Wednesday, Nov 30

Sauter, Crafton qualify in top 10 at Martinsville

Johnny Sauter's started from the pole for the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway, but as good as his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota practiced Friday, capped off by a fourth-place qualifying effort, Sauter's looking to repeat his winning performance from April 2011.


"It was good," Sauter said on pit road after doing a SPEED Channel interview for Friday night's SPEED News(9:30 p.m. ET). "Obviously you want more, but the truck was real stable and comfortable -- we just needed a little more speed, and I probably could've got that, but I just didn't.


"I probably could've made more time up, getting into the corner. But it rolled a pretty corner and we definitely can see (the leaders) from there."


Sauter will line up behind a pair of rookies on the front row, first-time pole-winner Jeb Burton and Darrell Wallace Jr., and perennial Truck Series title contender Timothy Peters. Sauter's fourth-place lap was only a tenth of a second off Burton's 19.589-second lap, an average speed of 96.6 mph.


"All in all I think we've got something that will race well, "Sauter said. "And qualifying fourth gives you a little bit of extra desire to want to get up there and lead the race."


Sauter's ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton will line up seventh in his No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel / Menards Toyota, but he feels like his truck is better than the one he led 33 laps with last fall in the Kroger 200, when Denny Hamlin biffed Crafton out of the way and stole the victory.


"I honestly didn't expect to have a pole run, because we didn't have a lot of one-lap speed (in practice)," Crafton said Friday. "But I blame some of qualifying seventh on me, because the first lap was really good so I tried a little bit too hard on the second lap, maybe tried to get a little bit too much...


"Like I said, I don't think it was gonna be a pole run, but what I can say is that I think we've got a really good truck in race trim, so that's gonna pay a lot more than just a pole."


Sauter was atop the speed chart for a good portion of the lone morning practice, ultimately ending up in second position, saying his truck "rotated in the center of the corner better than anything we've ever had here."


At one point, Sauter and Crafton were one-two on the speed chart before Crafton ended up ninth when the flurry of late practice qualifying runs were completed. But like Sauter had said, Crafton noted his truck was one of the best he'd ever had here, in his 23rd career Martinsville start -- which will also tie him with former ThorSport driver Terry Cook for the all-time Truck Series consecutive starts streak, with 296.


"It's definitely one of the better ones we've had," Crafton confirmed after qualifying. "Last fall we were really good and we've had some really good trucks here in the past but I hope we're ahead of the game with all the testing we did over at Sandusky (Speedway, in Ohio last week), so we'll be just fine, I think."


Todd Bodine's third ThorSport Truck, the No. 13 SealMaster Toyota, will line up 23rd, but Bodine and crew chief Jeriod Prince improved their truck radically between practice and qualifying and Prince said they had more of the same up their sleeves for pre-race.


"In qualifying the truck was a little throttle-tight, up off the corner, and we fought that throughout practice," Prince said. "But he said the truck was way better in qualifying than in practice and we feel like we can fix that for the race. We made some big changes for qualifying -- we figured we'd try some stuff -- and since it worked we'll go more for the race, because he liked it (in qualifying)."


Bodine's drawing positives from the fact that four of his eight career Martinsville top-10 finishes have come from starting positions beyond 20th -- including a third-place run in 2010 from 24th on the grid.


"It was a tough day but it's not where you start, it's where you finish," Bodine said. "I have two great teammates. We all work together and we will be good (in the race)."


Thorsport PR


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