For the fourth consecutive year, the Pocono Mountains 150 ended in overtime,earning the event an unpredictable reputation, and the 2014 version followed suit. Though Matt Crafton continued his streak of consistent speed and performance, a late-race green-white-checkered restart handed the Rip It Energy Fuel/Menards Toyota team a 14th-place finish in the fifth-annual event. The result is Crafton’s only Pocono finish outside the top-10, placing the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) champion 12 markers out of the point lead in the third position at the halfway mark of the 2014 season.
In both of Friday’s practice sessions, the ThorSport Racing driver battled a tight condition. Crew chief Carl Joiner and the Menards team made slight adjustments to the Toyota Tundra for the race from qualifying, where Crafton advanced to the final round and earned a ninth-place starting position.
The tight-handling characteristic from practice carried over to the drop of the green flag on Saturday, as Crafton complained to Joiner and company that his Toyota Tundra was struggling through the corners from the center off, making it difficult for the defending NCWTS champion to get back to the throttle and power down the long straightaways. During the event’s first caution on lap 18, Crafton, running eighth, was called down pit road for two right side tires, an air pressure adjustment, and one can of Sunoco Racing fuel. The Menards driver restarted from the sixth position on lap 21, and eventually advanced inside the top-five when the race leaders began making their way down pit road on lap 30 for green flag pit stops. Joiner elected to keep the No. 88 machine on the track to earn a championship bonus point before pitting for another pair of right-side tires and fuel under green on lap 40.
After rejoining the field in 15th, Crafton continued to fight a “really tight” balance, but advanced into the top-10 through a series of late race cautions that set up a green-white-checkered finish. Restarting fifth, Crafton made several attempts to make three-wide maneuvers to advance into the top-five, but lost momentum in traffic and was shuffled to a 14th-place finish at the drop of the checkered flag.
• According to NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics, Crafton ranked second in Laps in the Top 15 (64), third in Average Running Position (6.984), and ninth in Driver Rating (91.3) at Pocono Raceway following the Pocono Mountains 150
• Crafton was one of only three drivers to spend 100% of the 64 laps running inside the top 15
• Crafton led one lap in the Pocono Mountains 150, bringing his season total to 223
• In 11 starts this season, Crafton has two wins, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes
• Crafton fell to third in the 2014 NCWTS driver points following a 14th-place finish at Pocono
• Austin Dillon won the 5th annual Pocono Mountains 150
• Johnny Sauter, Joey Coulter, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five finishers
• Up next: The NCWTS will take a week off before heading to Michigan International Speedway for the Careers for Veterans 200 on Saturday, August 16
Quote – Matt Crafton:
“I got down in the dirt in Turn 3 after that last restart and got shuffled back; I was inside of three-wide and lost at ton of ground on the leaders. I hate it for everyone on this Rip It Energy Fuel/Menards team because we had a much better truck today than the results show, and unfortunately lost some points on (Ryan) Blaney. We just struggled with a tight Tundra, making it hard to turn through the center and ultimately hurting our exit and momentum down the straightaway, which is crucial at a place like Pocono.”
Practice: 10th (54.854 seconds/164.072mph)
Final Practice: 3rd (55.445 seconds/165.304mph)
Qualifying: 9th (54.091 seconds/166.386mph)
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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.