While Derek Kraus heads to Kansas this week to compete in a doubleheader for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Kansas Speedway, members of his senior class at Stratford High School are preparing to receive their diplomas in a graduation ceremony at the football field in his hometown of Stratford, Wis., on Friday.
Kraus, a series rookie who drives the No. 19 ENEOS / NAPA Toyota Tundra for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, will be competing in back-to-back events at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway – on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Facing conflicts in his schedule is something the 18-year-old has been dealing with for several years. Kraus raced the past three seasons in what is now known as NASCAR’s ARCA Menards Series West – winning the series championship in 2019. This year, meanwhile, marks his first full season of competing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Rather than be homeschooled, Kraus chose to attend a regular high school. He often traveled cross country to a race on the weekend and then returned to Wisconsin in time to be back in school early Monday morning. He credits the help and patience of his principal, teachers, and other school staff with helping him maintain his studies while following his dream. He graduated with a 3.0 grade point average, in a class of 80 seniors.
Racing is not the only sport Kraus pursued. He wrestled all four years in high school, and also played football in his freshman year. His wrestling team was Marawood Conference Champions all four years he was on the team. They were Team State Champions two of those years, were runner-up another year and team state qualifiers the fourth year. They had the distinction of being the only small school in the country ranked Top 50 nationally (37th in 2017-18 and 42nd in 2016-17). They were ranked #1 in the state three of the years and #3 the fourth year.
After completing his senior year, Kraus moved to Charlotte, N.C., to be near the race shop where the MHR team is based and near Toyota’s TRD facility. The move has provided him the added benefit of using the Toyota fitness center and their simulator.
Derek Kraus – Thoughts about graduating
"Graduation is very exciting. I wish I could be at my graduation ceremony, but I’m living my dream as a racecar driver. I can’t thank everybody enough for all they have done for me through high school – particularly, all of my teachers and my Principal Mrs. Laborde."
Moving to Charlotte
"The move to Charlotte is definitely a big change for me. Being used to a small town and now I’m in a huge city, but I like how close I am to my team."
— McAnally-Hilgemann Racing —