Derek Kraus lets Hailie Deegan back into NASCAR K&N West championship at Sonoma

Derek Kraus leads Hailie Deegan by one point heading into Saturday’s race at Douglas County Speedway in Oregon.

At one point in Saturday’s Procore 200 from Sonoma Raceway, Derek Kraus was three laps down, sitting on pit road with the hood up and watching his championship points lead wither away.

Kraus’ problem happened in turn 7, which he called lucky, not having to limp his car back to pit road after he passed the entrance. While his No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota team diagnosed and subsequently fixed the fuel pump issue, the 17-year-old formulated a plan.

“I kind of saw the points flash before my eyes,” Kraus said. “Saw the No. 19 car (Hailie Deegan) go by me. We just had to take that second half to get all our laps back. Once we did, we’d get the green, make up a bunch of spots and then NASCAR’s got that rule when you have to revert to the last lap, so I had to go all the way back to where I started. Pretty much everything I worked for I didn’t get a reward for. Overall, I think we could’ve finished a little better than what we did. The No. 9 car got into me a little bit on the last lap. I don’t know, I guess that’s racing.”

On the final restart, Kraus was in 12th primed for a miraculous top-10 finish. But coming to the checkered flag, he was sent spinning off track after contact with Trevor Huddleston.

“He got into my right rear pretty good,” he said. “I went over to ask him what happened after the race and he said, ‘We were two-wide going into the esses and one of us wasn’t going to make it out,’ so I guess that was that.”

The Stratford, Wisconsin, native and four-time winner this season selfishly wanted a better result exiting northern California. But all things considered — leaving with the points lead, albeit by just one over his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Deegan — can be considered a win.

“We definitely left wanting more out of that day,” he admitted. “It was definitely frustrating and good considering the circumstances that happened. In all reality, I thought my day was done when I came in (to pit road). Overall, at the end of it, it could’ve been a lot worse than it actually was. I guess we have the points lead, we’ll go to all circle tracks, which are a lot better for me, and go try and win as many races as we can.”

The halfway point of the 2019 season occurs when the checkered flag flies at Douglas County Speedway, a venue where Kraus dominated, leading all but 20 laps last season en route to his second win of 2018.

“I think we definitely can do what we did last year,” he said. “I feel like we’ll run really good. We’re at the shop this week, and these guys work their tails off. I know that we can unload and be fast right away and hopefully have a really good run like we did last year.”

Both Kraus and Deegan have another reason to be upbeat heading to Douglas: seven times in the last eight trips to Roseburg, a Bill McAnally Racing car ended up in victory lane. BMR swept the top three in 2017, won by Gilliland and with Kraus finishing third; Kraus and Deegan went 1-2 last year.

The Clint Newell Auto Group Toyota 150 presented by ENEOS is scheduled to go green at approximately 7:55 p.m. PDT. FansChoice.TV will have live coverage of the race.

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