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In a Nutshell: The sun was shining down on Matt Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota after rain took over the headlines at Dover International Speedway. For the first time in his 16th start at Dover, he was able to bring his truck into Victory Lane.
Leading the final 76 laps, Crafton was able to hold off a hard-charging Daniel Suarez, who appeared poised to earn his first Camping World Truck Series victory. However, in a rather clean race — featuring five incidents in 200 laps, Crafton set sail on the field. While reigning race winner Tyler Reddick led 39 laps, it was Crafton who was doing a burnout on Friday evening.
Who Should Have Won: After leading 80 laps, William Byron appeared set to win his second consecutive race for Kyle Busch Motorsports. However, his chances at a victory dissolved when he had a pit road penalty for his pit crew going over-the-wall too soon during the final caution on the afternoon. Byron’s steady pace at the front of the field was another testament to the No. 9’s ability to contend for the championship. He settled for an 11th-place finish.
Christopher Bell’s Momentum Swing
Rookie Christopher Bell started the season with three straight finishes of 16th or worse. The end result was a 21st-place position in the standings heading into Kansas. However, come Kansas, the momentum began to shift.
Finishing fourth at the intermediate track, Bell just seven positions to 14th in the standings. Led by veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter, his No. 4 team salvaged the most out of the day, giving him the third top 5 of his career.
Heading to Dover, Bell’s team was starting to reach its potential. But with a rain-filled weekend, teams prepared for qualifying to be rained out on Friday, and that is exactly what happened.
Starting ninth on Friday afternoon, the Toyota-backed truck began moving through the field. As the contest reached the halfway point, Bell was racing in the top 5. Staying put in the fifth position for over 50 laps, he eventually made a late-race charge into third, his best finish since his Eldora victory.
Five races into his first full season with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Bell has jumped to ninth in the standings. Sitting 25 markers behind championship leader Crafton, his chance to make the Chase will likely depend on his ability to climb through the standings if he cannot enter Victory Lane.
GMS Racing’s Strong Outing at Dover
Fielding four trucks at Dover, GMS Racing has become Chevrolet’s main team in the Camping World Truck Series. With no other top-tier full-time Chevrolet teams besides NEMCO Motorsports’ truck and JR Motorsports’ entry, GMS Racing has created an opportunity for expansion.
Hiring Johnny Sauter to pilot the team’s lead truck this year, the year started with a victory at Daytona in the season-opener. But until Sunday, that was his only top-10 finish of the year. Finishing 28th and 32nd, respectively, at Atlanta and Martinsville, his momentum hit a pause.
Come Dover, Sauter was back in the top 5, finishing fourth for GMS Racing. Besides his top-5 effort, teammate Spencer Gallagher came home sixth, tying his best run of the year. For Gallagher, he now has four top 10s in five races this season, nearing his mark of four from all of 2015.
In addition to the two strong runs of the team’s full-time drivers, rookie Kaz Grala earned a 10th-place finish. It marks the first time in GMS’ history that the team has had three trucks in the top 10. After finishing 31st in his series debut at Martinsville, he ran just outside of the top 10 for the majority of the race on Friday. However, a caution with 35 laps to go was enough to put him in position to get his first top-10 finish.
- Ranier Racing with MDM made its debut this weekend with Brandon Jones behind the wheel. Starting second, the team was running in the top 5 until Lap 44, when he made contact with rookie Austin Wayne Self. Self’s truck got loose coming off Turn 2, and slammed into the left-rear quarterpanel of Jones’ truck. The team purchased the owner points this weekend from Carlos Contreras’ team, which is now 29th in the owner standings after Jones finished 20th, four laps down.
- Making his second start for Red Horse Racing, Matt Tifft ended the day in 12th in the No. 11 truck. Replacing Ben Kennedy, he competing inside of the top 5 for the first 50 laps. But come the halfway point, he was running eighth. As the race rolled on, Tifft fell back, losing key positions on restarts.
- Nick Drake made his Camping World Truck Series debut on Friday evening in joint effort between JR Motorsports and Premium Motorsports. Running near the top 15 throughout the race, his day was rather uneventful. Staying out of trouble, Drake came home in 16th. While he failed to run in the top 10 during his debut, the former K&N Pro Series West competitor will likely return for more events later this season.
Truck Rookie Report
2016 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 00 Cole Custer
No. 1 Austin Hill
No. 4 Christopher Bell
No. 9 William Byron
No. 22 Austin Wayne Self
No. 33 Kaz Grala
No. 41 Ben Rhodes
No. 49 Nick Drake
No. 63 Bobby Pierce
No. 98 Rico Abreu
No. of Rookies in the Race: 10
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3
Rookie of the Race: Christopher Bell
2016 Chase Qualifiers:
Johnny Sauter (Daytona)
John Hunter Nemechek (Atlanta)
William Byron (Kansas)
Matt Crafton (Dover)
“It feels good. Consistency pays off. Hard work pays off. This team shows that more than anything. When you look at the run down, you got KBM, GMS and BKR. We’re right in between two BKR trucks. You’ve got powerhouse teams in the top 10, plus us. It says a lot about this team and how hard they work. I drove my heart out. I do every weekend. In this Truck Series, you have a lot of young guys that make a lot of mistakes. That’s where you can really capitalize. If you can keep your truck out of trouble, you can see some of these guys are really torn up. They’re just trying to do too much too early. You have to be patient and be there at the end, and that’s what we did.” Ryan Truex
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series is off to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NC Education Lottery 200 next Friday evening. The race will be live at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.