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Consistency Pays Off for Matt Crafton

by Monte Dutton

One of this season’s mild surprises has been the emergence of Matt Crafton as a title contender in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series. Crafton, who drives the No. 88 Menards Chevrolet, has finished outside the top 15 only five times in 29 races since winning for the first time at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May 2008. Consistency has been the 33-year-old driver’s distinguishing virtue this year, which is why Crafton ranks second, only 36 points behind Ron Hornaday Jr., in the point standings. Prior to Hornaday’s Milwaukee victory, Crafton led the standings. He’s finished in the top 10 in eight of the series’ 10 races. Yet, in Crafton’s career, he has won only once in 207 attempts. “It’s hard to believe,” he said. “It’s hard to get wins in the Truck Series and to have only one after running as well as we have the past two years… it took so long to get that one. It’s not every day you get a truck as good as we had there (at Texas, where he finished second) and not be able to win it.” “They’ve got that team in position to get some more wins,” said Ray Dunlap, part of Speed’s telecast team. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Crafton win another race or two this season. They’re definitely due…. There are a lot of tracks coming up soon where they could do really well.” But Crafton, from Tulare, Calif., knows the championship race favors those who are consistent. “We’ve got to do what we’ve been doing all year and put ourselves in contention and not do anything ridiculous,” he said. “That’s how you win races and championships. “It’s the team working together. It takes people a while to jell. My crew chief, Bud Haefele, had never ‘crew chiefed’ at this level and… the guys had to build this up — build new trucks and make them better each and every time. We ran well before, but not great like the last couple of years.” Unlike most Truck Series teams, ThorSport (owned by Duke Thorson) bases its operation in Ohio. The great majority of teams in NASCAR’s three major touring series are headquartered in the Charlotte area. “I see advantages,” Crafton said. “It’s honestly a benefit to be where we are.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for the Gaston Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog, NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma.com), features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_ thisweek@yahoo.com. (c) 2009 King Features Syndicate

Matt Crafton has established himself as a Truck Series title contender. (Photo: John Clark/NASCAR This Week)

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