Crafton ready to pounce from 13th at Martinsville

Matt Crafton has repeatedly said this season that his qualifying positions are just numbers -- and that they have little relation to how his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota will race.

Crafton will have the latest opportunity to test that premise when he starts Saturday afternoon's Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from the 13th position.

Sprint Cup star Denny Hamlin will start from the pole in both Martinsville races, including Sunday's seventh round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Crafton's ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter will start next to Hamlin on the front row in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota after losing the pole to Hamlin by .002 seconds.

In two practice sessions Friday morning, Crafton had logged the fifth- and 10th-best times. So his qualifying run, which displayed some of the same characteristics he and crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner had seen in their mock qualifying runs in final practice, was a disappointment for the team that finished second to Sauter six months ago.

"That qualifying lap definitely wasn't what we wanted," Crafton said. "We thought we had a little bit more in our truck, but it's just a starting position. I've started way back in the field and finished second here, finished third here..."

Crafton actually has scored top-10 finishes at Martinsville on six different occasions after starting worse than he will Saturday. It's almost business-as-usual for the driver who's logged 17 top-10 finishes in 18 races this season and holds a 57-point lead over Ty Dillon in the championship on account.

"We just have to be smart all race and put ourselves in position at the end," Crafton said. "The track actually did change from practice to qualifying. We definitely got a lot tighter for whatever reason that was.

"That's what our problem was with our truck (in practice). On the first lap (in qualifying) our truck was really tight and I just tried to adjust to it a little bit on the second lap to help it, but it was still pretty tight."

 
Crafton led 33 laps in this race a year ago but was knocked out of the way late in the race by Friday's pole winner, Denny Hamlin. Crafton finished fourth in 2012.
 
ThorSport PR
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