SPARTA, Ky. – In a race that ended five laps short of its scheduled distance, polesitter Matt Crafton was declared the winner of Thursday night’s UNOH 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event after Ben Kennedy’s Toyota damaged the catchfence at Kentucky Speedway beyond the track’s capacity to repair it expeditiously.
With a shove from the Ford of Ryan Blaney, Crafton had taken the lead from eventual runner-up Erik Jones on Lap 145 moments before Kennedy was launched into the fence from contact with David Gilliland’s Ford.
The victory was the fourth of the season for the two-time defending series champion, who won for the first time at Kentucky and the eighth time in his career.
“I’ve got to thank Ryan Blaney—he was all about that restart,” Crafton said in Victory Lane. “I know we had the best truck here when we got track position. When we got track position earlier, we’d drive away from everybody.”
But Crafton, who led 44 laps, lost the top spot during a pit stop on Lap 100, when he had to wait for John Wes Townley to clear to his inside before he could enter his pit stall.
“I think that was the only reason we lost the lead,” Crafton said. “But this Toyota Tundra was really, really good.”
The race was slowed for the seventh time on Lap 140, when contact from the No. 05 Chevrolet of John Wes Townley sent the No. 23 Silverado of Spencer Gallagher hard into the outside wall.
NASCAR red-flagged the proceedings for 3 minutes, 28 seconds for track clean-up, leaving Jones in the lead for a restart on Lap 145.
But Gallagher’s wreck was nothing compared with the jolt Kennedy took on the restart lap after contact with Gilliland’s Ford sent Kennedy’s Toyota to the top of the SAFER barrier and into the catch fence.
“I thought I was clear,” Kennedy said on his radio. The driver of the No. 11 Tundra had moved up the track into Gilliland’s Ford after being cleared by his spotter.
“I heard ‘Clear’ on the radio, so I moved up to the wall and as soon as I went to the wall,” Kennedy said after leaving the infield care center. “I guess Gilliland had a run on the outside and pretty much hit me in the right rear — and I went up.
“I guess I was on top of the wall. I remember being on top of the wall for quite some time. I didn’t see much — just a bunch of dust and debris flying. Then came down. The ride from the wall to the ground was pretty hard. But I’m OK.
“Thank God for everything that NASCAR has done to keep this sport safe. ’Cause for me to get out of my car on my own power after a hit like that is pretty incredible.”
Blaney finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters.
Two support poles in the catchfence had to be replaced, a process that would consume 90 minutes. Accordingly, NASCAR called the race with five laps left.
It was the second straight race in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series in which a car has hit the fence protecting the grandstands. In last Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Dillon’s Chevrolet was launched into the fence during a last-lap wreck in the tri-oval.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – UNOH 225
(1) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 145, $59498.
(3) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 145, $48487.
(6) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 145, $34948.
(4) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, 145, $22029.
(10) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 145, $19072.
(2) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 145, $17403.
(31) David Gilliland(i), Ford, 145, $14608.
(7) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 145, $16314.
(12) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 145, $16205.
(9) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 145, $17018.
(13) John H. Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 145, $15959.
(5) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 145, $15766.
(15) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 145, $15657.
(23) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 145, $15548.
(19) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 145, $15811.
(14) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, Accident, 145, $15497.
(16) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 144, $15188.
(11) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 143, $15079.
(22) Mason Mingus, Chevrolet, 143, $14970.
(30) Cody Coughlin, Toyota, 143, $12811.
(18) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, 141, $15052.
(21) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, 140, $14643.
(20) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 140, $13284.
(8) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, Accident, 139, $13175.
(29) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 132, $12216.
(17) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 132, $11957.
(28) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, Accident, 124, $11848.
(26) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Suspension, 98, $11508.
(27) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Electrical, 32, $11400.
(25) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, Electrical, 16, $10900.
(24) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Engine, 2, $9400.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images