Point-Leader Crafton Loves Kentucky Chances

Jun 26, 2013

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Matt Crafton has the most career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, 14, at Kentucky Speedway, site of Thursday night’s UNOH 225.

And while Crafton, who’ll come to the line for the Truck Series’ eighth race this season in his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota, will extend his series record for consecutive starts to 301, he’s also competed at a very high level in that time.

Crafton has a series-best nine top-10 finishes at Kentucky, including a pair in 2012 — fourth in this race and ninth in the fall. The fact that Crafton currently holds a 23-point lead in the Truck Series’ standings over rookie Jeb Burton makes a pretty positive combination for the Tulare, Calif., native.

“Kentucky’s definitely one of my favorite racetracks to go to — it’s just an awesome place to race, like I’ve said before about tracks like Dover and Rockingham,” Crafton said. “It’s got a lot of character, it’s rough and it makes you move around to find a place your truck likes to run in.

“It makes all the drivers and crews work really hard on their stuff, because it’s really rough and hard to get ahold of, so finding the right setup to make your truck handle is really a chore. But it’s a cool racetrack.”

Kentucky, which is the latest site of a NASCAR national series tripleheader with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, has attracted a couple stars to its Truck Series lineup, including defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and triple-threat standout Kyle Busch, who has a win in three Kentucky Truck starts.

Crafton’s nonplussed by the alleged threat.

“They are two more guys you’re going to have to beat, no question — Kyle is good in everything he gets in, in the top-three series, everywhere,” Crafton said. “But you can’t forget the competition we’re faced with each and every week in the Truck Series, the usual suspects we have to deal with everywhere.

“Sometimes we’re able to out-run Kyle, sometimes not. We were real close to beating him at Dover, but he was just too strong, in the end. We’ve just to keep working on our stuff and making it better and better each and every week.”

This season Crafton’s taken consistency to a new level, thanks to crew chief Carl “Junior” Joiner, who’s in his second full season as Crafton’s crew chief. Crafton’s seven-race string of top-10 finishes is the third-best of his career, behind a string of 19 consecutive top 10s from 2010-2011 and 10-in-a-row from 2009-2010.

“We have absolutely taken our game to another level this season,” Crafton said. “The chemistry we’ve got on this team is incredible. Me and Junior have always been able to work together well, but this is the second year he’s been with all the guys and the chemistry and communication they have is something special.”

Joiner and Crafton will have a chance to fine tune their truck in a pair of Thursday practices, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET and 12-1:30 p.m. Qualifying to set the 36-truck starting lineup is at 5:05 p.m. Thursday.

The season’s eighth race, the UNOH 225, will be telecast live on SPEED Channel Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30 p.m. MRN Radio’s live broadcast also begins at 7:30