Texas Motor Speedway is one of ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter's favorite racetracks on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, and their performance in two practice sessions Thursday night for the WinStar World Casino 350K proved it.
Truck Series championship leader Matt Crafton, who has a 51-point margin in his No. 88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Toyota over defending series champion James Buescher with three races left this season, was the fastest Toyota in both sessions.
Sauter, who swept both Texas Truck Series races last season and won the pole in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota here in June, concentrated on race runs only and still showed enough potential to potentially win his third Texas pole.
Crafton made only two runs in the first, one-hour practice that totaled seven laps. On his second run he posted the fourth-best time in the session, 30.023 seconds at an average speed of 179.862 mph. Sauter had the second-best time in the session on his first run but he ended up 11th in the first practice, at 30.138 seconds, 179.176 mph after running nine laps.
A lot more cards were laid on the table in the 90-minute Happy Hour that was held later in the evening, at about the time the race will be run Friday evening.
In that practice Crafton made six runs totaling 35 laps and on his last pass, a mock qualifying run, he laid down the third-best lap of the day, 29.841 seconds, an average speed of 180.959 mph. That was only .08 seconds off former Sprint Cup champion and Truck Series owner/driver Brad Keselowski's fast lap of the day, 29.761 / 181.446, which would seem to indicate Crafton as a threat for his first pole position of the season and also his third at Texas.
In their nearby garage stall, Sauter's team, which has battled back from a sizeable deficit by scoring five consecutive top-five finishes to put themselves in fifth in the championship, with a 10-point gap to sixth, primarily concentrated on race runs in the two sessions. They seemed to arrive at a place that was fairly quick, and consistent over the 32 laps they ran in Happy Hour, which put them in 13th in that practice.
At the end of the day, Sauter had the 15th-best time overall, 30.131 seconds, an average speed of 179.217 mph that he turned on his first run of the second session.
Sauter won the pole for the race here in June, with a lap averaging 180.222 mph when the conditions were hotter and slicker. In that race, Crafton qualified eighth and finished fourth while Sauter finished seventh.
Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. ET on Friday, with coverage on FOX Sports 1. Sauter will run 21st of the 35 trucks that are in the garage while Crafton will go 33rd, followed only by Truck Series rookie and six-time 2013 pole-winner Jeb Burton and Keselowski, whose trucks have won two poles this season driven by Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.