Drive to the Title: Championship Preview

It’s all but over, now.

With K&N Pro Series West points leader, Derek Kraus, adding another trophy to his collection at Kern County Raceway Park, Kraus has mathematically eliminated all but one driver in the points standings heading to the Arizona Lottery 100 championship race at ISM Raceway.

It’s the first time since 2015 that the series has visited the desert, and the entry list represents that. Only three drivers in the field have ever raced at ISM Raceway, including Tucson’s Matt Levin. One of which, being Derek Kraus, has only ever raced in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, not a K&N Pro Series car.

Kraus has been dominant all year long. His fifth win of 2019 is just a summary of this K&N West season. Kraus qualified on the pole, and no one would ever pass him.

Kraus led all 155 laps in California which gave him a 47-point lead over the field. Jagger Jones jumped up to the runner-up spot in points, finishing second at Kern County, the same track he won a track championship at in the NASCAR Late Model series last year.

Jones is the only driver in the field that can still mathematically win the championship behind Kraus. In order to take the title, Jones must lead the most laps, win the race, and oh yeah, Derek Kraus can’t start the race. If Kraus takes the green flag, he clinches the championship.

“This year we’ve had a lot better luck than we had last year,” Kraus told The Inside Lane last week. “This year, if something bad did happen, I feel like we were able to capitalize and make it a good night.”

Jones, though, won’t go home without a lack of hardware. The 17-year-old has already locked up Rookie of the Year honors over Brittney Zamora. Jones is a Scottsdale resident and will race at ISM Raceway for the first time in his career, to the delight of his Notre Dame Preparatory classmates.

“’When are you coming to race here?’ ‘When are you racing in Arizona?’ So, for that to be on the schedule, it’s cool for me to be able to sleep in my own bed and go race the K&N car,” Jones said. “Hopefully I can get some of them to come out and watch me at ISM Raceway, I know a lot of my friends are going to come out and watch.”

Another Arizonan in this race will be Tucson’s, Matt Levin. Levin is not a full-time racer in the series at age 43 but does own a couple of cars. In the Levin Racing stable will be two young hotshot drivers. He places Ty Gibbs, the 16-year-old grandson of NASCAR Cup owner and former NFL coach, Joe Gibbs, and future full-time racer in the Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series, Riley Herbst, in his cars. Levin will not be in one of his cars but instead, race for JP Racing in the No. 27.

With Gibbs and Herbst joining the lineup on Saturday, the competition became even more intense. To add on to that intensity, 2019 K&N Pro Series East champion, Sam Mayer, will also be competing. Mayer has dominated the West Series drivers in both combination races in 2019.

So, who has the advantage? Kraus has been dominant all year and will also be competing in the Truck Series race the night before, getting some valuable experience over the rest of the field. The issue is, it was announced this week that Sam Mayer will be racing the night before as well.

On the K&N West Schedule, Iowa and Gateway are the most similar tracks to ISM Raceway, but still shorter than ISM’s 1-mile length. Both races were combination races between the East and West Series. Mayer won at Iowa, and Kraus was the highest finisher of any driver on the entry list at Gateway. We’ll likely be watching at an intense dual between the K&N West and East champions and Wisconson natives, Kraus and Mayer. 25 cars are on the entry list as of Thursday, the most in any K&N Pro Series West races besides the road course at Sonoma.

The Arizona Lottery 100 is free to the public. ISM Raceway is just asking for fans to donate non-perishable food items or new toys to support the Valley of the Sun United Way and those in need within the community. The race is scheduled to start a 4:15 p.m. Arizona Time on Saturday, Nov. 9, following the conclusion of the Xfinity Series’ Desert Diamond 200.