Promising run cut short for Crafton at Phoenix

Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota Tundra, entered Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR) looking to make up ground in his chase for a third championship title. Showing speed in the lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) practice session on Thursday afternoon, Crafton qualified fourth for the 150-lap event, and showed promise for a solid run. Leading the 32-truck field three times, for 15 laps, Crafton was battling current point leader, Erik Jones for position, late in the race, and got loose on the frontstretch. The ThorSport Racing driver would make contact with Jones, and then his ThorSport Racing teammate, Johnny Sauter. The chain of events left the two-time and defending series champion 20 laps down to the race winner with a 23rd-place finish.
Starting fourth, Crafton wasted no time making his way into the runner-up position, battling a Toyota Tundra that was free at the start of a run, but good as the run progressed. Crew chief, Carl “Junior” Joiner, brought the No. 88 machine to pit road, under caution, at lap 40, for two tires and fuel. Restarting third, Crafton was quick to make his way back up to the runner-up position, stalking Jones for the race lead.
Running lap times faster than the leader, Crafton was able to run down Jones, and make a pass for the lead as the fifth caution flag of the night was displayed at lap 105 for an accident in Turn 3. “Junior” brought Crafton back down pit road for four tires and fuel. Quick work by the over-the-wall crew, allowed the Menards driver to gain the lead for the lap 109 restart.
Leading the next 10 circuits, Crafton would get loose, exiting Turn 4, and make contact with Jones as the two battled for the top spot. Unfortunately, Crafton would spin, making contact with his teammate, Johnny Sauter, and suffer major damage to the No. 88 machine. Following multiple attempts down pit road, and behind the wall, to fix the damage, Crafton would retire 20 laps early from the 150-lap race, relegating the veteran driver to a 23rd-place finish behind race winner, Timothy Peters.
The “DNF” would force the defending series champion to lose valuable points in the 2015 NCWTS driver point standings. With only one race remaining in the season, Crafton is third in points, 32 points behind leader, Erik Jones.  
“It was 100 percent my fault. Erik (Jones) and I were close, and it was tight racing. I just got loose under him and started chasing it. I touched him (Jones) and then it just sent me the rest of the way around. I hate it for all of us, I hate it for my guys, and I dang sure didn’t want to do it with the 4 (Jones), and those guys. I want to be able to see a Toyota win the championship. We’ll just hold our heads up and go to Homestead – see what we can do there to close out the season strong.”

Thorsport PR