The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is short with only 16 races in the regular season which ended yesterday at Pocono Raceway. The Trucks season will conclude with a seven-race, elimination-style playoff where 10 drivers have the opportunity to contend for the Championship. After yesterday’s finish, Wisconsin native, Derek Kraus, may be left hoping there was just one more race in the regular season.
Kraus, in his fifth season of Truck racing, started the day 19 points below the cut line in order to make it into the Playoffs. Kraus has had moderate success at The Tricky Triangle with 10th place finishes in his last two outings. However, barring a catastrophic day for Matt Crafton, he would have to do better than that to secure a spot in the Playoffs.
Kraus and the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing team had a lot of momentum and high expectations heading to Pocono with an average finish of 8.3 in the last three races.
“I enjoy going to Pocono. It’s a big, fast track and it’s really important to keep your momentum up whenever you’re under green,” Kraus said. “We all know how important this race is for our whole team. We can’t let the pressure get to us. We need to just go out and do our thing.”
With practice and qualifying being canceled due to rain and lightning in the area, NASCAR set the field per the rule book allowing Kraus to start the race in the seventh position. Kraus seemed very focused prior to the race and when asked by reporters what he would need to pass Crafton in points and make it into the Playoffs, he had few words to offer reporters. “Really it’s just another race. We gotta go out and execute everything that we can perfectly and be there at the end of this thing.”
The first segment of the race saw several caution laps and Kraus was able to earn six valuable stage points with his fifth place stage finish. During the second stage, the McAnally-Hilgemann team had to change up their plans, choosing to pit early with the other leaders. After the cycle of pit stops, Kraus started the final stage in the sixth position.
“I thought we did really good with points but he (Crafton) got a couple too,” Kraus said. “So that definitely didn’t help because then just the second where we were on the race track, and wherever he was, we had to make the call to come in under green. So we did and then we had to race for the win really and that’s what we did.”
Kraus suffered mechanical issues in the third stage, losing a couple of spots in the final laps due to a leak in his power steering system. With a ninth place finish, besting his two prior finishes, he still was unable to secure a Playoff spot, finishing just 17 points below the cutoff. This allowed Matt Crafton to fill the final spot in the post-season grid.
“Just something you’ve got to deal with,” Kraus told reporters. “I mean, I wish I were in the Playoffs, but there’s a couple races that we didn’t capitalize on what we needed to. And overall, today was a decent day. We ran out of power steering there at the end, but that’s part of it. There’s parts failures all the time, and we’ll move on and try to be the best we can these next 10 races.”
Kraus’ disappointment was apparent as he talked about what could have been. “There’s definitely races that you can look back on and circle and be like, if we had this one back, we could have been better. But at the end of it, that’s all in the past, we can’t really do much about it. So we just focused on today and did the best we could today, and it just wasn’t enough.”