Matt Crafton’s 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ season prognosis might be pretty good, if series points leader Crafton keeps proclaiming disappointment over top-10 finishes.
That was Crafton’s tone after he scored his seventh consecutive top-10 finish this season, Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway in the WinStar World Casino 400, maintaining his streak as the only Truck Series competitor that’s had a top-10 in every race this season.
Unlike his last several races, at Texas Crafton ran decent in Thursday’s lone practice session, ending up fifth on the time sheet in the session that was delayed and then interrupted by rain. Crafton followed that up with an eighth-place qualifying effort Thursday night.
That put him in position to not use his No. 88 Goof Off / Menards Toyota too hard just trying to get to the front, and in the end, despite losing a position on the last lap, Crafton finished fourth behind first-time series winner and NCWTS Rookie of the Year leader Jeb Burton.
The combination cut seven points off Crafton’s point lead over Burton coming into Texas and with a couple weeks off before the next Truck Series race, June 27 at Kentucky Speedway, Crafton has a 23-point advantage.
“It’s definitely not what we wanted — I’m disappointed with it — but I can’t thank these guys on my ThorSport crew enough,” Crafton said. “Each and every week they just surprise me with what they pull out of their hats, but this Menards Toyota Tundra is pretty good.”
With the way Crafton struggled in practice and/or qualifying in at least three or four races this season — including his win at Kansas and second places at Martinsville and Dover — when he was fifth-quickest in Texas practice and eighth on the grid, it would have been easy for observers to suggest he’d lap the field in the race.
Crafton, who’s remained low key in the aftermath of the four races after which he’s led the championship, wouldn’t have been one of them.
“We just missed it a little bit,” Crafton said. “We just didn’t have the speed on the short run for whatever it was. I was decent on the short run, but my God, those two up front (Burton and runner-up Ty Dillon) would take off and just be gone.
“I needed probably 25 laps so I could pace them. At the end of a run I could start running them back down, but even with that, it was not a bad day — a great run all in all — to finish in the top five.”
Crafton moved into the top five of his 301st consecutive Truck Series start in the race’s first quarter, and once he got there he was a fixture. The worst part of the way the race’s three cautions fell over the 167-lap distance was that Crafton, unlike his ThorSport Racing teammate Todd Bodine, was unable to engineer his green-flag pit cycles to enable him to lead a lap while Burton took two bonus points for leading 25 laps and winning the race.
Despite that, Crafton had no complaints.
“It was a great run for this Menards Toyota Tundra,” Crafton said. “Fourth — we just didn’t have the speed on the short run that some of these other trucks had at the end — we needed a longer run right there.”
Ross Chastain smacked the wall with 27 laps left and by the time the final green flag flew, there were only 24 laps remaining.
“I was hoping we were going to have a long green-flag cycle,” Crafton said. “I know for the fans they didn’t want to see a green-flag cycle, but I knew our truck definitely needed a longer run right there — we just missed it on that last run.”
Crafton and crew chief “Junior” Joiner will have a chance to work on that this week with a two-day test at Kentucky Speedway in preparation for the season’s eighth of 22 races