MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton survived a pair of green-white-checkered restarts to win Sunday’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
The victory was Crafton’s first at Martinsville in 25 attempts and the fourth of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Crafton is now a proud owner of a grandfather clock, the traditional trophy awarded by Martinsville Speedway to race winners.
“I didn’t think we were going to get there on those first two runs,” said Crafton alongside his ThorSport Racing Toyota in victory lane. “But that is just the way these guys never give up.”
In order to win Sunday’s race, which was delayed by rain on Saturday, Crafton had to hold off local hero and former Martinsville winner Timothy Peters. Peters was at the front of the field when the caution flag waved with 60 laps left for a spin by Jeb Burton in turn two.
During the caution period all of the leaders came to pit road for fresh tires, with Peters holding the lead off pit road. Crafton came off pit road second, followed by last fall’s Martinsville winner Darrell Wallace Jr. in third.
The green flag waved with 53 laps left and Crafton quickly set his sights on the race lead. He made the move around Peters on lap 208 and quickly began to pull away. Unfortunately the caution flag waved with 25 laps left for a large piece of debris at the entrance to turn one.
The green flag waved with 19 laps left, but the field was unable to complete a lap as Ron Hornaday Jr. made contact with German Quiroga in turn three, sending Hornaday around.
Racing resumed again with 14 laps left and Crafton once again maintained the lead as Peters fell into a battle with Wallace over second. Peters briefly lost second to Wallace, but he quickly got the position back.
With eight laps to go the caution flag waved again because of a crash involving rookies Cole Custer, Brandon Jones and Gray Gaulding at the exit of turn two. That set up the first of a possible three green-white-checkered restarts.
Peters got a solid jump on the first green-white-checkered attempt, but Crafton was able to maintain the lead out of turn two. However behind the leaders Erik Jones got a bump from Johnny Sauter, sending Jones into the inside wall down the backstretch for yet another caution period.
Crafton once again held the lead for the second green-white-checkered restart and was able to clear Peters at the exit of turn two. Entering turn three Peters washed wide, allowing Wallace to overtake him for second as the rest of field battled for position.
With Peters out of the picture Crafton had the race in hand. A crash by John Wes Townley down the backstretch on the final lap sealed the deal as Crafton crossed under the yellow and checkered flags to pick up the victory.
“I was just trying to be smart and not overdrive (turn) one,” Crafton said. “I thought I gave one away. I drove it in there and I wheel hopped and I got loose getting into one and I said uh oh, don’t do that again.
“I was trying to anticipate where Timothy was going to go because he was lagging back on me so far. But like I said, it was awesome. I finally got that grandfather clock.”
Peters ended up finishing eighth after contact on the final lap with his teammate Quiroga. The two exchanged a series of bumps and bangs on the cool down lap on the backstretch, which ended with the nose of Peters’ track smashed in.
“First the 54 (Wallace) kind of moved us out of the way but I wouldn’t expect my own teammate (Quiroga) to do it. It’s Martinsville, tempers are going to flare,” Peters said. “I apologize to all the guys at the shop for two teammates getting into it. German has a lot to learn.
“The fastest truck didn’t win again,” Peters said.
Following Crafton and Wallace to the checkered flag was Ben Kennedy, who scored a career-best third-place finish. Sauter, who led a race-high 61 laps earlier in the day, finished fourth ahead of Ryan Blaney.