Matt Crafton’s half of a potent one-two punch for ThorSport Racing at Iowa Speedway this weekend, as he and teammate Johnny Sauter dominate most key NASCAR Camping World Truck Series statistical categories at the Midwest venue heading into Saturday’s American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen.
But the fact is Crafton, the NCWTS’ championship leader, has an edge over Sauter via Crafton’s 2011 victory at the .875-mile “superspeedway short track” — one of five top-10 finishes Crafton’s scored in the five Truck Series races held in Iowa.
“We’ve been pretty good at Iowa, and I think it’s really because that track just fits my driving style,” said Crafton, whose No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota will come to the line Saturday with an average finish of 4.4 at Iowa — second only to Sauter’s 3.8 average among drivers with multiple Iowa starts. “Iowa just doesn’t drive like a short track, even though it’s less than a mile. You might think I’m crazy, but to me it drives more like a mile-and-a-half track, with the taste of a short track to it.
“And when you have something like that it makes it more like mile-and-a-half racing in a Sprint Cup car, because they have to lift to make the corners, unlike our trucks, which can run wide open around most of the mile-and-a-half tracks we go to. And that’s a challenge, and a bunch of fun.”
The combination’s enabled Crafton to log three top-five finishes and run in the top-15 positions in 89 percent of all the laps he’s completed at Iowa.
“I just like Iowa,” Crafton said. “It’s been very racy and it’s been very good to me. We’re on a great streak of top-10 finishes this season and hopefully we can keep the momentum alive.”
Crafton, who has a 22-point edge in the standings over NCWTS Rookie of the Year point leader Jeb Burton, is the only Truck Series driver with eight top-10 finishes this season, bolstered by a win at Kansas and two second-place runs.
At Iowa, Crafton led 39 laps in 2011 and won, he has 56 total laps led at the track and he has five lead-lap finishes there, making him and Sauter the only two drivers in series history at Iowa to complete every lap raced. Crafton’s done a decent enough job of qualifying at Iowa, with an 8.6 average start.
“Johnny and I both run real well on the short tracks and the mile-and-a-halfs so it’s no surprise to me how we’ve run at Iowa through the years,” Crafton said. “Both of our teams’ programs are good on those styles of tracks so when you mix them together and go to Iowa, you’ve got something that’s proven to be pretty darned good.
“We’d like to think we’ll be able to hold our own in the standings coming to Iowa, which is good because Eldora (dirt-track race following Iowa on the schedule) is really gonna be a wild card,” Crafton said. “I know the guys are gonna have a good truck for Iowa but at the end of the day, you’ve also got to have some luck, because if you don’t have luck you don’t have anything.
“Junior (Joiner, crew chief) and the guys have been doing a great job, but we’ve had some good luck, too and if we can keep that alive the wins will come and at the end of the year the (championship) trophy will come — but we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing because we know the competition isn’t resting. They’re tough.”
The Truck Series has two practices on Friday, from 3-4:55 p.m. ET and from 6-8 p.m. Truck Happy Hour is on Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. A Truck Series driver autograph session is scheduled outside the main grandstands from 3:30-4:15 p.m., with all three ThorSport drivers, including first-time ThorSport Truck driver Frank Kimmel, scheduled to participate.
Truck Series’ qualifying is at 6 p.m. ET, with tape-delayed coverage on the SPEED Channel at 7 p.m. American Ethanol 200 coverage begins with The Setup pre-race show at 8 p.m. with the season’s ninth race at 8:30. MRN Radio has live coverage, also beginning at 8.
Pre-race and the race telecast are scheduled to replay on SPEED Friday at 11 p.m. ET.