Thirty-three laps into Friday’s Casey General Store 150 at Iowa Speedway, Derek Kraus’ pursuit of NASCAR history became in doubt.
Looking to become the first driver in history to win both K&N Pro Series championships in the same season, Kraus came into Iowa leading both the NASCAR K&N Pro East and K&N Pro West standings. After starting inside the top five and racing Max McLaughlin for position, the No. 1 made contact with Kraus, sending him spinning into the Turn 4 wall.
— #MyTrackMyRoots (@NASCARHomeTrack) July 27, 2019
“I was thinking our night was done,” Kraus told NASCAR.com post-race. “I don’t know what (McLaughlin) did on the bottom of us, but he got into us, cut our left rear and I guess that was that. Just an unfortunate thing with Max. Not sure what happened — if I didn’t give him enough room or if he got loose underneath me — but that’s racing. Got into the wall a little bit. I thought we hit it hard enough to affect it, and I think we did right away.”
McLaughlin was apologetic while giving his perspective on the incident, citing the loose conditions he experienced in his race car all evening long as the reason for getting into the No. 16.
“We entered three-wide, he was on my door and I got super loose,” McLaughlin told NASCAR.com. “We touched a little and both agreed the contact wasn’t really that hard, but the tailpipe cut his left rear tire and hit him in the wrong place at the wrong time, cut his tire down and he was done. That really sucked, I felt bad for that. We were all racing for position on a restart and I had the preferred groove on the bottom ahead of the three-wide. He entered hard on my right side, I just got loose, air is pretty big here and I just didn’t play the cards right.”
For the second weekend in a row, Kraus struggled in practice leading up to the race and was frustrated on the radio, begging his crew chief John Camilleri to “do something” to adjust the car.
Clearly, they did, and it worked. After receiving the free pass, Kraus sliced and diced his way through the field and wound up finishing fourth after running as low as 20th in the 150-lap event.
“Mentally, one thing I gotta work on is getting down on myself,” Kraus said. “I always get upset, get mad and I feel like tonight I really didn’t do that. I felt like I kept calm. One thing that’s helped a lot is a blower we added in the car. Kept me cool and I guess it kept my head cool, too. Most of the time, I would’ve been done (when the incident happened). We never gave up, and a lot of that was the crew just to be behind me the whole time and supporting me helped a lot.”
They put the emergency set of tires on and worked feverishly under this stage break. All hands on deck. 👋🏼
— #MyTrackMyRoots (@NASCARHomeTrack) July 27, 2019
Team owner Bill McAnally raved about the 17-year-old’s resilience and the team’s never-give-up attitude. The driver and team being on the same page week after week does wonders for a cohesive unit.
“That kid is special,” McAnally told NASCAR.com. “He’s patient, the way he drives a race car, he doesn’t get frustrated, doesn’t get too excited. It was a tough night getting spun around and going a lap down. He conserved, took care of everything, waited until we could get it fixed up during the break and charged forward. I hate to see points racing and everything we’re doing trying to race both these series — and the job he and this team have been doing — I’d hate to see it taken away because we get dumped and go a lap down. But he charged back up, the team worked hard, got the car right. I can’t be too upset.”
Competing with teams like DGR-Crosley and Rev Racing on the East coast put BMR a tick behind in the speed department. McAnally knows that, and has firsthand seen Kraus’ ability to make up that lack of speed with his ability behind the wheel.
“He put it all out there. He does every time he’s in a race car,” McAnally said. “Sometimes we have a good race car for him to showcase his talent in and sometimes he’s gotta carry us a little bit. Tonight, he definitely carried us. Because we’re lucky to finish on the lead lap with everything we went through.”
Despite only having three career Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts (two this year at Martinsville and Dover), Kraus credited his experience with restarts in that series for him making up spots on the final restart at Iowa.
Racing-Reference: Derek Kraus Career Statistics
“Definitely some crazy restarts,” he said. “The guys in the Truck Series really get after it on restarts. Learning from them and taking it into the K&N Series really helps me especially here at Iowa, plenty of room and racing grooves. We’ll just keep clicking off top fives and top threes, keep digging and go to WGI.”
Kraus has never raced at Watkins Glen in a K&N Pro Series event. With the season winding down, he’ll need to gain some ground on Sam Mayer, who re-took the championship points lead by six points after Iowa.
But with a possible catastrophe avoided, Kraus has new life with a handful of races to go in both seasons.