TUCSON, Ariz. — Kody Vanderwal was ecstatic and a little bit shocked when he pulled into Victory Lane at Tucson Speedway Saturday evening following his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win.
A couple hours later, he did it again.
The 17-year-old from LaSalle, Colorado, swept the Port of Tucson Twin 100s on the banked .375-mile oval. After a rookie season with a steep learning curve that saw him pick up two top fives in 14 starts and finish ninth in points, Vanderwal signaled he was a championship contender in his sophomore year with back-to-back victories.
They came in two entirely different fashions.
In the first 100-lap championship points race, he was out front for 89 laps. While most of the field played the tire conservation game, Vanderwal set a blistering pace — lapping all but the top seven cars before a caution on Lap 94 wiped out his sizable lead and set up a green-white-checkered finish. After surrendering the lead to Derek Thorn by a bumper on the white flag, Vanderwal was able to power off Turn 4 coming to the checker and just nose out Thorn for the victory.
Final margin of victory: .113 seconds.
Thorn’s teammate, Ryan Partridge, finished third. Derek Kraus was fourth, followed by former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Arizona champion Vanessa Robinson in fifth.
Devin Dodson, making his series’ debut, was sixth, while Cole Rouse, Hailie Deegan, Will Rodgers and Todd Souza rounded out the top 10.
After teams were able to make adjustments and reconsider strategy for the second 100-lap event, it was Partridge who was able to jump out and lead 59 laps before Thorn got by him. But Vanderwal charged late. After he couldn’t make the pass low, almost driving through the grass in Turn 4, found the outside groove in Turn 4 more to his liking several laps later to sail by Thorn with five to go.
Partridge was able to get by Thorn for second but his final run at Vanderwal fell .636 seconds short.
Rouse and Trevor Huddleston finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Robinson was sixth, followed by Rodgers, Deegan, Dodson and Norman. Kraus, who was penalized for jumping the start early in the race, was never able to make the lap up and finished 11th.
When the dust cleared at Tucson, Thorn emerged with the points lead by three over Partridge and five over Kraus. Rouse is just three points behind him in fourth, and Vanderwal moved up to fifth — only nine back of Thorn.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series will visit another bullring next, Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California, for the Sunrise Ford 150 presented by NAPA Auto Parts on Saturday, May 19.
The Port of Tucson Twin 150s will air on NBCSN. The first race will be Wednesday, May 9 at 6 p.m. ET, while the second will air on Thursday, May 10 at 6 p.m.