With four races remaining in the K&N Pro Series East season, the championship race may now down to two.
Sam Mayer leads Chase Cabre by 11 points heading into the final stretch of four races. Following his third-place finish at Watkins Glen, the 16-year-old counted former points leader Derek Kraus out.
“I’m not worried about Kraus anymore, I’m worried about Cabre,” Mayer told NASCAR.com following WGI, despite Kraus dropping to just one point behind Cabre. “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.”
Kraus and team owner Bill McAnally told NASCAR.com that it would be tough to continue vying for both championships at this pace, and if they were more than 10 points back leaving The Glen, they’d have to seriously consider focusing solely on the K&N Pro Series West title.
With Bristol looming next week, the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Record Toyota of Kraus has withdrawn, meaning his quest for a title on the East coast has come to an end, as Bill McAnally Racing has chosen to focus on winning it on the West coast. The West returns to action at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., on Aug. 17, just two days after Bristol, and Kraus leads BMR teammate Hailie Deegan by 16 points.
Cabre admitted Mayer will be tough to catch as the season winds down, especially given GMS Racing’s advantage on the tracks coming up. Mayer led every lap at Bristol, won at Iowa, finished second to Cabre at New Hampshire in July, and finished fourth last season at Dover. Mayer also finished third in June in the ARCA Menards Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, losing the lead in the final turns after a bump-and-run from eventual race winner Ty Gibbs.
“Definitely going to be a hard, maybe even a two-horse race for the championship against Sam,” Cabre said after Watkins Glen. “Going to Bristol where he was really good, we’ll have to figure out how to be just a little bit better.”
Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Max McLaughlin and Tanner Gray are 27 and 30 points back, respectively, and would need both Cabre and Mayer to suffer misfortune to climb into the title hunt.
Being a three-year series veteran, Cabre’s future with Rev Racing in the series is undecided past 2018. He’d love to possibly go out with a championship.
If he wants to have a realistic shot, he knows he needs to start hunting trophies now.
“If we don’t win soon, it’ll be over,” Cabre said. “We have to win, whether it be Bristol or Gateway, it’s going to be tough to make those points up, especially when I run second and Sam runs third. It seems like his worst finish this whole season is third. I don’t know if that’s true but it seems so. It’s hard to make points up when you’re running 1-2 and 2-3 every week. At Iowa, I knew I needed to get around him on the final restart for points sake, and I just couldn’t make it happen.”
Mayer, though, who has been blunt about going for wins from the start of the season, had a rare change of mindset throughout the weekend in upstate New York. Sure, they wanted the checkered flag. But more than anything, they understand the big picture.
“I’ll take a podium finish at a place like this when we are points racing,” Mayer said.
For the first time this season, he allowed the thought of a title to creep into his head. Another dominant performance at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” this upcoming week would do wonders for that quest, and maybe even make it a one horse race.
The Bush’s Beans 150 will take place on Thursday, August 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 6:15 p.m. FansChoice.TV will have live coverage of the event.