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National series drivers have participated in the K&N Pro Series West event with regularity for a few years. Erik Jones (20) and William Byron (27) did so in 2018. (Matthew T. Thacker, NKP/NASCAR)

National Series Drivers To Gain Road-Course Experience In K&N West Race At Sonoma

One of the biggest races of the season is right around the corner.

The Procore 200 at Sonoma Raceway in the K&N Pro Series West always brings out some of the biggest names in the sport. Whether it’s some extra seat time around the challenging California road course or a fun race during a grueling season, NASCAR national series stars always show out.

Last season, Aric Almirola, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Alex Bowman participated in the event. The year prior, Kevin Harvick held off Will Rodgers for the win, while Suarez and Ryan Blaney were also in the field.

In 2016, Chase Elliott won the race in his rookie Cup Series campaign, while Kyle Larson did the same in 2014.

With early entries already filed for this season’s event, a number of drivers will be dipping their toe into the K&N Pro Series West. Some for the first time in awhile. Some for the first time.

SONOMA, CA – JUNE 21: Austin Dillon, driver of the #21 Golden Gate Meat / RCR Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 at Sonoma Raceway on June 21, 2014 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Austin Dillon at Sonoma in 2014. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

Driving for road course powerhouse Jefferson Pitts Racing, Austin Dillon will be making his 20th career K&N Pro Series start when the green flies in California, his third at Sonoma (first since 2015). In prior races at the road course, he’s finished 22nd and sixth.

His one and only series win came at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway in 2008, his first career series start. In total, the 2011 Gander Outdoors Truck Series and 2013 Xfinity Series champion has seven top fives and 12 top 10 finishes in his K&N career. He’s since gone on to win the 2018 Daytona 500 and 2017 Coca-Cola 600.

Racing-Reference: Austin Dillon Career Statistics

Also driving for JPR will be a fixture on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and current Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Ryan Preece.

He’ll make his first career K&N West start and first overall start at Sonoma. In his four previous K&N East starts, his best finish came at Thompson in 2017 (sixth). The Berlin, Connecticut, native has two Xfinity wins and earned a top five in this year’s Daytona 500.

Racing-Reference: Ryan Preece Career Statistics

GREENVILLE, S.C. – APRIL 4: Daniel Hemric, driver of the #20 California Clean Power Chevrolet, celebrates winning pole after qualifying for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway on April 4, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images) *** LOCAL CAPTION *** Daniel Hemric
Daniel Hemric poses for a pole award photo in 2015. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Preece’s competition for ROY honors in Cup is Daniel Hemric, who’ll be making his first K&N West start and fourth overall series start (first since 2015 at Watkins Glen). He has also never raced at Sonoma.

Racing-Reference: Daniel Hemric Career Statistics

Running a third car for Sunrise Ford, three-time K&N East winner Cole Custer will be making his third series start at Sonoma (first since 2015). In his other two starts at Sonoma with BMR, he finished 12th and ninth.

The Ladera Ranch, California, native has finished inside the top three in Xfinity Series points the last two seasons and already has graced Victory Lane three times in 2019.

AVONDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 27: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 NAPA Auto Parts/Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West Talking Stick Resort 75 at Phoenix International Raceway on February 27, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cole Custer
Cole Custer did his fair share of winning in the K&N Pro Series West, including in 2014 at Phoenix. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Racing-Reference: Cole Custer Career Statistics

Noah Gragson, the most experienced national series driver competing at Sonoma by far, will be teammates with Dillon and Preece at JPR, an organization he knows extremely well.

In his 44 series starts (27 West, all with JPR; 17 East, 15 with JPR), he’s raced twice at Sonoma, finishing seventh in 2015 and second the following season. He made two K&N East starts for DGR-Crosley last season at Bristol (third) and Watkins Glen (20th).

Racing-Reference: Noah Gragson Career Statistics

The Procore 200 is scheduled to go green at approximately 1:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, June 22. Will Rodgers, who was driving for JPR, is the defending winner of the event.

WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 05: Noah Gragson, driver of the #55 SPEEDVEGAS/AlertID Ford, sits in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series Bully Hill Vineyards 100 at Watkins Glen International on August 5, 2016 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Gragson at Watkins Glen in 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)