The path of Derek Kraus’ racing career has led to a primarily NASCAR heavy schedule for 2018, most notably in the K&N Pro Series West, where the 17-year-old Wisconsin driver accumulated four victories for Bill McAnally Racing in the NAPA No. 16.
In between his Stock Car appearances, Kraus and his No. 9K Super Late Model team have tried to keep their operation going, mostly running races in and around the Badger State. While the going has not been easy, it has kept the team geared up in 2018, getting them prepared to take on the ultimate challenge: the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway.
After a successful debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with BMR on November 9 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Kraus has joined the effort back at home to get his Super Late Model race ready for the Pensacola oval.
“We’ve been working on this car constantly when we’ve had the time," Kraus told Speed51.com. "You've got to be prepared when you go to the Derby, there’s a lot of good cars with a lot of good drivers, and they’re doing all they can to get ready for this race."
Despite his youth, this will be the fourth Derby appearance for Kraus in his career, with previous finishes of 24th, 25th and 33rd.
This year, he'll be looking to complete all 300 laps for the first time while steering clear of the chaos that has ended his race early in all three attempts. Still, these setbacks have not dampened his enthusiasm for this legendary race.
“It’s always fun to go there. It’s a great track, gets me really excited to go back to the Derby. I know it hasn’t been very good to me in the past, we always seem to get in a wreck or someone else’s mess. This year we want to finish the job and get in a great run.”
The Friday qualifying night has also been a source of difficulty for Kraus all three years, with Kraus having to race his way in through the last chance race the last two seasons. This has put him in the center of the tornado that is the 37-car starting field. He is hoping that his experience in K&N qualifying has helped to give him that edge he is looking for as a driver in time trials.
“This year I feel like I improved quite a bit on qualifying the K&N car and also in the Super. We have six poles in the K&N car. I feel like if we can do well in qualifying and start at the front, we can have a better race strategy and not get caught up in any messes.”
Even with the obvious differences between race cars, Kraus is also confident that his winning performance in NASCAR will help to drive his efforts in Pensacola next week forward.
“I definitely feel like any racing accomplishments is good for your confidence," he said. "If you have a lot of confidence, you feel like you can go out there and do anything. When I win a race, it gets me ready to go right into the next one, and we’re good right off the truck. This year we even have two guys from the K&N side coming to help out, so that should be good.”
Kraus though is making no bones that the major goal is to finish and finish well this year. But should he be in the right place late in the race, he believes a win is not out of the question.
“The first thing to do is to qualify, but once you get in it’s all about staying clean for the first 299 laps, while maintaining a good position. We’ve been through a lot of stuff at the Derby, so that’s the big goal.”
Race fans unable to make it to Pensacola, Florida will be able to see all of the unique paint schemes by watching Speed51.com’s live pay-per-view broadcast throughout the week. Five-day video tickets are currently available at a discounted price of $74.99 ($35 savings) by clicking here.
The 51st Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com