The NHRA Pro Stock class has turned into a bit of a war zone as of late.
As the list of drivers in either the KB Racing or Elite Motorsports camps continues to grow each year, the competition between two of the most successful teams in the Pro Stock class only increases. So when a driver like Deric Kramer has the kind of weekend he did Sunday in Joliet just outside of Chicago, it makes a win all that much more impressive.
Kramer survived a grueling afternoon in his KB Racing-powered American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro, leaving a path of Elite drivers in his wake as he drove to his third career win and his first since August at the 22nd annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.
“It was a big weekend for us. It sucks when you have to face your own teammate during a weekend. I would rather win against my team, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to knock them out either,” Kramer said. “I hope (during a race) I can walk away with wins against them, luckily this weekend I didn’t have to.”
Kramer knocked off one Elite driver after another before meeting Erica Enders, one of Elite’s most accomplished drivers, in the final. While quicker much of the afternoon, Kramer knew it would be a tough matchup against one of the best leavers in the sport, but Enders quickly turned the race into a non-factor when she lit the red bulb by -.014 to hand the win to Kramer.
With the win in hand, Kramer cruised to a 6.532-second pass at 210.70 mph, the quickest pass of the entire weekend.
“I got lane choice in the semifinals, that is how I was able to get it done,” Kramer said. “I think we made the best runs, and I think the entire field made the best runs, out of that particular lane. And when you can make good runs, you put a lot of pressure on the other driver to give it all they have. Luckily, I came out ahead on that particular coin flip. We laid down a great pass and when you do that, you force them to give it all they have and that is when mistakes happen. The pressure is all in the starting line in this particular class and if you don’t perform you go home. I am glad I could capitalize.
“When you see that win light on before you are even in high gear, it is a relief and you can enjoy the ride. You get six seconds of fun.”
Kramer, who came into race day qualified sixth, added wins over Rodger Brogdon, Matt Hartford and Alex Laughlin to reach his sixth career final and first of 2019. It was only the third time all season Kramer advanced more than one round as a series of mistakes has left the team struggling over the past few months.
“Mistakes have been our biggest detriment since Brainerd,” Kramer said. “Beginning at Indy through the Countdown last year and into this year, it was the little mistakes. And when you make mistakes in this class, you can’t win.”
Enders had wins over Val Smeland, Richard Freeman and Greg Anderson to reach her first final of 2019.
With a win in the books already, Kramer says his team is ready to shift gears and focus on using what they learned this weekend the rest of the year, minimizing mistakes and riding that to, what he hopes, is championship contention.
“We went into the Countdown (last year) not knowing how to race the Countdown,” Kramer said. “We didn’t have enough parts and just weren’t prepared. We didn’t intend to run as many races as we did and we pretty much used up our stuff. This year we are spreading out our parts purchases a little more and making sure we have stuff prepped and ready to go. Hopefully that will translate to not so many first round exits the rest of the year.”
And, it certainly doesn’t hurt having that KB power under the hood for he and crew chief Mike Hiner, affectionately nicknamed Bobby Hill after the character of the same name on the cartoon “King of the Hill,” to work with.
“(Hiner) has had some success in the past, always coming up good on his 60-foot times, even when not having some of the power of the bigger teams out there,” Kramer said. “Now that we have some good KB power, he is doing really well for this team.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019