Murrieta, California Native Will Rodgers Makes Transition into K&N Pro Series West

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Will Rodgers races for Jefferson Pitts Racing

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West rookie Will Rodgers was the runner-up in the race at Sonoma Raceway

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West rookie Will Rodgers is coming off his best finish of the season. He came in second in the race at Sonoma Raceway. He and NASCAR Monster Energy driver Kevin Harvick battled for the lead over the final laps of the race. At one point, Rodgers and Harvick had a nine-second lead over the rest of the field.

“It’s more than I expected overall,” said Rodgers who drives for Jefferson Pitts Racing. “Friday when we showed up, we unloaded off the truck really well. The car did exactly what I wanted it to do. We made a few tiny adjustments. But ultimately went back to the setup we unloaded with off the truck for the race. Obviously it worked out really well.”

Rodgers has put together an impressive rookie season. He won the pole at Sonoma Raceway. He is in fourth place in the K&N Pro Series West standings after eight races. He has five top-five finishes and is in prime position to win the rookie of the year. He is third in the rookie standings, one point behind Kody Vanderwal and eight points behind Derek Kraus.

“As far as experience goes, I have experience in five different types of motorsports,” Rodgers said. “Sonoma was my 13th stock car race ever. I have zero late model experience or modifieds. I jumped immediately from sports car racing into full-blown stock cars.”

Rodgers started the season with a string of top-five finishes. He opened the season in Arizona with a fifth-place finish in the K&N Pro Series West race at Tucson Speedway in March. He followed with a third-place finish at Kern County Raceway Park in California five days later. He posted a pair of fifth-place finishes at Irwindale Speedway.

“This is the first time I’ve been to all of these tracks except Sonoma,” Rodgers said. “Our first time to Kern County, again we unloaded off the truck and the car just fired off exactly how we wanted it to. We made little adjustments again and improved it. We did maximize the equipment when we were there.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Will Rodgers won pole at Sonoma Raceway

Will Rodgers won his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West pole at Sonoma Raceway

“We have the potential to do well on these circuits too. That was definitely one that stood out. Those were kind of our best finishes of the year. That was a great week for us.”

He hit a bit of a road bump in May. He was 19th in the K&N Pro Series West race at Spokane County Raceway in Washington and 20th in the race at Orange Show Speedway in California. He moved back into the top 10 at Colorado National Speedway in June when he was ninth.

“The last three oval races didn’t show what we wanted,” Rodgers said. “Those three races were kind of a bummer. That was kind of the slump in our season. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

The 22-year-old from Murrieta, California, has a diverse racing career. He won a Hawaii state go-karting championship in 2005. He has raced in motocross, off-road trucks, UTVs, and road racing cars. He competed in the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car series before moving to stock cars and NASCAR.

His trip to Sonoma Raceway's 1.99-mile road course was not his first. It is why he was so successful on the difficult track. The field included Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney, drivers from the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series. Rodgers kept his car in front of Suarez and Blaney for the entire race.

“To put my name in front of guys like Kevin Harvick, Suarez, and Blaney was pretty awesome,” Rodgers said. “The weekend started off really well that way. It was definitely the highlight of the year so far. It was pretty great.”

Chasing down Harvick was another story. While Rodgers was able to keep pace with the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, he wasn’t able to pass him. Still, bringing the car home in second place was quite an accomplishment and a much needed boost after a little slump the past couple of weeks.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver Will Rodgers racing at Sonoma Speedway in California

Will Rodgers led the first 26 laps of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway

“Through those laps, I kind of settled in behind Kevin and I knew the laps were clicking down and we had to make a move,” Rodgers said. “The caution before I kind of figured out where I was faster than Kevin and where he was faster than me. Those last few laps I tried to utilize that. I made a few little mistakes, Kevin did as well. That allowed me to, on the last lap, get right on his bumper and challenge him. I ultimately decided not to make the move that would have been controversial, I guess, in turn 11. We poked our nose in there, but I decided I’m going to race this guy exactly how I want to be raced. He’s a Cup champion, he’s the kind of guy that likes to race people clean and when other people don’t race him clean, he doesn’t take it kindly.

“I think we made the right decision. That was definitely worth it.”

The next race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series is at Iowa Speedway. It will pit the drivers and teams from the K&N Pro Series East and West in the same race.

“We’re going to be able to adapt quickly,” Rodgers said. “My hope is that we finish top five overall. I think we’re going to be able to do that as long as we don’t have any issues early on.”