Matt Crafton sees streak end at Dover
May 30, 2014, Kristen Boghosian, NASCAR.com
As Matt Crafton hit the wall with less than 50 laps to go in the Lucas Oil 200, his points lead and streak of 47 races without a DNF crumpled with the front right side of his No. 88 Chervolet.
Crafton was battling Kyle Busch, trading positions in a fight for clean air several times throughout first 156 laps of the race. The two had a steady hold on first place, sharing the lead only with Ryan Blaney for a single lap. But as Busch led Crafton into Turn 2, the driver of the ThorSport Racing truck lost his right front tire and hit the wall.
"I just blew a right front (tire)," Crafton said. "I don’t know exactly what happened. It's a shame because, like I said, I think we over-addressed it a little bit on that last run. We got tight at the end of the second-to-last run, so we just freed it up a little bit so we thought we’d have something for them maybe at the end of the run. They kept tightening it up and tightening it up as we went on. It’s a shame because, like I said, I thought we might have been able to run with (Busch) there at the end."
Even his competitor used similar words.
"It's a shame that he had his troubles there and got knocked out of the race," Busch said. "It looked like a really hard hit. I haven't even seen it, but just from the tire marks and the paint on the wall and everything else, those are hits you certainly never want to see guys go through."
Emerging from the in-field care center, Crafton confirmed that he was okay, but the wreck had "wrung my bell."
"It knocked the wind out of you more than anything and they’re asking you if you’re alright and you can’t breathe because it knocks the wind out of you," Crafton said. "But I’m all good."
It looked like the 2013 series champion may catch a break as Timothy Peters -- who sat in second behind Crafton in the standings -- slowed and appeared to be off-pace in the waning laps of the race. Peters recovered to finish in the top-10, giving him the points lead over Crafton and his teammate Johnny Sauter by a single point.
The incident that put him in second in the standings hit with little warning, according to Crafton.
"I said a couple laps before that I picked up a small vibration, but a lot of times you pick up rubber and you don’t know what it is, and all of a sudden it was, 'Boom,' and it was done," he said.
The last race Crafton was awarded a DNF was at the season-opening race in 2012 at Daytona International Speedway, an end to 47 consecutive races crossing the finish line in the Camping World Truck Series. Had that streak not been broken, Crafton would have had a chance at breaking another: two races in a row with a runner-up to the eventual race winner.
The drivers will have another chance to duel it out when the series heads to Kentucky, the next race where Busch will pilot the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Erik Jones will take the driver's seat in his stead.
"I told (Erik) that just because they changed the name on the roof, doesn't mean that they shouldn't end up in Victory Lane," Busch joked after the race.
Crafton was hardly the only driver to come across bad luck on the Monster Mile. Darrell Wallace Jr. was running in the top 10 when he hit the wall, as was Brennan Newberry. Wallace would get back on the track after some work on pit road for a finish of 16th, five laps down, while Newberry would not return to the race. Jeb Burton started from the rear and never recovered, finishing 11 laps down in 18th after tire issues as well as pit road issues. Only seven drivers ended the day on the lead lap, a record at Dover for the series.
Crafton will have a chance to regain the points lead when the Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for its next contest. Though he has no wins at the track in a truck, he holds an average finish of 10.7 and 15 top-10s in 26 starts, compared to Peters' two top-10s in 12 starts and average finish of 15.3.