HAMPTON, Ga.—There’s no letup in Matt Crafton.
The two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, Crafton charged to the front from his 15th-place starting position and ran away from the rest of the field in Saturday’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
At the end of a 74-lap green flag run—the longest in NCWTS history at Atlanta—Crafton crossed the finish line 8.752 seconds ahead of runner-up Ty Dillon. Keystone Light Polesitter Ben Kennedy came home third, a distant 10.275 seconds behind the race winner.
Daniel Suarez finished fourth, followed by Tyler Reddick, last week’s winner at Daytona.
The victory was the sixth of Crafton’s career and his first at Atlanta, though four of his six wins have come at intermediate speedways—Charlotte, Kansas, Texas and Atlanta.
Despite a lackluster qualifying effort, it didn’t take Crafton long to realize he had the field covered with his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota.
“I was really, really disappointed in qualifying, but (my truck) didn’t have a lot of single-lap speed by itself,” Crafton said. “But I knew, once they dropped the green and this thing took off and it ran three laps, I’m like, ’We’ve got something for these boys—they’re in trouble.’”
Crafton won the race in his 14th start at the 1.54-mile speedway.
“This is my favorite race track, by far,” Crafton said. “You can search, and you can move around so much. Now that I’ve got this win, it’s an amazing feeling.”
A key to Crafton’s victory was the ability to adapt to changing tracks condition, as the race moved from daylight to dark.
“We just tried to stay ahead of it,” Crafton said. “We knew when the sun started going down that the track was going to change quite a bit. I have had that racing experience before and gotten really, really free at night.
“We just kept tinkering away at it, tinkering away at it… we made all the right adjustments.”
Indeed. All told, Crafton led 85 laps, including the final 72 after surging past Suarez to take the top spot for good on Lap 59.
Notes: Brad Keselowski originally was awarded the pole, but a review of timing and scoring confirmed that his No. 29 Ford had not reached the start/finish line in time to begin a qualifying lap in the final round of knockout time trials.
In fact, Kennedy was the only driver to post a bona fide lap in the third round, and he was awarded the pole after Keselowski’s time was disallowed. Keselowski started 10th and finished 15th in his own truck…
Crafton’s margin of victory is the 10th largest in NCWTS history.