The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs begin this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. One driver is looking to put the past weekend behind him and start his run toward a third championship. That driver is two-time champion, Matt Crafton. With winning championships back-to-back in 2013-2014, experience plays a huge role in trying to win another championship, but Crafton knows there’s an equal amount of pressure.
“Tremendous amount,” Crafton said. “Going into the Playoffs and even my second championship – just the pressure that you had. I know that Johnny (Sauter) I’m sure last year, you had the pressure – you know what could go wrong. There’s so much pressure on you when you get to the second one, it was just if it happens, it happens. You’re definitely nervous, but that first one’s very nerve-racking just because you think of any gremlin that can go wrong. I just remember like the last race all I had to do was start the race. I just remember being nervous as the thing got started. I’m really looking forward to – hopefully, we got all of our gremlins out of the way so far.”
In order to move on throughout the playoffs, Crafton cannot afford finishes like 16th, 25th and 19th. He’ll need to have strong top five runs and possibly some wins. Even the two-time champion agrees that those finishes won’t cut it and finishing well is big in the first round, but no need to worry about being eliminated just yet.
“No, I think you just run in the top-five, top-three and you get yourself out of the first elimination round,” Crafton said. “Then the next one I feel that you’re going to be stacked up against ones that are probably a little faster so you might have to win there. I don’t think you’re going to hit the panic button yet.”
In the first round from last year, the 41-year-old finished third, eighth and 22nd at Loudon, Las Vegas and Talladega respectively. After that, Crafton finished 17th at Martinsville, second at Texas, third at Phoenix. Despite the 22nd place at Talladega and a 17th place finish at Martinsville, Crafton still earned himself a final four spot at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he eventually finished seventh and wound up four points behind 2016 champion Johnny Sauter. Whatever you do, don’t count out Crafton just yet.