It was a back-and-forth battle all day, but Chris Eggleston came out on top at Tucson Speedway.
Leading 80 of 150 laps in the NAPA Auto Parts Tucson 150, Eggleston beat pole-sitter and defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, Todd Gilliland, to the line to take his sixth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory with his No. 99 NAPA Filters Toyota.
The 27-year-old from Erie, Colorado native, said he stepped up his game for the second half of the event and is grateful to start the 2017 season off in Victory Lane after a doubtful off-season.
In a way, the same can be said for second-place finisher Gilliland. Leading the most laps of the night, the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, and his No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota held off the pack on numerous late restarts to bring it home in the runner-up position for the second straight year at Tucson. The result also continues a streak of nine consecutive top-10 finishes for the NASCAR Next driver.
One of the drivers Gilliland had to hold off was 20-year-old Garrett Archer. In only his second K&N West start, the Maple Valley, Washington, driver jumped his No. 27 Recruit 4 Business Ford to the outside lane on the final restart, advancing from sixth to second until Gilliland re-passed him for the spot. Still, a third-place result is a positive way to kick off the year, he says.
In what was a relatively clean night of racing, there were still a handful of single-car spins that halted the action. Salvatore Iovino, who spun in final practice earlier in the day, continued to struggle with the car’s handling, losing his No. 38 Infinite Wireless Chevrolet on three occasions in the 150-lapper.
He was not the only one, as Riley Herbst and Rich DeLong III also lost their cars on each end of the track.
On the positive end, Zane Smith came home with a top-five finish in fourth followed by Will Rodgers in fifth, while Derek Kraus, Brandon Schilling, Kody Vanderwal and Nicole Behar rounded out top 10.
Eggleston’s victory at Tucson, also put him in the position to win $100,000. As a part of the NAPA 500 Challenge, should a driver win all four races, they will take home the steep money bonus.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be back in action for race two of the NAPA 500 Challenge Thursday, March 23 at California’s Kern County Raceway Park.