Handling issues relegated Derek Kraus to a 23rd-place finish on Thursday night in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway, leaving him one spot short as final race of the regular season set the playoff field for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
The 19-year-old series rookie, who drives the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing No. 19 Gates Hydraulics/NAPA Belts & Hoses Toyota Tundra, came into the race 11th in the championship standings – needing to overcome a 10-point deficit to make the playoffs.
Kraus initially gained a couple positions, after starting sixth on the grid; but then began to struggle with the splitter on the front of his truck hitting the track. He and his team later speculated that something on the truck had possibly broke, as it did not respond to changes they made.
“We are thinking something broke,” Kraus said. “My NAPA Toyota guys never gave up on it. They tried their best to do what they could do, but something was probably broke. It was on the splitter the whole race. Nothing they did kept it off of it or made it any better.”
Faced with the problem, the team opted to pit and put on fresh tires during a caution late in the first stage. It gave Kraus the speed he needed to charge to sixth at the completion of the first stage on Lap 70. He fell back from there and was in 21st at the end of the second stage.
Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs, Kraus and the MHR team look forward to the remaining seven races on the schedule and remain optimistic of building on the strong performances they have had this year.
Derek Kraus – Thoughts about Richmond
As you said, your team did all you could do tonight. They had great strategy early to get the stage points. How was the race as a whole for you?
“We kind of knew right away. The first two laps it took off fine. I was able to roll the top really well. I think I was passing for fourth or something, and then all of a sudden, it just started laying on the splitter and hitting the race track really hard. It kind of threw out the parachute after that, and just kind of went to the back. It was just on the splitter really hard, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Kevin (Bellicourt, crew chief) made a good strategy call to get us a few stage points, putting on those tires right at the end of the stage. It kind of felt good with those tires on, but once every one else got their tires on it just kind of laid on the splitter again and did the same thing. That’s what it did all race. We struggled with it all race.”
You still had a great season, and have accomplished a lot in your rookie campaign. What are your goals for the last seven races of the season?
“We still had a really good season. The season is not over yet just because we are not in the Playoffs. We are going to race as hard as we can and try to get wins as good as we can and just bring the best Tundras we possbily can to the race track and just have a solid last seven races.”