Race Weekend Central

The Matt Crafton of Old Shows Up With Bristol Truck Top 5

BRISTOL, Tenn. — For the first time in a while, Matt Crafton looked like the three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion that he is.

Crafton came on strong late to finish fourth in the Weather Guard Truck Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night (March 16).

And had a caution not come out on lap 218, Crafton might have finished even better. He may have even had a shot at cracking his 84-race winless drought that dates back to Kansas Speedway in 2020.

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“This Menards Ford F150 was very very good on a long run, just did not need that caution there at the end,” Crafton told Frontstretch. “We had to fire back off. Our stuff wouldn’t fire off very good. It would just keep coming the longer we ran.”

The 24th-year Truck veteran qualified in 20th, and as a fairly clean race moved along, Crafton worked his way through the field. By the end of stage two, he was in eighth.

As the race wound down to under 50 laps to go, Crafton emerged into the top five and appeared to be closing on the leaders.

“[I needed a] long run,” Crafton said. “Like I said, I caught them and mowed them down on the long run.

“Our short run speed was a little bit off. … Last two or three laps, we were one of the fastest trucks on the track, but just track position was everything.”

The No. 88 ThorSport Racing team has come out the gate looking stronger so far in 2024. Through four races, he has one top five, three top 10s and sits seventh in points.

Crafton only had two top fives in each of the past two seasons, and he only had nine top 10s this year. This recent resurgence isn’t quite the Crafton of the 2010s, who acquired three championships and 15 race wins. But it’s certainly an improvement.

Crafton credits crew chief Jeriod Prince on the strong start. Prince came over to the No. 88 halfway through last season after starting the year with Crafton’s ThorSport teammate Ben Rhodes, the now-defending champion. In the process of that change, Crafton’s team was essentially blown up and he has a whole new squad around him.

“They took our engineer last year and put him with Ben [Rhodes], took my truck chief and put him over there as the crew chief of the No. 66,” Crafton said. “We got a whole new group of guys.

“Besides that, we got Jeriod [Prince], [Tyler] Kid Kontos, who has been the interior guy and one of the mechanics, he’s the truck chief now. He stepped up, and Jeriod sure as heck stepped up as well. It’s showing.

“We’ve got a really really green group, but we’re here to teach them and keep them under our wing. And hopefully, they’ll stay with us, and we’ll win some more races.”

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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