Derek Kraus Drops the Hammer in Bakersfield

Derek Kraus, the driver of the #16 NAPA Auto Parts / Curb Records Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Kern County Raceway Park on March 15, 2018, in Bakersfield, California. Photo – Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Wins NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Opener After Dust-Up With Kevin Harvick

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Kern County Raceway Park is in Kevin Harvick’s hometown, but the track is clearly Derek Kraus’s kingdom.

Kraus solidified his claim to the throne by use of force en route to his second straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win at Kern County Raceway Park in the Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts.

Battling Harvick for the lead on the final restart, Kraus’ Toyota pushed Harvick up the track in turn four and knocked the hottest driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series out of contention.

Harvick slid back to ninth, while Kraus’ teammate, Cole Rouse, took the lead in that melee. But Rouse eventually ceded it to Kraus in lapped traffic on lap 159.

“That was really fun,” Kraus said. “Going into three and four inside of Kevin, I really didn’t mean to get into him. I thought we were three-wide and I entered a little higher than I normally would with a guy inside of me. I hate it for him, but that’s short track racing so you’ve got to get through that.”

Harvick spent the past week championing grassroots, short track racing and his entry in the Bakersfield 175 helped pack the grandstands Thursday night. And all signs pointed to a happy Harvick homecoming as he started from the pole and led the first 132 laps.

When asked if he was surprised about the final restart, Harvick said he “was surprised I got run over” but thanked the fans who came out for the 2018 K&N Pro Series West season opener.

For Kraus, he started his 2018 right where he left off last year: In Victory Lane at Kern. The 16-year-old from Stratford, Wisconsin, capped his 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign with his first career series’ win in the finale and looked ready to assume the mantle of the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. Kraus moved into the ride vacated by two-time series champion Todd Gilliland, who has moved up to the national series.

Derek Thorn finished second, followed by Rouse. Without a caution in the closing laps to close the field, Harvick was only able to get back to fourth at the finish. Ryan Partridge rounded out the top-five, setting the stage for what looks like a year-long battle between Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford team with Thorn and Partridge, and the Bill McAnally Racing stable that saw Kraus and Rouse running up front.

In fact, Bruncati’s third car of Trevor Huddleston finished sixth, while BMR’s Hailie Deegan was seventh in her series debut. Fellow rookies Austin Herzog, Rod Johnson Jr. and Reid Lanpher followed to round out the top-ten.

Fans can watch all of the action at 11 p.m. ET, March 20 on NBCSN.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West returns to the track on Saturday, May 5 with twin 100-lap features at Arizona’s Tucson Speedway.

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts Results

Thursday

At Kern County Raceway Park

Bakersfield

lap length: 0.5 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

  1. (6) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wis., Toyota, 175 laps, 64.762 mph.
  2. (12) Derek Thorn, Lakeport, Calif., Ford, 175.
  3. (2) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Toyota, 175.
  4. (1) Kevin Harvick, Charlotte, NC, Ford, 175.
  5. (5) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 175.
  6. (9) Trevor Huddleston, Agoura Hills, Calif., Ford, 175.
  7. (8) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, Calif, Toyota, 175.
  8. (11) Austin Herzog, Clovis, Calif., Ford, 175.
  9. (14) Rod Johnson Jr., Canyon Country, Calif., Ford, 175.
  10. (10) Reid Lanpher, Manchester, Maine, Ford, 175.
  11. (13) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 174.
  12. (3) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif., Chevrolet, 174.
  13. (16) Ron Norman, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 174.
  14. (19) Bill Kann, Scottsdale, Ariz., Chevrolet, 174.
  15. (18) Travis Milburn, Eagle, Idaho, Chevrolet, 174.
  16. (4) Will Rodgers, Solvang, Calif., Ford, 174.
  17. (23) Salvatore Iovino, Los Angeles, Calif., Ford, 160.
  18. (21) Rich DeLong III, Santa Clarita, Calif., Chevrolet, 155.
  19. (22) Andrew Tuttle, Eagle, Idaho, Chevrolet, 155.
  20. (20) Takuma Koga, Nagoya, Japan, Chevrolet, 132.
  21. (7) Kody Vanderwal, LaSalle, Colo, Ford, 128, overheating.
  22. (15) Todd Souza, Aromas, Calif., Toyota, 89, accident.
  23. (17) Jesse Iwuji, Carrolton, Texas, Chevrolet, 78.

Race Statistics

Time of Race: 1 hour 21 minutes 4 seconds

The Margin of Victory: 1.154 seconds

Fastest Qualifier: K.Harvick (99.124 mph, 18.159 seconds)

Caution Flags: Five for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: Two among three drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1-132; C. Rouse 133-158; D. Kraus 159-175.

Standings: 1. D. Kraus, 47; 2. D. Thorn, 42; 3. C. Rouse, 42; 4. K. Harvick, 42; 5. R. Partridge, 39; 6. T. Huddleston, 38; 7. H. Deegan, 37; 8. A. Herzog, 36; 9. R. Johnson,Jr., 35; 10. R. Lanpher, 34.

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