TUCSON, Ariz. – A double duel in the desert was the venue for rounds three and four of the K&N Pro Series West season. Despite a slight delay due to rain (yes, even in Arizona), 200 total laps were run as the night was dominated by a familiar face we’ve seen grace Victory Lane in 2019.
Bill McAnally Racing reminded everybody who the team to beat is, Tanner Gray continued his impressive start to full-bodied stock car racing and the defending winner was never a factor–in either race.
Here is everything we learned from the Port of Tuson Twin 100s at Tucson Speedway.
BMR’s Banner Evening
The weekend at Tucson Speedway belonged to Derek Kraus, as he swept both races for his first two wins in the K&N Pro Series West this season and third and fourth overall in 2019.
But his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Brittney Zamora enjoyed a career night chocked full of firsts, culminating in a career-best third-place finish and 26 laps led in the second race. By virtue of posting the fastest lap in the first race, Zamora earned the pole for the second. She became just the second female to win a pole in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, joining her teammate Hailie Deegan, who accomplished the feat last year and again in the 2019 opener.
A night of first here at Tucson!
-first top 5 in KN series (race #1)
-first podium finish in KN series (race #2)
-first time leading laps in KN series
-first time earning pole starting spot in KN seires
Huge THANK YOU to my crew, @ENEOSUSA @BMR_NASCAR @ToyotaRacing @NAPARacing pic.twitter.com/wSSQkt3vnL
— Brittney Zamora (@brittneyz52) May 12, 2019
"(Friday) we really struggled in practice," Zamora said. "We tried to keep our heads high, but we weren’t sure a podium was actually realistic. We worked so hard on the car. My crew thrashed on it, they got it ready for me (Saturday) and it was on fire ever since then. Got a top five in the first race. That was good, but we knew we needed to work on it, we knew it had more potential. Went and made some changes, led some laps, fell back to second, got the lead again and from there, it was just hard, good clean racing out there."
The Kennewick, Washington native had finishes of 15th (New Smyrna), 11th (Las Vegas and Bristol and eighth (Irwindale) coming into Tucson. She started on the pole for the second race and brought her No. 99 Toyota home in third.
"This was a big confidence booster," she said. "We can compete for podiums now. It felt really good. It was kind of a get that monkey off my back feeling, you know? We’ve been progressing this whole season but we haven’t been getting the results our team should be getting with the work we put in. We have good runs, we just haven’t been able to finish and get those results. To run up front like that against the competition thats out here, to be able to do that shows we’re here for a reason and we’re going to keep on fighting."
Deegan finished third in Twin 100 No. 1, nipping Jagger Jones at the finish line for a podium spot. But ended up 15th in Twin 100 No. 2 after contact with Trevor Huddleston sent her spinning and behind the wall for repairs.
Problems for @HailieDeegan??
— NASCAR Home Tracks (@NASCARHomeTrack) May 12, 2019
Working with new crew chief Kyle Wolosek, Deegan admitted that the No. 19 is going through some growing pains, something that she knows takes time to develop fully.
"I’d say we still have some work to do," she said. "With my new crew chief, we’re kind of working it all out. This was our first West race together, back in the points, under all the pressure. We have a little work to do but we’re not far off."
Gray Continues to Impress
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Tanner Gray and DGR-Crosley looked primed to earn another win, fresh off their first of the season at South Boston Speedway last weekend. Gray broke the 23-year track record with a blazing quick qualifying lap and rolled off first in the first 100-lapper.
?? @tannergray5 and his No. 15 @GrayMotorsport1 @Valvoline @ToyotaRacing team set a new track record and won the Pole Award for tonight?s first #KNWest race at @TucsonSpeedway. pic.twitter.com/hbrcGHt4oN
— DGR-Crosley (@DGR_Crosley) May 12, 2019
But eventual winner Derek Kraus scooted his way by the No. 15 in Turn 1 and led flag to flag, never giving up the lead. Gray got close, but not close enough to make a clean race-winning move.
Still, for the defending NHRA Pro Stock champion, the results thus far have been unbelievably impressive, giving the Artesia, New Mexico, native good vibes heading into the rest of the season.
"It gives us a lot of confidence," he said. "We have awesome setups and notes pretty much everywhere we go. We generally unload pretty close and that’s making the transition a lot easier on me. Being able to unload and know I’ll have a fast race car under me, I solely can focus on the track and what I need to do better. I’ve had a win, a fourth and two seconds in the last four races," he said. "I’m happy with it. This was a big confidence booster for me. Hopefully we can go back to the East, continue to have some good runs and continue to inch our way into the points a little more."
What A Difference A Year Makes
Kody Vanderwal was on top of the NASCAR world one year ago, sweeping the Twin 100s at Tucson Speedway in one of the best upsets all season long.
Fast forward one year and the defending winner didn’t finish in the top 10 — in either race, a huge disappointment for the driver of the No. 43 for Levin Racing.
Man this year, minus a race or two, has just been frustrating. For various reasons we finished laps down in both races last night. I'm not sure what lesson God is trying to teach me, but I'll keep digging
— Kody Vanderwal (@KodyVanderwal) May 12, 2019
"Race one we had all kind of issues," he said following finishes of 11th and 12th, respectively. "We had something wrong with our right front tire and I was like three seconds off the pace. It was just not good. And race two we just thought we were better. Drove up to second right away but then it got so loose I could barely hold onto the thing. We came in to try and make an adjustment. Somehow we wound up going two laps down. I don’t really know how. From there we just couldn’t really go forward. I don’t know, pretty frustrating."
Vanderwal will head to his home track of Colorado National Speedway looking to gain back the positive mojo, where he has finishes of seventh and fifth in his career.
- After running the Norra 1000 with NHRA legend Don Prudhomme, Jagger Jones came home with a pair of top 10 finishes (fourth and sixth, respectively) in his first trip to Tucson, a couple hours from his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. Jones hasn’t finished worse than sixth this season and sits third in the championship standings.
- Tucson native Matt Levin had a career evening, finishing sixth and fifth, respectively. The top five run in the second race (ran as high as second) was Levin’s career-best finish in his five years racing in the series.
- Dustin Ash, making his first start in the series since 2015, earned two top 10 results (ninth and seventh, respectively) and led 35 laps in the second race for Jefferson Pitts Racing.