray going into Turn 1 and never relinquished the top spot, leading all 100 laps.

Gray, Hailie Deegan, Jagger Jones and Brittney Zamora rounded out the top five finishers in Race No. 1. Matt Levin, Trevor Huddleston, Todd Souza, Dustin Ash and John Wood completed the top 10.

Race No. 2 was a different story for Kraus, who didn’t grab the lead until past the halfway point. But once he did, it was smooth sailing to another victory.

Gray came home second for the second consecutive race, with Zamora finishing a career-best third after leading 26 laps from the pole.

Trevor Huddleston and Matt Levin completed the top five, with Jagger Jones, Dustin Ash, Travis Milburn, Takuma Koga and Bill Kann rounding out the top 10.

Hailie Deegan, who entered the night leading the points, finished 15th after contact with Huddleston going into Turn 2 that spun her around and forced her behind the wall for repairs.

Kody Vanderwal finished 11th and 12th, respectively in the twin 100s, after sweeping the twin races last season at the 0.375-mile track.

Kraus, who leads the K&N Pro East standings by four points, has an 18-point cushion over Sunrise Ford/Bruncati Racing teammates Huddleston and Jones. Deegan fell to fourth, another five points back.

Port of Tucson Twin Race 1 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 22 at 4 p.m., with No. 2 scheduled to be broadcast the same day at 7 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place on Saturday, June 8 at Colorado National Speedway.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s Race 2 at South Boston

Even with the weekend extending longer than planned, it was certainly worth the wait for the fans as they got a pair of stellar WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s at South Boston Speedway this past weekend.

Just like the first edition, the second would feature the great short track racing that fans have grown to love and begin chanting “More Short Tracks” for. Derek Kraus would make his way up to second, before tracking down Max McLaughlin for the lead. With a little bump to the bumper, and nudge to the door, he made his way before driving off into the sunset. Of course, that wasn’t before McLaughlin was able to give him a quick tap to return the favor.

Just like Tanner Gray the night before, Kraus perfected the move in that moment as he got the position without wrecking his competitor. It also marks his second win of the season after his victory at New Smyrna Speedway to open the season. As we said then, it’s just Kraus doing what he does best as a past series champion.

Gray arguably had the quickest car in the field as evident by the scoring monitor and Saturday night’s victory. However, initially jumping the start put him behind early. The youngster still deserves to be applauded as he fought back for a fourth-place finish.

The big loser in the race being postponed was Nick Sanchez. After struggling early on night one, his team made a pit stop to make adjustments so they could improve the handling of the car. It worked, as well as handing him the pole as the first-place starter for the second event is determined by fastest lap put down in the first. However, with clear skies and the sun shining, it appeared that he lost the handle and it showed as he faded back in the field.

Between the pair of events, the Saturday night edition was more thrilling with closer racing throughout the field, and Gray’s move on Mayer being the icing on the cake. That said, the second race was still fun to watch for the fans with classic short track racing.

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.

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News

Patient Derek Kraus Earns Second Rain-Delayed Victory With South Boston Win

The extra day was worth the wait for Derek Kraus.

After being postponed to Sunday due to rain at South Boston Speedway, the second WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100 belonged to the 17-year-old from Wisconsin.

Kraus took the lead from Max McLaughlin at the halfway juncture and didn’t look back, claiming his seventh overall K&N Pro Series checkered flag.

“It was a really good day overall,” he said. “Today was. Yesterday we were pretty good, too, but we ran out of brakes early and kind of had to ride around and manage your day, which we did for those first 100 laps. But these second 100 laps, we got the first 20 laps in and I knew we were pretty good. Really happy with my Bill McAnally crew.”

The win was Kraus’ second overall in the K&N Pro Series East this season. His first came in the season opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway, a race that was also postponed due to rain.

Chase Cabre came home in second-place for the second time in the last three races – sandwiching an eighth-place run in the first twin 100 Saturday night. The Rev Racing driver was catching Kraus’ No. 16 in the closing stages Sunday, but wound up running out of time.

“Just came up a little bit short” he said. “I think if we had a caution we might have had something. Really drove as hard as I could go there. It was a guessing game when it rains out like that and goes to the next day; not bad, but not what we wanted.”

Hattori Racing Enterprises’ Max McLaughlin scored his second third-place finish in a row after battling flu-like symptoms the night prior and led a handful of laps. Tanner Gray, winner of Saturday’s 100-lapper, finished fourth and Spencer Davis rounded out the top five.

Drew Dollar was sixth, followed by Rev Racing teammates Ruben Garcia Jr. and Nick Sanchez. Garcia’s car was piloted by Colin Garrett Sunday after Garcia had to depart for a race commitment in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series. Garrett had wrecked out in the first 20 laps Saturday night, leaving him available to fill in for Garcia. Sanchez was on the pole for the second race by virtue of his fast lap Saturday, and was making his series’ debut. Travis Milburn and Justin Carroll rounded out the top 10.

Race No. 2 of the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s is scheduled to be broadcasted on NBCSN Thursday, May 9 at 6 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series East events will take place on Saturday, June 1, at Memphis International Raceway.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: ENEOS NAPA Auto 150 at Irwindale Speedway

As fans continue begging for better racing in NASCAR’s top series, the manta has been “more short tracks,” with other Motorsports enthusiasts encouraging people to check out their local home track. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West is backing up this statement, opening the season with two of the best races of the season already.

Following an exciting trip to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt oval, fans played witness to a photo finish at Irwindale Speedway. Derek Kraus rarely makes mistakes and appeared to be ready to cruise to another victory, 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

Any race can have an exciting finish, but the ENEOS NAPA Auto 150 went beyond that.

Throughout the entire event, drivers were battling side-by-side for position, something electing for the preferred top groove, while others utilized the traction strip put down in the bottom lane. No matter when you tuned into the event, you could see drivers alongside each other, while working their way around the lap traffic.

The doors have been threatening to close on Irwindale Speedway, but this event proved alone why that should be allowed to happen.

Hailie Deegan was in the conversation for her second straight victory, until contact with Gray sent her around in turn one. She was able to make her way back through the field back to the top-five relatively quickly and got a chance to try her hand against the top-three on a restart, but ultimately used up her tires with her rebound. As a result, the early race top-three runner and pole sitter finished fifth.

FansChoice.tv will be carrying every single NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event this season live for free through their website, and that couldn’t come at a better time. With a wide variety of young talented drivers vying for the top spot each week, combined with the push for short track racing as mentioned above, expect fans to continue to tune in to get their fix.

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.

Categories
Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: Star Nursery 100 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

“I knew it going to come down to the last lap once again….”

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 showed speed throughout the Star Nursery 100 as she made moves forward, including a couple thrilling passes as she worked her way to the front. However, it appeared she’d fall short of winning for the second year in a row after moving into the runner-up position. After all, she had fallen almost five seconds behind Jagger Jones with 26 laps to go. Though nailing each lap, she continued to shave tenths of a second, bringing herself within two seconds with five 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.

To see Deegan win on a dirt track isn’t a surprise for any as she is known as a Dirt Princess, and perhaps that’s why she entered tonight with a chip on her shoulder. She felt she could have won the race last year, but ran out of laps in catching the leader. So for tonight, the attitude was simple as she said, “I wasn’t going to finish second again. I was going to win or wad it here.”

However, it marks her second win in the series following a victory last year at Meridan Speedway. It also marks her fifth straight top-seven finish on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tour.

On the flip side, Jones may have been disappointed – and reasonably so as he figured he had it won, but he proved that he belongs in the series in just first start. The battle for the championship this year could be exciting as a pair of second generation racers, Deegan and Jones, go up against Derek Kraus for the title.

Kraus started off the night strong, leading the beginning stages, but his team failed to hit the set-up for the long haul. He fell back through the second half of the last run, crossing the finish line in sixth. 

Austin Reed also started off well as he won the pole via winning his heat race, but took a bit of a too aggressive approach to the event, going for a mid-race spin after making contact with Trevor Huddleston. He’d fight back for an ninth-place finish. 

Overall, the race was fun to watch. Although it started off slow with everybody running in a single-file line along the bottom, and it spread out in the end, there were some exciting moments. On top of Deegan’s last lap thriller, the final 15 laps before the competition caution at halfway saw some great racing back-and-forth between Kraus, Jones, Todd Souza, Deegan and Kody Vanderwal was worth watching. That said, it is hard to walk away from a dirt track and not be sad about missing someone sliding against the cushion. 

The season opener showed the talent these drivers are capable of, and gives us another reason to be thankful for FansChoice.tv for carrying the entire schedule free this year.

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.