Tuesday, October 30, 2018

K&N WEST: Alaskan Keith McGee finds no success in first K&N race

PHOTO: @keith_mcgee_7 on Instagram
by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Keith McGee scored the first last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Saturday night’s NAPA Auto Parts 175 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at Kern County Raceway when his #39 Fast5Racing / CCA Motorsports Toyota retired with clutch issues after 16 of 175 laps. The finish came in McGee’s series debut.

McGee grew up in the Lake Tahoe area of California dreaming, like many do, of being a NASCAR driver. Like most, life had other plans for him and the dream was left alone. In 2017, the then-35 year old decided to revisit that dream, running a season of Baby Grands at Alaska Raceway Park (ARP). He returned to ARP for another season of Baby Grands this year, winning the final two features of the season. After the season ended the first weekend of September, he raced a Legends car on dirt to try and expand his horizons. He also went down to Talladega with a group of friends for the fall race, where he found his way on-camera, being interviewed by NBC personality Rutledge Wood during the race.

As for debuting in the K&N Series? McGee only announced it on his Instagram page on Wednesday before the race, showing a fully prepped car in the Patriot Motorsports Group shop. He joined eighteen other cars on the initial entry list. Taylor Canfield and Travis Milburn rounded out PMG’s slate of drivers. Ron Norman returned in his #40, and David Mayhew came back for his third race this season with Steve McGowan racing and the #17 team. Perhaps the most anticipated story on the entry list was a new father-son combination in NASCAR: veteran racers Billy and Bill Kann were slated to compete in their first K&N West race together. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as the elder Billy withdrew the week of the race.

Only sixteen cars participated in first practice. Of those, Canfield was the slowest, his lap of 20.415 seconds almost two seconds behind Ryan Partridge’s hot laps. Second practice was nearly identical. This time, all eighteen cars took to the track. Partridge again led with a lap in the 18.5-second range, and the last-place car again ran a lap in the 20.4-second range. Instead of Canfield trailing, McGee was at the rear this time around, running only sixteen laps around the half-mile track. Speeds got more spread out during qualifying, as the top of the field dropped their times, led by Hailie Deegan’s 18.3-second lap. McGee did not put down a great lap in qualifying, his lap of 20.7 a full half-second off of Canfield in 17th.

McGee called his K&N debut a “dream come true”. Unfortunately, this time it only lasted about eight minutes, as the #39 exited after sixteen laps with clutch issues. PMG teammate Travis Milburn was next to retire, citing suspension issues after 31 laps. Rich DeLong III was the only other car to retire from the event, an oil leak proving too much to overcome after 137 laps. Ron Norman was the last car running, finishing ten laps down. Canfield rounded out the Bottom Five, finishing eight laps down.

As for LASTCAR championships, all had been previously clinched. Chevrolet finished last for the tenth time this season, further extending its lead. By virtue of a new last-place finisher, Jesse Iwuji becomes the only driver in 2018 to have multiple last-place finishes in the K&N Pro Series West. Patriot Motorsports Group finished last for the eighth time this season, with McGee the sixth different driver to finish last for the organization in 2018.

18) #39-Keith McGee / 16 laps / clutch
17) #08-Travis Milburn / 31 laps / suspension
16) #84-Rich DeLong III / 137 laps / oil leak
15) #40-Ron Norman / 165 laps / running
14) #36-Taylor Canfield / 167 laps / running

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota, Ford (2)

1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (8)
2nd) B&B Motorsports, Bill McAnally Racing, Flyin Dutchman Racing, Hollis Thackeray, Norman Levin Racing, Rich DeLong Jr. (1)

Note: 45 drivers recorded a Bottom Ten finish, and 31 recorded a Bottom Five. The top twenty are shown in this snapshot.

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