Matt Crafton Earns Pole, Breaks Qualifying Record and Finishes 12th at Martinsville Speedway
Matt Crafton broke the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying record on his way to taking his first career pole in 20 starts at Martinsville Speedway. Crafton's No. 88 Menards/Roto-Rooter Chevrolet Silverado was one of the trucks to beat before he was spun by one of his competitors, costing him valuable track position and resulting in a 12th-place finish.
After laying down a record-breaking qualifying lap of 19.653 seconds (96.352 m.p.h.), Crafton earned his second pole of the 2011 season and the sixth of his career, effectively sweeping the Keystone Light pole for ThorSport Racing in 2011 (Johnny Sauter took the pole in the spring Martinsville race). Taking the green flag from the point position, Crafton pulled ahead of the field for 11 laps before being chased down by second place. With his truck requiring more forward and rear side bite, Crafton slipped to sixth place by lap 22, but a caution on lap 39 allowed him to bring the No. 88 Menards/Roto-Rooter machine to pit road for four tires, fuel and both track-bar and air-pressure adjustments. With several drivers on the lead lap opting not to pit, Crafton took the green flag from the ninth spot on lap 43.
Crafton relayed to crew chief Bud Haefele almost immediately that the truck's bite was much better. Making the pass for fourth on lap 66, Crafton began to focus on preserving his tires for as long as possible so he'd have a fresh set for the end of the 200-lap event. Crafton remained in the fourth spot through the next 55 laps and multiple cautions until hard Martinsville racing on lap 121 took him for a ride.
While racing Ron Hornaday's No. 33 for the third spot, Hornaday aggressively forced Crafton to the bottom of the track, taking away his line for the corner. As Crafton backed off to safely make it through the turn, the No. 9 of Max Papis bumped the No. 88 machine hard from behind, spinning the truck. Crafton skillfully saved the truck from turning into either wall at the narrow track, completing the 360-degree rotation and hitting the accelerator to continue racing without any damage to the truck or its tires. With no caution thrown, Crafton lost seven spots on the racetrack, slipping to 12th place.
The yellow flag waved on lap 132 for a spin, giving Crafton the opportunity to come to pit road for the four fresh tires the team had been saving. With half the field opting not to pit, Crafton took the green flag in the 21st spot for the lap 138 restart. Working with a fast truck, Crafton was able to navigate his way through the field back into 12th by lap 167, but the Menards/Roto-Rooter Silverado was losing its forward bite and was now too loose in the middle and off the corner.
The caution came out once again on lap 174, and Haefele and Crafton made the call to return to pit road to adjust the truck for a chance to compete for the win. Taking four scuffed tires, and air-pressure and wedge adjustments, Crafton was once again back in 20th due to other trucks not pitting. The green flag waved on lap 179 and Crafton fought his way through the pack. With a limited number of laps to work with, Crafton was unable to crack back into the top 10, crossing the finish line in the 12th spot.
Crafton gained one spot in the driver's point race, now sitting in seventh place, 91 points behind the championship leader and 43 points behind fifth place. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next Friday, November 4th for the WinStar World Casino 350k.
Thorsport Racing PR