The Badger State has produced NASCAR champions before, including Alan Kulwicki and Matt Kenseth. Now, 17-year old Stratford native Derek Kraus is ready to make his mark.
"I feel like I'm patiently aggressive,” said Kraus. “If I need to be aggressive I can, but I'm more of the driver that will lay back in the early stages of the race and just kind of save my tires and be there at the end of the race."
Kraus, driving for Bill McAnally Racing, currently leads the points standings in both the NASCAR K&N East and West series, equivalent to single-A baseball for racing. If he wins both championships, he would be the first driver ever to sweep the East and West Series in the same year.
"It's definitely because of the crew,” Kraus says of his success. “They work really hard at the shop, they're there from 6:30 in the morning until however late it needs to be at night. So they work their tails off, and then right off the trailer it's really fast, so that helps a lot."
Kraus grew up cutting his teeth racing super late-models at tracks across Central Wisconsin. While the hub of NASCAR is in North Carolina, Kraus plans on staying in Stratford for as long as he possibly can, because to him, there's no place like home.
"I like being in Stratford, Wisconsin, it's a lot of fun to come back home,” Kraus said. “It's really fun to travel around the country going to different race tracks, seeing different people, seeing different towns, experiencing different things. Trust me there's nothing like here at home, and I really enjoy being home too."
Kraus also has three races in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series under his belt, with an impressive pair of top-ten finishes. The racing schedule is hectic for someone who just finished his junior year of high school, but that's exactly how he likes it.
“To be honest I've never been to a prom or homecoming yet,” Kraus explains. “Really that doesn't bother me, I'm doing what I love to do on those weekends, I'd much rather be at the racetrack than at a dance."
There's plenty of time to dance in victory lane anyways, a place Kraus has already visited four times in 2019. He's speeding up the NASCAR ladder, mashing the gas and the competition along the way.