Derek Kraus made a thrilling three-wide pass for the lead, then pulled away to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway on Monday night.
Kraus was running third in the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, with 41 laps remaining, when he took advantage of the two leaders coming in contact while battling side-by-side. He darted to the inside to take the lead.
Kraus said he anticipated the pair would touch. When they did, he made his move.
“They drifted up in (turns) 3 and 4,” he said. “I saw an opening and I took it.”
The 17-year-old from Stratford, Wisconsin faced a big challenge on Monday, starting 16th after qualifying was rained out on Sunday and the grid was set per the rule book. He and his BMR NAPA team had an extra day to think about their strategy, with the 175-lap race being postponed a day due to the weather.
“We made a lot of adjustments after practice and that helped,” Kraus said. “We had a really good car all night. We had to save our tires and I feel like that’s what helped win the race. That helped us out there in the end.”
He made a pit stop during the first of two scheduled breaks, then remained on track during the second one. After seizing the lead, he pulled away from the field and then held on after another restart with 10 laps remaining.
“It was a big win for me,” Kraus said. “It’s a great way to start off the season.”
The race did not go as well for his two BMR teammates. Hailie Deegan, in the No. 19 Monster/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry, turned the fast lap during practice on Sunday and paced the field to the green flag on Monday night. She led the early laps, but ended up battling a mechanical issue for much of the race and was eventually being sidelined.
Brittney Zamora – a 19-year-old, second-generation driver from Kennewick, Washington – made her NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut at New Smyrna in BMR’s No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota Camry, but contact with another car ended her race early.
The victory by Kraus marked his sixth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series win, but his first in a K&N East event. In two previous series starts at New Smyrna, Kraus finished third in 2017 and fourth in 2018.
Deegan – a 17-year-old from Temecula, California – and Kraus are both members of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s emerging stars. Deegan and Zamora, meanwhile, are Toyota Racing development drivers.
All three BMR drivers are set to run the full schedule in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this year, while racing in select K&N East events.
In advance of the action at New Smyrna, the BMR team participated in the grand opening for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Store in DeLand on Friday, with new store owner Chris Wall and Wall Automotive Group.
In addition, VIP treatment at the track was extended to a group of NAPA guests from the DeLand store – as well as Wall’s NAPA Stores in Daytona Beach and Deltona.
The NASCAR Speedweeks event on Monday was part of the 53rd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway.
The race will be televised on NBCSN on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. ET.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series East schedule will be at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway on April 6.