NEW SMYRNA, Fla. â€” It was worth the wait for Derek Kraus in more ways than one.
After being postponed to Monday night due to rain, Kraus emerged victorious in the New Smyrna 175 at New Smyrna Speedway, using tire conservation en route to his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory.
The Stratford, Wisconsin, native made his move with about 40 laps to go as the leaders, Colin Garrett and Ty Gibbs, made contact while battling for the top spot.
â€œThey were racing each other pretty hard,â€� Kraus said in Victory Lane following his season-opening win. â€œI had to stay on my toes for them to make contact and thatâ€™s exactly what they did. They drifted up in (Turns) 3 and 4 and I saw an opening so thatâ€™s when I took it. I mightâ€™ve gotten in the grass, but I got it done.â€�
He was able to hold off a hard-charging Ty Gibbs and Brandon McReynolds, who finished second and third respectively. Sam Mayer and Anthony Sergi rounded out the top five.
For most of the 175-lap event, Krausâ€™ No. 16 Bill McAnally Racing Toyota was mired in the middle of the field. But it was all part of the plan: They were playing the waiting game.
Tires were of the utmost importance, as teams only used the one set they qualified on for the entirety of the race. Kraus started 16th and slowly made his way inside the top 10. Then the top five, and when the opportunity presented itself, he pounced.
â€œWhat really helped me (save tires) was running with Todd (Gilliland) for three years,â€� he said. â€œHe was really good at saving tires. I just tried to remember back then and thatâ€™s what I felt like I did. I probably didnâ€™t save the right front as well as I needed to because I was driving it in pretty deep, but I felt like I saved as well as I could. Brandon (McReynolds) and Hailie (Deegan) I know dropped way back, I didnâ€™t feel comfortable dropping that far back, because track position is huge here.â€�
Although Kraus was the one celebrating in Victory Lane, Gibbs, making his first career K&N Pro Series start, was satisfied with his runner-up result for DGR Crosley.
â€œThat was just me getting all I could get,â€� Gibbs said of his contact while racing for the lead. â€œIâ€™m sorry to the No. 18 (Garrett). I hit him down there one time. He was crowding me so that didnâ€™t help much but it was a blast and a lot of fun. I gained a lot of experience and weâ€™re going to come back and win the next one.â€�
Spencer Davis, Ruben Garcia Jr., Drew Dollar and Connor Hall completed the top 10. After starting from the pole, Hailie Deegan finished 16th and was forced to retire early due to electrical issues for the second year in a row at New Smyrna.
The next event for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will be the Zombie Auto 150 on Saturday, April 6 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (16) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wis., Toyota, 175 laps, 68.123 mph.
2. (9) Ty Gibbs, Charlotte, NC, Toyota, 175.
3. (3) Brandon McReynolds, Mooresville, N.C., Chevrolet, 175.
4. (4) Sam Mayer, Franklin, WI, Chevrolet, 175.
5. (7) Anthony Sergi, Oviedo, Fla., Toyota, 175.
6. (5) Colin Garrett, Elmo, Va., Toyota, 175.
7. (11) Spencer Davis, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford, 175.
8. (10) Ruben Garcia Jr., Mexico City, Mexico, Toyota, 175.
9. (2) Drew Dollar, Atlanta, GA, Toyota, 175.
10. (14) Connor Hall, Hampton, Va., Chevrolet, 175.
11. (13) Max McLaughlin, Mooresville, NC, Toyota, 175.
12. (8) Tanner Gray, Artesia, NM, Toyota, 175.
13. (17) Brandon Oakley, Beavercreek, Ohio, Chevrolet, 175.
14. (12) Mason Diaz, Manassas, VA, Chevrolet, 170.
15. (15) Brittney Zamora, Kennewick, WA, Toyota, 156, accident.
16. (1) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, CA, Toyota, 127, electrical.
17. (6) Chase Cabre, Tampa, Fla., Toyota, 77, rear end.
18. (18) Juan Manuel Gonzalez, Mexico City, Mexico, Toyota, 65, engine.
19. (19) Chuck Buchanan Jr., Hildebran, N.C., Ford, 20, rear end.
Time of Race: 1 hour 13 minutes 59 seconds
Margin of Victory: 1.058 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: L.Set Per the Rulebook ( mph, seconds)
Caution Flags: 6 for 27 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: H. Deegan 1-6; C. Cabre 7-13; D. Dollar 14-23; C. Cabre 24-29; D. Dollar 30-67; C. Garrett 68-131; T. Gibbs 132-135; D. Kraus 136-175.
Standings: 1. D. Kraus, 47; 2. B. McReynolds, 41; 3. S. Mayer, 40; 4. C. Garrett, 40; 5. A. Sergi, 39; 6. S. Davis, 37; 7. R. Garcia Jr., 36; 8. D. Dollar, 36; 9. C. Hall, 34; 10. Max McLaughlin, 32