Matt Crafton surprises with first Eldora Truck win
A two-time Camping World Truck Series champion finally found his first win of the season – on dirt of all places.
Matt Crafton, whose primary experience racing on dirt has come when Eldora Speedway was added to the series schedule, held off dirt-racing ace Stewart Friesen to win Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby.
"My first dirt win - a lot of fun," said Crafton, who picked up his 14th career win. "In the second part of that race we down-right just stunk. It was my fault. We over-tightened it a little bit in the first run. It got free and we just went back to the way we started the race.
"I knew I was getting beat down low. Finally at the end, I said, 'Well, we may have to tear the right- side off to get the win.' I started doing it and this truck became a rocket ship."
Ray Ciccarelli spun to bring out a caution with 12 of 150 laps remaining. On the restart with 10 to go, Crafton took command as Briscoe battled Friesen for second.
The win is Crafton’s first of the season and locks him into the series playoffs. It snaps a 27-race winless streak dating back to last season.
Briscoe finished third, Grant Enfinger was fourth and John Hunter Nemechek completed the top-five.
Friesen, who led 93 laps, was excellent on long runs, but the late-race cautions slowed his ability to return to the front after losing the lead with 16 to go.
“Congrats to Matt, he’s been doing his homework on the dirt and it paid off,” said Friesen. “We didn’t come here to run second that’s for damn sure, but I’m proud of these guys they worked hard to get this truck dialed in.
"We had a great truck, he (Crafton) just got rolling on the top, it cleaned up, I was so committed to the bottom and go there in the middle and he just found a line and got us. It burns.”
Friesen held off Ty Dillon in a one-lap shootout to collect the Stage 2 victory – his first Stage win of the season.
Nemechek finished third, Christopher Bell – damaged in a wreck in Stage 1 – worked his way back up to fourth and Austin Cindric was fifth.
Friesen’s success was short-lived, however, as he had to pit for a flat right-front tire, which put him in the back of the field for the start of the final Stage.
Ciccarelli and Sheldon Creed made contact and wrecked on the frontstretch to bring out the caution on Lap 85, which bunched the field shortly before the conclusion of the second segment.
Creed was also involved in an accident on Lap 68 in Turn 3.
Crafton earned the win of the first 40-lap segment under caution.
“We ran the top (groove) for a while and the top is definitely a little different than it was last night (in practice),” Crafton said during the break.
Bell, the only former event winner in the race, spun on his own running the high line on Lap 35 and was hit hard on the right side by Kaz Grala. The race did not return to green before the conclusion of the Stage.
“I couldn’t get high enough or low enough to miss (Bell),” Grala said. “We were hanging strong in the top-10 and I thought we had a chance at a top-five and maybe contend for the win.”
Friesen finished second in the segment, followed by Nemechek, Briscoe and Dillon.
Creed spun on his own on Lap 19 and Ben Rhodes slid into him, which triggered a multi-truck incident that also collected Johnny Sauter, Harrison Burton, Bobby Pierce, Norm Benning and Rico Abreu, among others.
The caution was merged with a planned competition caution to allow officials to check the condition of the track.
Track conditions were quite muddy when the race began, with several drivers complaining of their inability to see out of their windshields, particularly those further back in the field.
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