STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW)- The NASCAR season wrapped up in November, and it produced a champion from central Wisconsin that still hasn't graduated high school yet.
Derek Kraus celebrates after winning the NASCAR K&N West series championship at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona on November 9, 2019. (NASCAR)
"Holy cow, I just won a championship in the NASCAR K&N Series"
After a win in the penultimate race of the NASCAR K&N West season, all Derek Kraus had to do was take the green flag at the finale at Phoenix and he would be the series champion. But that didn't away all the nerves.
Kraus says, "Kevin and my crew chief John Camilleri joked with me they were going to wrap me in bubble wrap before the race or during practice so that nothing would happen."
Nothing did happen, Kraus started the race at Phoenix, and after 108 laps, the celebration was on.
“Ever since I was nine years old in a go-kart, I dreamed of winning a NASCAR championship,” said Kraus. “And being able to do that was a dream come true, it was kind of a surreal moment for me.”
Kraus won five races in the West series this year and led nearly half the laps run.
For a racing family through and through, they know this was an incredibly special year.
"Crazy, busy, fulfilling, exciting, very proud of him,” said Kathy Kraus, Derek’s mother. “He's sacrificed a lot for what he's gotten, but he loves doing it so it's all worth it."
A dream season capped with a NASCAR title before he graduates high school. About the only thing that didn't go smoothly for Kraus this season was lifting the championship trophy.
"I'm going to be honest, I almost dropped it,” Kraus explains. “Like you lift it up over your head, and I lifted it up and I'm like 'holy cow'. And I hit my hat, and my hat was standing up. And I'm like holy cow this is really heavy, my arms were shaking."