A trip to Dover International Speedway on Friday meant the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season is coming to a close. But drivers had to wait one more day, as rain pushed through the idea and postponed the Crosley 125 until Saturday morning.
For one driver, it was time to be officially crowned as champion, while for another, it was a clutch performance that sent him to Victory Lane.
Here is everything you need to know from the 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East finale at the Monster Mile.
Ankrum Officially Crowned Champion
With the series title having already been clinched prior to the final race at Dover, Tyler Ankrum was able to chase the checkered flag with no pressure on Saturday. A rear-end issue while running inside of the top five ended his chances of capping off the season in Victory Lane, however, nothing was going to wipe the smile off of the 17-year-old drivers face when he was officially named a NASCAR champion.
“It sounds fantastic,” Ankrum said. “I was on my computer the other night looking at the other drivers that are in the (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series right now that won the K&N (Pro Series) championship and it is pretty special, so hopefully we can end up there one day too.”
Ankrum was able to put together one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory after what had originally been planned as a seven-race deal with his team, DGR-Crosley, also in their first season.
“Honestly at the beginning of the year I was like ‘I’m happy with a top five, or to finish every race with a top 10’ and then we got a win and I was like ‘oh this awesome, let’s go full time’ and then we got to three wins in a row and now the championship,” Ankrum said.
RACING-REFERENCE: Tyler Ankrum – 2018 Stats
When the final checkered flag was dropped on Saturday, the San Bernardino, California, driver finished the year with four wins (28.6 percent of starts) as well as nine top fives and only two finishes outside of the top ten in events at New Jersey and Dover.
— DGR-Crosley (@DGR_CROSLEY) October 6, 2018
The title is also the first for DGR-Crosley in the teams first full season of NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition.
“It has been a great year,” said DGR-Crosley owner David Gilliland. “We’ve won a lot of races and we came into the season with a handful of different drivers and we’re very happy for Tyler to come in and originally sign up for seven races and he got off to such a good start that he committed to doing the whole season. Now, here he is as the 2018 K&N Pro Series champion.”
DGR-Crosley fields teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well as multiple Late Model programs. For David Gilliland, this championship has some extra meaning to it with family being at the forefront.
“This series is so special to me because my Dad (Butch Gilliland) won a championship, my son (Todd Gilliland) has won a championship and now we’ve won a championship as a car owner so it’s very, very exciting” he said. “We love this series and we can’t wait to race in it again next year.”
As for next year, you can expect to see a DGR-Crosley car once again in the conversation at the top of the K&N Pro Series. The team that has grown so quickly in such a shot amount a time, becoming a threat to win each and every week, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
In addition to Ankrum’s four wins, DGR-Crosley also fielded winning cars for Todd Gilliland (New Smyrna and Bristol) and Tyler Dippel (Langley).
“I can say that next year we (DGR-Crosley) are going to be very involved in the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series and we will have multiple K&N Pro Series programs next year as well as probably an ARCA team and a few NASCAR Late Model stock teams,” Gilliland said. “We’re growing very quickly but we want to have places for these kids to come and move up through our program and to be able to have them as part of our family as they continue to move up.”
Despite his driver and team not having the final race result that they wanted, Gilliland spoke highly of Ankrum and what his young talent has that made him a champion.
“He (Tyler Ankrum) has such a good attitude and you need to have that, you need to be able to stay positive in any situation. That is what a champion is made of.”
Ruben Garcia Jr. Returns to Victory Lane
A statement was made to say the least.
Ruben Garcia Jr. became the fourth Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series event earlier this year at Memphis International Speedway. The win was a major milestone for the 22-year-old, who earned a ride with Rev Racing through their Drive For Diversity program in 2016. However, as the season rolled on, Garcia wanted to prove that it wasn’t just a one-off victory and that he was here to stay. On Saturday, on one of the biggest stages the series offers, he did just that.
Garcia started in seventh and quickly began to make his way to the front in what became clearly the fastest car on the track. He would officially take the lead at lap 49 after a battle with Todd Gilliland ended when Gilliland got sideways out of Turn 4 and made hard contact with the frontstretch wall.
It was the second year in a row that Gilliland was in position to win at Dover but fell short. A tire issue ended his day early in 2017 while contending for the win and the East championship.
Garcia, who had problems of his own at the event in 2017, wouldn’t be denied this time. Despite a few cautions throughout the race that bunched the field back together, Garcia was uncontested as he drove to the win.
— Rubén García Jr. (@rubengarcia4) October 6, 2018
“It’s huge, especially after last year when we dominated the race and just came eight laps short with a problem with a tire so it’s really, really cool to come back and finally win this race” Garcia said. “It’s a really cool racetrack and it’s one of those places that will give you enough experience for your plans in the future and it gives you a lot of exposure running in front of the Xfinity and Cup Series Garage’.”
RACING-REFERENCE: Ruben Garcia, Jr. Career Stats
Garcia earned his ride with Rev Racing after winning the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series championship, as is leading the points in Mexico while running full-time in the K&N Pro Series East.
“I hope that this can build some momentum for us and bring good plans for us,” he continued. “I’m really happy with what Rev Racing has been doing this year and the past few years with me and the opportunity I’ve been given is huge to come race here in the United States being from Mexico and just such a good job from my guys on this car, it was unbelievable how fast it was.”
Crosley 125 Race Notebook:
- Coming off his first K&N Pro East win at New Hampshire, Brandon McReynolds put together another strong run, finishing second at Dover.
- After qualifying on the pole with a track-record time, 2017 K&N Pro Series East Harrison Burton would drop to the rear for changes made after qualifying and charge through the field to finish fifth.