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Tracking the Trucks: Kroger 250

Tracking the Trucks: Kroger 250

In a Nutshell: Matt Crafton held off fall Martinsville winner Darrell Wallace, Jr. on two green-white-checkered finishes. It was the first win for Crafton at the speedway and his fourth overall. Rookie Ben Kennedy came home third in his second start at Martinsville, while Crafton’s teammate Johnny Sauter was fourth. Ryan Blaney, Timothy Peters, German Quiroga, Ben Rhodes, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Brian Ickler rounded out the top 10.

Matt Crafton celebrated in victory lane Sunday afternoon after winning for the first time at Martinsville.

Who Should Have Won: Ron Hornaday, Jr. Hornaday was the class of the field in the Rheem Chevrolet and led the most laps, 62. Yet the four-time Truck Series champion missed out on his second Martinsville clock when the splitter started heavily hitting the ground. At one point the team couldn’t jack the truck up and it seemed to do him in. Hornaday doesn’t have a full-time ride this season, but in two races for Turner Scott, has proven that he’s not ready to hang the helmet up.

Race Rundown

Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks! In this section for each race, we’ll take a look at the most important things to know just in case you weren’t able to watch it. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below

The Fans Missed Out: Martinsville Speedway made sure every fan who was coming to the track for either the Truck or Cup race could enjoy the double-header on Sunday. Those with tickets for Trucks would be admitted into the grandstands after lap 100 of the Cup race. And those with Cup tickets could stay for the Truck race. The house was packed for the STP 500 and it was a fantastic 500-lap race, which saw record lead changes. The same then took place in the Truck race as they too, had a record number of lead changes and an exciting finish. Except the fans had left! Apparently not even free tickets and a full day of racing is what people want.

A Record Day: No matter the track, the Truck Series always puts on great racing. Martinsville was no exception, with fenders rubbed and tempers flared by the day’s end. There were 17 lead changes, which is a new track record having eclipsed the 13 set in April of last year. The winning manufacturer, Toyota, also set their own records. With Matt Crafton’s victory and Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s second-place finish, Toyota has now won the first two races of the season for the sixth time. It was also their 11th Martinsville win, which ties their 11 wins at Texas.

Sauter’s Self-Implosion: A veteran of the series and an easy championship favorite, Sauter did himself no favors on Sunday. The ThorSport driver won this event last year but couldn’t keep his nose out of trouble this time around as he angered more than one driver. While he led 61 laps he ruffled the feathers of Timothy Peters by sending him way up the track and late in the going he spun Eric Jones. There was also contact throughout the race with Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Ryan Blaney to name a few. It promoted the driver after the race to confidently stand on pit road and say that anyone who had a problem, come on down.

New Year, The Same Faces: Two races into the CWTS season and the favorites have already separated themselves from the pack. In a race featuring no big name Cup driver, the CWTS field presented a preview of how their season will unfold. Crafton grabbed his first win on Sunday in a season where he’ll defend his title and Darrell Wallace, Jr. sent himself off on a sophomore season that he hopes includes a challenge for said title. Throughout the rest of the top 10 were drivers who are also bound to find Victory Lane this year, such as Johnny Sauter, Ryan Blaney and Timothy Peters. Rookie Ben Kennedy has also quickly proven that, driving for the team who won the championship in 2012, he’s going to make a name for himself this year. He was dominant in Daytona and finished third at the tough paperclip.

Truck Rookie Report
2014 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Ben Kenney (No. 31)
Mason Mingus (No. 35)
Tyler Reddick (No. 19)
Tyler Young (No. 02)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 6 (Although there were a ton of new names in the field. Ben Rhodes, Cole Custer, Ray Black Jr., Korbin Forrister, Josh Williams and Raymond Terczak Jr. made their debuts, while Alex Guenette saw action for the second time and Brandon Jones made his fourth career start)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Ben Kennedy (3rd)

Rookie of the Race: Ben Kennedy

Rookie Quotes:

“We didn’t really start all that great. We worked on the truck throughout the race and had a good strategy with our sets tires there and sort of flip-flopped them back and forth at the end. We were really rolling there at the end; I was really exciting for it. Wish we would have had another 10 laps or so and think we could have got up there and got him.” Ben Kennedy (finished 3rd)

Championship Checkup:

Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters are now tied for the CWTS point lead after two of the season’s 22 races. Peters came home eighth on Sunday and was second to Kyle Busch in Daytona. Sauter’s teammate Matt Crafton sits third, four points back. Ryan Blaney is fourth, also four points behind while Ron Hornaday, Jr. is fifth, six behind.

Ben Kennedy, German Quiroga, Darrell Wallace Jr., Jeb Burton and Tyler Reddick round out the top ten.

Quotable:

“I didn’t think we were going to get it right there on those first two runs but that’s just the way these guys never give up. We made track bar adjustment, another track bar adjustment, air pressure adjustment and finally we got that thing on. I can’t thank every one of these guys. Menards, Ideal Doors, Toyota Tundra and those guys that raced me clean. (Timothy) Peters back there at the end and Bubba (Darrell Wallace Jr.) was back there and he couldn’t move me. But, I can’t thank every one of those guys enough.” Matt Crafton, race winner

“We finished second. That’s so frustrating – I hate finishing second. We had such a good #1 for Everyone Sales Event Toyota Tundra. We just couldn’t get that forward drive off. We were solid entry through the corner and I could run over them, I just couldn’t get off the corner and I think that’s what got us. We caught some lucky breaks there at end on the restarts. I had to use the bumper to the 5 (John Wes Townley) to keep us in third and lucked up because we got the caution on the next lap. I knew when the first green-white-checkered got away from me that I knew what I had to do and just could not get off the corner. I just had no right-rear grip. That’s alright – I’ll take second after Daytona. It’s a good points day. Kyle (Busch, team owner) said to come here and start our season here and wax them. We started our season here, but we didn’t wax them, but we’re making a lot of ground. Congrats to Matt Crafton and the Toyota Racing group – it’s really great to see a Toyota teammate win.” Darrell Wallace Jr., finished second

“That’s Martinsville. I’ve been dumped here plenty of times and if people don’t like it, they should try to come down here and do something about it. Quite frankly, I’ll fight anybody, anytime, anywhere, any place, any day – I don’t care how big they are.” Johnny Sauter, finished fourth

“Dude was driving like a lobotomized starfish all day.” Spencer Gallagher, finished 32nd

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series goes on another month break before returning to action for the third time in 2014 at the Kansas Speedway on May 9th. The race, scheduled for 8:30 PM ET, will be televised on FoxSports1; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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About Kelly Crandall

Kelly Crandall
Kelly is our Frontstretch Nationwide Series expert, hired in 2014 to handle Friday’s Nuts For Nationwide column as well as pre- and post-race analysis of NASCAR’s second-tier division. A former SpeedwayMedia.com reporter, she shares her FS duties with work at Popular Speed as an editor and feature contributor. Based in New Jersey, Kelly hopes to move down south in the near future while furthering her racing career.