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Crafton extends points lead after chaotic ‘Dega ending

October 19, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Teammates Sauter and Crafton worked together to pull out a win

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – He nearly made it to the finish line, but then again, "nearly" describes the end result for quite a few other drivers in Saturday's fred's 250 at Talladega Superspeedway

In the end, even points leader Matt Crafton couldn't avoid the chaos, his yellow No. 88 Toyota sent spinning while battling for the win. 

One of six trucks paired up and running nose-to-tail for the final two laps of the Camping World Truck Series event, Crafton was pushing ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter toward the checkered flag when a multicar accident erupted behind the leaders.

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And it was still unfolding when Parker Kligerman, pushing Ross Chastain on the low side, slid up and found himself in a fast-shrinking gap between Chastain and Crafton. The contact sent all three trucks, as well as that of Dakoda Armstrong into the outside wall. 

Only Sauter, winner of the season's first two races, escaped unscathed, taking the checkered flag with David Starr and Chastain second and third. 

Ninth when most of the dust had settled, Crafton had nothing but praise for his team and his teammate. 

"I just can't thank Johnny, everybody on this team (enough)," Crafton said in the garage afterward, his uniform dusted with debris. "We just never give up. We had very, very slow trucks by ourselves, but when they locked together, it was game on." 

Crafton now leads Ty Dillon by 57 points as the series prepares to head to Martinsville, Va., for next week's stop. Defending series champion James Buescher, second in points entering the race, exited in third, trailing by 58. Rookie Jeb Burton and Miguel Paludo round out the top five in points.

The last-lap crash, which collected a dozen trucks, began when contact between Paludo and Burton sent Burton into Kyle Busch and Busch rocketing off the wall. 

Busch's Toyota shot back down the track where it caught Paludo in the right rear, the force of which turned Paludo's truck on it's top.

As that unfolded, Sauter, Chastain, Kligerman, Crafton and Armstrong were barreling toward the finish line. 

"I don't why the 19 (of Chastain) came up and got us in the left rear quarter panel," Crafton said. "I don't know if somebody hooked him and turned him. I thought we were going to have something right there. I started to pull out and do something at the end." 

At that point, second place wasn't an option. Crafton said he was going for broke. 

"Absolutely going to go for the win," he said. "That's what they pay me for." 

Chastain said he had no explanation for what took place behind him.

"All I know is the 20 (of Kligerman) came off my bumper right dead center of tri-oval and when he did that it pulled me right," he said. "I thought we'd still be OK. I knew we weren't going to win at that point. Then I got turned. I don't know if the 20 got wedged in between me and someone else or what happened.

"I still thought we'd be second, maybe third at that point … but all of a sudden I got hit. … It really surprised me we crossed the line in third as long as we slid."

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