Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota Tundra, outdueled Toyota Racing teammate, Daniel Suarez, following a pair of late-race restarts to claim his third win of the season in Friday night's WinStar World Casino 400k at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The victory marked the defending series champion's second win in 29 starts in the Lone Star State.
Starting second for the 19th annual event, Crafton continued his 2015 domination on intermediate racetracks by leading a race-high 77 laps. Crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner brought the defending race winner to pit road three times during the 167-lap event at lap 21, under caution, and laps 73, and 120 under green, for four tires and fuel. The ThorSport Racing driver even pulled away with over a six second lead on second-place, late in the race.
With less than 20 laps remaining in the scheduled distance, Crafton was forced to give up his hefty lead when the field was slowed for the fourth time for fluid on the track at lap 149. Opting to stay out, the Menards driver would choose the outside lane for the lap 153 restart, but lose ground to Suarez early. Crafton would eventually prevail, in a strong battle for the lead, and take back over the top spot by lap 155. Unfortunately, the field was slowed for a fifth and final time at lap 162 for a spin off Turn 2, setting the race up for a two-lap shootout to the finish.
On the final restart, Crafton would use the outside lane to power around the No. 51 Tundra, exiting Turn 4, and never look back. The ThorSport Racing driver would claim his third win of the season, and the eighth of his career.
The solid performance allowed Crafton to gain momentum in a quest for a "three-peat" championship season. The ThorSport Racing driver is now 25 points ahead of second-place following the seventh race on the 2015 NCWTS schedule.
"I had a blast racing with Daniel (Suarez) there at the end. We were literally running the center of the racetrack and up against the wall in Turns 3 and 4, and you really have to work the throttle, and drive the thing."
"Those restarts were hairy; I spun the tires so bad on the restart before that. I have to thank Johnny Sauter, my teammate, he gave me a good push on the second to last restart and we finally got a pretty good restart on that last one. Man, it's like you're running side-by-side-by-side, but these guys never gave up working on this Menards Toyota Tundra, and it's all about these guys building me good trucks."
"We're happy for sure - we're definitely not satisfied. We'll be satisfied when we get to Homestead and we see where we are there. I can't thank these guys enough. This Menards Toyota Tundra was very, very good. We were a little off and that second to last run we got really loose for whatever reason and Junior (crew chief) made a couple adjustments on that pit stop and tuned it right up for me again."