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Derek Kraus Finds Rare Achievement in NASCAR Cup Series Debut

Derek Kraus, driver of the #19 Thorogood Toyota, waits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 18, 2021 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Derek Kraus made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet on Sunday, March 3rd at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Pennzoil 400 was the third race of the 2024 season. Kraus was brought on to the team’s Cup program for a part-time ride in their No. 16 Chevrolet charter. Five other races are confirmed for later in the year, including this weekend’s Shriners Children’s 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

Kraus signed with Kaulig Racing in March of 2023. He made eight starts for their NASCAR Xfinity Series team with two best finishes of 8th at Martinsville Speedway (Race One) and Kansas Speedway. His debut at Richmond Raceway saw a Top 10, and his only two finishes worse than 20th were DNFs due to unforeseen circumstances.

Few & Far Between

A rare achievement was unlocked in Sunday’s event. Under green flag pit stops, Derek Kraus stayed out in hopes of catching a caution flag. Although no yellow flew, he would lead the 220th and 221st lap of the race. As a result, the 22-year-old became only the 49th driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to lead a lap in their first-ever start.

Kraus kept the car clean all day en route to a lead lap finish of 28th place.

From fewest laps led to most laps led, here is every driver through NASCAR’s 76-year history who has achieved the once-in-a-lifetime feat (parenthesis = finishing result):

  1. 1 lap – Red Harvey, 1950 Dayton 100 @ Dayton (2nd)
  2. 1 lap – John Soares, 1951 Oakland 200 @ Oakland (9th)
  3. 1 lap – Bobby Unser, 1969 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (4th)
  4. 1 lap – Terry Ryan, 1976 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (6th)
  5. 1 lap – Jimmy Means, 1976 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (40th)
  6. 1 lap – Dennis DeVea, 1982 Gabriel 400 @ Michigan (24th)
  7. 1 lap – Ed Pimm, 1987 Winston 500 @ Talladega (27th)
  8. 1 lap – David Green, 1997 Goodwrench Service 400 @ Rockingham (38th)
  9. 1 lap – Casey Mears, 2003 Daytona 500 @Daytona (27th)
  10. 1 lap – Eric McClure, 2004 Aaron’s 499 @ Talladega (26th)
  11. 1 lap – Jorge Goeters, 2005 Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen @ Watkins Glen (35th)
  12. 1 lap – Erik Jones, 2015 SpongeBob SquarePants 400 @ Kansas (40th)
  13. 2 laps – A.J. Foyt, 1963 Riverside 500 @ Riverside (2nd)
  14. 2 laps – David Hobbs, 1976 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (34th)
  15. 2 laps – Rick Mast, 1988 Busch 500 @ Bristol (28th)
  16. 2 laps – Jack Sprague, 1996 Dura Lube 500 @ Phoenix (23rd)
  17. 2 laps – Austin Cindric, 2021 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (22nd)
  18. 2 laps – Travis Pastrana, 2023 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (11th)
  19. 2 laps – Derek Kraus, 2024 Pennzoil 400 @ Las Vegas (28th)
  20. 3 laps – Russ Gemberling, 1959 Heidelberg 50 @ Heidelberg (14th)
  21. 3 laps – Dorsey Schroeder, 1991 Budweiser at the Glen @ Watkins Glen (17th)
  22. 3 laps – Kaz Grala, 2020 Go Bowling 235 @ Daytona R.C. (7th)
  23. 4 laps – Fritz Wilson, 1959 Daytona 500 Qualifier @ Daytona (2nd)
  24. 4 laps – Mike Chase, 1990 Banquet Frozen Foods 300 @ Sonoma (25th)
  25. 4 laps – Shane Hmiel, 2004 Pop Secret 500 @ Auto Club (39th)
  26. 5 laps – Bob Flock, 1949 Charlotte 150 @ Charlotte Speedway (32nd)
  27. 5 laps – Rodney Combs, 1982 Atlanta Journal 500 @ Atlanta (9th)
  28. 5 laps – Bobby Hamilton, 1989 Autoworks 500 @ Phoenix (32nd)
  29. 6 laps – Johnny Rutherford, 1963 Daytona 500 Qualifier #2 @ Daytona (1st)
  30. 6 laps – Geoffrey Bodine, 1979 Daytona 500 @ Daytona (29th)
  31. 6 laps – Ron Bouchard, 1981 Valleydale 500 @ Bristol (24th)
  32. 7 laps – Patrick Carpentier, 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen @ Watkins Glen (22nd)
  33. 7 laps – Mattias Ekstrom, 2010 Toyota / Save Mart 350 @ Sonoma (21st)
  34. 8 laps – Leon Sales, 1950 Wilkes 200 North Wilkesboro (1st)
  35. 9 laps – Scott Wimmer, 2000 NAPA 500 @ Atlanta (22nd)
  36. 9 laps – Shane van Gisbergen, 2023 Grant Park 220 @ Chicago S.C. (1st)
  37. 10 laps – Gayle Warren, 1950 Dayton 100 @ Dayton (21st)
  38. 10 laps – Tommy Houston, 1980 Richmond 400 @ Richmond (17th)
  39. 12 laps – Kenny Irwin Jr., 1997 Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 @ Richmond (8th)
  40. 15 laps – Ralph Earnhardt, 1956 Buddy Shuman 250 @ Hickory (2nd)
  41. 24 laps – Robert Caswell, 1951 Oakland 200 @ Oakland (2nd)
  42. 34 laps – Gober Sosebee, 1949 Daytona Beach 167 @ Daytona Beach R.C. (8th)
  43. 38 laps – Harold Kite, 1950 Daytona Beach 200 @ Daytona Beach R.C. (1st)
  44. 47 laps – Jim Roper, 1949 Charlotte 150 @ Charlotte (1st)
  45. 60 laps – Dick Hutcherson, 1964 Greenville 200 @ Greenville-Pickens (15th)
  46. 66 laps – Jack White, 1949 Hamburg 100 @ Hamburg (1st)
  47. 145 laps – Bill Blair, 1949 Charlotte 150 @ Charlotte (12th)
  48. 146 laps – Bucky Sager, 1950 Winchester 100 @ Winchester (2nd)
  49. 156 laps – Marvin Burke, 1951 Oakland 200 @ Oakland (1st)

*R.C. – Road Course, S.C. – Street Course*

The above list excludes exhibitions and drivers who failed to qualify for their first start. Some drivers included were part of NASCAR’s first and early races. Some qualifiers in points-receiving events from years past are included. Not all races may not have been historically accounted for or entirely correct. Statistics were gathered from Racing Reference.

Jim Roper (1949), Jack White (1949), Harold Kite (1950), Leon Sales (1950), Marvin Burke (1951), Johnny Rutherford (1963), and Shane van Gisbergen (2023) are the only seven drivers to win a NASCAR race in their first ever start. Derek Kraus became the first addition since teammate van Gisbergen’s accomplishment in July of last year.

 

What’s Next?

Kraus spent most of his career driving for Bill McAnally. From 2017 to 2019, the former Toyota driver competed in the ARCA Menards Series West racking up ten victories and the 2019 Championship. He also secured two wins in the East Series during his title-crowning season.

Entering the 2020 season, Kraus, McAnally, and Bill Hilgemann made the move to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. A manufacturer change switched the team from Toyota Tundra’s to Chevrolet Silverado’s after their first two years of competition. Despite moderate performances on various tracks, the trio amassed only four Top 5s with Playoff absences in 2020, 2021, and 2022. In turn, Kraus was replaced by Christian Eckes for 2023 leaving the Wisconsin native without a ride.

With solid performances at Kaulig Racing, an opportunity may open up sooner than later for young driving talent. A.J. AllmendingerShane van Gisbergen, and Josh Williams currently occupy the three Xfinity Series seats. Daniel Hemric drives their full-time Cup Series charter as the other remains on a part-time basis. Allmendinger’s step back from Cup may be an indicator towards the latter years of his driving career. Van Gisbergen’s rising stardom could open a seat sooner than later in Xfinity. Futures for Hemric, Williams, and the team’s secondary Cup charter present question marks to ponder.

Where would you like to see Derek Kraus in 2024? Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.

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