By Davey Segal, NASCARHomeTracks.com
November 5, 2017 - 12:28am
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- On a night where one Bill McAnally Racing teenager earned his first career win, another earned his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.
Derek Kraus won the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Championship 150 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Kern County Raceway Park for his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory while Todd Gilliland won the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title.
The night belonged to NASCAR Next driver Todd Gilliland. He brought his No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota home in second-place, but it was more than enough to clinch his second straight championship.
"It feels great," the 17-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, said, soaked after a Victory Lane celebration. "All this hard work and dedication these guys put in, and it all comes down to this. To be able to get it done is very special."
Coming into Kern, Gilliland needed to finish seventh or better, regardless of what teammate and championship rival Chris Eggleston did. Unfortunately for Eggleston, a flat tire on lap 65 forced him to go behind the wall for repairs and fall multiple laps down. He wound up finishing in 20th, three laps down.
"I was pretty confident," Gilliland said of his mindset throughout the evening. "With the speed we had and the position we were able to ride in, I thought we were going to have a really good shot at the win. Always a little disappointed in that, but I'm very proud of our effort all season long. To be able to come home the 2017 champion two years in a row is really surreal, and we just have to take it all in."
The title is the eighth in Bill McAnally Racing history and third consecutive (Eggleston in 2015, Gilliland in 2016 and 2017). The last time BMR won three titles in a row was from 1999-2001, when Sean Woodside and Brendan Gaughan (twice) brought home the hardware.
Kraus, Gilliland's teammate, stopped Gilliland from winning his third consecutive race at Kern. The 16-year-old rookie from Stratford, Wisconsin, took the lead with 44 laps to go and didn't look back. Kraus' first career K&N Pro Series West win has been a longtime coming, he earned three runner-up finishes this season and had a win in his grasp multiple throughout the year. Most recently at Idaho's Meridian Speedway, he had the lead on the final overtime restart, but it slipped away.
"That Meridian race was actually going through my mind those last 30 laps," Kraus said in Victory Lane next to his No. 19 Carlyle Tools Toyota. "But it's been a really good night with getting Rookie of the Year and getting a race win, my first race win. That's really great for me and my career, and will help boost me into next season."
The win allowed Kraus to clinch the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award over Will Rodgers, who he'd been battling with down the stretch. Kraus finishes the 2017 season with nine top fives, 10 top 10s, one pole and one victory.
Riley Herbst continued the BMR podium sweep finishing third while Michael Self and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regular Dillon Bassett rounded out the top five.
Derek Thorn, Buddy Shepherd, Will Rodgers, Max Tullman and Nicole Behar completed the top 10.
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Championship 150 is scheduled to air on NBCSN Friday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Derek Kraus won his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Kern County Raceway Park to end the 2017 season. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)