This year marks the second straight season Deric Kramer has advanced to the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. It doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at the numbers to know this year has been far more productive for the Pro Stock standout.
A year after winning just one round in six playoff races, Kramer is in the midst of an extremely tight and thrilling battle for a world championship. He picked up his first career playoff victory with his Charlotte triumph and that has him just 72 points out of first in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro heading to this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s a new feeling for Kramer, but he’s enjoying every part of it.
“We’re just going to do the absolute best we can,” Kramer said. “We’ve got to be one of the two cars in the final round the last two races, so that’s the goal. And then you just try to win every race and let the points fall where they may. You try not to feel any different and I think that’s the best way to approach it. It can be a stressful position to be in. You figure we’re already in the car for six decisions and we’ve got a 100 decisions to make, so you don’t need to add any more stress.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 3. It is the fifth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship, and the 17th of 18 events in a 2019 Pro Stock season that’s gone even better than Kramer’s breakout 2018 campaign.
He’s currently fifth in points on the strength of two wins and six semifinal appearances, boasting impressive consistency all season in the talent-filled class. The race for a title is jam-packed, but Kramer knows he’s in a far better position than a year ago. His introduction to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship wasn’t a friendly one, as Kramer and his team learned some very valuable lessons they’ve carried into the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
“I think we raced and tried to win rounds last year where what we really needed to do was learn how to race a season,” Kramer said. “It was a completely new experience for most of us. Not being a full-time team before, we didn’t know what it was going to be like. We’ve done a better job of looking at the bigger picture this year. We definitely have a surplus of parts to choose from that we didn’t have a year ago. Having that peace of mind going down the track, it’s a lot more fun.”
Kramer will try to enjoy himself on the track in Vegas, but it won’t be easy in the tightly-compacted class. Erica Enders leads Matt Hartford by 28 points and Jeg Coughlin Jr. is only 65 points back. Jason Line and Kramer are just three and seven behind Coughlin, respectively, meaning a whole lot of chaos could ensue in Vegas and Pomona to close out 2019. That makes for plenty of thrilling moments for the fans, and Kramer is determined to not let the pressure consume him.
“There’s seven cars within striking distance of that championship and it’s probably the coolest championship hunt I’ve seen since I’ve been in Pro Stock,” Kramer said. “it’s awesome to be a part of. Every race we try to be as good as we can be and I think we have a good shot. Our motto is, ‘Don’t screw it up four rounds in a row,’ and it’s worked out pretty well. If we don’t screw up, we’re pretty hard to beat. Hopefully, we can continue to be a contender.”
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