By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
With only two races left in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series regular season, Sunday at Darlington Raceway was a big day for Derek Kraus.
The rookie, who entered the South Carolina Education Lottery 200 13 points behind the cutline of the series championship playoffs, made the most of the 152-lapper, finishing second in his No. 19 Bill McAnally Racing Toyota.
The result was his third top five of 2020 and his best-ever finish through 20 starts.
Following a caution with two laps to go, a late pit divide saw much of the leaders jump to pit road. Kraus decided to stay out, eventually restarting second alongside leader Ben Rhodes for the overtime finish.
“Kevin (Bellicourt, crew chief) up on top of the box made a really good call there at the end,” Kraus said. “Got a good restart and did everything I needed to, but there off of two – I got really loose off of two. It was my mistake, but overall, I felt like it was a great day. We struggled some in the beginning, but Kevin got this NAPA Filters Toyota Tundra tuned up for the end of the race.”
Clearing Rhodes in Turn 2, Kraus lost the lead off the corner, as the No. 99 driver drove around the outside of the rookie in Turn 3.
““I feel like it definitely would have been harder for [Rhodes] to pass me [if not for the mistake],” he said. “I got loose and just gave it to him. I feel like if I got a good run off Turn 2 and make no mistakes, it would have definitely been harder for him to pass me. I feel like his truck was probably a little bit better than mine, but with clean air, my truck definitely handled better.”
With one race remaining before the playoffs, Kraus will have one last shot Thursday night at Richmond Raceway to beat Todd Gilliland, who holds the final playoff position, just 10 points ahead.
““I’m definitely going to have to be aggressive just from being where we are in the points,” he said. “It’s kind of going to have to be cautiously aggressive until the end if we have a chance to win. Definitely going to have to be smart and make the right choices if I need to move somebody out of the way.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun race and I’m really looking forward to it.”