KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Matt Crafton didn’t have the fastest truck in Friday night’s Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway, but he had the best feel for fuel mileage and what his crew chief would call their lucky fuel cell. The result was Crafton’s seventh series career victory.
With truck after truck pulling to the inside of the 1.5-mile Kansas oval over the last five laps with empty fuel cells, Crafton cruised over the finish line with only a few drops of fuel left in his ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra.
“It was not the winning truck,” Crafton said after getting to Victory Lane. “We were definitely a second-place truck.”
The truck that obviously was the fastest was the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra of rookie Erik Jones. It led 151 of 167 laps and was comfortably in the lead with four laps to go.
But it was also one of those trucks which ran short of fuel at the end. It wound up 11th.
“It just sucks – we had by far the best truck,” Jones said after the race. “We were up to an 11-second lead at one point and it’s just so terrible for these guys when we bring that fast of a truck. We couldn’t bring the win home and I saved as much as I could most of the run. The 19 (Tyler Reddick) made us run pretty hard. Being eight laps short, I don’t know how the 88 (Crafton) made it. It’s too bad, we’ll have to bring another fast truck next weekend to Charlotte and we’ll go get a win there.”
Also running out of fuel while in contention for the victory in the final laps after Jones dropped out were Reddick and Daniel Suarez.
The victory was the second of the season for Crafton, the defending series champion, and his second in the last three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Kansas. That made him the first driver to win more than once at the track located on the far west side of Kansas City.
“I heard somebody say that to me before the race,” Crafton, who led a total of six laps, said of the Kansas landmark win. “I said, ‘Two times’. “
The victory allowed Crafton to pad his points lead to 17 points over Reddick as he attempts to win a third-straight series championship.
“You’ve got to be close enough to sneak one out once in a while,” Crafton said. “I’ve lost some like this so every once in a while when you steal one I don’t feel too bad about it.”
After the race, Crafton’s crew chief, Carl Joyner gave credit to a particular fuel cell which he said has given his trucks better fuel mileage for some reason.
Sprint Cup regular Ryan Newman, driving a truck owned by former Kansas Sprint Cup race winner Joe Nemechek and making his first truck series start since 2013, finished second.
Newman was in the seat as a favor to Nemechek, who is in the process of grooming his son John Hunter for the ride.
“Trying to teach John Hunter a little bit of what I’ve experienced on pit road, how to get everything you possibly can,” Newman said. “But that wasn’t my main goal. My goal was to come here and win.”
Johnny Sauter finished third.
Rounding out the top five were veteran Timothy Peters and rookie Cameron Hayley.
Jones, who won the pole earlier in the day with a lap at 179.396 mph, led the first 43 laps.
For the first 30 or so laps of those , Crafton stayed close to the young driver from Michigan. But then Jones began to pull away. On Lap 38, Jones’ lead over Crafton was 4 seconds.
But on Lap 41, a caution flag waved and on the ensuing stops, Crafton beat Jones out of the pits to take the lead.
On Lap 48, back came Jones to take the lead and once out in clean air again, he began to pull away. On Lap 60, his lead was 2.9 seconds. He would lose that margin – and the lead – as he was beat out of the pits after yellow flag stops that began on Lap 67 by Newman.
But on the restart, he left Newman behind. By Lap 88, Jones’ lead was 6 seconds. By Lap 105, it was over 10 seconds on Newman.
On Lap 109, the caution waved again and, once again, Jones’ lead was erased as he was beaten off pit road by Reddick, who was involved in a crash with his Brad Keselowski Racing teammate and started the race from the back in his backup truck.
But once again the restart, Jones moved back to the front and began to move to a seemingly comfortable lead.
But only seemingly.
“I didn’t know how short we were, but I knew the fuel window,” Jones, who will make his first Sprint Cup Series start Saturday night in Kansas, said. “I knew we had to save and I couldn’t give the lead up to the 19 (Tyler Reddick) at that point. If a caution would have come out – losing track position is so big this year, if we would have lost the lead then we would have never been able to get it back. It’s just a shame. I saved as much as I could there later on and it just wasn’t enough. Eight laps short, we just couldn’t do it. We had a fast Tundra and it’s just a shame we couldn’t bring it home for these guys.”
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – Toyota Tundra 250
- (2) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 167, $49832.
- (4) Ryan Newman(i), Chevrolet, 167, $33959.
- (7) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 167, $27351.
- (12) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 167, $23431.
- (8) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 167, $20652.
- (10) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, 167, $17277.
- (9) Justin Boston #, Toyota, 166, $19064.
- (11) Scott Lagasse Jr.(i), Chevrolet, 166, $18686.
- (13) Mason Mingus, Chevrolet, 166, $18602.
- (6) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 166, $19502.
- (1) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 166, $20796.
- (15) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 166, $18362.
- (22) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 165, $18283.
- (23) Austin Theriault #, Ford, 165, $18228.
- (25) Tyler Tanner, Chevrolet, 165, $18772.
- (24) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, 164, $18093.
- (14) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 163, $18015.
- (27) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 159, $15715.
- (21) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 154, $17909.
- (26) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 154, $18330.
- (16) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, Engine, 109, $17803.
- (19) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 90, $16530.
- (17) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, Accident, 74, $16503.
- (29) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Vibration, 69, $15474.
- (28) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 60, $15597.
- (5) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, Overheating, 57, $15419.
- (30) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, Brakes, 24, $15391.
- (20) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Vibration, 18, $15133.
- (18) Matt Tifft, Toyota, Oil Leak, 18, $15072.
- (3) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, Accident, 11, $14572.
- (32) Michael Affarano(i), Chevrolet, Ignition, 6, $13072.
- (31) Caleb Roark, Chevrolet, Electrical, 5, $12072.
Jim Pedley – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images