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Max McLaughlin earned his first career K&N Pro Series East checkered flag and trophy at Watkins Glen International. (Rusty Jarrett, NKP/NASCAR)

K&N Catch-Up: What We Learned at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — There was no raining on the K&N Pro Series East’s parade at Watkins Glen International. Despite being cut six laps short due to precipitation, the upstate New York road course put on on a great show, per usual.

The hometown kid earned his first win in a dominant performance, the championship hunt may have lost a competitor, and a series powerhouse team had an uncharacteristically off weekend.

Here is everything we learned from the Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 at Watkins Glen International.

Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100: Race Results | Race Recap | Video | Photo Gallery

Mad Max’s Storybook Day

Would you believe a story about a driver with upstate New York roots who had never raced on a road course before, was quickest in practice, qualified on the pole and led every lap en route to his first career series victory?

Max McLaughlin’s drive on Friday afternoon was beyond impressive and even surprised him at how much success he had with his first road course experience.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Qualified on the pole, not really sure how to save tires because I hadn’t run a road race yet. Was kind of new to me, but that thing was so good I just hit my marks, ran the heck out of it and never gave up. I had a great time. This car was flawless to drive and Hattori Racing Enterprises, Shige Hattori, they do so much for me. Pleasure to drive this MoHawk Northeast Toyota Camry.”

With the win coming at home and many McLaughlin fans in attendance, the win was even sweeter.

“This is where we go dirt racing up here,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. At the autograph session, I saw a lot more “Mad Max” dirt block modified t-shirts than I’ve seen all this year. Saw a lot of familiar faces. Happy to get the win for them. A pleasure to win at Watkins Glen, a place my dad did. To get a hometown crowd and win here at WGI means so much.It’s been my favorite track since I was a little kid and it’s an honor to be able to win here.”

Two Horse Title Race?

Entering Watkins Glen, Sam Mayer led Derek Kraus by six points and Chase Cabre by 12.

Exiting Watkins Glen, Mayer leads Cabre by 11 and Kraus by 12.

Kraus’ first trip to the New York road course was up and down, as he ended up with a ninth-place effort. However, it came behind his two championship contenders, resulting in a net loss in the standings.

As Mayer gained ground in a race he admittedly was points racing during. And as he reflected on the day that was as the 2019 race to the title begins to take shape, he believes it’s a two-horse race.

“I’m not worried about Kraus anymore, I’m worried about Cabre,” Mayer told NASCAR.com. “Kraus is 12 back from me and Cabre is second in points. We’re racing him, he’s definitely making a comeback but I don’t think it’ll be enough. We’re just going to go out, try to win some more races this year.”

Cabre isn’t counting Kraus out, though.

“Derek’s a great kid, great driver and he’ll come to life at some of these races,” Cabre told NASCAR.com. “You can’t stay counting him out, you always gotta count him as being there. We’ll go to Bristol next, which Sam was really good at. Who knows what’ll happen. I thought today was a good race, me and Sam ran pretty good together, made a little contact down there. We’re racing. If we’re going to go out and everybody stay off each other, that’s not racing. As long as we’re not taking each other out, rubbing’s racing. We’ll have fun with it.

The next K&N Pro Series East race is at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track where Mayer led flag-to-flag for his first career victory. Cabre finished second in that event.

BMR’s Struggles

Bill McAnally Racing’s Friday at The Glen was high on the list of ones to forget.

It began with Brandon Jones’ No. 19 car encountering a transmission issue before practice began. Once the car went out for a run, the engine expired. Once replaced, the engine began smoking again in qualifying. And even in the race, the hood went up to diagnose yet more issues.

“We had everything go wrong that can go wrong today,” general manager Kevin Bellicourt told NASCAR.com. “It’s just one of them deals, it happens. Bad luck kind of day. Everybody did a good job digging. Changing a motor after practice, had a problem in qualifying, rectified that and figured out what it was, and then in the race a fuel pump went bad. Brandon did  great job. The main point of the whole deal was for Brandon to get experience for (Saturday), so at least he got a lot of laps in the race. Hate it went the way it did all day, but the guys never gave up.”

Kraus’ ninth-place finish came after a day filled with adjustments, head scratching and being stuck mid-pack. All things we’re not accustomed to seeing a BMR team deal with, given their recent success the last few years.

“We just missed it on the balance for him,” Bellicourt said of Kraus. “He was never happy with it, never had the rear grip we needed. We gotta go back to the drawing board on some of this stuff and get better. We’re going to go home and work on it, we just missed it setup wise. I know we lost some track position on that restart, he qualified decent. But we never had the speed we needed today. We’re going to go back, work hard and try to get better.”

BMR has yet to officially announce whether or not Kraus will make the trip to Bristol, keeping his chase for the K&N East championship alive.

2019 K&N Pro Series East Standings

Notes

  • DGR-Crosley’s Ty Gibbs earned his first finish not in second-place, coming home fourth in his first trip to Watkins Glen. Tanner Gray (brake issues) and Riley Herbst (engine issues) finished 11th and 12th, respectively.
  • Jefferson Pitts Racing’s Dylan Murry finished sixth in his third career series start and first this season. JPR came into the event winning 10 of the last 11 K&N Pro Series road course events, most recently with Noah Gragson at Sonoma Raceway.
  • K&N Pro Series veteran Dale Quarterley finished seventh, his best series finish since 2011. Quarterley has participated in over 170 series events over 23 seasons.
  • Spencer Davis (eighth) earned his third straight top 10 and seventh of the season, while Colin Garrett (tenth) earned his fifth top 10 of the season.
  • Kart Idaho Racing’s Travis Milburn and John Wood both retired early from the event. Milburn pulled an all-nighter driving from Eldora Speedway, where the team made their first ever Gander Outdoors Truck Series start.
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Max McLaughlin lead every lap in the Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100. (Rusty Jarrett, NKP/NASCAR)