Derek Kraus turned in another dominant performance in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West action at Kern County Raceway Park on Saturday night, scoring his fourth consecutive win at the high-banked, half-mile track with a victory in the NAPA / ENEOS 150 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
The 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Stratford, Wisconsin led wire-to-wire in his Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry to pick up his fifth K&N West win of the year and 10th of his career.
He led a strong performance by the entire BMR team – with Hailie Deegan finishing third in the No. Monster / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry, Brittney Zamora coming home fourth in the No. 99 ENEOS / NAPA Filters Toyota Camry, and Dylan Garner taking seventh in the No. 50 NAPA Belts & Hoses/California Peace Officers Memorial Foundation Toyota Camry.
“We had a really good NAPA Toyota,” said Kraus, who with the fastest lap in qualifying notched his second pole of the season and eighth of his career. “We unloaded on Friday and we were really fast right off the trailer. That really helps when you can unload at the race track and be fast. We just tweaked on it a little bit throughout the weekend.”
Although Kraus appeared to be on cruise control throughout the race, he faced a green-white-checkered finish when the caution came out with two laps to go. He pulled away on the restart, leaving no doubt about his dominance.
“I had a lot of things running through my head,” Kraus said about that last restart. “There’s a lot that could have gone wrong and could have happened. I needed to execute my restart well. That’s what I did and we were able to finish the race strong.”
Kraus came into the event with a 40-point lead in the championship standings and with the win he extended that margin to 47 points – coming within one point of clinching the title with one race remaining. The championship will be his by just taking the green flag in that season finale. Nevertheless, he said he had tried to not think about the title during Saturday’s race.
“I was just really focused on tonight’s race,” he said.
Kraus becomes just the third driver in the history of the series to win four consecutive races at one track. The legendary Hershel McGriff had five straight wins at the old half-mile Portland Speedway in Oregon, 1971-1973; and six-time series champion Ray Elder had four consecutive victories at Ascot Park, 1967-1970.
Kraus said he was asked over and over during the weekend what makes him so fast at Kern County.
“I truly don’t know,” he said. “BMR brings me a really good NAPA Toyota every time we come here. And you have to save your tires. You have to be there at the end of these races. I feel like every time we’ve been here, that’s what we’ve done and we’ve been able to get the win.”
It was BMR’s sixth straight win at the Bakersfield-area track. It also marks BMR’s 99th overall win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
With 13 of 14 races complete this season, Kraus has five wins, 10 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He also scored two wins earlier in the season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
Deegan – an 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Temecula, California – is third in the championship standings – just four points out of second. She has two wins, seven top-five, and 10 top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season.
Zamora – a 20-year-old from Kennewick, Washington – is fifth in the overall standings and second in rookie points. She has six top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season.
Garner picked up his best finish in just his third series start. The 20-year-old from Yorba Linda, California had finished ninth in his series debut earlier this year.
As the race sponsors, NAPA AUTO PARTS and ENEOS were involved in plenty of activities surrounding the event. The NAPA Distribution Center in Fresno hosted a kick-off party at the Roadhouse Grill in Bakersfield.
A VIP Hospitality welcomed guests of NAPA and ENEOS at the track on Saturday. Guests received the full VIP Experience – with rides around the track in BMR’s two-seater NAPA Toyota, a special pit tour and the chance to attend the NASCAR drivers meeting. A VIP Suite provided NAPA guests with a special view of all the action.
The race at KCRP will be televised to a national audience on NBCSN on Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. PT.
The next event on the K&N West schedule will be the season finale at ISM Raceway near Phoenix on Nov. 9.