By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Derek Kraus will drive full-time in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing.
The 18-year-old will drive the No. 19 Toyota Tundra in his rookie-of-the-year campaign with Kevin Bellicourt on top of the pit box. The 2019 ARCA Menards Series West Champion (formerly NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), will not only have backing from Toyota, but also Hattori Racing Enterprises.
McAnally-Hilgemann Racing formed an alliance with the 2018 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Championship team. Bill McAnally fielded the No. 19 on a limited basis last season for Kraus. His partnership with Bill Hilgemann, and alliance with Hattori, allowed a full-time effort.
âIâm excited about this opportunity to partner with Bill Hilgemann and compete in the truck series on a full-time basis,â McAnally explained.
âWe have been working hard to put things in place to move Derek Kraus to the next level in. Itâs been great to be part of his development in the K&N Series these past three years. We look forward to moving ahead in advancing his career.
âThis move is a big challenge and we are grateful for the opportunity to form an alliance with HRE,â McAnally continued.
âWeâre excited to be working with a team that has their winning record in the series. Our relationship with such a strong Toyota program will be beneficial to us and we see it as a key to accelerating our program.â
Hilgemann is a businessman from Stratford, WI, the same hometown as Kraus.
âWeâre proud to announce the formation of this team,â Hilgemann said. âBill McAnally has a great reputation in the industry, and Iâm pleased to put this program together with him. Derek Kraus is a talented young driver and we are excited to have him behind the wheel.â
In five NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races with McAnally, Kraus has two top-10 finishes.
For the past three years, Kraus has competed for McAnallyâs ARCA Menards West Series team. In addition to the 2019 championship, he earned 10 victories, 28 top-five, and 33 top-10 finishes. Kraus also earned eight pole positions.
âMoving up to the truck series will be a big learning experience for me,â Kraus said. âI am looking forward to continuing to work with Kevin Bellicourt and the team. Itâs going be a fun year.â
The alliance and relationship between McAnally-Hilgemann Racing and Hattori Racing Enterprises can be traced back to McAnally and HREâs general manager, Mike Greci. 20 years ago, McAnally offered Greci a job which led to a life-long friendship.
âWeâve been friends ever since then and weâve got a great respect for each other,â Greci said.Â
McAnally-Hilgemann Racing will ârun as a single teamâ with Hattori Racing Enterprises. That will make running the full 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series schedule more cost effective.
âTo try to race the truck series from the West Coast is probably next to impossible, Greci explained. âWeâre a Toyota TRD team and Bill is a Toyota TRD team. Weâre happy that weâve got our program running well. Our focus is to help Bill get his program going.
âWeâve always been a single team. Now we have team help. I think itâs a good situation for everybody. Itâs about getting together. I think thereâs a benefit to both race teams in doing this. I think it will be a good season for everybody.â