Blaney, Crafton go head-to-head in Cup, standings
August 15, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In the midst of a heavyweight fight in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, series points leader Ryan Blaney and third-place Matt Crafton took their battle to a different venue on Friday: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars.
Both wheelmen pitched in as substitute drivers on the opening day of practices and Sprint Cup qualifying at Michigan International Speedway.
Blaney was in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford -- his part-time Cup ride next year -- in place of Trevor Bayne, who is in Ohio for the NASCAR Nationwide Series event but will return in time for Sunday's race. Crafton piloted the No. 78 Chevrolet for Martin Truex Jr., who is expected to be at the track Saturday. His girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, underwent surgery for ovarian cancer Friday.
"I think you have to separate each series from each other and have a different mindset in each series," Blaney said early Friday before on-track events began. "I am really focused on trying to get this car good for Trevor for Sunday and hopefully help the Wood Brothers have a great run. That is my goal, but at the same time we have a really big race on the Truck Series side."
Through 11 of 22 races, Blaney tops all Truck Series drivers with 408 points. He leads the series with seven top-five finishes, six of which have come in the past seven races. His worst finish during that stretch is a seventh-place effort at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Crafton is third in the standings, 12 points back. He has two wins, tied for most among full-timers, but also two finishes outside the top 20.
Neither driver had much free time Friday with Cup qualifying, Cup practice and two Truck Series practices on the docket from noon-5:30 p.m. ET.
"It's part of the deal," Crafton said after climbing out of his No. 88 Toyota Tundra and stealing a few minutes with his crew in between Truck Series practices. "We'll go out here and worry about this Menard's Toyota Tundra and try to win the race Saturday. I am happy to help and go over and practice and qualify the No. 78 car. And obviously, best wishes and prayers to Sherry and Martin."
As far as the scoreboard goes, the duo split the Truck Series practices (Blaney finished seventh to Crafton's 17th in the opening session; Crafton was ninth to Blaney's 13th in final practice) while Blaney swept the Cup events.
The 20-year-old steered the No. 21 Ford to a 28th-place position in the first round of group qualifying (202.327 mph) while the No. 78, with Crafton behind the wheel, came in at 39th.