Friday, May 20, 2022

TRUCKS: A rough night for the McAnally team in Texas as Derek Kraus takes first last-place finish

ALL PHOTOS: Luis Torres, @TheLTFiles

Derek Kraus picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s 220 at the Texas Motor Speedway when his #19 NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet fell out due to crash damage after 88 of 149 laps.

The finish came in Kraus’ 59th series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it as the 4th for the #19, the 422nd from Chevrolet, and the 171st for a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 82nd for the #19, the 1,289th from a crash, and the 1,840th for Chevrolet.

Continuing the legacy of impressive drivers from the state of Wisconsin, including Dave Marcis and Matt Kenseth, Kraus burst onto the NASCAR scene in 2017, when the 15-year-old claimed his first series win in the K&N Pro Series West finale at Kern County. He drove for longtime regional team owner Bill McAnally, and soon became the latest from that team to carry sponsorship from NAPA. Over the next two seasons, Kraus and McAnally stormed to nine more West wins and three in the East, culminating with another win in Kern County as he was crowned series champion.

By then, Kraus made his Truck Series debut in the penultimate round at Phoenix on November 9, 2018, bringing McAnally back to the series for the first time since his 2001 campaign with Brendan Gaughan. Kraus qualified 8th for the race, and even more impressively also finished there, beating two of the championship contenders. Following a part-time campaign in 2019, he went full-time Truck Series racing in 2020, kicking things off with his first Top Five in his first-ever Daytona start, finishing 4th. He finished the year a strong 11th in points with 13 top-ten finishes. But his 2021 campaign was somewhat of a disappointment. Though he scored his first two poles, he earned just one Top Five and four Top Tens. 

This year, the McAnally-Hilgemann team has made a manufacturer change from Toyota to Chevrolet, and brought on XFINITY Series competitor Colby Howard as Kraus’ teammate in the #91. But coming into Texas, Kraus’ 8th-place run at Kansas the previous week had been his best of 2022 so far.

Texas offered the opportunity for a turnaround. Kraus had one of the fastest trucks, taking 5th in opening practice and securing 9th on the grid with a lap of 179.856mph (30.024 seconds), fastest of the Chevrolets. He also avoided the misfortunes faced by many of his fellow competitors. 

Taking the 36th and final starting spot was the #33 Dal Dirt Chevrolet of Chris Hacker, whose spin into the Turn 2 wall, combined with teammate Armani Williams’ DNQ due to mechanical troubles on the #43 Ice Cold Technologies Toyota, continued what has been a frustrating May for the Reaume Brothers Racing team. While Williams joined Garrett Smithley in the #20 Trophy Tractor Chevrolet on the early ride home, Hacker’s team completed repairs, and would incur a redundant tail-end penalty prior to the start. 

Three other trucks didn’t turn a lap in qualifying. Matt DiBenedetto in the #25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet was prohibited from qualifying when his crew adjusted the wedge bolts under the hood after practice, an adjustment NASCAR had just prohibited. Lawless Alan’s #45 MG Machinery Chevrolet likewise rolled off in the back after he did not complete a timed lap. Colby Howard in the #91 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet was another victim of Turn 2 when he spun in qualifying, sending him to a backup truck. Howard incurred a tail-end penalty for his backup, joining the unapproved adjustments penalties for polesitter John Hunter Nemechek after a crew member was spotted stepping on the splitter of his #4 Tom Thumb / Albertson’s Toyota, 11th-place Grant Enfinger in the #23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet, 23rd-place Austin Wayne Self in the #22 AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet, 27th-place Jordan Anderson in the #3 Dometic Outdoor Chevrolet, 31st-place Bret Holmes in the #32 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet, and the aforementioned Chris Hacker.

Across the stripe, Hacker remained in the 36th spot, 4.199 seconds back of the leader with Howard and DiBenedetto the next two trucks in front. On Lap 3, Hacker passed Kris Wright in Al Niece’s #44 America’s Auto Auction Chevrolet, but Wright passed Hacker back on Lap 7. From there, Hacker dropped to 1.897 seconds back of Wright before he spun by himself, again in Turn 2, drawing the first caution of the day on Lap 10. Hacker avoided hitting the wall this time – and also any other trucks by running last – though the crew admonished him to drive more carefully until they could make adjustments. Now one lap down, Hacker reported he’d been driving at 80%, but would run more conservatively on the next run. The crew made significant adjustments when he pitted by himself after the leaders.

The race restarted on Lap 15 with Hacker looking for a quick caution to secure the Lucky Dog. But the rest of Stage 1 ran without incident, putting him nearly two laps down by the 29th circuit. Then with three to go in the stage, the leaders lapped 35th-place Spencer Boyd in the #12 Montucky Cold Snacks Chevrolet, followed by 34th-place Jordan Anderson at the stripe with the one to go signal. This secured Anderson the Lucky Dog when the yellow fell moments later. By the restart on Lap 43, Hacker was shown two laps down to Boyd’s one, each still tying to maintain pace.

But on Lap 47, current LASTCAR Truck Series championship leader Dean Thompson faced another issue on his #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet. He made at least one unscheduled pit stop under green for a fender rub, then believed he had a right-rear tire going down. Losing multiple laps in the process, Thompson fell to last on Lap 48, and now reported his water temperature sat at 250 degrees. The team wasn’t concerned about this, saying the stop-and-go of pitting increased his temperature, and now four laps down on Lap 50, focused on improving his truck’s handling. By Lap 59, he said the #40 was loose on exit.

Hacker continued to struggle as well. On Lap 61, he suddenly slowed on the frontstretch with other trucks flying around him at speed. The #33 resumed race pace without incident, but soon fell into the leader’s clutches. By Lap 67, he’d lost a fourth lap, putting him on the same circuit as Thompson just before the end of Stage 2. Under the ensuing caution, Hacker’s team pulled out a spring rubber and gave their driver a water bottle while Thompson’s team continued to examine the tire they’d changed earlier. The #40 crew said it was a mistake to not change four tires earlier, perhaps contributing to the issue.

On Lap 75, Thompson dropped Hacker back to last, and soon after the #33 was sent to the tail end for bringing equipment over the wall too soon. When the green flag dropped to begin the final stage, Hacker was now shown four laps down to Thompson’s three, again separating the two competitors. 

Next to enter the last-place battle was Colby Howard, whose backup truck apparently made contact with the wall but did not draw the caution flag. He dropped off the pace on Lap 81 and came down pit road, the crew clearing the fenders with particular focus on the right-rear. The team then discovered a fluid leak, and narrowed this down to the brake lines. Howard had no brake pressure, and the crew lifted the hood as they attempted to clamp the line. But on Lap 86, just as Howard took last from Hacker, the caution came out for his teammate.

Kraus on pit road after the tangle with Majeski.

Derek Kraus had finished 9th in Stage 1 and 6th in Stage 2. His #19 was still among the leaders in the final stage when he and Ty Majeski entered the treacherous second corner. Majeski broke loose and slid up into Kraus, whose #19 pounded the outside wall enough to dislodge the rear decklid. Kraus joined his teammate on pit road, dropping three laps down by the 88th circuit. On Lap 92, when Majeski’s #66 Road Ranger Toyota was determined to have met minimum speed, Kraus’ truck was pushed behind the wall, out of the race under NASCAR’s “Damaged Vehicle Policy,” or DVP. Around this time, Howard returned to the race 11 laps down with the brake issue apparently solved. He’d only climb to 34th by the checkered flag, passing Kris Wright, whose #44 wrecked after a tangle with Tyler Hill’s unsponsored #5 Toyota entering Turn 3. Wright pulled behind the wall on Lap 108, also out under the DVP. 

Rounding out the Bottom Five were Tyler Ankrum, whose #16 Toyota Tsusho Toyota had an incident leaving pit road before he spun on track, ultimately citing overheating issues, and Zane Smith, involved in the same pit road incident, who later bounced his #38 Speedy Cash Ford off the outside wall.

Some of the drivers sent to the back before the start bounced back with solid finishes. Matt DiBenedetto climbed from 34th to finish 10th, his second-straight top-ten finish and fourth of the year. Jordan Anderson recovered to finish 14th – a new season-best and his strongest performance since last fall at Talladega, where he ran 11th. Right behind came Bret Holmes, who clawed his way from 31st to 15th – his second-best finish of the season so far.

*The 88 laps completed by Kraus stands as the second-most of the 48 last-place finishers of Truck Series races at Texas, trailing only Ross Chastain’s disqualification from this race last year after a lead-lap finish.
*This marks the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Truck Series race in exactly 21 years. This dates back to May 20, 2001, when Ricky Sanders’ #19 Ford lost the engine and was pushed behind the wall before the green flag dropped to start the Jelly Belly 200 Presented by Dodge at the Pikes Peak International Raceway. CORRECTION: It is the first last-place finish for the #19 in a Truck Series race since August 11, 2007, when Travis Kittleson’s #19 Xpress Motorsports Ford had ignition trouble after 1 lap of the Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway.

36) #19-Derek Kraus / 88 laps / crash
35) #44-Kris Wright / 106 laps / crash
34) #91-Colby Howard / 139 laps / running
33) #16-Tyler Ankrum / 139 laps / overheating
32) #38-Zane Smith / 143 laps / running

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing, Niece Motorsports (2)
2nd) AM Racing, David Gilliland Racing Ford, Front Row Motorsports, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


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