March 30, 2014 — recap by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Race Chaser Online — Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images photo — RIDGEWAY, VA — Matt Crafton has had to listen to the grandfather clocks ticking in Martinsville for 13 long years.
This evening, he finally got to take one home.
Crafton held off defending Martinsville winner Darrell Wallace Jr. on a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish to grab his first checkered flag at the historic half-mile in 25 career starts at the track.
The race officially ended under caution after a last lap skirmish sent John Wes Townley spinning down the backstretch and the race leaders dashing underneath the combined yellow and checkered flags.
“At the beginning of the day, we were terrible,” said Crafton, who led 47 laps en route to the victory, his fourth career NCWTS triumph in 318 starts. “I’m not going to lie. We were terrible. We were really, really tight from the center (of the corner) off. I didn’t think we were going to get it right there on those first two runs, but that’s just the way these guys never give up.”
“We made a track bar adjustment, another track bar adjustment, and an air pressure adjustment and finally we got that thing going.”
Crafton had to hold off former Martinsville winner and hometown hero Timothy Peters over the closing laps after grabbing the lead on lap 208, with Peters giving the defending Truck series champion everything he could handle over the closing stretch.
“I was just trying to be smart and not overdrive (turn) one,” Crafton said. “I thought I gave one away. I drove it in there and I wheel hopped and I got loose getting into one and I said uh oh, don’t do that again.
“I was trying to anticipate where Timothy was going to go because he was lagging back on me so far. But like I said, it was awesome. I finally got that grandfather clock.”
Wallace hung on to finish second, coming up one spot short of successfully doubling up at the Virginia short track. Ben Kennedy notched a career-best third place effort, with Johnny Sauter, who led a race-high 61 laps on the evening, finishing fourth. Ryan Blaney completed the top five.
On the start, it was Wallace who led the field to the green flag after practice times were used to set the grid following a rain out of qualifying on Saturday. Wallace, Peters, Ron Hornaday, Blaney and Sauter all exchanged the lead in the first half of the event, but it was Peters who led the field despite some rough and tumble racing with Sauter before when the caution flew at lap 190 for Jeb Burton’s spin in Turn 2.
After the leaders pitted for their final sets of rubber, Peters led the fray back to the green flag with 53 laps remaining and attempted to set sail, but Crafton was having none of it. After making the lap 208 pass on Peters, Crafton darted away from the field before the caution flew again for debris in Turn One with 25 to go.
Following the yellow, the field doubled up again, but could not complete a lap before Hornaday slammed the outside wall in Turn 3 after contact from Red Horse Racing driver German Quiroga sent the four-time champion around at Lap 232.
Again, Crafton took off on the Lap 236 restart, with Peters battling hard with Wallace for second and the duo exchanging the position between them before Peters ultimately prevailed in that battle. However, a caution with eight laps to go sparked by contact between Sunoco rookie contenders Gray Gaulding and Cole Custer which swept up fellow rookie Brandon Jones slowed the field again and set up the first green-white-checkered attempt.
Peters timed the first GWC restart nearly perfectly over Crafton, but lost forward bite coming off the top of Turn Two and ceded the lead to the Menards Tundra before Erik Jones got a bump from the #98 of Johnny Sauter that sent Jones into the inside wall on the backstretch and drew the ninth caution flag of the night.
That set up the final restart, and when Peters washed up the track in Turns 1 and 2 and received the challenge from Bubba Wallace for second, the story was written for Crafton, who fired a warning shot to his competition that his championship defense has officially begun.
Peters ultimately crossed the line in eighth after contact on the final lap with his teammate Quiroga ended the #17 truck’s strong showing. The two teammates traded bumps and bangs on the back straightaway during the cool down lap, ending with the front end of Peters’ truck crushed in the aftermath.
“First the 54 (Wallace) kind of moved us out of the way but I wouldn’t expect my own teammate (Quiroga) to do it. It’s Martinsville, tempers are going to flare,” Peters said post-race. “I apologize to all the guys at the shop for two teammates getting into it. German has a lot to learn.”
“The fastest truck didn’t win again,” Peters added.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series continues with the running of the SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway on May 9th under the lights, with coverage beginning at 8:30 PM Eastern on FOX Sports 1.