NCWTS leader Crafton craving Charlotte homestand

NCWTS leader Crafton craving Charlotte homestand Getty Images

Matt Crafton's hoping a spectacular statistical history at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- including his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory -- helps him score his second win at both the site of Friday night's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 as well as his second victory this season in his No. 88 Hormel / Menards Toyota Tundra.
Crafton got his first wish of the weekend granted when all of Thursday's on-track activity was washed-out by rain.

Friday's schedule was adjusted to include a single, two-hour practice session from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET. The final hour is scheduled to be televised on FOX Sports 1.

Crafton, for one, wasn't sorry to see Thursday's four hours of practice wiped out as he and his two ThorSport Racing teammates, Johnny Sauter and Jeb Burton, tested on the fast, 1.5-mile oval about a month ago.

"The biggest thing when we tested here and in general with the 2014 Tundra and all the (other) manufacturers is that it's brand new for everybody so we had no idea when we tested here," Crafton said. "I hope it rains like hell the rest of the day to be totally honest because we tested here and we feel like we have a pretty good balance on it.

"There are a few of these teams that have pretty fast trucks that didn't come to the test so I hope it rains the rest of the day."

With that actually occurring there's no question Crafton is one of the favorites for Friday night. The driver who owns the Truck Series' current consecutive starts streak -- 319 -- has the most career Truck Series starts at CMS, with 11. In that time he's accrued the most top-10 finishes, eight, the most lead-lap finishes, 10, and the most laps completed, 1,459, while finishing every race.

And while ThorSport is based in Sandusky, Ohio, about a nine-hour drive from Charlotte, Crafton's current residence is in nearby Mooresville, N.C., and he's very well aware what a win at Charlotte means.

"I look forward to racing at Charlotte -- I always look forward to coming to Charlotte," Crafton said on Thursday. "It's the site of my first win and it's really cool because the majority of the teams are based out of the Charlotte area and our team is based out of Sandusky.

"Everybody has their pride of coming to Charlotte to try to win in their own backyard. To be able to come here and try to steal the pride from those guys is very cool. We did it a few years back (2008)."

Crafton, whose average Charlotte start is 12.7 but whose average finish is 9.3 after he scored top-10 finishes in his first seven starts here, finished fourth a year ago. After finishing runner-up to Kyle Busch last week at Kansas, Crafton obviously would like nothing better than to go one spot better at the checkers Friday -- and he feels like Charlotte is his house.

Even better, he learned a week ago how to avoid the wreck-fest that developed at Kansas.

"I kept looking in my mirror and saw people making the mistakes and I'm sure there are going to be a lot of (drivers) that are a lot smarter (Friday) night as well, racing side-by-side," Crafton said. "This place -- the tire is a lot grippier and the track is starting to wear out so you're going to be able to run side-by-side a lot better (Friday) night.

"Charlotte is all about great racing. The greatest thing about Charlotte Motor Speedway is you can move around. If your truck isn't handling you can find someplace -- high or low -- where you can make gains and I love that."

Friday afternoon the 33 entered trucks will have the Truck Series' second multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the up-to 36-truck starting lineup on Friday at 5:40 p.m., with live coverage on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 5:30.
 
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Steven B. Wilson

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