Crafton gambles and collects the victory at Texas
Crafton wins for the second time in 2014; read Amanada Vincent's full race report below.
Matt Crafton's No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota was one of the slowest trucks on the track at Texas Motor Speedway in the final laps of the WinStar World Casino and Resort 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (CWTS) race, but that was because Crafton was in fuel conservation mode.
Crafton and a handful of other drivers stayed out while most pitted for a splash of fuel in the closing laps. Justin Lofton finished second, a distant 13.302 seconds behind Crafton, after staying out in the No. 20 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet.
"I really thought we'd have a caution the way everyone was slipping and sliding," Lofton said. "We were too far on track position to content with Matt."
Crafton's margin of victory was the largest in series history at Texas. After making it 61 laps on a single tank of fuel, he ran out doing celebratory donuts after the race.
"I didn't know we were as close as we were," Crafton said. "That's one of the hardest things to do trying to tell a race car driver to slow down."
Joe Nemechek also stayed out to finish an impressive third in the No. 8 SWMNEMCO Motorsports Toyota.
"We made a good call (to stay out)," Nemechek said. "We knew when that last caution came out, we were close on fuel."
Crafton wasn't just up front because of fuel mileage however. As a matter of fact, he was up front throughout the entire race, leading more laps than any other driver. He led a race-high 118 laps, which is more laps than he's every led in any Truck race, dating back 322 races ago to the season finale of the 2000 season.
Lofton started from pole with Crafton second and as fate would have it, they would finish the race the same way with the roles simply reversed.
Crafton took the lead at the start and remained up front until the first of three cautions in close succession came out on lap 35 (first was for a spin by Norm Benning). The No. 30 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Ron Hornaday got off pit road first to restart with the lead, while Crafton restarted back in third. The No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford of Ryan Blaney quickly took command and Crafton eventually took the lead back from Blaney on the following restart.
Blaney retook the top spot by taking fuel only during the third caution of the race that came out just before lap 60. That caution was significant because of who was involved. Timothy Peters came into this race with the points lead and after an early tire issue, his truck was destroyed when he lost control in the oil of German Quiroga...his own teammate.
Crafton was pushed down the running order on that round of stops but quickly moved up to second after the restart on fresh tires, leaving Hornaday and the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Erik Jones to battle for third. Blaney was able to hold off Crafton for a while, but Crafton eventually closed in and overwhelmed him in the 93rd lap.
The fourth and final yellow flag came on lap 104 for debris. Crafton got off pit road first to maintain his lead, but when the race restarted, he lost that lead to Hornaday when he made a daring three-wide pass. Hornaday's time up front was short-lived with Crafton quickly moving back by after an evanescent battle
"The restarts were awesome," Crafton said. "They're so much fun the best racing in NASCAR."
In terms of every driver that pitted under green in the final laps, Blaney was the only one o get back into the top five by the time the checkered flag flew (fourth). John Wes Townley, who also stayed out in the No. 5 Wauters Motorsports Toyota, rounded out the top five. Hornaday finished sixth, the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Toyota of Johnny Sauter was seventh, the No. 99 T3R Motorsports Chevrolet of Bryan Silas finished eighth (his first top ten in 66 CWTS starts), the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet of Joey Coulter ninth, and the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Darrell Wallace Jr. was 10th.
With the win, Crafton claimed championship points lead by 11 points over his ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 98 Toyota. Heading into the race, Crafton was tied with Sauter for second, a single point behind Timothy Peters, driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota.
The victory is Crafton's second of the season, marking the first time in his CWTS career that he's won multiple races in a single season. He's also the only series championship-eligible driver to win so far this year. The other four races were all won by Sprint Cup ace Kyle Busch.
The CWTS heads to Gateway next weekend.
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