By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
From the rugged dust bowl that was the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt circuit to the narrow, flat quarter-mile bullring known as Meridian Speedway in Idaho will be the 12th stop for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tour as the championship battle has narrowed down to just a few contenders with three rounds remaining.
History was made in the last round on Sept. 13 when rookie Hailie Deegan became the first female driver to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series pole, where she led 13 laps and finished runner-up to ARCA Racing Series championship leader Sheldon Creed. It marked the 17-year-old’s second runner-up effort, as she’ll look to hoist the famed water tower trophy at the end of the grinding 208-lap contest Saturday.
Also in that race, Bob Bruncati Racing’s Derek Thorn extended his championship lead over teammate Ryan Partridge after finishing third, extending his points lead to 31, and it has become his title to lose as he’ll run Meridian for the first time and will look to get a step closer towards his second K&N West title.
Since its return in 2015 after a 43-year absence, Meridian has garnered a reputation as a chess game for survival with 11 and 13 cautions in the first two events in races won by current Camping World Truck Series regulars Noah Gragson and Todd Gilliland respectively.
Not only that, its only the second time this season they’ll be running at a quarter-mile track with the other being at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Calfironia, which was the location of Partridge’s only win of the season.
For Partridge to gain points on Thorn, he’ll have to have a solid performance as the last time he’s beaten him was June 30 at Douglas County Speedway, where he finished fourth to Thorn’s fifth. It’s also one of only three times that has occurred, putting his odds against him, but due to the track’s nature, a bit of luck could put him back in to the title mix such as last year’s chaotic finish.
While the race only had seven cautions, it still provided drama as Chris Eggleston crossed the line in first, but was penalized to the tail end of the lead lap in seventh after jumping the restart to get by race leader Derek Kraus, who finished fifth after having a costly fender bender battle with Will Rodgers in the final two laps.
Eggleston’s penalty gave future ARCA 200 at Daytona winner Michael Self, an emotional victory as it was his first K&N West victory since 2013 at Lebanon I-44 Speedway. In addition to his penalty, it proved to be a turning point of the championship as Eggleston lost six points to Gilliland, and ultimately lost the title by 29 points.
As of Wednesday, there are 15 entries with three teams yet to confirm a driver, but regardless of the field size, it’s destine to provide flag-to-flag action in the Gem State.
By the Numbers
What: NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Race 12
Where: Meridian Speedway – Meridian, Idaho (Opened: 1951)
TV: NBCSN, 4:00 p.m. ET (airs on Friday, October 5)
Track Size: 0.25-mile paved oval
Race Length: 208 Laps, 52 miles
2017 Race Winner: Michael Self – No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Sinclair Lubricants (Started sixth, 2 laps led).
Track Qualifying Record: Noah Gragson (69.140 mph – 2015).
Storylines Heading into the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208:
There are several storylines going into this weekend’s race to watch for:
- The three entries without a confirmed driver are the No. 08 Mike Holleran owned Chevrolet and two Shawne Merriman cars carrying car No. 36 and 91 Fords.
- Only seven drivers have previously raced at Meridian with Partridge and Matt Levin making two starts to the other five’s lone starts. Levin’s best was 12th in 2015 and Partridge has finished 11th in both 2015 and 2016.
- Hailie Deegan matched her best career finish of second at Las Vegas on Sept. 13, putting her one point behind Trevor Huddleston for fifth in the series standings.
- After crashing out at Las Vegas that resulted disappointing 17th after leading a race-high 31 of 102 laps, Kraus will look to carry his momentum from last Saturday’s runner-up finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the K&N East race and regain ground on the championship battle, which he trails Thorn by 42 points.
- A sixth-place effort at Las Vegas by Cole Rouse put him back in third in the standings as he’s still searching for that elusive K&N West victory. Two days after the dirt race, Rouse made his Xfinity Series debut at B.J. McLeod Motorsports at the 1.5-mile circuit, where he kept his car out of trouble and finished 21st in an attrition-filled afternoon.
- Boise State University graduate and Lucas Oil Modifieds standout Kyle Tellstrom will make his K&N West debut at his home track, driving in the No. 39 Ford owned by Kevin McCarty. Tellstrom is seeking for additional fundings to assure three sets of tires Saturday.
- Navy SEAL turned racer Tyler Canfield will also make his K&N West debut, driving the only Dodge entry owned by Sue McCarty.
- Andrew Koens is scheduled to make his first series start since Douglas County in June, driving the No. 77 Toyota for Joe Nava.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern and Times are Subject to Change)
Saturday, September 29
- KNPSW First Practice (1:45 p.m.)
- KNPSW Final Practice (2:45 p.m.)
- KNPSW Qualifying (5:30 p.m.)
- KNPSW NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 (8:30 p.m. – 208 laps, 52 miles – airing on NBCSN on Friday, October 5 4:00 p.m.)