Crafton comes up short on fuel after promising run in Vegas
Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 FVP/Menards Toyota Tundra, was dominant throughout the day on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS). Topping the speed charts early in the lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) practice session on Saturday morning, the two-time and defending series champion backed up his time in qualifying Saturday afternoon, capturing his first pole at the 1.5-mile track, and his second of the 2015 NCWTS season. The ThorSport Racing driver went on to lead the 32-truck field three times, for a race-high 69 laps, but came up four laps short on fuel, and settled for an eighth-place finish in the Rhino Linings 350 on Saturday night.
Battling a Toyota Tundra that was "tight through the center of the corner and off," early in the 146-lap event, crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner brought the No. 88 machine to pit road under the first caution, at lap 21, for four tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment. With a plethora of strategies on pit road, Crafton would restart 12th when the field went back to green at lap 25.
Continuing to show strength, Crafton worked his way inside the top-five before the second caution flag of the night was displayed at lap 38, for fluid on the backstretch. Junior made the call to bring the No. 88 machine back down pit road for fuel only. Once again, a mix of pit strategies would allow Crafton to restart second, and eventually take the lead for the second time, at lap 53.
As his Toyota Tundra became "free-in and tight-off," Crafton would eventually lose the lead to teammate, Cameron Hayley at lap 69, settling into the second position.
The remainder of the 146-lap event would run caution-free, forcing Crafton, and the rest of the field, to make green-flag pit stops, just past the half-way mark. Junior brought the FVP/Menards Tundra to pit road, at lap 92, for four tires and fuel. When the field cycled through scheduled stops, Crafton assumed the lead, and continued to dominate until being forced down pit road, with just four laps remaining for a splash of fuel. The ThorSport Racing driver would be credited with an eighth-place finish behind race winner, John Wes Townley. Crafton's solid run was his eighth top-10 finish in 15 starts at LVMS.
The top-10 finish allowed Crafton to gain three points in the 2015 NCWTS driver point standings. The defending series champion, who is looking for his third consecutive championship title in 2015, is now a mere four points behind leader, Erik Jones, with only five races remaining on the 2015 schedule.
"Our night was alright. We had a lot of speed during the day. The track didn't free-up as much as we thought it was going to during the race. By the third run, we made a big swing at it, and got a lot better at the end. We were trying to save fuel and then Junior (crew chief) said we weren't going to make it. At that point, there was just nothing we could do. If we hadn't got fuel there at the end, I would have run out of gas coming to the checkers. All-in-all, not a bad day - could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse too."
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