Matt Crafton’s run well enough at Texas Motor Speedway that he has every reason to believe he could end up blasting some six-shooters in Victory Lane next to his No. 88 Slim Jim / Menards Toyota Tundra after Friday night’s 18th annual WinStar World Casino & Resort 400.
Crafton, who suffered a jarring crash at Dover last weekend that ended a couple significant streaks of consistency for the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, does have five consecutive top-10 finishes at Texas.
“Winning at Texas would be cool — very cool,” Crafton said. “It’s always been one of those racetracks everyone wants to win at. You want to be able to shoot the guns (in Victory Lane) and to be able to say you’ve won at Texas.
“Winning there would be a really good deal so hopefully we can keep our momentum that we’ve had the last four weeks, going and just go with that and let the chips fall where they will.”
That sounds odd, given Crafton’s 23rd-place finish last weekend. But that was a definite anomaly and his worst finish since March 2012, a 24th at Martinsville. The accident, caused by a wheel failure, ended a streak of 27 consecutive lead-lap finishes and 47 consecutive races in which Crafton had been running at the finish.
It knocked Crafton, who hopes to extend his Truck Series’ record consecutive starts streak to 322 at Texas, from an 11-point lead in the Series’ drivers’ championship into a tie for second with ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter, one point behind Timothy Peters. The equally critical owners’ points gap, to four-time 2014 winner Kyle Busch Motorsports, grew to 33 points.
But Crafton’s quick to point out just what the impact of his season-to-date has been on ThorSport’s goal of becoming the first team in Series history to win back-to-back titles.
“Defending a championship in anything is never easy, but the performance of the team so far this season with our 2014 Menards Tundra has been very, very good,” Crafton said. “We’ve had bad finishes at Daytona (13th) and Dover, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t running good in both of them.
“We led laps (46 of them) at Dover and we’ve been in contention to win in pretty much every race we’ve been at. So it can’t get much better — except for finishing second behind Kyle Busch a couple times.”
Crafton’s never been one to look too far ahead and that’s certainly the case this season.
“We certainly can (make history by winning consecutive championships), if we have all the luck go our way,” Crafton said in response to a direct question rather than speculating on his own. “Sometimes it’s all about the luck. We just had a part failure at Dover, which is just bad luck.
“We’ve proven that we’ve got the speed, and now we’ve got to have the luck to go with it. And (last) Friday afternoon we didn’t have the luck. Sometimes there are just things you can’t control.”
But at Texas, with its rough, rapidly wearing-out surface, Crafton knows he can control a lot of his fate. And if he does, the satisfaction is almost unquantifiable.
“Oh yeah — absolutely,” Crafton said. “Texas is very tough. To get the balance of the thing, because the track is aging — let’s put it that way — and it’s becoming an awesome racetrack now because the tires (performance) fall off and you slip and slide and the trucks move around and we’ve got to move around with our Tundra to find speed.
“So it’s becoming an even more awesome place and I really can’t put into words how much I’d like to win there.”
The weekend begins Thursday afternoon with opening inspection followed by 150 minutes of Truck Series practice. A one-hour practice from 6-7 p.m. ET is scheduled to be followed by final practice from 7:30-9 p.m. There is no TV coverage scheduled for practice.
Friday’s schedule includes the Truck Series’ third elimination-style, three-session Keystone Light Pole Qualifying event of the season, at 5:10 p.m. ET to set the starting lineup of up to 36 trucks. There is no TV coverage scheduled.
Friday night’s 167-lap, 250.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 9 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 8:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 8:30. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com.
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ABOUT THORSPORT RACING:
ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers’ champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 Carolina Nut Co. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.