By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
New high school graduate Derek Kraus put on his best overall performance of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series campaign, finishing fifth in Friday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 at Kansas Speedway.
The Wisconsin racer had to miss his Stratford High School graduation ceremony to compete in the Kansas doubleheader as he entered the first of two 134-lap races outside the top-10 in points after eight races.
“I feel like tonight we had a really good run, and it was a special night, for me it was graduation. I got my diploma from my principal back in Strafford, Wisconsin,” Kraus on graduating with a 3.0 GPA. “I really can’t thank them guys enough. They let me chase my dreams of racing, and they let me miss as much school as I needed to, to chase my dreams. I just can’t thank them enough, and tonight was a really good night to have a good finish.”
Right out of the gate, Kraus’ No. 19 ENEOS/NAPA Filters Toyota Tundra showed strength on the long runs. No matter where he was on the restarts, the 15th place starter worked through the competition and with a sixth and fifth place result in the first two stages, he collected 11 points.
The 18-year-old ended up in a three-way tie for the second most stage points of the race, eight shy of eventual race winner Austin Hill’s 19 points. The other two who equaled Kraus’ total were Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes.
In the closing laps, Kraus had gone by Johnny Sauter for the sixth position, setting himself up to chase down Smith for the fifth position. With nine laps remaining, Kraus was able to get the job done as he went low in Turn 3, making most out of a slight bobble by Smith.
Moments later, Kraus cleared Smith and never looked back as the superb result was Kraus’ first top-five since the season opener at Daytona where he finished fourth.
“Our ENEOS Toyota Tundra was really fast tonight. I felt like right from the drop of the green flag we had a good Tundra,” said Kraus. “We were able to drive from 15th to seventh/eighth at the end of that first stage. Then, we fell back a little bit on the pit stop and then made our way back up and finished fifth at the end of the night. I feel like that was a really good run and a really good way to start off the weekend.”
As far as the playoff picture is concern, Kraus gained tremendous ground following Tyler Ankrum, who went to the garage on Lap 12 due to having no brakes. Ankrum lost 22 laps and finished 33rd out of the 38-truck field.
With Kraus finishing in the top-five, he’s now four points above the cutoff line over Ankrum going into tomorrow’s E.P.T 200 (1:00 p.m. EST on FS1) as he’ll roll off 11th.
“We just need to have good runs. Tonight was a really good run. We had a really good start to the weekend, as we have that race tomorrow,” Kraus on being back in the top-10 points standings. “I feel like we just have to have consistently good runs, finish inside the top 10 every week. If we do that, and do our jobs, we will be in the top 10 I feel like.”