Two months ago, Chris Eggleston was still wondering what his race plans were going to be in 2017. The 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion was able to realign with Bill McAnally Racing and it paid off Saturday night when Eggleston captured the win in the season-opening National Auto Parts NAPA 150 at Tucson Speedway (AZ).
All race long it was a tight and hard fought battle between BMR teammates Eggleston and Todd Gilliland. With just 25 laps remaining a late caution put then leader Gilliland side by side with Eggleston. On the restart, it was Eggleston showcasing his veteran driving skills and taking the lead.
The Erie, Colorado driver battled a tight car all night but with the right adjustments it all paid off in the end.
“The two Bill McAnally Racing Toyota’s qualified on the front row and duked it out all night long. Todd had the upper hand the first half of the race but we made great adjustments at the break and it paid off,” Eggleston told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Coming out here in the first race of the season and not really having a ride a month ago, I feel very humbled and blessed to drive for Bill (McAnally). “
Eggleston is now the driver to beat on the K&N West Series and he is hoping to have $100,000 to prove it. By Eggleston winning the first race, he is now eligible to win $100,000, if he can win the next three races as part of the NAPA 500.
“To have a chance to go after the $100,000 means a lot to me," Eggleston said. “I’m getting to the age where I don’t know how much longer that I will get to be able to do this, the drivers are getting younger. To be able to win against the best in the west and at a track that I’ve never won at.”
Gilliland, the defending series champion, was still happy with the second-place finish on the tricky Tucson Speedway.
“We had a great day with BMR qualifying one, two, three and all the cars ran up front in the race,” Gilliland stated. “This is a fun place with so many different grooves, we ran the bottom most of the time but lots of others were on the top of the track. After starting off the K&N East Series with a ninth-place run it’s nice to finish this one in second.”
One of the drivers who made a late race run and at the end of the race was the fastest car in the high groove was third-place finisher Garret Archer. The Maple Valley, WA driver was making just his second start for Jefferson-Pitts Racing.
“We had a car pull out on us in our qualifying run and I made contact with them so starting deep in the field wasn’t what we wanted,” Archer said. “We tried to manage our tires and I figured out something in the high groove. The Jefferson-Pitts Racing team brought me a great car. I think we will have something for the rest of the field these next few races.”
Maybe one of the biggest story at the track Saturday was the driver change in the No. 9 Sunrise Ford for Bruncati Racing. Ryan Partridge, who won the 2016 K&N West Series race at Tucson Speedway, was scheduled to race but withdrew Friday night before the race and was replaced by Zane Smith. The East Coast driver had to travel across the country Saturday arriving at the track right before practice but he shook off the jet lag fast and finished fourth in his first trip to Tucson.
“I really just rode around for a little bit and maybe I rode for a little too long.” Smith stated. “After we came in for adjustments the car was a lot better and we started making our move toward the front. I can’t thank Mr. Bruncati and his whole team for allowing me to come out. I hope that I can get a chance to race with this team again soon.”
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West continues the NAPA 500 run with a race Thursday at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, California before going to Irwindale Speedway (CA) for twin 100s on Saturday.
On-demand coverage of Saturday's race can be found by visiting Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage presented by PFC Brakes.
-By Jeremy Anders, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
K&N West Unofficial Results
1 99 Chris Eggleston
2 16 Todd Gilliand
3 27 Garret Archer
4 9 Zane Smith
5 7 Will Rodgers
6 19 Derek Kraus
7 30 Brandon Schilling
8 32 Kody Vanderwal
9 54 Riley Herbst
10 33 Nicole Behar
11 21 Blaine Perkins
12 6 Julia Landauer
13 10 Matt Levin
14 40 Ron Norman
15 90 Trevor Cristiani
16 11 Takuma Koga
17 14 Dan Phillippi
18 18 Bill Kann
19 84 Rich Delong III
20 36 Jesse Iwuji
21 38 Salvatore Iovino
22 13 Todd Souza
23 0 Bobby Hillis
24 5 Justin Funkhouser