The 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season is officially underway after Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (DIS). Matt Crafton, the two-time reigning series champion, was able to recover from a 31st-place starting position to finish eighth in the 16th annual event, his sixth top-10 finish at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Crafton, piloting the No. 88 Damp-Rid/Menards Toyota Tundra, started the 100-lap event from the rear of the 32-truck field following knockout pole qualifying on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, due to NASCAR's new qualifying format, Crafton was randomly drawn to compete in the first segment of the four-segment first round of group qualifying. As one of the last trucks staged on the grid, the ThorSport Racing driver was barely strapped in to his Menards Tundra when the first two minute and 30 second segment started. Ultimately, the chain of events forced Crafton to lose the draft and post a time of 2.8 seconds off the leaders. The Menards driver would not transfer to the second round as one of the top-24 fastest drivers, and would settle for a 31st-place starting position in his 15th NCWTS start at DIS.
The starting position forced Crafton and his ThorSport Racing team to be conservative, and ride around in the back of the pack in an effort to avoid the "Big One." Fortunately, Crafton played his cards right, avoiding two multi-truck accidents at laps 15 and 50, respectively, positioning the Menards driver to contend for a top spot in the last half of the 100-lap event.
Running solidly inside the top-10, and flirting with a position inside the top-five in the closing laps, Crafton would get shuffled back on a late-race restart, and settle for an eight-place finish behind race winner Tyler Reddick.
"We started in the back and had planned to run there until the last portion of the race but the outcome definitely wasn't what we wanted. Usually, the outside line, you can make it work and you can kind of stay stable - you can't usually clear the first three guys, but you can stay fifth on back and you can ride right there on the outside. If you shuffle the outside and you have three or four good trucks - I beat the rear bumper off the 92 (David Gilliland) and could not go anywhere. I was trying and trying and that was terrible. I hate it because we usually put on such a good show here, but whoever rode on the yellow line and had the lead was going to win the race."