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#16: Derek Kraus celebrates his win
Derek Kraus took the checkered flag Monday night in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway. (Nigel Kinrade Photography for NASCAR)

K&N Catch-Up: What We Learned at New Smyrna

NEW SMYRNA, Fla. — The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opened up their 2019 season on Monday evening at New Smyrna Speedway, as Mother Nature forced the postponement of the New Smyrna 175. But once the rain subsided, the fans were treated to a show.

A K&N Pro Series West regular put his competitors on notice, the premier organization looks to have not missed a beat and two big names saw once promising runs go south in a hurry.

Here is everything we learned from the New Smyrna 175 at New Smyrna.

New Smyrna 175: Race Results | Race Recap 

Kraus On a Mission

Monday night may have been a statement win for Derek Kraus.

No, the win doesn’t count towards the championship, (he’s running part-time in K&N East, full-time in K&N West) but it should have put his competitors along both coasts on notice: he ain’t messing around this season.

On paper, you’d think the Stratford, Wisconsin, native has been racing in the series for years. And you’d be right. This is his third consecutive full-time season driving for Bill McAnally Racing … and he’s still just 17-years-old.

K&n Pro Series East
Derek Kraus poses with the New Smyrna 175 trophy following his victory. (Rusty Jarrett/Nigel Kinrade Photography for NASCAR)

It’s no secret that the goal is a championship out West this season for the No. 16. Anything less would be a disappointment. His competition out West was watching, and his competition Monday night at New Smyrna Speedway was watching his rear bumper disappear in their windshields.

Kraus has been dominant in his fair share of races, but this one was different. Running all 175 laps around the 0.48-mile oval on one set of tires, conservation was the name of the game. After starting 16th, slowly working his way into the top 10 and then top five, he put himself in a position to capitalize.

Racing-Reference: Derek Kraus Career Statistics

When it came down to crunch time, Kraus squeaked his Toyota to the lead past Colin Garrett and Ty Gibbs and didn’t look back for the final 40 laps.

“I really wasn’t concerned,” Kraus said of his track position. “Our car was pretty stout in the center of the corner and had really good drive off. We had a really good car all night, had to save some tires thats what helped us win the race.”

Having been bitten by lack of tire conservation in the past in multiple different disciplines of racing, he reflected back on lessons learned, and now, applied.

“What really helped me was three years ago running behind Todd (Gilliland),” he said. “He was really good at saving tires. I tried to remember (what he did) back then and thats what I felt like I did. I probably didn’t save the right front as well as I needed to because I was driving it in pretty deep. I feel like I saved as much as I could.”

Kraus mentioned how eventual third-place finisher Brandon McReynolds and teammate Hailie Deegan fell back quick, opting to go into conservation mode. However, he thought track position would be too important to relinquish and was able to methodically work his way up.

After finishing fourth at New Smyrna last year, the NASCAR Next driver learned from his shortcomings and parlayed them unto a trophy and checkered flag.

“(I learned) patience and learning how to have a winning car in practice,” he said, “To be honest, in practice the car wasn’t very good. We qualified 16th, didn’t have a top 10 car, made a lot of adjustments after practice and I think thats what helped us win.”

DGR Looking Dominant

2018 championship organization DGR Crosley appears to have picked up where they left off.

How does a runner-up finish for Ty Gibbs in his first series start, a ninth-place run (plus 48 laps led) for Drew Dollar in his first series start and running inside the top five for most of the night in his first series start for Tanner Gray sound?

Pretty solid.

After finishing 1-2 with Tyler Ankrum and Tyler Dippel last year in the standings, Dollar and Gray seem poised to continue DGR’s dominance, despite their lack of experience in stock cars. And for Gibbs, if it were’t for a hard battle resulting in contact for the lead, he may have been able to hold off Kraus in the closing stages.

“That was just me getting all I could get,” Gibbs said of his contact while racing for the lead. “I’m sorry to the No. 18 (Garrett). I hit him down there one time. He was crowding me so that didn’t help much but it was a blast and a lot of fun. I gained a lot of experience and we’re going to come back and win the next one.”

Third-place finisher Brandon McReynolds also had some kind words for Gibbs following the 175-lapper.

“My buddy Erik Jones, he better watch himself,” he said with a chuckle. “Ty Gibbs is pretty sporty, he was wheeling that thing tonight. The kid did a good job.”

If this is what Gibbs, Dollar and Gray’s first foray into driving stock cars looks like, the rest of the field may be in for a long season.

Tough Luck Spoils Promising Evenings

Both Hailie Deegan and Chase Cabre were out front in the first half of the New Smyrna 175, but issues forced both their nights to end early.

After starting first, Deegan led six circuits before falling back. What most thought was a tire conservation effort turned into deja vu for the No. 19 Bill McAnally Racing bunch, as electrical issues beneath the hood was the cause for concern.

Last year, the Temecula, California native also saw a promising run go sour due to the same problem: electrical issues. Ultimately, Deegan finished 16th, 48 laps down.

Cabre led 13 laps before smoke began billowing from his No. 4 Rev Racing machine. After multiplepit stops under caution and green flag conditions, the problem was eventually diagnosed as a rear end issue. He finished 17th, 98 laps down.

2019 K&N Pro Series East Standings

Notes

  • Brandon McReynolds finished third. The result is his eighth career top five, 16th career top 10 and first of what he and Visconti Motorsports hope are many strong runs this season. They have no plans to run a full schedule at this time.
  • Colin Garrett led the most laps (64) for the first time in his K&N Pro Series career. After contact with Ty Gibbs while racing for the lead, he brought his No. 18 Sellers-Hunt Racing Toyota home in sixth.
  • Ruben Garcia Jr. kept his nose clean and wound up with a eighth-place finish. The result is his best career finish at New Smyrna Speedway.
K&n Pro Series East
Hailie Deegan leads the field to the green flag to start the New Smyrna 175. (Rusty Jarrett/Nigel Kinrade Photography for NASCAR)