Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

Derek Kraus Moves Up to Truck Series Full Time

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Bill McAnally will field a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series entry as it was announced Monday that he and businessman Bill Hilgemann formed McAnally-Hilgemann Racing with K&N West champion Derek Kraus running the No. 19 Toyota Tundra on a full-time basis.

Kraus ruled the regional level where in 2019 alone, he scored seven Pro Series wins (five in the West) and brought McAnally its ninth series title.

Calling the shots for the Stratford, Wisconsin native will be McAnally’s general manager Kevin Bellicourt, who was Kraus’ crew chief in the four races he qualified last year.

The 18-year-old stated he’s excited of making the jump and have Bellicourt on his side.

“Moving up to the truck series will be a big learning experience for me,” Kraus said. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with Kevin Bellicourt and the team. It’s going be a fun year.”

Hilgemann, who like Kraus; is from Stratford, is thrilled of forming the race team with McAnally and give Kraus an opportunity to compete at the next level.

“We’re proud to announce the formation of this team,” Hilgemann said. “Bill McAnally has a great reputation in the industry and I’m pleased to put this program together with him.

“Derek is a talented young driver and we are excited to have him behind the wheel.”

Additionally, the race team formed an alliance with Hattori Racing Enterprises, where they’ll work close with HRE General Manager Mike Greci and Austin Hill’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli.

McAnally said coming back into the Truck Series full-time showcases they’re fully committed of continuing guiding Kraus’ racing career.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to partner with Bill Hilgemann and compete in the truck series on a full-time basis,” McAnally said. “We have been working hard to put things in place to move Derek to the next level in NASCAR.

“It’s been great to be part of his development in the K&N Series these past three years. We look forward to moving ahead in advancing his career.”

McAnally added that aligning with HRE, who’ve proven to be a championship caliber team the last two seasons with Hill and Brett Moffitt winning the 2018 series title, will be challenging yet beneficial.

“This move is a big challenge and we are grateful for the opportunity to form an alliance with HRE,” McAnally said. “We’re excited to be working with a team that has their winning record in the series. Our relationship with such a strong Toyota program will be beneficial to us and we see it as a key to accelerating our program.”

With McAnally’s West team and personal businesses operating in Roseville, California, Greci knew that a Truck Series effort outside of North Carolina would be a logistical nightmare and help would be needed to make the expansion much smoother.

“To try to race the truck series from the West Coast is probably next to impossible. We’re a Toyota TRD team and Bill is a Toyota TRD team. We’re happy that we’ve got our program running well. Our focus is to help Bill get his program going.”

Greci believes helping MHR will provide new opportunities for crew members as it was McAnally who gave Greci a job two decades ago and have remained friends ever since.

“We’ve always been a single team,” Greci said. “Now we have team help. I think it’s a good situation for everybody. It’s about getting together. I think there’s a benefit to both race teams in doing this. I think it will be a good season for everybody.

“With this alliance between HRE and MHR, we will be looking for qualified, driven and caring employees who want to win.”

Kraus has five previous Truck Series starts, highlighted with a pair of eighth-place finishes in his debut at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 2018) and Dover International Speedway (May 2019) being his best result to date.

McAnally will still field cars on the rebranded ARCA Menards Series West in 2020 with its driver lineup yet to be determined.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.