Derek Kraus had a hard-fought battle to earn the 2017 K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.
While the rookie had a successful rookie season with Bill McAnally Racing amassing one win, nine top-five and ten top-10 finishes, it seemed like fellow rookie Will Rodgers was always right behind him.
“The season went well,” the 16-year-old said. “We had a lot of top five and top three finishes. It was a tight battle with Will throughout the entire season. We had no break. But it helped motivate us and it kept us going throughout the year and we finished on a high note.”
The high-note the Stratford, Wisconsin, native is referring to is his first series career victory at the season finale at California’s Kern County Raceway Park.
“It was great finishing the season that way,” Kraus said. “I learned a lot throughout the season, like what it takes to be competitive, lead laps and ultimately win races. So, to get that victory really got the monkey off our backs.”
Kraus came close to earning his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win multiple times throughout the year, but was denied a trip to Victory Lane by Todd Gilliland, the 2017 K&N Pro Series West champion, and Chris Eggleston.
“It was amazing to finally get it done after finishing second or third to our BMR teammates throughout the season. It was the dream way to end my rookie year.
“While I don’t know what my plans are for next season as of now, earning not only my first win but also the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title definitely helps my confidence.”
The newly minted rookie of the year has plenty of people to credit for his success.
“I wouldn’t have accomplished anything close to this without my parents and the entire BMR team,” Kraus said. “I also have to thank Toyota, Carlyle Tools, Marilyn Fanetti and everyone else who has supported me throughout my racing career.”.