Crafton, Sauter hit doldrums in CTMP qualifying
Crafton's No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota improved its best lap of the weekend on the 2.459-mile road course to 82.367 seconds, an average speed of 107.475 mph in Saturday's one-hour morning practice.
That earned Crafton the right to qualify in the fourth of six groups on Saturday afternoon. The groups were arrayed from the slowest drivers to the fastest in the final group -- but ironically the pole-winner for the 30-truck field, defending series champion James Buescher, came from the next-to-last group.
In qualifying, Crafton improved to 82.323 seconds, 107.533 mph, but he'll only line up 13th.
"It's going to be a long race," Crafton said. "We feel like there'll be a lot of people off-course and people using up their equipment racing too aggressively. We're going to concentrate on taking care of our stuff and be there at the end and we'll be fine."
Jeb Burton's truck, which was the next on-track behind Crafton, spewed fuel from its fuel-filler neck for Burton's entire four-lap run.
"The 4 (Burton) was spilling a ton of fuel and that certainly didn't help the grip level on the racetrack," Crafton said. "But we weren't nearly as good as we'd been in practice (Saturday) morning. The truck was really loose -- the loosest it had been all weekend. I tried to get as much as I could, but I was just dead sideways everywhere."
Crafton and crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner made some significant suspension setting changes Saturday morning and that paid off in practice -- and they hope, in the race Sunday.
"We didn't really change anything from practice, for qualifying," said Crafton, who practiced only 32 laps in four sessions over two days. "We just put four sticker tires on 'er and let 'er eat. Staying on the racetrack and making sure I shift all four gears right is what I'm going to look out for, now."
Sauter's No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota nearly equaled its championship-leading teammate in Happy Hour as Sauter ran his best lap of the weekend, 82.897 seconds, an average speed of 106.788 mph. Sauter ran a total of 50 laps preparing to qualify and was a little baffled to be lining up 16th, Sunday.
"It was OK, but really not anything to write home about," Sauter said of his first road-course qualifying session in a truck, which amounted to three laps. "The truck was about the same as it was in practice. We didn't really make any changes to it because we just wanted to go out and make a solid lap, not make any mistakes, get it into the field and go racing (Sunday)."
The only benefit of qualifying, which according to Sauter's crew chief Dennis Connor might've been a coincidence, was the acceptable pit positions Connor and Joiner were able to select.
Crafton will pit from the fourth pit box while Sauter's truck will be serviced in box No. nine, which has an opening adjacent to it, which will give Sauter's over-the-wall crew more room to work.
"I don't really know how that (No. nine) box was still left," Connor said of his mid-field spot in the pit selection order. "But we're glad to have it and see if we can't make something happen with it."
Both Sauter and Crafton are looking forward to the 64-lap race -- though no one knows how it'll play out.
"I don't know how these guys picked up a second-and-a-half (in qualifying, over practice) like they did," Sauter said, shaking his head as he walked out of the garage. "Like we've been talking about all along, playing the right race strategy and just keeping your truck on the racetrack all day is the only thing that's going to make the difference."
Sauter's gamely fighting to get back into the championship race -- a race he once led by 25 points before a technical violation by the 98 team at Kansas led to a 25-point driver and owner-point penalty. Sauter's currently 17 points outside the top five in the standings -- his immediate goal before he attacks Crafton's hefty 89-point advantage.
Sunday's race is the first Truck Series road race since 2000, at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. None of the drivers entered this weekend competed in that race, but Ron Fellows, an ownership partner of CTMP, finished third in that event at the track where he won five NASCAR races, two in the Truck Series and three in the Busch Series.
Ron Hornaday, who'll start 17th, is the only driver in the field who's previously road-raced a truck.
On Sunday, Chevrolet Silverado 250 TV coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins at 1 p.m. ET with The Setup pre-race show. The green flag for the event, which will also be covered on MRN Radio, with live timing and scoring on NASCAR.com, is set for 1:30 p.m.
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