Crafton looks to maintain momentum in Kansas

Crafton looks to maintain momentum in Kansas Getty Images

Matt Crafton's lengthy legacy of excellence in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series came sharply into focus a year ago at Kansas Speedway, site of Friday night's SFP 250 for Crafton and his No. 88 Goof Off / Menards Toyota Tundra team.

Crafton won in bright sunshine a year ago while Friday's race will be the first night race for the Truck Series at Kansas. But one thing that hasn't changed is Crafton's level of performance, which resulted in the 2013 NCWTS drivers' championship.

And Kansas -- where Crafton's ThorSport Racing squad grabbed the points lead that it never relinquished -- was key.

"Kansas gave our team huge momentum last year," Crafton said. "We went to Martinsville a few weeks before that race and we finished second to our teammate Johnny (Sauter) and then we went to Rockingham and ran really good there and then we went to Kansas and won.

"That just took our momentum to a whole new level. After that we went to Dover and finished second to Kyle (Busch) so we just had a really, really good beginning to our summer stretch."

Crafton's done himself one better this season, in a manner of speaking. While his 13th-place finish at Daytona prevented him from equaling last season's 16 consecutive top-10 finishes to start the campaign, he won the series' most recent race, at Martinsville -- his fourth career win and the second with crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner.

"We ran so well into the summer (of 2013) and then we got that big points lead," Crafton said. "Everybody always bugged me about having so many top-10 finishes last year and (only one) win.

"I just said, 'I have to do what I have to do. I'm not going to be that guy -- who lost the biggest points lead in Truck Series history.' Winning Kansas was really good for our momentum and it was really cool to be able to give Junior his first win, as well."

 

Crafton, who had seven of his series-best 19 top-10 finishes last season on intermediate speedways like Kansas, is optimistic and confident when it comes to what it will take to excel in the evening at the fast, high-banked track that was repaved between the 2012 and 2013 Truck Series races.

 

Despite having only five top-10 finishes in 13 career Kansas starts, Crafton believes what he saw last year at Kansas gives him and Joiner a pretty good direction. 

 

"Having only been to Kansas one time on the new pavement, the groove started widening out," Crafton said of his experience a year ago. "I just watched some of the other races and listened to some of the other people complain about it, but now it seems like the weather has helped it even from last year.

 

"I'm sure it will even get better this year and we will have a little wider racing groove."

 

Crafton said flexibility will be key and so will dialing-in their Goof Off / Menards Tundra while practicing in the afternoon, while the race will be at night.

 

"I think with the racing being at night this year we are going to have to build a lot of adjustability into our Tundra," Crafton said. "Some tracks will loosen up at night and some tracks will tighten up at night with the sun going down.

 

"I have no idea what this track is going to do, but building-in plenty of adjustability is going to be key."

 

After opening inspection on Thursday morning the 32 entered trucks will have two practice sessions Thursday afternoon, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. ET and from 4-5:30. Neither has TV coverage scheduled on FOX Sports 1.

The Truck Series' inaugural -- since qualifying sessions at both Daytona and Martinsville were rained-out -- multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the up-to 36-truck starting lineup is Friday at 4:40 p.m. ET, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 4:30.
 
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Steven B. Wilson

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