Toddy Gilliland did his best but there was no catching Derek Kraus on Saturday night in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 150 at Kern County Raceway Park.
No matter. It was a win-win situation.
Kraus won his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race and Gilliland, his teammate, won his second straight championship for Bill McAnally Racing.
It was a clean podium sweep for BMR as Riley Herbst came home third on the paved half-mile oval.
“We were both going really hard, I was giving it 100 percent,” said Gilliland, who wound up a half-second behind. “That’s how it is. It all comes down to track position. You have to run your own race here. It’s tough because it’s really hard on the tires but I think we played our race as best we could.”
Kraus, who also won rookie of the year, agreed that tires played a huge role and his were the best after the halfway break.
“I think we saved a lot of tires and I think that really helped us at the end of the race,” Kraus said, noting that his spotter, Eric Holmes, pressed that point.
“Eric was keeping it in my ear the whole night, just save tires, save tires, save tires and that’s what we did and I think that’s what helped us in the long run,” he said.
The first half of the race was a real battle but Kraus and Gilliland pulled away from the field over the final 44 laps. Herbst was a distant third, followed by Michael Self, Dillon Bassett and Bakersfield drivers Derek Thorn and Buddy Shepherd.
“We’ve been waiting all year for this win,” said Kraus. “It’s been a really good night, getting the rookie of the year and my first race win.That’s really great for me and may career and hopefully a boost toward next season.”
Not only did Bill McAnally Racing finish 1-2-3 in the race, they finished that way in points as well. Chris Eggleston was second with Krause third.
“It means the world to finish one off,” said Gilliland, who finished second in the the K&N East championship race. “The whole season comes down to this race. I’m just super proud of everyone at Bill McAnally Racing. It’s a really great way to end the season.
“We always want the win but this is super special for us, for sure.”
Gilliland, who qualified on the pole, led the first two laps before Kraus and Bassett started swapping the top spot.
The first 19 laps were especially racey, as most of the drivers battled side-by side until the first caution flew on the 20th lap.
Bassett and Eggleston fought for the top spot after the race restarted with Eggleston getting it on the 25th lap. Another caution fell on the 34th lap and once again it was Bassett and Eggleston battling for the lead when the race restarted on lap 45. Egleston took the lead for several laps but Bassett regained the point and led to the half-way break after 75 laps were completed.
The night started with a 15-lap 911 Series race, won by Victoria Johns, driving the Bakersfield Police Department car. She ended up in the outside wall after the finish, after contact from runner-up Bill Ballard Jr of the Bakersfield Fire Department.