Matt Crafton held off rookie Christian Eckes in the 20 laps to score his first victory of the season, thus snapping a three-year winless streak dating back to his last victory at the Eldora Dirt Derby. Crafton grabbed the lead off a restart with 22 to go and kept a manageable pace to secure his spot in the playoffs.
“It feels like a monkey off my back with all the weight we’ve been carrying,” Crafton said about the victory. “That’s all everybody wanted to talk about, is how we’ve not won in three years. (We) just kept our heads down and keep focus, and not worry about that, and keep doing what we’re doing. It’s all about these guys (ThorSport Racing). I know we won the championship last year and won it without winning a race, but at the end of the day to all the naysayers, I still have that trophy in my living room. We started picking up the speed this time last year and got to Homestead. A lot of hard work by these guys (pit crew).”
Saturday was race No. 2 of the doubleheader race weekend for the Truck Series at Kansas Speedway.
Many trucks were going to the rear prior to the start of the event. Of those headed to the back were Sheldon Creed, Jordan Anderson, Spencer Davis, and Stewart Friesen for a backup. Ty Majeski for a transmission change. Kevin Donahue, Ryan Huff, Travis Pastrana, and Tyler Hill for a driver change.
The top 15 was also inverted based on Friday night’s running order. This meant, Chase Purdy (after finishing 15th) started on pole and Friday’s winner Austin Hill (started 15th).
Stages were once again 30-30-74, which made up an eventful 134 lap race.
Stage 1 Lap 1 – Lap 30
Stage 1 got off to a solid start, but that was not the case for Majeski and Tyler Ankrum. The Niece Motorsports driver would slightly make contact with Ankrum off Turn 4. Majeski later pitted due to left front damage.
Meanwhile, Texas runner up Christian Eckes, took the lead in the early stages but had troubles of his own. A trash bag of some sort got stuck to his hood and caused him to lose the lead to Zane Smith. Eckes however eventually lost the debris and continued to run without further incident.
The same cannot be said for Pastrana, who was making his first NASCAR start in three years. Replacing Chastain in the No. 40 entry, the Annapolis, Maryland native slid through the glass with 10 to go in the first stage. It appeared a flat right-rear tire caused him to spin.
With those incidents taking place, there would be no yellows for the first stage, and Zane Smith went on to take the stage victory. Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton, Christian Eckes, Brandon Jones, Brennan Poole, Chase Purdy, Todd Gilliland, Raphael Lessard, and Derek Kraus rounded out the top 10.
Under the stage break, Johnny Sauter (who placed 15th in the stage), was caught speeding on pit road and therefore, sent to the rear for the restart.
Stage 2 Lap 36- Lap 60
Ben Rhodes, Austin Hill, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton, Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, Todd Gilliland, and Brennan Poole set the top 10 for the Stage 2 restart order.
As laps started clicking in Stage 2, Smith was back in the lead on lap 41, after Hill held the lead shortly. Smith started checking slightly, but a caution slowed the pace on lap 44 when Bryan Dauzat spun off Turn 2, bringing out the caution flag.
No more yellows were seen in the remaining laps and once again, rookie Zane Smith swept the first two stages. Crafton, Moffitt, Creed, Kraus, Ankrum, Hill, Purdy, Eckes, and Gilliland were the top 10.
Stage 3 Lap 67- Lap 134
Friesen would restart as the leader in the third and final stage by taking fuel only under the stage break. However, those behind him like Crafton, Moffitt, Smith would fly right past him with fresher tires and adjustments. Not only did Friesen fall on back, he and Enfinger almost crashed in Turn 2.
A battle for the lead pursued between teammates Moffitt and Creed from laps 68 to 72. But, a trend race fans would see late in the stage, a caution came again on lap 74 for Pastrana. He spun off Turn 4 through the grass after getting the air taken off of him by his teammate Natalie Decker.
Four more yellows slowed the E.P.T. 200 including a big accident with 51 to go on the fronstretch. Tanner Gray in the No. 15 DGR-Crosley camp, accidentally made contact with Clay Greenfield in the No. 68 before the entrance of Turn 1. The incident collected many drivers such as Johnny Sauter, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Natalie Decker, Stewart Friesen, Ty Majeski, Pastrana, Codie Rohrbaugh, Spencer Davis, Robby Lyons among a few others were involved. The accident caused a five minute and seven second red flag.
Another crash happened with 41 to go. This time, the accident involved GMS Racing teammates Brett Moffitt, Tyler Ankrum, and Zane Smith. Smith got loose off the exit of Turn 4 and slid up in front of his teammates, thus causing the accident. Smith was able to limp away albeit with left front damage, while Moffitt and Ankrum saw their day end early, and be credited with finishes of 27th and 28th, respectively.
By having multiple yellows late in the going, this allowed the drivers taking their mind off of having to make a final pit stop, or worry about running out of gas.
The last restart came with 22 to go, which saw Austin Hill, Crafton, Jones, and Eckes make up the top four. Crafton was able to get a push from behind one of the drivers and eventually, the race lead. The California native was unable to check out with Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Eckes stalking behind him. However, regardless of Eckes making a last lap effort, Crafton picked up his 15th career Truck Series victory.
“I’m excited, very excited for the playoffs,” Crafton continued regarding his playoffs chances. “The tracks in the playoffs are going to be very good for us, aside from Talladega that’s always the unknown. All in all, looking forward to the playoffs, and these guys building fast trucks every week. There’s no doubt we can go and get a fourth championship.”
Crafton led twice for 23 laps and picked up five additional playoff points.
There were nine cautions for 38 laps and 15 lead changes among nine different drivers.
Inspection was clear without only minor incidents. Brandon Jones and Derek Kraus had a missing or loose lug nut, which is only a monetary fine.
Official Results following the E.P.T. 200 at Kansas Speedway
- Matt Crafton, led 23 laps
- Christian Eckes, led six laps
- Grant Enfinger
- Tanner Gray, led three laps
- Ben Rhodes, led one lap
- Austin Hill, led 19 laps
- Derek Kraus
- Brandon Jones
- Zane Smith, won both stages, led 50 laps
- Chase Purdy
- Raphael Lessard
- Brennan Poole
- Austin Wayne Self
- Spencer Davis
- Jordan Anderson
- Tyler Hill
- Tate Fogleman
- Spencer Boyd
- Ryan Huff, 1 lap down
- Todd Gilliland, 1 lap down
- Robby Lyons, 1 lap down
- Travis Pastrana, 2 laps down
- Kevin Donahue, 4 laps down
- Ray Ciccarelli, 4 laps down
- Norm Benning, 5 laps down
- Sheldon Creed, led 18 laps, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Brett Moffitt, led 11 laps, OUT, Accident
- Tyler Ankrum, OUT, Accident
- Codie Rohrbaugh, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Ty Majeski, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Clay Greenfield, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Jennifer Jo Cobb, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Johnny Sauter, OUT, Accident
- Stewart Friesen, led three laps, OUT, Accident
- Natalie Decker, OUT, Accident
- Cory Roper, OUT, Accident
- Bryan Dauzat, OUT, Electrical
Up Next: The Truck Series takes a couple of weeks off before visiting Michigan International Speedway Friday August 7.