Crafton making history, waves in truck title hunt
May 29, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
The milestones just keep coming for Matt Crafton, who has proven his longevity in his 13th full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. But the 36-year-old veteran isn’t merely coasting on his way to lifetime achievement awards, he’s setting the pace for the series’ up-and-comers to follow.
Crafton is scheduled to make his 300th career start in the series in Friday afternoon’s Lucas Oil 200 (5 p.m. ET, SPEED) at Dover International Speedway, a track that he’s increasingly found favor with during his truck tour tenure. He’ll carry a 22-point lead in the standings over rookie Jeb Burton into the series’ sixth of 22 races this season.
On April 14 at Rockingham Speedway, Crafton set the record for consecutive starts in the series with his 297th race in a row. But more pressing in regards to the current championship battle is his steady performance, highlighted by a victory April 20 at Kansas Speedway.
Crafton stands as the only driver in the series with top-five finishes in all five events this season, but the grittiest showing may have come in the series’ most recent race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The No. 88 ThorSport Racing team, led by crew chief Carl “Junior” Joiner, twice rallied from a lap down to notch a fourth-place finish and retain the top spot in the points.
"You can move around wherever you need to. So now I think concrete is pretty cool. "
-- Matt Crafton
“Charlotte was the kind of night where, if we're lucky enough and good enough to be in position to win this championship at the end of the season, we'll absolutely look back and say that was a championship effort," Crafton said. "That night just showed how good of a race team ThorSport is and how great of a race team that 88 team is.”
Crafton will try to keep his top-five streak intact on a treacherous concrete layout where he’s posted top-10 runs in the past five Dover races. Despite the Monster Mile’s sometimes fickle nature, Crafton has taken a liking to the Delaware track and how multiple-groove racing develops as rubber builds into the surface.
“I was always leery of concrete, but Dover is an awesome racetrack and Bristol is the same way,” he said. “You can move around wherever you need to. So now I think concrete is pretty cool.”
His two ThorSport teammates -- Johnny Sauter and Todd Bodine -- will be aiming for a much-needed boost in the truck standings.
Sauter won the first two races of the season, but fell from the points lead April 24 after NASCAR officials docked him 25 championship points for an unapproved fuel cell on his No. 98 Toyota. He dropped four more positions to sixth in the standings after a late-race crash saddled him with a 28th-place finish at Charlotte.
Bodine will be chasing his first top-10 finish of the season at Dover, the site of his most recent victory in the series. The two-time series champion currently ranks 14th in the standings, the same position he finished in the championship hunt in 2012.
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