Kevin Rutherford · Friday June 28, 2013
The driver in the seat of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 33 this weekend should be a familiar one, unless one limits oneself to simply the Sprint Cup or Nationwide series.
After all, it’s his first venture into a series above the Camping World Truck Series.
At Friday night’s Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway, Matt Crafton will make his Nationwide Series debut, just two weeks after his 37th birthday.
It may not be the culmination of Crafton’s career so far, but making it to the Nationwide Series is a cool step forward for the driver who’s started every Camping World Truck race since the 2000 season finale at Fontana.
The three-time Truck winner has even raced for the same team — Thorsport — in every season but one, when he piloted one of Kevin Harvick’s trucks in 2004. Now, interestingly enough, he’s driving the car formerly owned by Harvick and now sometimes driven by him. The California native gets his first big shot (unless you count a Cup fill-in for Robby Gordon in practice and qualifying at Pocono in 2008), in one of the series’ top rides. Lucky, lucky.
But will he perform?
Though Crafton has been one of the Truck Series’ mainstays for over a decade, he’s known for being a rare winner, with only three victories in 300 starts. Winning the race may be out of the question. On the other hand, though it’s a companion event with the Cup Series, a minimal amount of Cup drivers are actually in the race, meaning that Crafton’s main competition will chiefly be regulars of the Nationwide Series.
Plus, he has the benefit of a teammate in Austin Dillon. You know, Austin Dillon? The guy who’s raced twice at Kentucky in the Nationwide Series and won both times? The driver who’s arguably the favorite Friday night?
Sounds like the kind of teammate you’d want on your side.
Consider this also: Crafton has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Unlike the Camping World Truck Series, where he’s the points leader and is racing for a championship, he has nothing he needs to do but go for a win, or at least the best finish he can muster.
Finally, there’s his past results in Kentucky. In 14 Truck starts at the track, he’s scored four top-five finishes and nine top 10s — fairly formidable numbers.
All of that combined points toward Matt Crafton having a solid debut this Friday night. Look for that No. 33 to be near the front in some capacity, and bear in mind that, of the 40 drivers in the race, the only racer making his series debut is a 37-year-old Californian who’s finally getting a solid chance in something other than the Truck Series.
-Despite reports that he was considering an entry in the race, Graham Rahal will not be among the drivers in August’s inaugural Mid-Ohio NNS race. The open wheel racer, son of Bobby Rahal, confirmed to Autoweek that a start in the race “won’t happen” in 2013, with his focus instead remaining in the IndyCar Series. Still, Rahal’s father says someday racing in NASCAR is “his desire,” and that he’s “more concerned with making it happen next year.”
-The two Richard Childress Racing crew members arrested following a scuffle with Nelson Piquet Jr. at Richmond earlier this year are hoping to have their misdemeanor assault charges dropped. Michael Scearce and Thomas Costello plan to perform 24 hours of community service, an act that typically results in the dropping of such charges before one’s court date. The two crewmen were suspended for four races and fined $15,000 each after the fight. Their court date is currently set for Oct. 6.
-Maryeve Dufault will return to the Nationwide Series after a two-year absence. Dufault, a former The Price is Right model and actress, will race for Go Green Racing in at least one race later in the season. The Canadian debuted in the series for MacDonald Motorsports in 2011, finishing 30th at Montreal.
Looking Forward: Kentucky
Stats (Entered Drivers):
Most Wins: Austin Dillon (2)
Most Top Fives: Brad Keselowski (4)
Most Top 10s: Brad Keselowski (5)
Most Poles: Austin Dillon (2)
Top Average Finish: Austin Dillon (1.0, 2 races), Brad Keselowski (3.6, 5), Sam Hornish Jr. (4.0, 2), Elliott Sadler (6.3, 3), J.J. Yeley (8.0, 4)
Kentucky Nationwide Debuts: Harrison Rhodes, Nelson Piquet Jr., Kyle Larson, Matt Crafton, Travis Pastrana, Parker Kligerman, Bryan Silas, Dexter Stacey, Kevin Swindell
Season Debuts: Matt Crafton
Series Debuts: Matt Crafton
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