ROSSBURG, Ohio – Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton already has his strategy for repeating last year’s victory at the Eldora Dirt Derby planned out.

“I just need to stay out of trouble,” said Crafton. “Just staying out of trouble and having something to work with at the end of the race are the keys to making this deal happen. Last year, we really got the first stage nailed, got off a little bit on the adjustments we made during the second stage, but put it all together in the last stage and had something to race with at the end.

“It’s a lot of patience … this dirt deal is so different than the races we usually run because the track changes so much throughout the race; you really have to be on top of that and hit it right in order to be successful as well,” Crafton added. “If we can do that like we did last year and keep the truck clean, we’ll have a shot to win again on Wednesday night.”

Crafton earned his first victory of the season and his first win on dirt during last year’s Eldora Dirt Derby, passing dirt modified ace Stewart Friesen with 16 laps to go and holding him off on a final restart to secure the win and Eldora’s iconic ‘Golden Shovel’.

The Tulare, Calif., native – who came from a pavement-racing background growing up – noted just how important winning on Eldora’s famed clay was to him last season.

“Last year here was huge. Ever since I was a kid, I had always heard about Eldora … and to win here was crazy, man,” said Crafton. “It was huge. It definitely ranks up there amongst one of the greatest wins I’ve had so far just because it’s something so out of the ordinary.”

Crafton added that the key to his victory was a shift in his fundamental strategy.

“I watched all these guys the last few years put this thing on the fence while I ran the bottom, and I would run in the top five and then fade at the end because the bottom would go away,” he explained. “Last year, I just came committed that I’m going to run the top and was going to give up the bottom of the race track. I knew I wasn’t going to be quite as good down there, but I was going to run the top when it mattered and that’s exactly what we were able to do.

“It worked out perfectly and we were able to celebrate that night because of it,” Crafton continued. “I was so proud of everyone on this team for coming together and making it happen. It was an awesome deal all around.”

Crafton Ty Dillon Eldora Battle
Matt Crafton (88) passes Ty Dillon at Eldora Speedway in 2017. (Chris Seelman photo)

In five Truck Series races at Eldora, no driver has won at the Tony Stewart-owned half-mile more than once.

As the only former event winner in the field, Crafton hopes to become the first driver to repeat at Eldora by the end of the 150-lap distance on Wednesday night.

“That would be really, really cool,” Crafton noted of the possibility of becoming a multi-time Eldora winner. “Right now, we’re just going in there and trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The track changes so much from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. At the beginning of the race (last year), it was really muddy and heavy and fast, and at the end of the race it got slick. You definitely have to be able to pay attention to the track and see what it’s going to do and make all the right adjustments. There’s no easy path to victory here.”

Does Crafton believe he can win on the dirt again?

“I don’t see why we can’t. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could lead laps and win the race,” he stated. “We definitely should be able to if we put ourselves in the right position. There’s going to be a lot of the dirt ringers … that are going to be very tough, but hopefully we can be just as tough when it counts.”