Still not old enough to drive cars, 14-year-old Cody Krucker could win a title as a pro trucks driver Adam Fisher, email@example.com; 239-403-6135
As Cody Krucker settles in for Thanksgiving dinner, he won’t be focused on turkey or football.
Instead the up-and-coming driver will have his mind on the race track, where he’s chasing a championship this holiday weekend.
Krucker, in his first full season driving, leads the pro truck points standings at 4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda heading into the championship race on Saturday.
What makes his season more impressive is that he isn’t legally allowed to drive a car. He’s not even old enough to take Drivers Ed.
At 14 years old, Krucker is barely in high school. And yet the Estero High School freshman has run laps around competition twice his age.
As he dreams of a title trophy, Krucker is thankful for the support of his parents and the friends who have become his racing family for getting him to this point.
“It would be unexplainable,” Krucker said about winning the truck season title. “You think about how happy NASCAR guys are just to win a race. For me to go out and bring home a championship in my rookie year, it would mean so much.
“We can feel it coming. It’s so close.”
Though he’s only been out of middle school a few months, Krucker is a veteran behind the wheel.
The Estero teen started in go-karts when he was 5 years old, but his love for motorsports goes back further.
As a 2-year-old watching a NASCAR race with his dad, Krucker pointed to the TV and said, “I want to do that someday.”
Jason Krucker, Cody’s dad, grew up in Minnesota riding dirt bikes for fun. He bought his son the smallest dirt bike he could find, fitted it with training wheels, and Cody’s passion for driving was born.
In 2010, at the age of 5, he entered his first race driving a borrowed go-kart and borrowed gear. After finishing sixth, the family bought the kart and went all-in on their son’s passion.
Cody won go-kart races all over Florida and even made it out to California for nationals. Last year, the family decided it was time for Cody to get closer to his goal of driving NASCAR.
“There’s no such thing as a pro go-kart racer,” Jason Krucker said. “You get to a certain point and you’ve got to make a decision. For us, the truck was the best fit to get away from karting but take a step up.”
Just 13 at the time, Cody had to earn a spot on 4-17’s three-eighths-mile asphalt track. In early 2018, Cody did testing at the Punta Gorda speedway to prove to the owners he could handle himself in the truck despite his young age.
After getting approved, Cody ran a few races at the track last year in his No. 27 Chevrolet Silverado pro truck to get the feel for live racing.
Cody’s mother, Shannon Bullock, admits letting her only child, barely a teenager at the time, get behind the wheel of a truck going 80 miles per hour made her nervous. It still does.
However, she never hesitated to let him race.
“I was scared, of course, but I was for it,” Bullock said. “Seeing him out there makes me nervous. But he’s passionate about it. How do you not let him do it when he wants to do something that he’s passionate about?”
This year Cody has run the full season at 4-17. In 12 races he has eight top-three finishes, 11 top-fives and has finished runner-up four times. He leads the season point standings heading into Saturday’s finale.
“I get the biggest joy out of seeing him do well,” Jason Krucker said. “It takes a lot of hard work, and it’s good to see the hard work pay off. He does his job when he goes to the track. We give him everything we can, and the rest is up to him.”
Cody has done all this while adjusting to the reactions, positive and negative, of older drivers, as well as adapting to the ins and outs of the track and his truck.
“Every race is a learning experience,” he said. “I’m nervous just being at the track on race day. A lot goes through your mind. As soon as the (racing) suit goes up over your shoulders and the helmet’s on, I’m in my own place. It all goes away.”
A family sport
Racing is a team sport. Cody is the one pushing the gas and turning the wheel, but his crew gets the No. 27 on the track. Sill a kid with limited resources, Cody’s family makes up his CJK Racing team.
His parents are in the pits every race. When Cody moved up to trucks, the family brought in family friend Scot Walters as crew chief. Walters brought in his friend Scott Kleiber, and both have become like blood to the Kruckers.
“We’re fortunate to be able to spend the time together and do everything as a family,” Jason Krucker said. “People that aren’t familiar with the sport don’t understand how much of a family atmosphere it is.”
Dad helps work on the truck, while mom does any odd job to keep the team running – charging radios and headsets, getting tires and gas, fueling up the generator, grabbing tools.
On the mechanical side, the Kruckers trust in Walters and Kleiber.
Walters grew up racing like Cody and eventually made it to the NASCAR pro truck series in the late 1990s. He moved to Naples 21 years ago. Walters’ 10-year-old daughter, Karsyn, drives go-karts, which is how he met the Kruckers.
Kleiber owns an auto repair shop in Naples. He acts as the team’s assistant crew chief and main spotter on race days.
“Cody was pretty hungry in racing, and he did very well in go-karting,” Walters said about getting involved with the Kruckers. “They’re a good family. They think of racing the way my family does. They have a passion for it.”
The expertise of “Scot with one T” (Walters) and “Scott with two T’s” (Kleiber) has been essential as the Kruckers rely on mechanical tweaks for speed rather than the most expensive equipment.
The Kruckers are racing on a budget. Both parents have small businesses – Jason owns Direct Contracting and Shannon owns A Helping Hand Etc. cleaning company – and they have to pick and chose where to put any disposable income.
“We have to spend money wisely,” Jason said. “For us it’s not an option to be able to go out and buy whatever to make it work. That’s where (Walters) comes in. He understands and knows how to set the truck up to do different things instead of just saying, ‘We need to buy this or buy that.’”
'It's just what we do'
In his 10th year of racing, Cody still has sights on the sport’s top level. His goal remains to make it to NASCAR.
Following a successful rookie year at their local track, the Kruckers plan to join the statewide Florida Pro Truck Challenge Series next year. At some point, Cody wants to step up to a super late model car, the highest classification of short-track racing.
Although he could be considered a professional driver – he’s won prize money, after all – Cody remains a full-time student, and the Kruckers make sure school comes first.
Cody was an honors student throughout middle school and was president of the student council as an eighth-grader. At Estero High he is involved in the Cambridge program, which offers college-level courses.
Cody also is involved in community service projects. Last year he gathered donations from local stores for improvement projects (painting, landscaping) at Three Oaks Middle School. The past few years he has gathered school supplies donated for local students and schools in need.
Juggling school and other activities can be difficult. Cody and Jason spend a few nights a week working on the No. 27 truck at Walters’s garage, where the truck is stored.
“Homework can get stressful sometimes,” Cody said. “You’ve just got to push through and get it done.”
With the season finale on Saturday, Cody will spend his holiday weekend with his racing family – mom, dad, Scot and Scott. The Kruckers will have a lowkey Thanksgiving meal at home Thursday before heading to Walters’s place to get the truck in the trailer and ready for Friday’s practice session at 4-17.
The Kruckers can’t visit with family in Minnesota or Georgia this Thanksgiving. They spend plenty of other special occasions at the track, including several of Shannon’s birthdays and at least one of Cody’s.
However, with a championship title on the line, it’s a price the family is willing to pay for something they love.
“You have to make some sacrifices as well adapt to celebrating some of those special events at the track,” Jason said.
“But it’s just what we do,” Shannon added.