Categories
Trucks

Through the Eyes of NKP: 2019 NGOTS Champion Matt Crafton

With seven top-five’s and surprisingly no trips to victory lane, Matt Crafton put together a stellar season en route to being crowned the 2018 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Champion.

With the help of Nigel Kinrade Photography (NKP), led by veteran photographer, Nigel Kinrade, lets take a look back at the season that was for the ThorSport Racing driver.

Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway | Nigel Kinrade

 

North Carolina Education Lottery 200 | Rusty Jarrett

 

North Carolina Education Lottery 200 | Matthew T. Thacker

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Awards | Nigel Kinrade

 

Chevrolet Silverado 250 | Logan Whitton

 

UNOH 200 | Nigel Kinrade

 

NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 | John Harrelson

 

Ford EcoBoost 200 | Rusty Jarrett

 

Sugarlands Shine 250 | Rusty Jarrett

 

World of Westgate 200 | Rusty Labounty

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Season

Another year of NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Matt Crafton was crowned the series champion. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: Through the years, the trucks have earned the reputation of putting on the best shows of the weekend with the right race package being put together. That did not change in 2019 as there were certainly many events where they out-shined both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. 

ISM Raceway was one of those weekends, for example. The Cup Series semi-final saw great racing on the restarts with drivers all over the surface, but they seemed to spread apart once the green flag had been flying for awhile. In contrast, the truck series long green-flag runs brought forth close fights for positions, including for the lead in the late stages between Stewart Friesen and Brandon Jones.

BAD: The ideology that the traction compound can fix anything as it seemed each weekend, officials were trying to lay that sticky stuff where they felt it could improve the racing. Instead of using a manufactured substance, why don’t we get back to basics and actually fix the issue?

ISM Raceway tried to apply it in the higher groove for their event, and for the most part, drivers avoided it. Mind you, Sheldon Creed showed a bit of promise with a couple strong runs off the corner, it did not seem to make a difference in the type of battles witnessed. So why bother?

Furthermore, the substance can be tricky especially if it is not worked in properly. Both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott experienced that the hard way last week in the Cup Series, sliding it sideways and making contact with the wall. Now imagine if something like that happens to take a driver out of contention for the Championship 4 either tomorrow or Sunday. There’d be certainly tons of backlash from fans, considering we’ve proven it’s not a necessary for ISM Raceway. Do you really want to risk that? 

GOOD: Thank you for the pair of ThorSport Racing teammates not listening to what the commentators in the booth were saying.

As the ISM event neared conclusion, Matt Crafton ran behind a pair of his ThorSport teammates sitting just six points above the cutline. Both the No. 88 truck crew chief Carl Joiner and NASCAR on FOX’s analysts Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons expected both Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger to lay over and allow Crafton go by. Despite the constant complains by the booth through the final laps of the event, they did the right thing running their race.

If Crafton was sitting was in jeopardy of being above the cutline and needed those two points, then certainly it would be nice to see his teammates work with him. However, he was safe where he was racing them for position so it was not a necessity for them to give up ground in their own race for his sake. Let’s say that they let him go by and then a late race caution comes out to set-up a restart. How would they feel restarting further back than intended?

The unique factor in NASCAR is watching drivers compete every single lap against each other as hard as they can – despite being teammates. The day that team orders become a thing is the day that you ruin the utmost important rule of racing in competition.

BAD: It’s been discussed many times before, and yet nothing has been done about it. Initial green flag and restart rule procedures need to be adjusted.

As the field came to the green flag for the Lucas Oil 150 at ISM, Friesen would beat pole sitter Austin Hill to the line, enabling a penalty from NASCAR for jumping the start. However, Friesen did not get into the throttle before the leader, rather laying off to try and avoid, except Hill spun his tires causing a slower start. How is it fair for a competitor to get penalized for another driver’s mistake?

NASCAR is famously known for inconsistency with race calls, and certainly has made some highly visible mistakes through the years. However, they are always looking for ways to improve and that was shown with an adjustment to pit road and where tires can be throughout a stop, whether in arm’s length of a crew member or not.

It’s time for them to take another glance at this rule and perhaps include a judgment aspect that if the leader spins the tires, then the penalty is waved for the second-place car jumping. Sure, it adds a layer that nobody wants to be sitting and deciding, but that’s the nature of the game as proven by the yellow line rule and judging whether a driver was pushed below or not. 

GOOD: It’s Bristol Baby” is a famous tagline that has been heard through the years, due to the track’s reputation. It was nice to see the Truck Series bring back some of that old flare. Throughout the entire UNOH 200, the playoff drivers were mixing it up with not only each other, but their fellow competitors on the track. Nobody appeared to be giving each other an inch, with bumps being traded throughout the field, and some going around as a result. 

The fans have been asking for the old Bristol to come back, and if this event is any indication, they got their wish. It’s easy to see why they wanted the bottom groove to be prime real estate as sparks flew, with drama throughout the night. Certainly the drivers who grew up running tracks of this style with a rough edge to their driving enjoy it. Just ask Ross Chastain.

“That’s what built this place,” he said. “You come through this tunnel, and there’s talk about rattling cages, there’s helmets thrown. If we’re going to fill these places up, the CarShield Chevy’s going to be the one that adds to the excitement.”

GOOD: The trucks always put on some of the craziest restrictor plate racing, and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was no exception. Throughout the event, from the drop of the initial green flag to the end, there was side-by-side racing as drivers jockeyed for positions, sometimes even three-wide.

Over the course of Daytona Speedweeks, fans have practically begged for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to stop running single file up against the wall as we saw in both the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Gander RV Duels.

However, patience was the name of the game as drivers solely wanted to go to the event of the with a car, and  on the case Thursday, save their equipment for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500. There’s no time for that in the trucks as stage points are given out on two different occasions, and the race is only 100 laps total in length. Combined with a lot of youthful drivers eager to prove themselves, riding along doesn’t happen. 

BAD: There is a price to pay with what we saw happen, though, as the truck series only had nine drivers complete the race out of the 32 who took the green flag. The constant battling for position resulted in several wrecks, with 11 cautions taking happening. Oddly enough, more than half of the event was run under the yellow flag (55 laps).

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Matt Crafton wins Gander Outdoors Truck title, Austin Hill takes Homestead-Miami victory

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Austin Hill bookended his 2019 season with a victory in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway – finishing a comfortable 1.569-seconds ahead of veteran Matt Crafton, whose runner-up effort was enough to earn him his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.

Hill won all three stages in the race and led a race best 56 laps to give the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota its second consecutive Homestead win. Last year Brett Moffitt drove the truck to a race and series championship trophy.

Christian Eckes finished third on Friday to earn Kyle Busch Motorsports its record seventh series owner championship – the organization’s sixth in the last seven years.

From the drop of the rain-delayed green flag, the four championship eligible drivers – Crafton, fourth place Ross Chastain, fifth place Moffitt and 11th place Stewart Friesen – had to deal with a highly motivated Hill for the race win. Officially eliminated from Playoff contention last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway, Hill came into the event highly-motivated nonetheless.

He drove around title contender Chastain to win the first stage and held off Crafton for wins in both the second stage and ultimately the race trophy.

The 25-year old Georgia native finished the season as he started – in Victory Lane – matching his work in the season-opening Daytona race – his first career win. He won again at Michigan in the summer and then again at Las Vegas and was truly a formidable contender through the Playoffs. Unable to overcome a points deficit after a crash at Martinsville, Va. in the final Playoff round, however, kept him from the Championship 4. However his work Friday sent a strong message that he’s ready to contend for the championship next year as well.

“I’m excited for the win, but at the same time it stings a little bit just because I know that if we would have been a little bit better in the round of six, we could be celebrating a win and a championship,” Hill said. “But like I say, I can’t thank everybody out there enough.

And Hill conceded with a smile, “It’s awesome to get my fourth win of the season and end on a high note.”

This year’s champion Crafton matches a three-title mark equaled only by Jack Sprague (2001, 1999 and 1997) and exceeded by only NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. Crafton is the only driver to ever win back-to-back truck titles (2013-14).

“It feels amazing and we’re one step closer to what Hornaday’s done,” Crafton said after climbing out of his car, noting that many underestimated his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford team. “And they called us the underdog.”

Moffitt, who led the series with four wins, 13 top fives along with 17 top 10s and three pole positions, was clearly disappointed with his fifth-place finish.

“We were just pretty bad from the get-go this morning, just missing speed,” said Moffitt, who drives the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet. “It is what it is, we had a good year and we’ll re-group and go after it again next year.”

“It’s a disappointment but we’ll move on and get better,” he added.

Chastain, who was a strong favorite to earn his first title, was equally as disappointed following the race. He led 36 laps on the night and for much of the early race looked ready to challenge Hill for the race win to land his first NASCAR title.

He won three races and earned a series best 19 top-10 finishes. A competitor in all three NASCAR national series, Chastain only declared himself championship eligible in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in June.

“I want to throw up right now to be honest with you, but it has been an absolute dream,” said Chastain, who will drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series next year.

“It’s pretty crazy that we did that [made the Playoffs], and made it to Homestead,” he added. “We did everything we could and that says a lot.”

Tyler Ankrum, the driver of the No. 17 DGR Crosley Toyota, finished 22nd on Friday, but officially earned the series’ Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for his season’s work. He wasn’t allowed to compete on the big tracks until he turned 18 in March and he missed the opening three races of the season calendar.

“We had a really great season I thought,” said the 18-year old Ankrum, who won his career first series race at Kentucky this summer and qualified for the Playoffs as a rookie.

“When we had highs they were really, really high.”

Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway

There’s a reason why ISM Raceway is known as the crown jewel in the desert, and that was on full display Friday night.

The NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series put on a great event as they set their Championship 4 for the playoffs in 2019. The unique track layout allotted for drivers to battle all the way around the speedway, sometimes even four-wide at times with different wide lanes being taken through the frontstretch dogleg. Though it was not just restarts producing solid competition, as the long green-flag runs brought forth close fights for positions, including for the lead in the late stages between Stewart Friesen and Brandon Jones.

The Truck Series has proven to put on the best shows of the weekend with the right race package being put together. However, unlike other weekends where you would be letdown the further you got from Friday, you should expect the same great racing to continue with the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series the next two days.

Traction Compound

ISM Raceway has always been known as a place for great racing everywhere, so the thought of adding a traction compound to the speedway asks several questions. Like, is this really necessary?

For the most part, the higher groove where it was applied was not used throughout the night, except by a couple drivers. Although Sheldon Creed showed a bit of promise with a couple strong runs off the corner, it did not seem to make a difference in the type of battles witnessed. So why bother?

Furthermore, the substance can be tricky especially if it is not worked in properly. Both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott experienced that the hard way last week in the Cup Series, sliding it sideways and making contact with the wall. Now imagine if something like that happens to take a driver out of contention for the Championship 4 either tomorrow or Sunday. There’d be certainly tons of backlash from fans, considering we’ve proven it’s not a necessary for ISM Raceway. Do you really want to risk that? 

Something Needs to Change

As the field came to the green flag, Friesen would beat pole sitter Austin Hill to the line, enabling a penalty from NASCAR for jumping the start. However, Friesen did not get into the throttle before the leader, rather laying off to try and avoid, except Hill spun his tires causing a slower start.

How is it fair for a competitor to get penalized for another driver’s mistake?

NASCAR is famously known for inconsistency with race calls, and certainly has made some highly visible mistakes through the years. However, they are always looking for ways to improve and that was shown with an adjustment to pit road and where tires can be throughout a stop, whether in arm’s length of a crew member or not.

It’s time for them to take another glance at this rule and perhaps include a judgment aspect that if the leader spins the tires, then the penalty is waved for the second-place car jumping. Sure, it adds a layer that nobody wants to be sitting and deciding, but that’s the nature of the game as proven by the yellow line rule and judging whether a driver was pushed below or not. 

Teammate Etiquette

As the race neared conclusion, Matt Crafton ran behind a pair of his ThorSport teammates sitting just six points above the cutline. Both the No. 88 truck crew chief Carl Joiner and NASCAR on FOX’s analysts Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons expected both Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger to lay over and allow Crafton go by.

Despite the constant complains by the booth through the final laps of the event, they did the right thing running their race.

If Crafton was sitting was in jeopardy of being above the cutline and needed those two points, then certainly it would be nice to see his teammates work with him. However, he was safe where he was racing them for position so it was not a necessity for them to give up ground in their own race for his sake. Let’s say that they let him go by and then a late race caution comes out to set-up a restart. How would they feel restarting further back than intended?

The unique factor in NASCAR is watching drivers compete every single lap against each other as hard as they can – despite being teammates. The day that team orders become a thing is the day that you ruin the utmost important rule of racing in competition.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Four XFINITY and Truck Series Crew Chiefs Suspended

Following the events at Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend, four NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crew chiefs have been suspended.

The No. 12 Ford of Austin Cindric and the No. 76 Chevrolet of Spencer Boyd were found in violation of section 10.9.10.4 of the NASCAR rulebook, meaning the lug nut(s) were not properly installed. As a result, crew chiefs Matt Swiderski and Jason Miller were fined $20,000, and suspended from the next three NASCAR XFINITY Series events. Additionally, they lost 35 regular season driver and owner points.

Additionally, the No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano was found in violation of the same rule, resulting in crew chief Brian Wilson being fined $10,000, and suspended from the next XFINITY Series event.

In the Truck Series, the No. 86 of Clay Greenfield was found in violation of section 20.3.4 of the NASCAR rulebook, which is titled “Ballast Containers Note: Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle,” per the penalty report. As a result, crew chief Danny Gill, truck chief Melvin Burns Jr., and mechanic William Guinade have been suspended from the next three truck events. 

Lastly, the No. 88 Toyota of Matt Crafton was found in violation of section 10.9.10.4, resulting in a $2,500 fine for crew chief Carl Joiner Jr.

Prior to these penalties, only three XFINITY Series had been suspended this year from at least one event, with no truck series suspensions. The previous XFINITY infractions were due to post-race height infractions.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Playoff Picture – Camping World Truck Series

When the checkered flag flies at the end of Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway, it will mark the beginning of the playoffs. However, the regular season isn’t over yet, with a lot of drivers still having a lot to fight for.

Johnny Sauter

Sauter currently owns a 56-point advantage over Noah Gragson, meaning he is your 2018 regular season champion. That will translate into an additional 15 playoff points, boasting another department where the veteran already leads.

Nonetheless, a victory, or at the very least a stage win would be still significant for the No. 23 team as it would give them even more of an edge.

Noah Gragson

As noted above, Gragson cannot take the points lead from Sauter. So with one championship out of the picture, and only one win and 12 playoff points,increasing those numbers would help his chances at a different title.

Brett Moffitt 

Hot off a win, a repeat performance could allow him to enter the playoffs with the most playoff points. Other than that, Moffitt sits pretty heading into this week.

Justin Haley, Ben Rhodes

Haley and Rhodes are both locked in virtue of wins and have nothing to lose. For the two young drivers, Thursday should be all about winning stages and the race.

Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen

Both own a significant points advantage over Matt Crafton and zero wins. While Friesen (+39 over Crafton) doesn’t hold quite the safety net Enfinger does (+53), it would still take a lot to put him in any danger of missing the post-season. Their biggest concern should be getting their first win of 2018. 

Matt Crafton

Out of the top-eight drivers, Crafton is in the most danger. Fortunately for the two-time champion, no one outside the cutoff can pass him in points. The only thing that would kick him out would be a new winner (excluding Friesen and Enfinger).

Also worth noting, the 42-year-old has never won a race at Bristol.

Spoilers

So, who could knock out Crafton? The obvious would be Todd Gilliland.

While Gilliland has yet to be victorious, he drives for one of the best teams in the sport, Kyle Busch Motorsports. His team has also been heading in the right direction, with four finishes of seventh or better in the last six races.

His last visit to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” also resulted in a K&N Pro Series East win earlier this year.

Other possibilities?

A look into Bristol history shows that last first-time winner came in 2016 when Ben Kennedy won with GMS Racing, a team that has been one of the best this season. An organization that also has two drivers, Cody Coughlin and Dalton Sargeant, looking for their first wins.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Buckle Up Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is known for their dramatic chaotic competition on a weekly basis, but Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway failed to deliver. With clean air seeming to reign supreme, and a spread out field, the Buckle Up Your Truck 225 was just average.

That said, Eddie Troconis played the perfect strategy for his driver Ben Rhodes. Knowing they were good on the longer run at the end, he chose to go with no tires, just fuel, and an adjustment to get his driver out front. Once the ThorSport Racing driver got the lead, there was no looking back as he cruised to the win. 

From the drop of the first green flag this season, Rhodes has been up front – but mechanical gremlins and wrecks kept taking him out of contention. Now after going three straight weeks with finishes outside of the top-15, he has placed on the podium two weeks in a row highlighted by this hometown victory.

They always say there’s a right time to get momentum, and with only four events remaining before the playoffs, Rhodes has found the secret.

On the flip side, Stewart Frisen had led the entire third stage up until the final round of stops began, where his team elected for tires. That didn’t play out for him as well he was fast initially and closing on Rhodes, he got tighter as the checkered neared and lost ground.

You never want to say that a driver is deserving of their first win more than somebody else, but let’s just use that expression for the No. 52 right now. He came close throughout the final half of 2017 and has led laps in seven events this season with seven top-10’s in 12 races. When it comes to the next intermediate track, do not let him slip under your nose as Frisen may be celebrating in victory lane. Possibly sooner, as we are heading to where he’s most comfortable on dirt next Wednesday at Eldora Raceway.

Speaking of Eldora, Matt Crafton scored the victory last year – and like his ThorSport Racing teammate, he got a good kick in the butt with at third-place finish on Thursday night. While he is a multi-series champion, the switch to Ford hasn’t treated him well as this was only his fifth top-10 of 2018. You can never count the veteran out, but finding consistency through the summer is necessary.

Like the past several weeks, Noah Gragson has been fast – but yet once again came up short on victory. This time after winning the second stage, an extended pit stop for a wheel spacer set him back deep in the field and he only rebounded to eighth. Nice way to overcome a difficult night, but continuing to come up short is well, not championship material. An argument in his situation could easily be made longer here, but we’ve done that several times this year so please just refer to previous observation editions for further notice.

When you look at mistakes, it was also strange to see Johnny Sauter make two back-to-back on the final pit stop.

Ah yes, we’re getting to the time of the season where the discussion begins to solely focus on the championship.

Four races remaining, and you have five drivers locked in – Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Justin Haley, Rhodes, and Gragson. As of right now, that leaves three drivers to get in on points. With Frisen, Grant Enfinger and Crafton having a gap of 79 points on Myatt Snider, it’s going to take a lot for someone to change the situation based on points. 

However, we do know that situation can change in a split second as the manta goes win and you’re in, meaning if any other competitor wins a race – like Cody Coughlin, Dalton Sargeant, or Todd Gilliland – and we’d certainly have a battle on our hands for the last position. With wild cards such as Eldora on Wednesday, and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park still in play, who knows what could happen.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway

“Tick Tock, We Got A Clock.”

Four races in the books for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and the fans haven’t been left disappointed yet by the action on track. 

As typically expected with Martinsville Speedway, the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 was filled with close quarter action and even if the final stretch of the event had run without a caution, it was bound to be a barn burner as Todd Gilliland had began to close the gap on Kyle Benjamin. That said, thanks to a big piece of pipe laying on the track, the yellow flag flew with less than 40 laps to go.

The result? Pure chaos. Three-wide competition throughout the whole field, bumping and banging off each other – but with nobody actually getting turned around. 

John Hunter Nemechek has shown that he can get the job done in the clutch of the moment and snag an unexpected win – recall Canadian Tire Motorsports Park anybody? He once again proved his ability as a driver, as his attack on the restart with 31 laps to go was everything. While Gilliland and Benjamin looked set to battle, Nemechek snuck underneath both drivers going into the turn, eventually passing them both. From being well-timed to set-up and executed, it was the perfect move that you can’t discount no matter how you look at it.

Nemechek’s situation is unique this year. He is splitting a ride in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Kyle Larson, while running whatever truck races do not conflict. Despite showing countless talent, sponsorship hasn’t ever come easy for the 20-year-old. If he was able to get some funding to a full schedule – whether XFINITY or Truck, there’s no question he’d be a championship contender.

You can’t discount Nemechek’s closest competition, either. Benjamin was able to get back to Nemechek’s bumper and certainly a little harder hit or couple more laps and we may have a different story on our hands. You have to credit Benjamin for his poise shown, as he could’ve just wrecked the No. 8 Chevrolet to get himself to victory lane – but chose the respectful route instead.

By the way, Monday’s race was Benjamin’s series debut with a first year team – DGR-Crosby Racing. Not a bad beginning for either party. The 20-year-old said he hoped he earned himself more chances behind the wheel with his performance – don’t worry, you did. 

While the youngsters impressed, the veterans were unable to be up front as expected. Past winners Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter each ran inside the top-10, but neither were a factor for the victory and ultimately found themselves out of winning contention due to other problems. Sauter suffered from battery issues with the No. 21 truck stalling off the corner at one point, with Crafton getting heavy damage as he ran into the back of Sauter then. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

ThorSport Racing Partners with Ford Performance

Entering their 23rd season of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ThorSport Racing’s trucks will carry the blue oval as they have partnered for Ford Performance for the upcoming year and beyond.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” said team owner Duke Thorson. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

Over the past 22 years, Duke Thorson has won 16 events and scored 300 top-10’s in series competition. The team won their first championship in 2013 with Matt Crafton, and followed it up with another year later. Crafton will return for a 14th season, with continued sponsorship from Menards.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

ThorSport Racing stated that the rest of their driver and sponsor lineup will be “released in the near future.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

Categories
Trucks

Rhodes, Cindric Clash in Battle for Transfer Spot

AVONDALE, Ariz. – With only 20 laps to go in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, playoff contenders Ben Rhodes and Austin Cindric made contact, bringing out the red flag and ending both Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton‘s night.

After Josh Reaume stalled on the track, Rhodes and Austin Cindric were running bumper to bumper on the ensuing restart. Contact between the pair saw Rhodes spin out, hit the inside wall, then took Crafton with him into the outside wall going into Turn 1. While Cindric’s No. 19 Ford came out of the incident virtually unscathed, Rhodes’ No. 27 Toyota and Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota were beyond repair.

“It’s almost like last year at Homestead in the Cup Series,” Austin Cindric told FS1. “I had a good run, Ben went to block and I was there. I had to hold my line. He went to block. That wasn’t his best decision. He was having a good run there and we were hoping to race it out. Obviously, nothing intentional there. I just held my ground.”

Rhodes entered Friday night’s race fifth in the playoff standings, and was therefore even more desperate to run well in this penultimate race. The only way he could have clinched a spot in the Championship 4 was John Hunter Nemechek not winning and beating Rhodes on points, or a victory himself.

“We gave [the No. 19 team] a chance to get to our bumper and they gave us a cheap shot,” said Eddie Troconis, crew chief for the No. 27. “They want to race like that and they won’t make a single lap at Homestead.”

Crafton, on the other hand, was third in the playoff standings. Therefore, all he needed to do to clinch a Championship 4 spot was earn either 37 points with a new race winner or 32 points with a repeat race winner.

Visibly upset after exiting the care center, Crafton only had this to say about the incident, “Just wrong place, wrong time. I told Ben [Rhodes] that the 19 better not finish Homestead.”

While Crafton still managed to clinch the third spot in the Championship 4, Cindric took the fourth and final slot with his ninth-place finish. Rhodes wound up fifth, just five points behind Cindric in the standings after Friday night’s race.

“They got me calmed down there in the medical center, so we’re just going to move forward from here and finish out the season strong and show everybody that had we not get taken out here that we should be the champion,” Rhodes said following the race.

Cindric and Crafton will now battle it out for the championship next week at Homestead Miami-Speedway in the season finale.
“It’s not the perfect circumstances the way to end the race here, but we deserve it just as much as any,” Cindric said.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.