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Tyler Ankrum celebrates title, eyes similar path as past K&N East champs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The list of K&N Pro Series East champions is both long and distinctive. After this season, it has just a bit more of a Western flavor, too.

Champion Tyler Ankrum capped his title-running year Friday evening in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he was formally crowned as the series champion at the NASCAR Regional, International and Local Awards Banquet.

“It’s actually funny, I’m the second guy from California to win the championship,” Ankrum said after walking the red carpet. “Kyle Larson was the first. That was an interesting stat when you see where he’s at, so that’s pretty cool.”

MORE: In-depth Ankrum stats

The mention of Larson, one of the many young stars at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level, also underscores the path Ankrum hopes to take in the ensuing years following his K&N Pro Series East championship.

Harrison Burton. Justin Haley. William Byron. Three marquee names with full-time rides in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Series. Also, the previous three K&N Pro Series East champs.

Add Larson. Plus Joey Logano. The very best in the world, competing for premier series wins every week … and former K&N Pro Series East champs.

“For sure,” Ankrum said when he asked if he hoped to follow a similar path. “I wouldn’t be doing this if i didn’t want to go all the way. I’m really excited for what we’ve got in the future, and I just hope I make it.”

He’s well on his way. Ankrum, 17, won a series-high four races in his rookie season. He had never been in a K&N East car before this season. His nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes (in 14 races) were three more than any other driver, in both categories.

The championship campaign also served as the launching point for likely new ventures next season.

“Hopefully I’m truck racing next year,” Ankrum said. “We’re trying to work on a full deal with DGR-Crosley and hopefully we can pull that off. But if not, you’ll see me in the ARCA Series part time and the Truck Series part time.”

Before 2019 though, Ankrum put a cap on 2018. He walked the red carpet, posed for pictures and gave interviews. He stood before his peers and others in the industry and delivered a championship speech.

“This is the sink-in process,” Ankrum said. “It’s crazy, you see all those people at the race track and they’re up to their neck in grease, they’re in their work clothes. To see everyone all clean shaven and in their ties and suits, it’s pretty nice. It’s a good way to end the year.”