Matt Crafton holds off Daniel Suarez on late restart to win Texas Trucks

FORT WORTH, Tex. — Matt Crafton insists he had “a blast” racing Daniel Suarez Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, including a pair of late-race restarts that secured victory in the 19th annual WinStar World Casino & Resort 400.

Crafton continued his recent domination of NASCAR’s intermediate racetracks, hammering out the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory over an aggressive Suarez. The two-time reigning series champion, Crafton recorded his eighth career victory by 0.569-seconds.

“I had a blast racing with Daniel there at the end,” said Crafton, who scored his third victory and seventh top-10 finish of 2015. “We were literally running in the center of the racetrack and up against the wall in Turns 3 and 4, and you really have to work the throttle and drive the thing.”

Crafton was cruising with a lead of 6.866-seconds over Suarez after cycling into the lead following a round of green flag pit stops. But a caution on Lap 149 of the scheduled 167 for fluid on the track from the blown engine of Timothy Peters’ No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra bunched the field after pit stops. Crafton chose the outside lane for the restart on Lap 154, and Suarez grabbed the lead before Crafton was able to regain his momentum and retake the point on Lap 155.

Crafton and Suarez were running 1-2 when rookie Daniel Hemric spun the No. 14 California Clean Power Chevrolet in Turn 2, bringing out the night’s fifth caution. When the race went green on Lap 166, Crafton used the outside lane to power around Suarez exiting Turn 4 en route to his third win of the season and second consecutive June night race at TMS.

“The restarts were hairy,” said Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Ideal Door/Curb Records Toyota fielded by ThorSport Racing. “We got a pretty good start on that last one and ran side-by-side-by-side. The tires were newer on the first one (restart) and you can run along the bottom wide-open. I knew if I didn’t get him clear he might have won the race.”

That restart was highlighted by near-contact between the two, with Suarez saving his truck as it began to slide down the banking.

“You mean when we were bouncing off each other?” Crafton asked with a smile. “That was fun in Turn 1. I said, no harm, no foul.”

Suarez, driver of the No. 51 ARRIS Toyota fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports, posted his first top-10 finish in his TMS debut and sixth top-10 of 2015. Suarez also finished second last Friday night to Tyler Reddick’s No. 19 Bulldog Ford fielded by Brad Keselowski Racing on Dover International Speedway’s “Monster Mile.”

“There was one point – not the last one (restart) – I really think I had a shot (at Crafton) because we had on new tires,” said Suarez, a native of Mexico. “Maybe all of us had new tires and I was able to be a little more aggressive. I knew the second restart, I really tried for one lap (to take the lead) and I was so loose to the right side of my truck. The last thing I wanted to do was wreck that fast truck. I like to bring complete trucks back to the shop. I’m not sure if I could do something different there. I need to see what Matt did, what I did, what I could do better, what I could do faster. Like I said, I do my homework and try to be better for the next time.”

John Wes Townley finished a career-best third in the No. 05 Zaxby’s Chevrolet Silverado, topping his previous best result of fourth on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“The last caution was the break we really needed,” Townley said. “Before we had a bad set of tires and fell off quite a bit. Didn’t quite have it for Crafton, so congratulations to him. It is nice to get a career-best and definitely be showing progress. We’re getting better and better and I’ve got to thank Zaxby’s and Hendrick horsepower.”

Crafton won last year’s event here on fuel mileage, a strategy he and crew chief Carl “Junior” Joiner mapped-out en route to victory on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway last month. Crafton also prevailed on the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, a sister facility to TMS, in Race No. 2 of the season.

Crafton led a career-best 118 laps en route to victory here last June, snapping a 26-race TMS winless streak.  “All of them are great,” said Crafton, referring to his mounting win total. “Last year, just getting that first cowboy hat (at TMS) was very sweet. But all the victories are great.”

Crafton led a race-high 77 laps to 68 for pole-sitter Erik Jones, who experienced battery-related electrical problems in his No. 4 Special Olympics World Games Toyota after leading 68 early laps. Jones fell a lap down during his first pit stop on Lap 83 to change the first of three batteries and ended up 15th, two laps down.

Crafton exited Texas with a 25-point lead over Reddick headed into the next race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., on June 13. The complete results from Friday night’s race can be viewed below.

  1. Matt Crafton
  2. Daniel Suarez
  3. John Wes Townley
  4. Johnny Sauter
  5. Austin Theriault
  6. Joe Nemechek
  7. Cameron Hayley
  8. Justin Boston
  9. Daniel Hemric
  10. Ben Kennedy
  11. Tyler Reddick
  12. Spencer Gallagher
  13. Mason Mingus
  14. Tyler Young
  15. Erik Jones
  16. Ray Black, Jr.
  17. Tyler Tanner
  18. Korbin Forrister
  19. Jennifer Jo Cobb
  20. Ryan Ellis
  21. Timothy Peters
  22. Brandon Jones
  23. Timmy Hill
  24. Jordan Anderson
  25. Norm Benning
  26. Justin Jennings
  27. B.J. McLeod
  28. Donnie Neuenberger
  29. Mike Affarano
  30. Adam Edwards

John Sturbin – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

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