SONOMA, Calif. – Derek Kraus is only 17, but he has more racing experience than many drivers twice his age.
His experience paid huge dividends at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday during round four of the Trans-Am Presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship.
Currently leading both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West standings, Kraus made his Trans-Am debut in the No. 11 Shockwave Marine Suspension Seating Chevrolet Camaro handed over to him for qualifying by team owner David Smith after losing an engine in his No. 5 just before qualifying.
Kraus rewarded Smith and the Shockwave team by qualifying on the TA2 Powered by AEM pole, then seizing the TA2 class lead on lap seven of 38 laps around the challenging Sonoma course and never relinquishing it.
Kraus was jumped on both the start and a lap four restart by third qualifier Anthony Honeywell, but managed to find a way past the West series TA2 points leader within two laps on both occasions.
“I was really surprised at the start, going into turn one three wide, coming out that way,” said Kraus. “Wasn’t really expecting it. But at the end, it all worked out. I just want to say thanks to David Smith and everyone at Shockwave — the whole crew. They worked their tails off all weekend. They gave me a really good car, and I knew I just had to stay patient in the race.”
Second overall (and second in TA2) was Kraus’ Shockwave teammate Chris Cook, who finished nearly 18 seconds behind. Cook and Kraus have a long history together, and thanks to Smith, who made cars available to both Kraus and Cook as well as a third young up-and-comer, Lawless Alan, they were able to race together for the first time.
“I love working with raw talent like that guy right there in the NAPA [driver’s] suit (Kraus)” said veteran driver coach Cook. “Really good job by Derek today, and my car was really good, too. Just a huge thanks — I love driving race cars, and a huge thanks to David Smith. Amazing man and you should read his story! Huge thanks to David and all the guys on the team — Team Shockwave kicks ass.”
“I knew if there was going to be a late-race yellow, Chris was going to be really good,” Kraus said later, explaining his hard pace throughout. “[Chris] helped me this whole weekend. Two years ago when I met David and Chris and came here, I had no idea what I was doing. And ever since, Chris has been helping me. Shockwave gave me a really good race car and I ended upon top.
Third in TA2 went to Michael Mihld, who inherited the position from Lawless Alan when the brakes in Alen’s car failed. Matthew Butson finished fourth in class.
In the TA class, Simon Gregg had a lonely race after both the pole winner Michelle Nagai and fast local driver Michael Fine retired in the opening laps with mechanical problems. Gregg won TA and was third overall, but was frustrated about finishing behind a pair of TA2 cars.
“The TA2 cars were really good this weekend,” he said. “I had a good time out there. Thanks Jim (Derhaag); Joy, my significant other for going to the races with me; John (Clagett, Trans Am Co.) for the work you do — I’m glad to be a part of the West Coast Trans-Am series.”
Finishing behind Gregg, fourth overall but winning the SGT class, was U.S. Touring Car Championship front runner Carl Rydquist, who started last in a unique Prototype Development Group Factory Five GTM Supercar — a street-legal kit car assembled using extensive Corvette components.
The PDG team received permission to enter on Sunday morning, chased down a set of Pirelli tires and started from the back. Rydquist carved through the field to his fourth-place finish, with TA winner Gregg in his sights as the checkered came out.
The GT class was won by fast-qualifier Clark Nunes, who led from flag to flag.