Matt Crafton was a force to be reckoned with in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway, leading 40 laps in his 275th career start. After starting in the eighth position, Crafton's No. 88 Menards/Ideal Door Toyota Tundra never left the top 10, ultimately earning his first top-five finish of the season when he crossed the finish line third.
Taking the green flag from the eighth spot, Crafton was instantly in the middle of a wild pack of hard racing. It took only five laps before the first caution flag waved of the day, with Crafton having advanced to sixth when the yellow flag flew. When green-flag racing resumed on lap nine, a strong restart propelled Crafton into the fourth spot by the time the field reached the first turn, and he advanced one more position before the completion of the first lap. Over the next 10 laps, Crafton chipped away at the distance between himself and the second-place truck, taking over the spot on lap 19.
As the leaders began to spread out, Crafton settled into second place until the second yellow flag on lap 60. Entering the pits for four tires and fuel, Crafton returned to the racing surface in fourth, but a powerful restart on lap 67 allowed him to quickly navigate to the lead by the next time he crossed the start/finish line. Crafton led the field for 15 laps, then slipped back into the second position. He continued to stalk the leader, briefly taking the lead once again on lap 109 before dropping back to second.
A yellow on lap 122 for a multi-truck wreck allowed the Menards/Ideal Door machine to return to pit road for four fresh tires and fuel, and Crafton was so satisfied with the handling of his truck that the crew opted not to make any adjustments. Maintaining his second-place spot for the lap 131 restart, Crafton immediately shot to the lead, checking out on the rest of the field and holding the point position for 23 laps. Crafton was passed by eventual race winner Kasey Kahne on lap 155, then lost one more position before the final caution flag of the day flew on lap 175.
Crafton brought the No. 88 to pit road for four tires and enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag, emerging from the pits in fourth. Restarting with 20 laps remaining, Crafton quickly regained third, maintaining his position until the checkered flag waved.
"I'm really happy to get our season headed in the right direction. Even though we didn't win the race, it felt great to be so fast today. I'm so proud of my guys for all of the hard work and time they've been putting in. This was a really special race weekend for the Truck Series, I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to be the series that brings NASCAR racing back to Rockingham. This is one of the most fun race tracks we race on. Thank you to every one of these fans that came out today. It was awesome to look up and see the grandstands so full. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun driving a race truck. That was just a blast."
Crafton gained 12 spots in the NCWTS point standings, advancing to the 11th position, 38 points behind leader Timothy Peters and one point outside the top 10. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action next weekend at Kansas Speedway for the SFP 250 on Saturday, April 21st.