Matt Crafton wins Dirt Derby NASCAR truck race at Eldora Speedway


By Kyle Shaner - kshaner@aimmedianetwork.com



ROSSBURG – Wanting to contend on dirt, Matt Crafton bought his own dirt modified car this winter, a move that paid off as he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday at Eldora Speedway.

The Dirt Derby victory ended a 27-race winless streak for Crafton, the driver of the 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota Tundra.

“It definitely ranks up there amongst one of the greatest wins I’ve had so far just because it’s something so out of the ordinary,” he said.

Crafton led 24 of the 150 laps on the half-mile clay oval. Stewart Friesen, who finished second, led 94 laps. John Hunter Nemechek led 11 laps while Christopher Bell led 22 on the night, which saw seven lead changes among those four drivers.

Crafton had to strategize late in the race to find the best position on the track to set up the 14th victory of his truck series career.

“I just had to save my stuff,” he said. “I just had to have something to race there at the end. I knew I just couldn’t put it up top.”

While Crafton’s strategy paid off late, his decision making earlier in the race didn’t go as well. Crafton led at the end of the first stage but thought his truck was too loose.

The veteran driver had his crew tighten up the truck for the second of three stages, which backfired as Crafton fell to ninth at the end of 90 laps.

“The second segment we were way, way too tight, and we fell back quite a ways,” he said.

The miscalculation left crew chief Carl Joiner upset with his driver.

“I was mad at the end of that second stage. I was pissed,” Joiner said with a laugh. “But that’s pretty normal for me, and that’s what makes our relationship special. We can shake it off and have our lotion on it, and nobody gets their feelings hurt.”

The team adjusted the truck for the final stage, and Crafton once again was running well as he moved up the field and back into the lead on his way to his first win since May 2016 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Crafton had questioned what his team was doing wrong over the past year, but he was confident that they’d eventually figure it out and get a win, which they did Wednesday night.

“I knew we would because there were spots in the season where we had speed and then there were spots where we have been really bad as well,” he said.

The fifth annual Dirt Derby, the only event in any of NASCAR’s three national series that runs on dirt, was a race Crafton targeted to contend. For the past several years he raced for other dirt teams, but this year he bought his own modified to better prepare himself for the challenge of racing on dirt.

“I’ve had to spend a lot of my own money trying to learn how to do this,” he said.

Friesen, who started on the pole, finished second in Wednesday’s race. Chase Briscoe finished third, Grant Enfinger finished fourth, and Nemechek finished fifth.

Johnny Sauter remained atop the Camping World Truck Series points standings despite finishing 23rd in the 32-car field. He was involved in a wreck on lap 20 that involved nine trucks and brought out the second of 10 caution flags totaling 59 laps on the night.

NASCAR Camping World Truck-Eldora Dirt Derby Results

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (2) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 150 laps, 0 rating, 52 points.

2. (1) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 54.

3. (12) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 150, 0, 41.

4. (11) Grant Enfinger, Toyota, 150, 0, 40.

5. (6) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 48.

6. (26) Bobby Pierce, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 31.

7. (10) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 150, 0, 30.

8. (13) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 33.

9. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 150, 0, 35.

10. (17) Austin Cindric, Ford, 150, 0, 38.

11. (27) Cody Coughlin, Toyota, 150, 0, 26.

12. (5) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 0.

13. (29) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 24.

14. (16) Jeffrey Abbey, Chevrolet, 150, 0, 23.

15. (23) Harrison Burton, Toyota, 150, 0, 22.

16. (28) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 149, 0, 21.

17. (24) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet, 149, 0, 20.

18. (31) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 147, 0, 0.

19. (20) Chris Windom, Chevrolet, 146, 0, 18.

20. (8) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 146, 0, 21.

21. (18) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 146, 0, 0.

22. (32) Ray Ciccarelli, Chevrolet, 146, 0, 15.

23. (14) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 14.

24. (25) Brandon Hightower, Chevrolet, 138, 0, 13.

25. (21) Justin Shipley, Ford, engine, 121, 0, 17.

26. (15) Rico Abreu, Toyota, accident, 117, 0, 14.

27. (19) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, overheating, 80, 0, 10.

28. (30) Korbin Forrister, Chevrolet, accident, 44, 0, 9.

29. (22) Max Johnston, Chevrolet, accident, 41, 0, 8.

30. (7) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, accident, 40, 0, 7.

31. (3) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, accident, 34, 0, 6.

32. (9) Caleb Holman, Toyota, transmission, 12, 0, 5.

___

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 51.910 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 45 minutes, 44 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.960 seconds.

Caution Flags: 10 for 59 laps.

Lead Changes: 7 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders: S.Friesen 1-33; M.Crafton 34-40; S.Friesen 41; J.Nemechek 42-52; S.Friesen 53-91; C.Bell 92-113; S.Friesen 114-133; M.Crafton 134-150

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): S.Friesen, 4 times for 89 laps; M.Crafton, 2 times for 22 laps; C.Bell, 1 time for 21 laps; J.Nemechek, 1 time for 10 laps.

Wins: C.Bell, 3; J.Nemechek, 2; M.Crafton, 1; K.Grala, 1; J.Sauter, 1.

Top 10 in Points: 1. J.Sauter, 478; 2. C.Bell, 471; 3. C.Briscoe, 431; 4. M.Crafton, 427; 5. G.Enfinger, 356; 6. J.Nemechek, 354; 7. B.Rhodes, 337; 8. R.Truex, 336; 9. N.Gragson, 329; 10. A.Cindric, 292.

___

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

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Matt Crafton won Eldora Speedway’s fifth annual Dirt Derby NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday in Rossburg.
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/07/web1_Matt-Crafton-WEB-2.jpgMatt Crafton won Eldora Speedway’s fifth annual Dirt Derby NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday in Rossburg. Kyle Shaner | The Daily Advocate

By Kyle Shaner

kshaner@aimmedianetwork.com

Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.

Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.