Matt Crafton accomplished his primary goal Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway in the inaugural CarCash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime’s ‘The Profit’ and the bonus was his eighth-place finish expanded his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship lead.
“Awesome facility — very cool — but the track was definitely a lot narrower, the groove at least, than I thought it was going to be,” Crafton said. “It really one-grooved itself but all in all, I hope it was a success for NASCAR because it was very interesting, to say the least.
“After the second segment it started laying rubber and that made it one groove. It was all track position. Everything was about where you started. If you started on the outside groove that was a good spot and if you started on the bottom, you’d lose spots until you could get back up top.”
Crafton continued his career year in the No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota by scoring his 10th consecutive top-10 finish this season for ThorSport Racing in his 304th consecutive Truck Series start. But the best aspect of his successful run in NASCAR’s first national series dirt-track race in 42 years was his position in relation to his championship contenders.
Since Crafton once again outran his closest contenders for the championship, he now has a full-race lead in the points, 48 over rookie leader Jeb Burton heading to this weekend’s next event, at Pocono Raceway.
“Definitely mission accomplished,” Crafton said, wearing a relieved smile on pit road at Eldora after the race. “I think we definitely could have run a little better than what we did, but we couldn’t take the chance. There at the end, we just had to play defense instead of playing offense, and try to pick off more spots and be aggressive and let something happen.
“We just had to play defense right there at the end, because we knew all the points guys were behind us, and we needed to keep them behind us, and just do what we had to do right there.”
Crafton kept a significant season streak going at Eldora by notching his 10th consecutive top-10 finish this season, remaining the only NCWTS driver to do so. Crafton was particularly pleased to do it at the track he considered one of the Truck Series’ four “wild card” races this season — along with its two superspeedway races and the lone road course.
Several late cautions that set former series champion Austin Dillon up for the historic victory had Crafton a little nervous.
“Those cautions at the end were the last thing we wanted to see, because it put some people around me I definitely didn’t want to see around me, with the way they were racing,” Crafton said, chuckling at having escaped relatively unscathed. “But all in all, it wasn’t a bad night. Last week, I said if you would have given me seventh I would’ve taken it, gone home and not shown up…
“We finished one short of that so we’re all right.”
Crafton did appreciate one other aspect of the historic event.
“What was really cool was to pull into (Eldora) on Monday night and to see how many fans were here,” Crafton said, after noting that small short tracks were a part of the Truck Series’ historical legacy. “To see how the fans took to this race was the coolest part of the weekend, to me.”