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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

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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Hailie Deegan Wins At Colorado In Dramatic Overtime Finish

DACONO, Colo. — Hailie Deegan wasn’t leaving Colorado without a trophy.

And she showed she meant it on Saturday night at Colorado National Speedway, bumping her Bill McAnally Racing teammate Derek Kraus out of the way in overtime to grab her second K&N Pro Series West victory of the season and third of her career.

“That was probably the scrappiest race I’ve ever ran,” she said. “In the end, we went out there, ran our hardest race. Everything I’ve been practicing, all the hard racing I’ve been running. Derek (Kraus) ran me hard right there (Turn 2), so I was going to run him hard back (Turn 4). And that’s racing. We were all going for the kill. I got the win and that’s all that matters.”

It was an accomplishment in and of itself that Kraus was even in contention for the win, as a broken sway-bar saw No. 16 fade at around Lap 50 from the lead to hanging on for dear life inside the top five.

But when given the opportunity, Kraus pounced.

The two-time K&N West winner in 2019 dove into Turn 1 on the restart and made contact with Deegan’s left-side, clearing her for the top spot, only to be left in a cloud of smoke one lap later.

Post-race, he took to social media to vent his frustrations.

Under the caution that set up the green/white/checkered finish, the No. 19 team debated whether to select the top or bottom lane for the final restart. After taking the top all evening long, they opted for the bottom to thwart any dive bomb attempt from Jagger Jones.

As it turned out, Kraus wound up being the one who dove inside the two and made it three-wide for the lead, and Jones wasn’t too pleased.

Team owner Bill McAnally experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a 30-second span, and attempted to encapsulate his feelings as he celebrated in Victory Lane.

“To have our cars up there slicing and dicing for the win is pretty special,” he said. “You knew the No. 6 (Jones) and No. 19 (Deegan) were going to get together, so I was worried about that already. And then when the No. 16 (Kraus) goes and gets three-wide, my heart hit the ground for a minute for sure. It’s bittersweet. Hailie wins the race, Derek gets spun around, they all drove hard. That’s what they’re here to do: win and develop. They’re doing a pretty good job of that.”

Starting from the pole for the first time in his K&N Pro Series career, LaSalle, Colorado native Kody Vanderwal escaped the last-lap carnage to finish second, his best result of the season. Todd Souza earned his second top five of the season and first top three finish since May of 2017, coming home third.

Brittney Zamora, who rebounded from spinning late, finished fourth with Matt Levin rounding out the top five. John Wood, Jones (spun while running third in overtime), Kraus, Trevor Huddleston and Takuma Koga completed the top 10.

Kraus maintains the championship points lead by 12 markers over Deegan leaving Dacono, while Jones, Huddleston and Zamora complete the top five in the standings.

The Colorado NAPA 150 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Thursday, June 13 at 6 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place on Saturday, June 22 at Sonoma Raceway.

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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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Hailie Deegan Makes Last Lap Pass to Win on Las Vegas Dirt

LAS VEGAS — Hailie Deegan was not to be denied.

In what she called the biggest race of her season and her “rebound race,” second wasn’t going to be good enough.

Thanks to a last-lap pass, she didn’t have to settle for a runner-up finish. The 17-year-old from Temecula, California, captured her second career win and opened up the 2019 K&N Pro Series West season in Victory Lane in the Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

After having a pedal extension problem in her heat race forcing her to start ninth, she slowly and methodically worked her way into the top five by the lap 51 break. With some new tires and adjustments, she restarted third behind Derek Kraus and Jagger Jones.

Kraus was passed by Jones with 31 laps to go, and Deegan followed him through. But the No. 6 got smaller and smaller in her windshield, racing out to a four-second lead with 10 laps to go.

Just like she did before the midway break, she slowly reeled Jones in. As the white flag flew, Deegan was in striking distance of Jones. With the help of lapped traffic, the No. 19 dove to the inside, cleared Jones off Turn 2 and sped to the checkered flag.

“In the end we wouldn’t have caught him if it weren’t for the lapped cars,” she said. “And they got in his way. If I was him, I’d be mad. Really mad. But some peoples losses are other peoples wins and we ended up getting it done. I knew what we had to do to win. I knew it was going to come down to the last lap again and we made it happen.”

The NASCAR Next driver was not optimistic about her chances pre-race, saying her car was extremely ill-handling and the track wasn’t conducive to her style of dirt racing. But in the downtime between the heat and 100-lap main, she did some homework and things changed.

“Mostly just me working on my lines,” she said. “The line I was trying to run didn’t work for my car, so I had to move around and find which line worked. Once we found that, fixed the car, the car was great. The track was still icy, and we still weren’t good, but it was better than everyone else.”

The thrill of victory for some is dichotomous with the agony defeat for others. In his first career K&N Pro Series West start, Jones seemed to be on his way to a victory.

Unfortunately for the 16-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, and his Sunrise Ford Racing team, circumstances dictated otherwise.

“Hailie definitely had a little more speed at the end,” he said dejectedly. “But I think I would’ve held her off no problem, but lapped card cut me off, pushed me right into the tire on the last lap and Hailie was just able to get underneath me. Definitely wanted that win.”

Jones was’t upset with Deegan for the move. He was frustrated with Kenny Bumbera, who made life difficult for Jones on the final lap. When the door opened, Deegan kicked it down.

“Oh I think her move was fine,” Jones said of Deegan’s last lap maneuver. “I mean she didn’t really do anything too bad. It’s just the lapped car cut me off in front. It just pushed me up the track. Once that all happened she had a whole lane to herself. It was kind of given to her, which is unfortunate on the last lap. It just sucks sometimes.”

Joey Tanner came home third in his first career series race for Jefferson Pitts Racing. Kody Vanderwal and Todd Souza rounded out the top five.

After leading a race-high 60 laps, Derek Kraus finished sixth with Trevor Huddleston, Travis Milburn, polesitter Austin Reed (led the first eight laps) and Matt Levin completing the top 10.

The Star Nursery 100 is scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. on NBCSN.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place Saturday, March 30 at Irwindale Speedway.

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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.

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ASHLEY ASKS….. Hailie Deegan

Last weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track, Hailie Deegan made NASCAR history by becoming the first female pole winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series en route to a runner-up finish. 

Recently, POPULAR SPEED spoke with the NASCAR Next member to get her thoughts on the weekend, and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on the Las Vegas dirt race?

HAILIE DEEGAN: It was crazy. Like, it wasn’t like expected. I expected it to be like practice on Friday. The track wasn’t that dusty, there was nice grip laid down – it was so dusty going into the first corner I almost ended up screwing myself. For the initial start, going from third to forth, I jammed it in neutral, and it ended up rounding the dogleg on the gear. So what ended up happening going around the corner every other lap, it would pop out of fourth gear. So it was really hard on the restarts to get it from third to fourth.

So from there, it made a problem for us to deal with. But once I got it into fourth gear, we ended up bungee cording it, which made it hard on the restarts because my arm was shaking so badly holding it in third. But we ended up making it work enough to pull off a second.

PS: With that said, after the adversity you faced, the runner-up is certainly amazing. But what do you feel it would’ve taken at the end to beat Sheldon Creed?

DEEGAN: I was missing two laps; that’s all I needed. That whole weekend, we had the best car. Sheldon struggled that weekend as he wasn’t in the best car, but we, that weekend, had hands down the best car. It showed because we were the best every time we came out. So I think the only thing I was missing was I got by the second-place guy on the restart, and reeled in Sheldon on the last lap, but just needed two more laps to put a little bumper on him to just get under him.

PS: Looking overall, what are your thoughts on the season to date?

DEEGAN: I think we’ve been doing pretty good. I mean, the season started off pretty good and we’ve been getting better each race. Before the Vegas race, we just had a couple bad races where we got in some wrecks, just stuff that we couldn’t help. There were just a couple things that took us out of top-three finishes that we could’ve had. I think we’ve gotten past that now, and now my goal for the rest of the year – I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not in the top-three or points championship, so right now we’re just going for wins.

Sean Gardner | Getty Images North America

PS: I was just going to ask. What would it mean for you to break through and get your first career win?

DEEGAN: It would mean everything to me, because I feel this year my goal was to get top-fives and we really didn’t think about it. I just wanted to run consistent top-five at the beginning of the year, and now we’re running top-three. So I think we’re moving a lot quicker than really planned, which is definitely good in my mind and everyone else’s, but now our goals have changed. It would be amazing if we could win a race.

PS: Your father Brian Deegan has had a lot of success in motorsports. How much extra pressure do you feel because of that, if any?

DEEGAN: Not even pressure – he helps me a lot, especially at the dirt race because we came from dirt racing. Together, we knew what to change. My car all weekend, we’d just been softening it up, just things that a lot of people would struggle and not change with not racing on dirt, so we had a good set-up from the get-go. I knew what we needed to get out of the car. I think that’s something that my dad taught me and helped me out with, and that’s why I was so successful this past weekend.

PS: So given your family’s dirt background, why the transition to asphalt and stock cars?

DEEGAN: I think in off-road racing, we were already at the top level; I was already running up front at the age of 15 in the Pro Lite class in off-road. There was not much more that I could go further in and if you ask anyone in America, the biggest racing is NASCAR. I think that I just wanted to challenge myself because it’s not what I grew up racing on. I grew up racing dirt, and not typical dirt circle track – but dirt short track in off-road trucks. It wasn’t the typical place that people come from.

I think that I knew it was going to be hard, but I wanted a challenge. I was only 16; I didn’t just want to stop there.

PS: That said, what was the biggest surprise for you in going from dirt to asphalt?

DEEGAN: I think the biggest thing that I had to work on myself was saving the tires, like not blowing them off early in the race. I think I’ve done a pretty good job at as I consider myself pretty patient at the beginning of races. I don’t go and make crazy moves, and roast the tires off of it. I think that’s one thing that I’m still learning is tire conservation. Other than that, I feel like we’ve made the transition very well. I feel it’d be harder going pavement to dirt, than it is from dirt to asphalt.

PS: What does it mean to you to be a part of the NASCAR Next program?

DEEGAN: The NASCAR Next program has done so many things for me off the track that has given me the capabilities to be able to drive on the track. I think they’ve definitely given me these type of situations where I can go and get myself recognized by everybody, and have sponsors calling us. It helps with sponsors when you’re on TV and doing radio shows.

I think the biggest thing in racing is the amount of sponsors you can get, and the more sponsors you have, the better your equipment is. So in the end, they help with the off-track side so you can do your best on the track.

PS: Speaking on the track, you’ve received a lot of praise from people within industry. What does it mean when you hear those comments from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers like Kevin Harvick?

Steve Dykes | Getty Images North America

DEEGAN: I’ve had a couple Cup drivers say stuff about me. Even Kyle Busch tweeted something after I got second back at Douglas County in Oregon. It’s just crazy seeing these Cup drivers comment. I think it’s really cool that they go down and look at the smaller series in NASCAR, the grassroots level where they came from, and I think it’s really cool having those drivers notice you because it helps in getting a fan base and sponsorship. It’s like, “Oh, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch talked about you. You must be a pretty good driver.”

PS: What would it mean for you one day to race right alongside those guys in the Cup Series?

DEEGAN: It’s what motivates me right now. Coming to all these NASCAR races and just watching, I know that’s what I wanted to do, and I’m 110% committed to do that ever since I started racing when I was eight years old. That’s what I’ve been training to do. All the work that I’ve been doing since I was a little was to be racing at the top level.

PS: As you’re making your way up the ranks, though, you’re inspiring other girls in go-karts and other levels of racing with your success. What does that mean to you?

DEEGAN: It’s pretty funny. Going back to when I raced off-road trucks, it was me and one of my friends that was a girl, and we were the only girls there. Now going back to where I started racing, there are 12 girls racing in the division that I got started in. It’s funny having these dads come up to me and say, “I got my daughter racing because of how good you did,” and all of these things. Off-road racing is just a good foundation, in general, and I see all of these girls doing it and it makes me happy.

I’ll help some of the girls. One of the girls got my mod kart, the one that I won the championship with in 2015. She ended up buying it and running the same body. I go out there and help there, we practice together sometimes. It’s just cool seeing all of these girls coming into racing.

PS: That said, if you could give one piece of advice for someone coming into racing, what would it be?

DEEGAN: I think just be aggressive. Don’t see yourself as different. Growing up as a girl in racing, everybody asked me what was it like to be a girl. I never saw myself as different. Everyone is like, “Oh you did good. You were the highest finishing girl,” and I’m like, “No, I want to be the highest finishing driver.” I don’t want to be categorized; I don’t just want to be the best girl, but the best driver.

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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Julia Landauer Bringing Survival Skills to NASCAR

Former Survivor castoff @julialandauer has taken her survival skills to the world of stock car racing.

Last year, the 24-year-old from New York City persevered in the ultra-competitive Limited Sportsman division at Motor Mile Speedway and became a championship driver. Now, Landauer is hoping to survive, and thrive, in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tour, where she will compete for Bill McAnally Racing.

Landauer actually credits what she learned on the popular CBS Television reality show for making her a better, more persistent driver.

“With Survivor, I wanted to shoot it because I’m a competitive person and the challenge was really cool. My racing was a little slow at the time because I was in college. I got the opportunity to do it and knew I had to do it,” Landauer said. “I knew it challenged people mentally and physically and I wanted to push myself farther than I ever have before. It was incredibly difficult.

“I had never been so physically uncomfortable and had to deal with so many characters I didn’t like. It put me in an uncomfortable position the entire time I was on the show and it made me resilient and pushed my perseverance. You don’t know your limits until you push them. It was helpful for racing in terms of mindset and never give up mentality.”

The never give up mentality had to be carried over to racing, when Landauer competed in Limited Late Models at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia last year. Teamed up with three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Lee Pulliam, Landauer had immediate success but a mid-season penalty set her back.

After a wild race in late June, every single car that rolled through post-race technical inspection, including Landauer, was disqualified, shuffling up the points standings.

“That was a nightmare,” Landauer remarked. “We had a little incident with the lapped car. That one was really challenging. I thought, ‘I lost my championship dream, we can’t do it,’ then we looked at it mathematically and figured out we could do it. Lee and I were very optimistic and positive and kept pushing and hit everything perfectly.

“It was great teamwork. They had faith in me and I had faith in them and we maximized our performance. I knew I deserved it. I need it is really what was driving me. When you’re in the zone, nothing else matters.”

Racing for one of Late Model Stock Car racing’s greats was beneficial for Landauer in many ways. Not only did she have great cars, but the two had chemistry and worked well together.

“Working with Lee (Pulliam) and the entire team was so beneficial for a couple reasons,” Landauer explained. “I learned more about the cars and setup and how to do everything mechanical, so that was cool. It was great to see a champion’s mindset and what his thought process was.

“Because Lee is closer to my age, closer than any other team owner I had, it was the first time I felt like I was one of the guys and didn’t feel being a woman had impact on my performance. The fact that they treated me helped me. They yelled at me when I didn’t do well and praised me when I did to well. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup for 2015. There’s no better equipment out there.”

Despite being in great equipment, winning the first race of the season wasn’t the expectation anyone had for Landauer, not to mention winning the championship. After all, no woman had ever won a race at the ultra-competitive Motor Mile Speedway and only one woman had ever won a Late Model championship in the Southeast when Haley Moody won a championship at Southern National Motorsports Park the year before.

However, Landauer is more than just a pretty face showing up to race on raceday. Landauer holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Bachelors in Science, Technology and Society from the prestigious Stanford University. Landauer is mechanically savvy and smooth in the racecar.

“Winning the first race exceeded my expectations,” Landauer stated. “Once I knew I could do it, I reset my standards and wanted to win races and the championship. I learned I was capable I was doing well so that elevated the bar of wanting to do well.”

Landauer went on to do more than just win races. She would rebound from the mid-season penalty with two victories in August which allowed her to complete the comeback and win the Motor Mile Speedway track championship. Even more impressive is that she did it against some very tough competition.

“I think the fact that the competitors were so hard and so tough made me elevate my game,” Landauer remarked. “Between Scott Lancaster, Karl Budzevski, Daryn Cockram and Preston McGhee, they gave me a really hard time and if I was gonna get it, I was gonna have to elevate my game and push back. I have to thank them for getting tougher. Even at the end with Ryan Repko, he did super well so he was really a threat at the end there. It was really cool to battle with those guys cleanly for the most part too.”

Landauer’s racing background is more than just Late Models. She’s been racing since she was 10 – competing in go-karts, the Skip Barber racing series where she won a championship, Formula BMW, USAC Midgets and Legends. In fact, she has raced for Bill McAnally in the past – the team she is reuniting with to compete in the full NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule.

“2015 proves a lot of momentum moving forward,” Lanauer commented. “2016 in the West Series is going to be exceptionally difficult. People will have more seat time and experience but I feel I am capable of being a champion and winning. Racing with Bill McAnally racing, they were champions last year so I’m confident I’ll be able to do well and my expectation is to win this season.”

If Landauer continues to surpass expectations, she might reach her ultimate goal in the coming years – which is to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“Like all my competitors, my dream is to get to the Sprint Cup Series so I’m going to keep taking the steps I need to take to get there.”

Landauer will make her NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut when the series opens its season at Irwindale Speedway in California on March 19th.

EMAIL ANDY AT andy.marquis@popularspeed.com

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