CONCORD, N.C. – For the first time in his career Matt Crafton has scored back-to-back victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after winning Saturday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Crafton, who last week earned his first victory of the season at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway, had to overcome an early pit road issue before he could challenge for the race lead. Crafton got blocked into his pit during a pit stop during a caution period around lap 24, which left him all the way back in 20th.
During the ensuing green flag run Crafton battled through the field, working his way up to fifth by the time the caution clock expired on lap 67. Kyle Busch was the race leader at the time of the caution and led the field down pit road for pit stops.
Busch came off pit road with the race lead, but unfortunately for Busch his team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire during his pit stop, forcing him to restart the race at the tail end of the field.
That handed the race lead to Timothy Peters, with Daniel Hemric, William Byron, Crafton and Cole Custer lined up second through fifth. The field returned to racing on lap 72, but the caution flag waved again almost immediately when Christopher Bell spun out of turn four on lap 73.
The green flag waved again on lap 78 and Peters got a big push from Crafton to maintain the lead, but he didn’t stay there for very long. Two laps later Crafton drove under Peters down the backstretch and cleared him out of turn four to take the race lead for the first time.
Once out front Crafton methodically built his lead. By lap 104 Crafton had more than a four second lead over the battle for second between Peters and Daniel Suarez. By lap 115 that lead was nearly eight seconds, but green flag pit stops were looming.
With 15 laps left the first trucks began to peel off the track and onto pit road. With 12 laps to go Crafton made his pit stop, taking just enough fuel to get him to the finish.
Meanwhile, Suarez stayed out and was trying to save fuel in an attempt to score his first Truck Series victory. The gamble didn’t work as he ran out of fuel with five laps left and was forced to pit.
Another gambling driver, Johnny Sauter, inherited the race lead from Suarez but it didn’t last long. One lap later Crafton blew by Sauter down the backstretch to take the lead for the final time. He cruised to his second-straight victory by more than five seconds ahead of Busch, who managed to race his way back to second at the checkers.
“This thing was unbelievable from the time we dropped the green,” Crafton said. “We just made air pressure adjustments. At least that’s what I was told, that we just made air pressure adjustments. Pretty much after the first lap I knew that they (the field) were going to be in trouble because we had something that could contend for a win.
“It feels very, very sweet to be able to say we’ve gone back-to-back. Hopefully we can go for three,” Crafton said.
Busch said something broke in his truck after the penalty during the pit stop during the second caution and he felt like that made his truck too tight to challenge for the victory.
“Our truck was OK there early on. In the first half of the race we were pretty good and then in the second half of the race something happened on the right-front once we got back in traffic after that bad pit stop where we got the penalty,” Busch said. “Something broke. I was just super, super tight after that laying on the splitter.”
Sauter managed to save enough fuel to come home in third. Tyler Reddick also saved enough fuel to finish the race in fourth. Matt Tifft, who earlier this week was named to the newest NASCAR Next class, also opted not to pit and came home in fifth.