Derek Kraus captured the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship in the season finale on Saturday at ISM Raceway, driving the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry to a fourth-place finish in the Arizona Lottery 100.
The 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Stratford, Wisconsin secured the title by just taking the green flag. He wrapped up his season with a 49-point lead in the standings; the largest margin since the series adopted its current point system in 2012.
This marks a record ninth series championship for BMR – the fourth in five years for the Roseville, California-based team. BMR took home the series titles in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
BMR’s Hailie Deegan – an 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Temecula, California – finished just behind Kraus in fifth, driving the No. 19 Monster Energy / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry. She ended the season third in the championship standings, the highest ranking by a female driver in the final standings in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East or West.
Series rookie Brittney Zamora – a 20-year-old from Kennewick, Washington – added to BMR’s success by finishing seventh in the No. 99 NAPA Filters / ENEOS Toyota Camry on Saturday and wrapping up her freshman effort fifth in points; putting all three BMR drivers in the top five of the final championship standings for 2019.
Kraus and Deegan faced a big challenge in Saturday’s race, after their qualifying times were disallowed due to a technical issue in post-qualifying inspection. Zamora started seventh, while Kraus rolled off 16th and Deegan 17th.
Kraus charged ahead at the drop of the green flag and was in the top 10 by Lap 8. Deegan was close behind, while Zamora slipped back in the first half of the race. Kraus continued moving up and was in the top five by Lap 75, with Deegan eighth. Zamora’s team made adjustments to her NAPA Filters Toyota at the midway break and she was began to move to the front, as well.
All three drivers avoided some late-race scrambles, which led to two green-white-checkered finishes.
With the championship clinched at the drop of the green, Kraus said his focus was going after the win.
“We struggled in practice,” he said. “We were really tight, but we were able to adjust on it a little bit and got it good for qualifying. We qualified sixth, then didn’t make it through tech after qualifying. So we had to start in the back.
“We made our way through the field and started fourth on the last restart,” he said. “I thought maybe something would happen between the front two, but it didn’t and we finished fourth. So we had a good solid run in the last race of the season.”
Kraus took a moment to reflect on his three years at BMR and winning the K&N West title.
“It means a lot to me to be the champion of this series,” he said. “It’s really exciting to me. Everyone at Bill McAnally Racing works their tails off on these race cars to get them as good as they are. I can’t thank the guys enough for being behind me.”
Kraus wrapped up his year with five wins, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 series starts. In addition, he also scored two wins earlier in the year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and led the standings in both divisions in the first half of the season.
Saturday’s race was second of two events over the weekend for Kraus, who was pulling double duty at ISM Raceway – also racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He was sidelined early in that race on Friday night, after contact from another truck sent his No. 19 ENEOS Toyota Tundra into the wall.
Deegan, who earlier this season became the first woman to lead the championship standings of a series at the regional or national levels of NASCAR, finished her second year in K&N West with two wins, eight top-five, and 11 top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
Zamora, with a runner-up finish in the rookie points, concluded her freshman year with six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
The BMR team got their Arizona weekend rolling early, with two special appearances for NAPA AUTO PARTS in the Phoenix area on Thursday.
Guests from NAPA’s Phoenix Distribution Center were in attendance at the track on Saturday and were treated to a VIP experience that included a special pit tour and a chance to meet the BMR drivers.
The Arizona Lottery 100, which was won by Ty Gibbs, will be televised to a national audience on NBCSN on Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. PT.