HAMPTON, Ga. — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell — Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
Matt Crafton loves Atlanta Motor Speedway — after all, it is his favorite racetrack on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule.
Last season, the two-time Truck Series champion scored his first career win at the 1.5-mile, bumpy track after leading a dominating 85 laps, finishing some eight seconds ahead of second place.
But, the reason Crafton loves the track is not because of his triumph there, it is because of the tire fall-off — which gives the track a uniqueness, unlike any other circuit on the calendar.
“Atlanta is by far, hands down, my favorite race track that we go to. I love Atlanta,” Crafton said in advance of this weekend’s Great Clips 200 at AMS. “You get so much tire fall-off from the beginning of a run, to the end. It’s incredible.”
With the emphasis on tire fall-off, tire management becomes so crucial during the race.
“You can run around there for the first two laps wide open, and then after that, when you get 15-20 laps into it, you’re hanging on for dear life, and screaming you need tires. Then, you still have to go another 20 laps after that. Atlanta definitely separates the field, for sure. It’s a lot about tire management.”
In 14 starts at the Hampton, Ga. track, Crafton has recorded the one win (in 2015), four top-fives, and eight top-10 results. This season, he will be bringing a different chassis than the one he won with; the truck he will run has scored victories at Kentucky Speedway and Homestead Miami-Speedway, however.
He is also the only driver — on the entry list so far — that has won at Atlanta in the Truck Series.
“Last year we had such a fast Menards Toyota Tundra,” Crafton expressed. “It’s a different truck we’re bringing back this year, but it’s the same truck I won Homestead with, so I feel confident, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Crafton is fresh from a season where he scored five of his six victories at 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway).
Most recently, Crafton finished 10th in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the season-opening race for the Truck Series. That finish was his seventh top-10 result at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway.
He also continued his milestone for most consecutive starts (362) in the Truck Series. The 39-year-old veteran passed Ron Hornaday Jr. to make that mark by starting the 2015 season finale in Homestead-Miami.
“All-in-all we had a very fast truck. I had to bail out of the draft at one point because we started overheating, and I was afraid to hurt the motor at that point,” Crafton explained. “I got back up there, made some moves, and I felt like we had an honest shot at winning the race, just the wrong place at the wrong time.”
This weekend, Crafton will now look to return to the Atlanta winners circle in his ThorSport Racing No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra in the Great Clips 200 on Saturday, slated to start at 4:30 p.m. Eastern with coverage on FOX Sports 1, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
About the Writer
Marshall Gabell is the Mid-Atlantic Correspondent for Race Chaser Online, and was also formerly the public relations director for NASCAR Next member Austin Hill. Gabell is currently attending Stephen Decatur High School in Ocean City, Md., completing his sophomore year. He is just 15 years old.
Email Marshall at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter: @MarshallGabell
Email Race Chaser Online: email@example.com
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews