Unlike other sports, division rivalries are rare in auto racing. But the NASCAR K&N Pro Series has changed that, bringing the West and East together for combo events annually. With two of these joint events on the 2019 schedule, the first being at Iowa Speedway for the Casey’s General Store 150 for the 17th time, the potential impact on the respective championship campaigns is tremendous, not to mention the bragging rights that go along with it. At least until the second combo event in August at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
While Derek Kraus is running both schedules full-time and leading both points standings, the drivers chasing just one championship have a little different view of each race. Hallie Deegan in the Bill McAnally Racing No. 19 Toyota and a teammate to Kraus, sits eight points back in the championship hunt. She realizes the impact of these highlighted events.
“It’s a huge factor just because there’s quite a few more cars and that’s when you start mixing up the points,” says Deegan on the importance of the combined series races. “Say something happens to you in a wreck, something happens to your car. These are the races that count almost as two races. So you have to really be on top of your game here and not make any mistakes.”
While the win, points, and championship are the primary focus, a secondary is the bragging rights that come with winning a combo race.
“Coming to the east coast, the east coast has a lot more resources than the west coast does. So when you’re able to come here and run good…” stated Deegan on the opportunity to earn a victory over the East Series.
Speaking of the East Series, the No. 21 GMS Racing driver Sam Mayer is the one looking up at leader Derek Kraus. Mayer has one win to Kraus’s two but has one more top-five, leaving him a mere two points back in the point standings. The value of points from this race at Iowa and the other combo event at Gateway could be huge. However, Sam Mayer carries a little different perspective on the points battle as a whole.
“The points in these deals is so much larger than any other race just cause there’s so many more cars,” says Sam Mayer about the combined East and West races. “Points wise, we’re not points racing, really. I say that to everybody and they are like ‘wait, what do you mean?’ We’re just chasing wins and the points will come with it. I mean as long as we can have solid finishes or wins, we’ll be good.”
Mayer did take pride in talking about the East Series over the West.
“I think the East is better,” Mayer says about the coastal rivalry. “I think there is a lot more cars that can win in the field. With the West cars, there’s a couple teams that could win and then the east coast is really competitive. I think the East is definitely where to be.”
Mayer backed that statement up in the practice sessions, finishing second, then first in the last session. Deegan was 11th fastest in the first one but moved up to ninth in the second. Kraus was consistent and finished eighth in both.
In qualifying after the practice sessions, Mayer took the pole and will share the front row with the winner of the last two K&N East races – Chase Cabre. Ruben Garcia Jr is third Derek Kraus is fourth and Max McLaughlin rounds out the top-five. Kraus’ teammate Deegan qualified tenth.
Fans can find out which side takes round one this season as the K&N West and East go head-to-head for the Casey’s General Store 150 starting at 8:30 pm ET Friday, July 26th at Iowa Speedway.