For the first time in the four year history of the Winter Showdown, the state of Wisconsin will be represented at the highest paying asphalt Super Late Model event of the year. Ty Majeski and Derek Kraus will represent the Badger State on February 1-3 and will attempt to double team the competition at Kern County Raceway Park (CA).
Wisconsin is known as a hotbed for Super Late Model racing, but up until this season, no driver from the “Badger State” has visited the Winter Showdown. This year, two of the state’s best will make the 2,000-mile trek to Bakersfield, CA hoping for a shot at the $30,000 winner’s share of the $147,000 feature purse.
Majeski and Kraus will combine their forces, traveling together to California, while using Kraus’ familiarity of Kern County Raceway and Majeski’s experience and knowledge in premier Super Late Model events. It has been a race that both Majeski and Kraus have had circled on their calendars for a while.
“It has been a race that we had our eye on since the first time it was run,” Kraus told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The track is really nice, and now that I got to race on it (in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), I was able to tell Ty how great of a place it was. Ty and I travel to out of state races together a lot, and it was hard the first few years of the Showdown because of Speedweeks the weekend after. But this year we decided to go. It will be really fun.”
Majeski has observed the Winter Showdown over the last several years and was pleased to finally get a chance to compete in the event.
“It just worked out a little bit better with my schedule this year,” Majeski told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We weren’t going to be able to do Speedweeks this year, and we knew Kern was the week before. So, we thought it would be a good opportunity for us to put something together and go out there to a race we have been trying to get out to for the last couple of years. Obviously, it’s probably the highest paying Super Late Model race in the country, and we wanted to throw our hat in the mix for it. So, we’ll go out to California and see what we can do.”
Both drivers have been extremely successful in racing to this point in their young careers. Majeski is slated to participate in a partial NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule as a member of the Roush Racing Driver Development Program. He will also participate in a schedule of Super Late Model events, yet to be announced. At 23 years of age, Majeski’s accomplishments are almost too numerous to list, but some of them include being a four-time ARCA Midwest Tour Series champion and a World Series of Asphalt Short Track Racing Super Late Model Champion at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). He was also the number one draft pick in the 2016 Speed51.com Short Track Draft.
Majeski feels his experience at New Smyrna Speedway will be a big help for the Winter Showdown.
“We have talked to some folks and a lot of people say they run their New Smyrna stuff out there,” Majeski explained. “They say if you run good at New Smyrna, you’ll run well at Kern. We have a pretty good record at New Smyrna, so hopefully, we can unload with that setup and be in the ballpark, and just work on the car from there.”
Majeski already has a NASCAR XFINITY Series top-10 finish in only three career starts. He has won Super Late Model races such as the Florida Governor’s Cup (twice) at New Smyrna Speedway, the Rattler 250 (twice) at South Alabama Speedway (AL), Oktoberfest and the Dick Trickle 99 at Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway (WI), and the Howie Lettow Memorial at Madison International Speedway (WI). In fact, Majeski won so many races on the ARCA Midwest Tour that a bounty was placed on his head earlier this year for anyone who could defeat him at Grundy County Speedway (IL). That race was his only finish outside the top three during his 2017 championship season.
Majeski takes great pride in his victories across the Midwest and Southeast, but none stand out far above the others at this time. He is proud of the consistency his team has possessed over the years.
“I don’t know if there was one particular race that has stuck out in my mind because we have won the Governor’s Cup three times and the Rattler twice,” Majeski began. “We have won a lot of these races multiple times. I think being able to be consistent and be one of the best in the country for quite a long period of time is our best accomplishment. It is something that is really hard to do. Everyone knows that racing changes by the week, so it is really hard to stay on top of everything. It is really hard to get to the top, and it is even harder to stay there.”
The teenage Kraus also had a prosperous 2017 season, finishing third in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and winning the Rookie of the Year title. Car owner Bill McAnally was so impressed with the rookie that he will bring Kraus back for another season. This time he will be in the team’s flagship No. 16 entry that Todd Gilliland piloted to a championship the last two seasons.
Kraus capped off his rookie season in the west with a win in the season finale. It was a victory at Kern County Raceway, the same track that hosts the Winter Showdown. The victory gives him the confidence that he can run up front in the Showdown and come home with a good finish.
“My expectations are to go there and get a top ten out of it,” Kraus stated. “I have experience at the track and I’m sure it won’t be that much different from a K&N car to a Super Late Model. I really like the track, and how fast and smooth it is.”
The 16-year-old driver has also had success in the Super Late Model ranks. He finished fourth in the ARCA Midwest Tour Standings in 2016 at the age of 14. It was his rookie season in the series. He scored a victory at Dells Raceway Park (WI) during that campaign, along with three top-five finishes in 10 starts.
In 2017, he scored four top-10 finishes in his six starts. Kraus also took part in the World Series of Asphalt Short Track Racing from 2015 to 2017 in the Super Late Model Division at New Smyrna Speedway. He began as a mere 13-year-old and has scored three top ten finishes during those years. Impressively, Kraus has qualified for all three of his attempts at the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) but is still looking for his first top 10.
The young drivers will be teaming up for the 2018 Winter Showdown and Majeski believes it will be beneficial for both teams.
“Derek has obviously run well out there, and our cars are pretty much built the same. We kind of work together and it was a good opportunity to go out there together and help with the costs for all of us,” Majeski said. “My crew chief (Toby Nuttleman) can be a little more hands-on with him and we can share information. He can help me get acclimated to the race track and hopefully, we can help him with some setup stuff. I think it will be beneficial for all of us involved.”
Both Majeski and Kraus have experience in marque Super Late Model events and know that the Winter Showdown has grown into one of the biggest events of its kind in the country.
“I think the Showdown really ranks up there for sure,” Majeski began. “But I obviously haven’t been out there to see the venue and seen how things are run. I’m really eager to get out there. I know it is a premier event for Super Late Models in the country. I’m just excited to get out there for it. Like I said, it has been something I’ve wanted to do and I’m just really happy that it all came together this year.
“I am really thankful to my car owners, Brad and Nancy Mannstedt of Team M Racing, for the opportunity. We are just really looking forward to it, and I know there are going to be a lot of great race cars there. I am really looking forward to the challenge.”
Kraus, the Generation Ganassi Class of 2016 driver, has similar feelings despite knowing that the event lacks some of the history which other Super Late Model races have.
“I think the event ranks up there with the Snowball Derby. The race is pretty new, so each year they will have more and more cars that will come,” Kraus said. “I think in the next few years, the race will be huge. Kyle Busch is going, so if he recognizes the race that means they (SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series) are doing something right with the Showdown. I think it is a great event, and I am thankful that sponsors like B&K Trucking have made it possible for our team to attend.”
On February 3, both Ty Majeski and Derek Kraus will battle it out at Kern County Raceway Park against an all-star field of Super Late Model drivers. Both will be expecting good finishes, but Majeski sums up his expectations very succinctly.
“There are going to be a lot of good race teams out there, but anytime we go out to the race track we show up to win. That is the bottom line. If we don’t, we will be disappointed.”
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com