No practice. No problem. That’s been the approach by Derek Kraus and the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing team at NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events since racing resumed in May – competing without any practice or qualifying, while visiting tracks for the first time.
When NASCAR resumed racing following a stoppage due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a health and safety plan was implemented that included practice sessions and qualifying being eliminated for each race.
Kraus, an 18-year-old series rookie who drives the MHR No. 19 NAPA AutoCare Toyota Tundra, has arrived at tracks he never visited before. His first time on track at these events was to take the green flag for the start of the race. His results in the five races since racing resumed have been a seventh-place finish at Atlanta, eighth at Kentucky, 10th at Pocono, 15th at Homestead-Miami and 16th at Charlotte.
Of course, a big part of MHR’s success stems from the crew and their performance. The first-year team is led by crew chief Kevin Bellicourt. A resident of Charlotte, N.C., he worked as a crew chief with drivers such as William Byron, Justin Haley and Ben Rhodes prior to taking over the general manager duties at Bill McAnally Racing last year.
The MHR team includes J.R. Norris, car chief; Daniel Bailey, engineer; Evan Harding, front end mechanic; George Loux, underneath mechanic; and Steve Kenahan, truck driver. Freddy Kraft serves as the team’s spotter.
Also contributing to the team’s success this year has been an alliance with Hattori Racing Enterprises – a championship truck team owned by Shige Hattori and led by general manager, Mike Greci, and crew chief, Scott Zipadelli.
Kraus has quickly adapted to racing on the big tracks, despite the lack of practice. Prior to this year, he had only competed in one race on a track as big as 1.5-mile in length. All his races so far this year have been on tracks that big or bigger.
He will race on another 1.5-mile track this week when he heads to the Lone Star State to make his first start at Texas Motor Speedway, in the Vankor 350 on Saturday. The race is the second of four events on the truck series schedule within a 14-day span.
Kraus is 11th in the championship standings, just 14 points out of 10th. He looks to gain ground on his competition with a strong performance at Texas and move up in the standings.