ROSSBURG — Wanting to contend on dirt, Matt Crafton bought his own dirt modified car this winter, a move that paid off as he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway.
The Dirt Derby victory ended a 27-race winless streak for Crafton, the driver of the 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota Tundra.
“It definitely ranks up there amongst one of the greatest wins I’ve had so far just because it’s something so out of the ordinary,” he said.
Crafton led 24 of the 150 laps on the half-mile clay oval. Stewart Friesen, who finished second, led 94 laps. John Hunter Nemecheck led 11 laps while Christopher Bell led 22 on the night, which saw seven lead changes among those four drivers.
Crafton had to strategize late in the race to find the best position on the track to set up the 14th victory of his truck series career.
“I just had to save my stuff,” he said. “I just had to have something to race there at the end. I knew I just couldn’t put it up top.”
While Crafton’s strategy paid off late, his decision making earlier in the race didn’t go as well. Crafton led at the end of the first stage but thought his truck was too loose.
The veteran driver had his crew tighten up the truck for the second of three stages, which backfired as Crafton fell to ninth at the end of 90 laps.
“The second segment we were way, way too tight, and we fell back quite a ways,” he said.
The miscalculation left crew chief Carl Joiner upset with his driver.
“I was mad at the end of that second stage. I was pissed,” Joiner said with a laugh. “But that’s pretty normal for me, and that’s what makes our relationship special. We can shake it off and have our lotion on it, and nobody gets their feelings hurt.”
The team adjusted the truck for the final stage, and Crafton once again was running well as he moved up the field and back into the lead on his way to his first win since May 2016 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Crafton had questioned what his team was doing wrong during the past year, but he was confident that they’d eventually figure it out and get a win, which they did Wednesday night.
“I knew we would because there were spots in the season where we had speed and then there were spots where we have been really bad as well,” he said.
The fifth annual Dirt Derby, the only event in any of NASCAR’s three national series that runs on dirt, was a race Crafton targeted to contend. For the past several years he raced for other dirt teams, but this year he bought his own modified to better prepare himself for the challenge of racing on dirt.
“I’ve had to spend a lot of my own money trying to learn how to do this,” he said.
Friesen, who started on the pole, finished second in Wednesday’s race. Chase Briscoe finished third, Grant Enfinger finished fourth, and Nemecheck finished fifth.
Johnny Sauter remained atop the Camping World Truck Series points standings despite finishing 23rd in the 32-car field. He was involved in a wreck on lap 20 that involved nine trucks and brought out the second of 10 caution flags totaling 59 laps on the night.
LIMA — Limaland Motorsports Park plays host to UNOH 20th Anniversary Night Presented by the University of Northwestern Ohio, featuring Non Wing Springs, K&N Filter Modifieds and Bud Thunderstocks on Friday night. The pit gate opens are 4:30 p.m., grandstand at 5 p.m. with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. and racing starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for those between the ages of 11 and 15. Youngsters 10 and younger get in free. Pit passes are $25.
For more information go to limaland.com.
WAYNESFIELD — After a week-long break, racing returns to Waynesfield Raceway Park on Saturday night.
The Quest Federal Credit Union Non Wing sprints will headline the program running for $1,200 to win. For the first time this season, Waynesfield will join forces with Limaland Motorsports Park to double down on the money, giving drivers a chance to walk away with $2,400 on the weekend.
Coming into the weekend, Dallas Hewitt currently leads the Quest Federal Credit Union Non Wing points chase by nine points over former track champion Kyle Simon. Defending track champion Luke Hall sits third, 14 points back. Dustin Ingle and Drew Radar round out the top five.
Besides the Non Wings, the Performance Powder Coating AMSA Mini Sprints, Satellite Connections UMP Modifieds, Block Insurance Tough Trucks, and the Indian Lake Outfitter Compacts are scheduled to compete.
Brandon McDaries leads the Compact point standings will one win and four top 10 finishes on the year. Nick Glasgow sits second, five points back. Justin Durflinger is 10 points back in third with one win on the season.
Adult general admission is $12. Kids ages 11-15 years old are admitted for $6 with everyone under the age of 10 admitted for free. Pit passes for the race are available for $25.
Pit side gates open at 4 p.m. and grandstands at 5 p.m. Hot laps get under way at 6 p.m. with the first green flag of the night flying at 7 p.m. For more information go to waynesfieldracewaypark.net.
The Waynesfield Raceway Park kart track will be in action Sunday afternoon. Pits will open at 9 a.m. with racing getting under way at 12:30 p.m. Head to the Waynesfield Kart Track Facebook page for additional information.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.