It was a big night for Bill McNally Racing (BMR) teammates at Kern County Raceway Park(CA) for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season finale. Todd Gilliland would capture his second straight West Series Championship while his teammate Derek Kraus took home his first career K&N Series win.
Heading into the night, the championship was separated by just 11 points as Gilliland held a lead over his other teammate Chris Eggleston. The tale of the championship battle started to unfold early as Eggleston would get a flat tire just 65 laps into the race while leading, the flat would result Eggleston losing multiple laps.
The irony of the story is Gilliland fell just short of winning the K&N East Championship just a couple of weeks before, after suffering a flat tire during the East championship race. This time Gilliland and his team knew it was their time to shine.
“This one is super special after losing the one in Dover. We had a solid day with a great car,” Gilliland told Speed51.com Powered By JEGS. “I feel really bad about the 99(Eggleston) getting the flat tire but I feel like we definitely could have got it anyway.”
Gilliland started off the day like he did with so many others in the 2017 season as he won the pole for the seventh time. The Sherrills Ford, NC driver was one of the first in history to try and win both a West and East Series Championship in the same year. Gilliland started the pole but fell back early on, he was able to put a late race run together to battle for lead but would finish in second place.
The impressive season was a lot of hard work by his Bill McNally Race team.
“We brought the fastest cars to the track all year long,” said Gilliland. “It’s really rewarding for my team and I to come compete for a win and get the championship here at Kern County.”
For the rookie Kraus, the win also secured the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the K&N West Series. The young Stratford, WI driver was happy to finally secure the win after coming close so many times this year with his nine top-5 finishes.
“It’s been a really good night to get the Rookie of the Year and the win. Getting my first win is really good for my career and hopefully helps me for next season,” Kraus told Speed51.com Powered By JEGS.
The battle for the win came down to saving tires as one of the key factors. Kraus had three-time West Series Champion Eric Holmes in his ear giving him direction toward the end of the race.
“I think we saved a lot of tires and that’s what helped us at the end of the race. Eric was in my ear the whole night just to save tires, save tires,” said Kraus.
Gilliland and Kraus had some close calls toward the end of the race battling for the lead as that included three-wide with lap traffic.
“Lap is always a factor in the K&N West Series, they’re all over the place when your trying to pass them. Some get out of the way when you come by and some are struggling so they can’t get out of the way but that’s all part of it and you have to work around it,” said Kraus. “I think Todd and I were three-wide down the front stretch toward the end. It was fun, nice adrenaline rush.”
Las Vegas, NV Driver Riley Herbst would finish third is his first career start with David Gilliland Racing. Michael Self would finish fourth after winning the last two West Series races. Early race leader Dillion Bassett was impressive in his first trip to Kern County would round out the top-5.
BMR sweeps the top-3 spots in the championship and the eighth West Series championship for the team. It was a dominate season for the team as they won eleven of the fourteen series races on the year.
“Dream come true for us, we have a lot of great people on these teams; the drivers, office staff, mechanics and more, a lot of good people dedicated to be the best,” said Bill McNally owner of BMR. “Tonight, our rookie Derek gets the win, what a way to end the season with all of our drivers getting wins.”
McNally is looking forward to building a future with his up and coming rookie driver Kraus.
“Derek was our rookie, our youngest driver and came to us with no experience in K&N. He had two Champions in teammates with Chris and Todd, he learned a lot from them this year,” said McNally. “Next year Kraus will be our senior driver with Todd going to the Truck Series and Chris stepping away from running for a championship, so Derek will be our guy next year.”
For more on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season finale at Kern County Raceway Park visit our Speed51.com Trackside Now Coverage.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 150
Kern County Raceway Park Bakersfield, CA
Pos # Driver
1 19 Derek Kraus
2 16 Todd Gilliland
3 54 Riley Herbst
4 9 Michael Self
5 44 Dillon Bassett
6 22 Derek Thorn
7 55 Buddy Shepard
8 7 Will Rodgers
9 27 Max Tullamn
10 33 Nicole Behar
11 4 Rod Johnson, JR.
12 6 Julia Landauer
13 13 Todd Souza
14 30 Stafford Smith
15 38 Davey Hamilton, Jr.
16 36 Jesse Iwuji
17 11 Takuma Koga
18 32 Kody Vanderwal
19 21 Blaine Perkins
20 99 Chris Eggleston
21 18 Bill Kann
22 14 Jerry DeWeert
23 04 Ronnie Bassett, JR.
24 40 Ron Norman
25 10 Matt Levin
26 90 Trevor Cristiani
27 39 Jonas Fors
-By: Jeremy Anders, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent – Twitter: @janders2115
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com