BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (March 15, 2018) – Derek Kraus opened his 2018 season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on Thursday night the way he closed out 2017, with a win on the high-banked, half-mile track at Kern County Raceway Park.
His BMR teammate Cole Rouse came away with a third-place finish; while a third BMR driver, Hailie Deegan, finished seventh in her series debut.
Kraus and Rouse went three-wide to get past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick, who had paced the field through the first 132 laps as he returned to his hometown to compete in the event. Rouse pulled away in the No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota Camry, but got caught up with a lapped car and lost the lead to Kraus on Lap 159.
“I was three-wide in the middle,” Kraus said of getting by Harvick. “It’s racing. You have to push through it. We ended up here in Victory Lane and that shows how hard our guys work at BMR.”
Kraus, last year’s series Rookie of the Year, talked about the experience of racing against a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
“It was really good to race against him,” said Kraus, who started the event from the sixth spot. “It’s a big learning curve. I rode behind him and Cole. I learned a lot just from riding behind them. That’s what I think helped me in the later stages of the race. I kind of held back and saved my stuff better than they did.”
Rouse, who started on the front row alongside Harvick, tried to battle back after losing the lead – but could not get within striking distance of the top two cars. With his third-place finish, the 20-year-old from Fort Smith, Arkansas matched the career-best series finish he registered in his only previous start at KCRP, as a rookie in 2016.
For Deegan – a 16-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Temecula, California – it marked the first race of her rookie season in the series. After starting eighth in the No. 19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry and slipping back a couple positions early in the race, she battled back for her seventh-place finish.
NAPA AUTO PARTS was well represented Thursday at Kern County Raceway. Representatives from NAPA’s Fresno Distribution Center and NAPA AUTO PARTS Suppliers were on hand for a VIP pit tour, which included attendance at the drivers meeting. NAPA guests were also treated to VIP Hospitality and viewing from a VIP suite.
The Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA AUTO PARTS, the first event on a 15-race schedule this year, is scheduled to be televised on NBCSN on March 20 at 8 p.m. PT.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series West schedule will be a doubleheader at Tucson (Arizona) Speedway on May 5.