Derek Kraus will return to Wisconsin this weekend to compete with the ARCA Midwest Tour at his home track of State Park Speedway. While it may seem like a normal trip home, it will be anything but that. For the first time in his career, the current NASCAR K&N Pro Series East & West points leader will be competing against his father, Mark.
Fresh off a sweep in the K&N West Twin 100’s Saturday night at Tucson Speedway (AZ), the younger Kraus is looking to add to the success he has had so far this season. Along with the points lead in both series, he has four wins between the two and a top-10 finish in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at Dover.
He is excited to return home to compete against and in front of his family at State Park Speedway this weekend.
“It’s always fun to come back to the Midwest and race with the Midwest Tour,” Kraus said. “I really like coming back to Wisconsin and racing here at our home track in Wausau. It’ll be a big race; a lot of family will be there. It’ll be fun to have family and friends at the race track.”
Derek’s father Mark Kraus will be making his first start behind the wheel of a race car since the 2015 Snowball Derby, marking the first time the father-son duo have ever raced against each other. The younger Kraus is excited for the opportunity to compete against his father in cars prepared by Toby Nuttleman.
“I’m sure it’s going to be fun,” Derek said. “To be able to share with each other and with what we’re doing differently. He hasn’t been in the race car since the Derby in 2015, so it’s been a while. I’m sure he’ll have to knock a little rust off, but once we get going he should be fine.”
The elder Kraus mentioned that racing against his son was in the plans for last season before Derek’s busy schedule with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series prevented it from taking place. With all the cards falling into the right place for it to happen this year, Mark is excited to compete against Derek as he works up the ladder.
“I guess I’m not sure since I’ve never done it before, but it should be fun,” the elder Kraus said about the prospect of facing his son. “We were going to do it one time last year and with his schedule, it just never worked. It happened to work out this year, we have both cars ready and available to do it.”
The younger Kraus hasn’t made many starts in a Super Late Model recently because of his duties with Bill McAnally Racing. He says the biggest adjustment with going to a Late Model is the vast difference between it and the heavier stock car.
“The cars are so much different,” Derek said. “The cars and the tires, you got to be able to work both in both cars. You got to change your lifting points, change how much you need to get on the brake and the gas. It’s something a little bit different, but once I make a few laps I should be right back to normal.”
While he’s clicked off wins in both NASCAR K&N Pro Series divisions, he has struggled to find success behind the wheel of a Super Late Model. His lone major win came in an ARCA Midwest Tour race at Dells Raceway Park in 2016, becoming the youngest driver to win a race at the age of 15. He’s looking for a win in this weekend’s race to prove he can get the job done in a Late Model and to improve his Speed51 Short Track Draft stock in the future.
“We got to improve that draft pick here before too long,” he said. “This weekend we’re racing the Midwest Tour with the Late Model, so we tested last week at State Park. I think we’ve got it pretty good, we just got to go prove ourselves that we can win this weekend in a Super Late Model.”
While he has raced all over the country over the past couple years, his father hasn’t stepped behind the wheel of a race car in over three years. He expects a little rust at the start of practice, but expects to get reacclimated quickly and is excited to get to work with one of the top crew chiefs in the country.
“Probably quite a bit, the last race I ran was the 2015 Snowball Derby,” the elder Kraus said. “It would probably be the throttle, just getting used to being easy on the throttle. Other than that, hopefully it all comes back pretty quick. They should have a pretty good car. I’ve never driven a Toby (Nuttleman) car before. I’ve never been in the equipment like he has, so it’ll be interesting to see how that is.”
Mark didn’t hesitate to admit that his son will have the advantage come Saturday due to their past experiences at the track. With everything said, he is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and competing against Derek in front of their family.
“He’s better at this place than I am, I really don’t enjoy Wausau at all,” he said. “I’ve only raced there six times and he’s raced there I don’t know how many times, he’s got a lot more laps around there than I do. We’re looking forward to going back home and racing again in front of the home crowd where he cut his teeth.”
The younger Kraus doesn’t feel any added pressure to beat his dad. He plans on taking the day like any other race and having fun competing against his dad for the first time, hoping one of them will end the race in victory lane.
“I feel like you go to every race track wanting to win the race, so we’ll try our best to win the race,” he said. “Hopefully one of us can get it done. But really, it’s all for fun. We’re going to the race track and we’re going to have a lot of fun there. Once we strap our helmets on, it’s going to be game on and try to beat each other.”
Those unable to make it to Wausau, Wisconsin Saturday night will be able to watch the Kraus family battle the Midwest Tour stars by watching a live video stream on the Speed51 Network. All that is needed to watch the broadcast is a monthly ($9.99) or yearly ($79.99) premium subscription. Click here to sign up today for the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com