The NASCAR K&N Pro Series held their second of two combination events this season at Gateway Motorsports Park. The 1.25-mile oval located outside St. Louis is the biggest track drivers race on all season long, and the race lived up to the hype.
K&N Pro Series West powerhouse team Bill McAnally Racing finished 1-2, the championship points leaders extended their margins and one team out East is improving every week.
Here is everything we learned from the Monaco Gateway Classic presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at Gateway.
Bill McAnally Racing Flexes Muscle
This season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, it’s been the Sunrise Ford duo of Derek Thorn and Ryan Partridge up front week after week. But not far behind have been all three Bill McAnally Racing drivers.
On Friday night in the Midwest, Derek Kraus got his redemption and won the inaugural K&N Pro Series combination event from Gateway Motorsports Park.
“It was redemption from a lot,” Kraus said in Victory Lane. “We ran out of gas at Iowa, we had a pretty good car there. We ran out of gas at Evergreen and had a really big lead. That definitely made today feel a lot better than what it felt like last two weekends. Really big win for the BMR team and the whole stable.”
Kraus started second but fell back to 19th during the first stage due to a spark plug issue. Under the first stage break, the crew repaired the issue under the hood and the speed on the No. 16 returned.
“That was a big win for me and my team,” Kraus said. “We had adversity coming from the back to the front. It’s a big win because this is the first race at Gateway with the East and West. Bragging rights for me — it’s a really big confidence builder for us and it’s going to give us momentum for the rest of the season.”
But one’s mans triumph was another man’s disappointment. For the second consecutive event, Cole Rouse came home a career-best second. He led 35 laps and had one of the quickest cars in the 120-lap event, but was passed by the his 16-year-old teammate and Stratford, Wisconsin, native on a restart to begin the third stage.
“We were better than him at the second break,” Rouse said of Kraus. “But I don’t know what they did at the end because they just drove away. They fired off a lot faster than we did. We could stay with him at the end but he just fired off better than we did.”
On Thursday, all K&N Pro Series teams were at the track for an open practice session, which proved important after Mother Nature allowed for only 15 minutes of green flag practice on Friday and forced the field to be set based on practice speeds.
The lack of on track time all weekend gave driver fits. Perhaps none more than Rouse, though, because he missed the Thursday practice with his No. 99 team.
“Not coming to practice (Thursday) definitely hurt us,” the Fort Smith, Arkansas, native said. “Honestly, I don’t know how to explain it. I just screwed up. I’ll make it on time next time. I was about five hours late. It was a bad deal.”
With the win, Kraus now sits four points behind Ryan Partridge for second in the K&N Pro Series West standings. The win was his third of the season, fourth of his career and improve his average finish this season to 6.6.
Derek Thorn, Tyler Ankrum Sitting Pretty Atop Standings
Coming into Gateway, Derek Thorn and Tyler Ankrum had healthy leads in the points standings.
Leaving Gateway, it remained that way.
“When we started the season off, there were a couple tracks that I was concerned about,” Thorn said. “Back in 2012 and 2013, we didn’t do well at places over half a mile. To come here and to Iowa, I feel like this is our last big track. Our short track stuff is pretty strong. But now that we’ve gotten through Gateway and Iowa I feel like we’ve dodged two bullets.”
Thorn increased his lead from 18 to 25 points over his Sunrise Ford teammate Ryan Partridge. He also extended his impressive streak of top 10 finishes to 10 races and improved his average finish to 2.9.
“Really proud of the team,” the Lakeport, Calif. native said. “We weren’t good in practice, we actually stole the setup from the No. 22 (Trevor Huddleston) and the No. 9 (Partridge), put that on this morning and had a limited amount of practice. Raced pretty well. Wasn’t as quick as the No. 16 (Kraus) and No, 99 (Rouse), but really proud of the hard work, it doesn’t go unnoticed and that’s why we were able to pull out a top three.”
Tyler Ankrum’s sixth-place effort wasn’t the usual dominating evening for the No. 17 DGR-Crosley team, but finishing six spots better than his teammate and main competition for the title, Tyler Dippel, allowed the 17-year-old San Bernardino, California, native to extend his lead to a whopping 51 over Dippel and the No. 54 team.
Ankrum and Thorn, although close to the end of the year, are laser focused on the here and now.
“Try not to think about it,” Thorn said of his points lead. “Try to do just like we did today. If we can get through the dirt race (at Las Vegas)—there’s going to be probably 30 cars out there and probably 15-20 are going to be out there to have a good time, and then 10-15 of us are going to be out there racing for points. I feel like that’s another bullet to dodge, so to speak. To be able to extend our points lead on the No. 9, I feel like we still came out of here with our heads held high and maintained a pretty good, sizable lead.”
Rev Racing Gaining Ground
DGR-Crosley still rules the K&N Pro Series East, but Rev Racing and Max Siegel are gaining ground week by week with their young stable of Ruben Garcia Jr., Chase Cabre and Ryan Vargas.
Garcia Jr. led the way for the East brigade coming home in fourth-place. The result was his second-best finish this season (won at Memphis) and marked his third straight top 10 finish.
“We didnt have the speed of the No. 16 car but I could kind of catch the two cars in front of me,” Garcia Jr. said. “I wish we just had more laps or better track position for that restart, I thought we could’ve fought for second-place. All in all, it’s a good day. We finished ahead of all the east cars, a good points day. We’re trying to make it now into third in the points. And now we’re really close to accomplishing that.”
The Mexico City native is now three points behind Ronnie Bassett Jr. for third in the standings and has carried the banner for Rev Racing this season.
Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Vargas is gaining more experience each week and Chase Cabre, who had the win at South Boston all but sealed, led 19 laps on the evening and finished fifth.
- Will Rodgers, who was making his first start in the K&N Pro Series for Levin Racing in the No. 10 Chevrolet, had his evening cut short after blowing an engine on lap six and finished 26th. He is scheduled to compete in the Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track for Bob Farmer.
- Spencer Davis was forced to retire from the 150-mile event on lap 64 due to a break issue. He led 29 laps after starting first for Danny Watts Racing in the No. 82 Chevrolet. He also finished 19th at Memphis after having an electrical issue with 11 laps to go. He has eight top 10 finishes this season.
- Hailie Deegan finished 23rd after retiring from the event on lap 75. Contact a few laps before while racing for position gave her significant front end damage that was unrepairable for the No. 19 team. This was her third DNF of the season (New Smyrna and Iowa).