Cole Rouse grabbed a runner-up finish, while his Bill McAnally Racing teammate, Derek Kraus, took fourth at New Smyrna Speedway on Sunday night as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East kicked off its 2018 season as part of NASCAR’s Speedweeks in Florida.
Rouse – a 20-year-old from Fort Smith, Arkansas – was making his first start for BMR in the No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota Camry as he returned to the K&N Pro Series, where he competed in the West division as a rookie in 2016.
“We were battling a little handling issue,” Rouse said of the closing laps of Sunday’s race. “I thought we could possibly get by for the win.”
He expressed his appreciation to his team, meanwhile, for preparing a fast race car.
“The BMR crew worked hard to give me a really fast NAPA Filters Toyota,” he said. “This makes for a great start to the season.”
Kraus – a Stratford, Wisconsin teenager who won the rookie title and finished third in the championship standings last year as a 15-year-old in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – was making his first start since taking the seat of BMR’s No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry.
Rouse started third on the grid in Sunday’s 175-lap event, while Kraus rolled off from the seventh spot. Rouse stayed in third for most of the race, with Kraus working his way to fourth and then challenging his teammate in the second half of the event. Rouse took advantage of a battle between the two lead cars in the final laps, to slip by and grab second coming to the checkered flag, while Kraus took fourth.
The race ended early for their BMR teammate, Hailie Deegan, who was making her series debut in the No. 19 Mobil 1 / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry. The 16-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Temecula, California qualified ninth, but coasted to a stop with mechanical trouble 19 laps into the race.
The event was won by Todd Gilliland, who garnered back-to-back series championships driving for BMR in 2016 and 2017 – before moving on to focus primarily on racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year, while also running select K&N events for David Gilliland Racing.
Rouse, Kraus, and Deegan are set to run the full 15-race schedule in the West division of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series this year – while also racing in select events in the East division. The K&N West opens its 2018 season at Kern County Raceway Park near Bakersfield, California on March 15.
BMR provided a group of NAPA guests in attendance at New Smyrna Speedway with a VIP experience, courtesy of Chris Wall, general manager of NAPA’s Jacksonville Distribution Center. The guests went behind the scenes with a special pit tour, attended the drivers’ meeting, and were guests at a VIP Hospitality. Earlier in the day, they had the opportunity to attend the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
The New Smyrna race is slated to be televised on NBCSN on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. ET.
The next event on the K&N Pro Series East schedule will be at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on April 14.