With Crafton being a model of consistency, Gaughan must chip away at his lead to get ahead
WELCOME, N.C. – If you want to win a championship, says Brendan Gaughan, “there’s the textbook.”
Gaughan’s talking about fellow NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Matt Crafton, who will carry a 52-point lead into this weekend’s Michigan National Guard 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
“Matt has proven himself to be the one to beat,” said Gaughan, who sits sixth in points and 75 behind the ThorSport Racing driver. “He’s doing exactly what Travis Kvapil did to win the (2003) championship. That’s what it takes. He’s won one race and all he’s doing is top-10ing us to death. I’ve got more top-five finishes (6) than anybody in the series, including him, but he’s got (a top 10 finish) every race.”
In an extremely tight battle outside the top spot, only 33 points separate second-place Jeb Burton and 10th-place Timothy Peters (377-344). Ryan Blaney, defending series champion James Buescher and Ty Dillon, Gaughan’s Richard Childress Racing teammate, are third through fifth, respectively.
Crafton has proven to be the model of consistency, going 11-for-11 in top-10s thus far this year. He’s been atop the standings for eight consecutive races.
“He’s not going to beat himself,” Gaughan said. “The only way you’re going to beat him - you better start winning races and start chipping away at that points lead.”
Gaughan, an eight-time winner with 206 career starts in the series, hopes to do just that this weekend at MIS, where he has not raced since the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season. In seven career starts on the wide, sweeping 2-mile oval, he has four top-10 finishes including one win.
“It’s my style of place,” Gaughan said. “We know I like big places like that."
“What excites me the most about going to Michigan this year is going with RCR. In years past, you go there with what you think is really good or what you hope is going to be good. The fun part about being at RCR is it’s what we know is really good.
“We have some of the best aero packages, we have some of the best engine packages with (Earnhardt Childress Racing). So we know we will be that much better when we go there. … It’s a place that I like, on a team that excels at places like that, so I’m hoping for good results.”
"Scoring top-10 finishes on a weekly basis is no small task, regardless of series, Gaughan said."
Having a fast truck is no guarantee of a solid result.
“You’ve got to have no mechanical failures, no pit stop problems, no random problems like an oil line going or blowing a right front from (running over) debris,” Gaughan said. “When we ran in 2003, we were as consistent as you could be, with a string of nine top-10s in a row … and we still didn’t win the championship because there were just too many races with a bad result."
Which makes Crafton’s strong run that much more remarkable.
“Matt, what he’s doing is really impressive,” said Gaughan. “But you look at his demeanor and the type of driver he is and it doesn’t surprise you.”
Qualifying is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. ET on Saturday, with the Michigan National Guard 200 slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. It will be the first race for the series on the new Fox Sports 1 cable network.
Nelson Piquet Jr. is the defending race winner.