Cole Rouse scored a career-best NASCAR K&N Pro Series West finish in taking the runner-up spot Saturday night at Evergreen Speedway in the NAPA AUTO PARTS 175 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Rouse – a 21-year-old from Fort Smith, Arkansas who drives the Bill McAnally Racing No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota Camry – previously had a best-finish of third, on three occasions.
His BMR teammates both came away with top-10 finishes despite issues on Saturday – with Hailie Deegan finishing seventh in the No. 19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry and Derek Kraus ninth in the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry.
Kraus had dominated more than half the race, winning the pole and leading the first 115 laps. It appeared his biggest challenge would come from Mother Nature. The start of the race was delayed as the track was dried, and just past the midway point action was halted for nearly an hour for a red flag due to weather.
After the competition resumed, Kraus charged back out front in his NAPA Toyota and began building another commanding lead. His hopes of a third win this season went away as he headed to the pits with a fuel issue on Lap 116. He returned to competition three laps down and rebounded for a top-10 finish.
Rouse was fourth quickest in time trials, but hit the wall in qualifying and had to start at the tail of the field in a backup car. He was up to fifth by the midway point of the race and in second by Lap 121, where he remained to the checkered flag.
Deegan, who qualified seventh, charged forward and was poised for another top-five finish. She lost two positions, however, after contact from another car on the final lap.
With his second-place finish, Rouse vaulted past Kraus into third in the K&N West championship standings – 34 points out of the lead. He has four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in nine series starts this season.
Kraus is fourth in the standings, two points behind Rouse. Kraus – a 16-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Stratford, Wisconsin – has two wins, four poles, five top fives, and seven top 10s this season.
Deegan, also a NASCAR Next driver, is a 17-year-old series rookie from Temecula, California. She leads the rookie points and is fifth in the overall standings. She has three top-five, and eight top-10 finishes.
Saturday’s event featured another great turnout at NAPA Hospitality, which was courtesy of NAPA Seattle and included a large group from nearby Michaels Toyota in Bellevue. A VIP experience for NAPA guests included special pit tours. NAPA’s role as the event sponsor also involved driver introductions, the command to start engines, the green flag as honorary starter, and presentation of trophies after the race.
The NAPA AUTO PARTS 175, which was won by Derek Thorn, was the ninth event of a 14-race series schedule. It’s slated to be televised on NBCSN on Aug. 15 at 3 p.m. PT.
Next up on the series schedule will be the Monaco Cocktails Gateway Classic presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on Aug. 24.