On a day filled with great short track racing, a little controversy and lots of water, ARCA Racing Series points leader Sheldon Creed survived the storm Thursday night to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Star Nursery 100 at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Creed, who was driving the No. 40 car for the small Levin Racing team, held off a hard-charging Hailie Deegan in overtime to score the victory.
“It’s pretty cool to get this win,” Creed told Speed51.com. “We put this deal together just two weeks ago and it’s been great working with the whole Levin team.”
The highly-anticipated event began with Deegan making history by becoming the first female to ever win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Pole Award. Deegan was given the name “The Dirt Princess” and she lived up to that moniker during the action in the desert.
The 24-car field was split into four 10-lap qualifying heats based on time trial results. Deegan continued her success by winning the first heat race and claiming the pole for the race. Bill McAnally teammates Cole Rouse and Derek Kraus joined Deegan as heat race winners. The most competitive heat showcased a battle between Derek Thorn and Christopher Bell, with Thorn eventually nailing down the win.
Deegan brought the field to green for the 100-lap feature but would miss a shift and jam her shifter, causing a stack-up behind to bring out the caution on Lap 1. As drivers set up for a restart it started to become evident that the track surface was fading away with 100 degree temperatures and heavy winds.
Deegan brought the field to green once again but on the second lap of the restart (Lap 8) multiple drivers were involved in a wreck in turn one. At that time, both drivers and officials were having issues seeing everything that happened on the track because of all the dust in the air.
When the red flag was displayed for the accident, NASCAR officials moved all cars to the pit area and had track crews bring out the water trucks to work on the extremely dusty track conditions.
After a lengthy delay the field would set back up to race. It was Deegan grabbing the lead back from Kraus for a few laps before Kraus battled back to take the top spot. Krause appeared to be walking away from the field until he spun coming out of turn two. As teams headed toward the halfway break, Rouse was able to gain the lead.
Thorn was relatively quiet early on in the race before making his way by Rouse for the lead and bringing Creed and Bell along with him.
As the three drivers battled for position, it was Creed who would grab the lead for seven laps before Bell made a late-race move on Creed to take over the lead. It looked like Bell had the race all wrapped up until a late-race caution on Lap 90 set up another restart.
In a very intense restart, Bell took off with the lead but officials issued a penalty, giving Bell the black flag for jumping the start. With Bell moving to the back it would be Creed taking the race by the horns with one final caution setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
With multiple drivers making a last-ditch effort on Creed, he was able to pull away and out run a hard-charging Deegan to win his first career K&N Pro Series West race.
“I thought it might have been over after getting shuffled back after one of those last restarts,” Creed said. “I knew they were going to try the low side. I just tried to relax and run my line.”
The finish to the race showcased Creed in victory lane, but Deegan had the most successful day of her K&N West career and finished second.
“It was a struggle on the night and we knew it was going to be tough,” Deegan began. “If we had another lap or two, we might have had a chance to win. We had third position on the restart and knew it was the best place to have a shot at the leader.”
Thorn ended a consistent night with a third-place finish and will retain his status as the series points leader.
“That was just chaos out there. That is my best way of describing the race,” Thorn said.
Cole Keatts recorded the best finish of his career by finishing fourth, while NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor Brendan Gaughan completed the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Thursday’s race by clicking here.
-Story by Jeremy Anders, Speed51.com West Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Kyler Hope