STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW)- Derek Kraus started the NASCAR Truck Series season with a 4th place finish at Daytona, followed by a 22nd in Las Vegas. More than three months later, he'll finally be behind the wheel of his number 19 truck again on May 26 at Charlotte.
"You definitely get the itch to get back into the race car," Kraus said. "It's like starting a whole new season again. It was like a second offseason kind of."
The sport will return with temperature checks for anyone entering the track, social distancing guidelines enforced, and no fans in the stands.
"Yeah that's going to be crazy, racing in front of no fans, it's going to be different,” Kraus said. “It's going to be a completely different atmosphere really. But once you get in the truck you're completely focused on the race, so that part won't be different."
However, preparing for the race will be different.
"The only challenging part is going to be is no qualifying, no practice, we're going straight to the race."
And while Kraus has the simulation software IRacing to help, he's never actually raced on the mile and a half Charlotte Motor Speedway before.
"Charlotte's kind of a challenging track, or what I've heard from it,” Kraus said. “If you looked at it, you would be like 'oh that aint that bad of a track', but there's a lot of bumps in (turns) three and four. One and two is a little bit basic and kind of the same as a lot of the other mile-and-a-halfs (tracks)."
Maybe the biggest change for Kraus? One of his biggest fans won't be in attendance for the first time that he can remember.
"The crazy thing is like my dad, he can't even go to the races, just because of all the protocols that they have to go by. So that's going to be interesting, it's going to be hard for him I feel like. He's been at every single race that I've been in, he's never missed a race of mine yet."
Kraus said he expects a frenzied schedule for the truck series to be announced at some point soon, but for now, all he can do is get mentally ready for the one definite race on his calendar.
"I think I just gotta go with the flow and take it one race at a time,” said Kraus. “They haven't really set a schedule out for us other than the race at Charlotte. So just kind of have to go with the flow and take it one race at a time and do the best we can every time we get on the race track."
Kraus will also move to Charlotte permanently in the weeks leading up to the truck race. His roommate? Friend, fellow Wisconsin native, and Truck Series driver, Ty Majeski.
"Yeah that's going to be really fun,” Kraus said. “We've got a few plans already. He lives really close to Go-Pro (racetrack). “So we'll be able to go to the go-kart track and hang out there, and that's going to be really fun.
“I'm definitely going to miss being home in Stratford here, going out on the river with all the buddies and stuff. But I’ll definitely come back here and hang out with the guys a few times a year.”
If his racing schedule allows for it, Kraus wants to be at Stratford’s planned in-person graduation in late July.
“If I’m here for the graduation, I’d definitely like to be here, and it's definitely going to be cool graduating"