Matt Crafton turned a second-place qualifying effort into a track-best second-place finish in Friday night’s caution-plagued, race-shortened Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR). The solid effort marked the reigning series champion’s 13th top-five finish of the season, extending his point lead to 25 over second-place Ryan Blaney with only one race remaining on the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule.
The 20th annual event, which was delayed for an hour due to a power outage in the track’s West Valley region, was slowed seven times for 48 laps and then called 24 laps short of the scheduled distance due to another power outage at lap 126 of 150.
Crafton, who flirted with the lead numerous times, maintained his second-place starting position through the races first 87 circuits before bringing his No. 88 Hormel/Menards Toyota Tundra to pit road for a scheduled stop under green at lap 87 for four tires and fuel. The ThorSport Racing driver would return to the track in the 10th position and when green-flag stops cycled through, Crafton regained the second position which is where he remained until NASCAR threw the seventh caution flag and ultimately the checkers when another power failure submerged the track into darkness. Crafton would cross the stripe second behind race winner Erik Jones, his fifth top-five in 13 starts at PIR.
• Matt Crafton qualified second for the third time in 13 starts at PIR
• Crafton’s second-place finish was a track-best for the Menards driver at the 1-mile oval
• The ThorSport Racing driver holds a 25 point lead over second-place Ryan Blaney in the 2014 NCWTS driver point standings with only one race remaining this season
• Crafton can become the first driver to win back-to-back Truck Series championships if he finishes 21st or better in the season finale next Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway
• Crafton’s second-place result at PIR marks the ThorSport Racing driver’s fifth top-five and 10th top-10 finish in 13 starts at PIR
• In 21 starts in 2014, Crafton has two wins, 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes
• Erik Jones won the 20th annual Lucas Oil 150 at PIR followed by Crafton (second), Cole Custer (third), Ryan Blaney (fourth) and Ben Rhodes (fifth)
• Tonight’s victory was the 17th of the season for Tundra drivers in NCWTS competition – marking the 128th win for Tundra drivers since Toyota joined the series in 2004
• Up next: The NCWTS heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the series final on Friday, November 14
Quote – Matt Crafton:
“I tried something on that last restart and I learned something in the middle of turns one and two and I really, really looked forward to another restart. He (Erik Jones) lagged us back and slowed us down really, really bad coming to that last restart. That’s why he beat me so bad getting down there into turn one, but I learned something down in the middle of one and two and I was looking forward to another restart at the end. I truly believe if I could have got in front of him — right there at the end we were mirroring each other lap for lap — I would beat him a lap and he would beat me a lap. It was going to be exciting if we could get in front of him.”
“I’m going into Homestead and trying to win the race. That’s been our goal since Daytona — we haven’t looked at the points and we haven’t focused anything on points. Just went out there and tried to win as many races as possible. We’ve only won two. We’ve had some bad luck — leading a race, blew a right front tire and finished second too many times too.”
Practice: 3rd; 27.430 seconds/131.243mph
2nd Practice: 7th; 27.142 seconds/132.636mph
Qualifying: 26.786 seconds/134.499mph
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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.