by Kari Shear-Carlson / Sept 4, 2016 – When Derek Kraus celebrated his 15th birthday earlier this week, one has to wonder if he thought he would also be celebrating the most historic victory of his young career. Kraus took the checkered flag in the ARCA Midwest Tour Bill Meiller 101 at Dells Raceway Park on Saturday night and he became the youngest driver to ever win a Midwest Tour event.
In 1991, when the series was under the ARTGO banner, a then 16 year-old Matt Kenseth, won his first event at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway. Kenseth’s win was historic in its own right, as he replaced Mark Martin as the youngest event winner. While Kraus may not yet fully comprehend the caliber of his history making event, his name will go down in the record books.
Kraus led from flag-to-flag in an action-packed 101 lap feature event. Starter Tom White waved the green flag as Kraus and Paul Shafer led the field out of turn four. Derek took the lead and Shafer fell in line right on his bumper.
The first caution came out on lap 8 when Jonathan Eilen and Jim Sauter Jr made contact and spun, giving them both a ticket to restart at the rear of the field. When the race went back to green, Dalton Zehr moved his way into third and Dennis Prunty made his way to fourth on the outside. Prunty got his nose under Zehr and made himself an opening to slide under for the third spot.
As laps clicked off, Kraus held his lead ahead of Shafer. The two pulled a way just enough to get comfortable. Lapped traffic became a factor on lap 35, but that didn’t deter the young Kraus. He maneuvered his way around traffic like a veteran and extended his lead over Shafer.
On lap 46, Jason Weinkauf had a hard hit into the wall in turn three, which ended his hopes for a solid finish. Kraus once again led the field to green. Former Midwest Tour winner, Travis Sauter had been making his way towards the front and was up to fourth. Prunty was now in second and Skylar Holzhausen was starting to make some noise.
Two consecutive cautions came out on lap 50 and again on lap 54. Kraus was getting plenty of practice on restarts by this time and once again held onto the lead as they headed into the final half of the race. As the laps started winding down, Holzhausen found himself overtaking third from Shafer, as Prunty continued to keep Kraus in his sights.
It was starting to look like Kraus was going to set sail for the victory with 10 laps to go, until yet another caution came out on lap 92. Several cars spun in turn one but got their spots back due to fluid around the racetrack being the cause of the caution.
It was now or never for Kraus. The field set up for a single file restart. Kraus had the entire field in his rearview mirror with Dennis Prunty the first in line. Tom White wasn’t satisfied with the first attempt at the restart, so they set up to do it again. Prunty had his mirror full of Skylar Holzhausen which allowed Kraus to pull away just enough to cruise to his historic first ARCA Midwest Tour victory.
“It feels really good to win here. It’s one of my favorite racetracks,” said Kraus. While he isn’t a driver of many words, he is sure to talk about this victory for years to come.
Dennis Prunty and Skylar Holzhausen took the final two podium positions, while Andrew Morrissey and Paul Shafer rounded out the top five.
The ARCA Midwest Tour heads to Elko Speedway on Sept 24th for the Thunderstruck 93. Paul Shafer trails Ty Majeski by only 27 points as the series heads into the final two events of the 2016 season.
For complete event details, log on to arcamidwesttour.com
Be sure to follow the ARCA Midwest Tour on Facebook (/midwesttour) and Twitter (@midwesttour).
To learn more about the Automobile Racing Club of America Midwest Tour, log on to arcamidwesttour.com. The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is among the leading auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country. Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum, the organization administers more than 100 events each year in multiple racing series, including the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the ARCA/CRA Super Series, the ARCA Truck Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour, plus weekly racing at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedway.