NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt Crafton Grabs First Victory at Monster Mile

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Though the first half of Friday’s JACOB Companies 200 was owned by polesitter William Byron, it was Matt Crafton who pounced when it counted, leading the final 76 laps en route to his first Camping World Truck Series win at Dover International Speedway.

“It was a great race, I had a lot of fun,” Crafton said. “This is honestly one of my favorite racetracks. To not win here as long as I have, how long it’s taken me, it’s that much sweeter.”

Now reaching the 12th win in his Truck Series career, the two-time champion overcame two tough losses this season at Atlanta and Kansas to grab that first win of 2016. Major credit was given to crew chief Junior Joiner after struggling in Thursday practices.

“It was easy yesterday to throw our hands up. We were definitely off,” Crafton said. “[Joiner] told me the things he wanted to change, told me things he thought would help. I just let him go.”

Finishing second, Daniel Suarez once again came up short in grabbing his first series win, as he was unable to close the gap to leader Crafton in the closing laps.

“Clean air is super important here,” Suarez said. “The bottom was the place to be and already the [No.] 88 went running down there the whole time. Seven or eight laps to go I started running the top in [Turns] 1 and 2 and I started making a little gain. But wasn’t quite as good in the 3 and 4.”

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The race belonged to William Byron… until the second half of the race. [Photo: Zach Catanzareti]
Though unable to catch the No. 88, there was no shortage of drive coming from the No. 51 Toyota.

“I was starting to drive that thing as hard as I could,” Suarez said. “Maybe the next step was to wreck or something. A few times I was sideways, a few times I was super tight on exit.

“It’s what we race for. We race for wins. We are not racing for any championships or things like that. We are here to win races and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

With six cautions for 29 laps, the Caution Clock was never put into use again through five races in 2016. Though winding down past the halfway point, a crash by John Wes Townley ended the possibility of the Clock having an outcome on the event.

Completing the top-3 finishers is Christopher Bell, who put two trucks from the Kyle Busch Motorsports camp inside the top 5.

“For me, it was a really great race,” Bell said. “Throughout the beginning of the year, we’ve been really fast. Today was a really good day for us because we didn’t start off so great.”

Kicking the season off with a wild flip in Daytona and a hard lick while leading at Atlanta, Bell see’s confidence brewing in his No. 4 team after back-to-back top-5 finishes.

“Confidence is a funny thing,” Bell said. “you can in all the races in the world and have all the confidence in the world but it seems like if you have on bad race, it’s down the drain.

“Going into Kansas my confidence was definitely down. It’s cool to be able to get two top-5 finishes in a row. The biggest thing is I think I’m getting confidence in my guys. Everyone as a team is getting stronger.”

Completing the top-10 is Johnny Sauter, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher, who extends a career-high streak of top-10 finishes with a sixth-place, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Truex and Daniel Hemric.

Kaz Grala, who makes just his second series start, finished 10th in his No. 33 GMS Racing Chevrolet. William Byron led the opening 80 laps from pole before losing precious track position. The Kansas winner finished 11th.

Nick Drake came home 16th in his Truck Series debut in the No. 49 Chevrolet.

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