A new lineup of young drivers competing for Bill McAnally Racing this year will get their season underway in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with the Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS at Kern County Raceway Park on Thursday.
Derek Kraus, Cole Rouse, and Hailie Deegan will take to the high-banked, half-mile track near Bakersfield, California as BMR begins its pursuit of a fourth consecutive K&N West championship and ninth series title overall.
Kraus, beginning his second year of series competition with BMR, has taken over the controls of the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry – which Todd Gilliland drove to back-to-back championships for the team in 2016 and 2017. Rouse, in the No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota Camry, has joined BMR as he returns to the series where he competed in 2016. Deegan will be making her K&N West debut in the No. 19 Mobil 1 / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry as she begins her rookie season in NASCAR’s top developmental series.
“We’re excited about our lineup of drivers this season,” said BMR President Bill McAnally. “All three are very talented, and we see great potential with them.
“We know there will be plenty of tough competition in the series again this year and our drivers and crews have been working hard to prepare for the challenge ahead,” McAnally said.
Kraus – a 16-year-old from Stratford, Wisconsin – won the series Rookie of the Year Award last year and finished third in the overall standings, as last year’s BMR drivers dominated the season in winning 11 of 14 races and finishing 1-2-3 in points.
Kraus, who scored his first career series win in last year’s season finale at Kern County Raceway Park, also had a runner-up finish at the Bakersfield track early in 2017.
He is coming off a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway last month.
Rouse will be racing in his second season in the K&N West. He finished eighth in the championship standings as a rookie in 2016, registering four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes – including a career-best third-place finish in his only start at the Kern County track.
The 20-year-old from Fort Smith, Arkansas won a championship last year, while racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the CARS Super Late Model Tour. He also made starts in a variety of other touring series in 2017.
Rouse garnered attention with a runner-up finish at New Smyrna, in his first race with BMR.
Deegan is a member of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s rising stars. The 16-year-old from Temecula, California has won multiple championships in off-road racing – where she began her racing career at the age of 8. Her racing resume also includes competition in late models and super late models.
She participated in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in 2016 and was awarded the 2017 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award. She is a member of Toyota’s driver development program.
After qualifying ninth at New Smyrna, Deegan was sidelined early with a fuel pump problem.
All three BMR drivers are slated to run the full 15-race schedule in the West division of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this year – while also racing select events in the East division.
NAPA AUTO PARTS will be well represented at Kern County, with activities involving representatives from NAPA’s Fresno Distribution Center and NAPA AUTO PARTS Suppliers. VIP pit tours will provide a first-hand look at action in the garage area, including the drivers meeting. NAPA guests will also be treated to a VIP Hospitality and viewing from a VIP suite.
The K&N West race from Kern County is slated to be televised on NBCSN on March 20 at 8 p.m. PT.
Thursday’s race is the first of two visits by the series to Kern County Raceway Park this year. The circuit will wrap up its season at KCRP in October.