Crafton to make 500th Camping World Truck Series career start at Las Vegas

A record-setting milestone start is in the making from Matt Crafton, three-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Crafton, who enters his 22nd consecutive season of Truck competition, will achieve his 500th consecutive career start in the Truck circuit.

A native of Tulare, California, Crafton made his inaugural presence in the Truck Series during the season finale at California Speedway in October 2000. By then, he had achieved the 2000 Featherlite Southwest Series championship. Driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for SealMaster Racing, Crafton started 17th and finished ninth. 

The following season, Crafton took over the No. 88 Chevrolet for SealMaster Racing as a full-time Truck Series competitor. He commenced his first full-time season with a 27th-place result in the season-opening event at Daytona after retiring midway into the event due to an engine failure. He then went on to record 11 top-10 results throughout the 24-race schedule, including two season-best sixth-place results at Martinsville Speedway in April and at Pikes Peak International Raceway in May, before settling in 12th place in the final standings.

After recording a total of 17 top-10 results between 2002 and 2003, with his best points result being 11th place in 2003, Crafton joined Kevin Harvick Inc. as driver of the No. 6 Chevrolet Silverado. He finished 19th during the season-opening event at Daytona, but proceeded to finish in the top five for the first six times in his career. His best results were a pair of third-place finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway in August and at Phoenix Raceway in November. To go along with a total of 17 top-10 results throughout the 25-race schedule, Crafton finished in fifth place in the final standings. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in the Truck Series.

Crafton, who was released by KHI at season’s end, rejoined ThorSport Racing for the 2005 Truck Series season as the team rebranded from SealMaster Racing during the previous season. In his return to ThorSport, he started on pole position for the first time in his career at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. He also recorded two top-five results, a season-best fourth-place result at the Indianapolis Raceway Park in August and a total of 10 top-10 results before finishing in ninth place in the final standings. 

From 2006 to 2007, Crafton achieved a total of five top-five results and 20 top-10 results, including three third-place results, as he notched an eighth-place result in the final standings in 2007. Four races into the 2008 Truck season, Crafton dodged a last lap collision between Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson Jr. to earn a career-best second-place result at Martinsville Speedway in March. Then two races later at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, he fended off the field during a two-lap shootout to score his first NASCAR Truck Series career victory in his 178th series start, which marks the most starts for a competitor prior to a first victory in the Truck circuit. In a season where he etched himself as a first-time NASCAR winner, Crafton also earned a total of nine top-five results and 12 top-10 results throughout the 25-race schedule before finishing in fifth place in the final standings.

Despite going winless in 2009, Crafton endured a successful, consistent season, where he earned two poles, five runner-up results, 11 top-five results, 21 top-10 results, an average-finishing result of 6.7 and a career-best runner-up result in the final standings behind four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. By then, Crafton surpassed 200 career starts in the Truck Series. 

After finishing in fourth place in the final standings during the 2010 season, where he also earned a pole, 10 top-five results and 20 top-10 results, Crafton snapped a two-year winless drought at Iowa Speedway in July 2011 and claimed his second Truck Series career victory after leading the final 12 laps while fending off Austin Dillon. While he earned an additional pole from the previous season, Crafton, however, earned less top-five and top-10 results from 2010 (five and 13), as he settled in eighth place in the final standings in 2011.

The 2012 season featured a manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota for Crafton and ThorSport Racing as the California veteran recorded a pole, eight top-five results, 14 top-10 results, an average-finishing result of 9.8 and a sixth-place result in the final standings. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September, Crafton had the lead late in the event until he was overtaken by Nelson Piquet Jr. on the final lap and settled in a close runner-up result.

Crafton commenced the 2013 season, his 13th as a full-time Truck competitor, with three consecutive top-10 results, including a runner-up result behind teammate Johnny Sauter at Martinsville in March. Then at Kansas Speedway in April, Crafton notched his third career win in the Truck Series after leading the final 30 laps and holding off Joey Coulter. The victory vaulted Crafton to the top of the driver’s standings. From there, Crafton and the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra team displayed a superb consistent season by finishing in the top 10 during the following 12 scheduled events. By then, he surpassed 300 consecutive career starts in the Truck Series. He then finished no lower than 17th during the following five events as he maintained the points lead. Entering the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November with a 46-point advantage over Ty Dillon, Crafton clinched his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship by starting his engine and rolling his truck out on the track for the pace laps. Despite being involved in a late incident and settling in 21st place in the final running order while on the lead lap, Crafton locked up his first title by 40 points over Dillon and became the first competitor to complete every lap of a Truck Series season. To go along with a first NASCAR title for himself and for ThorSport Racing, Crafton recorded seven top-five results, 19 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 7.9 throughout the 22-race schedule.

Photo by Brad Keppel for SpeedwayMedia.com.

The 2014 Truck Series season was an historic season for Crafton, who earned multiple victories in a season for the first time in his career and repeated as a champion. After finishing 13th during the season-opening event at Daytona, he persevered during a two-lap shootout to claim his fourth career victory at Martinsville in March. Four races later, he utilized fuel strategy to claim his fifth career win at Texas Motor Speedway in June. By September, Crafton was leading the driver’s standings and went on to claim his second consecutive Camping World Truck Series championship on a strength of 13 top-five results, 17 top-10 results and a career-best average-finishing result of 7.0. Overall, Crafton became the first NASCAR competitor to win back-to-back Truck Series championships.

Crafton began his quest for a record-setting third consecutive Truck title during the 2015 season, which marked his 15th consecutive full-time season in the series, by finishing eighth at Daytona before notching his sixth career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in late February. During the following eight scheduled events, he collected three additional victories at Kansas, Texas and Kentucky Speedway as he remained as the points leader. Over the next 12 events, Crafton won at Martinsville in late October and earned seven results in the top 10 as he remained in the championship battle between himself, Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick. Two late accidents and finishes outside of the top 20 at Talladega in October and at Phoenix Raceway in November, however, were enough to prevent Crafton’s opportunity in making history with a third consecutive title as he slipped into third place in the final standings. Nonetheless, Crafton went on to record his sixth victory of the season (a career best) during the finale at Homestead as he walked away from the 2015 season with four poles, 13 top-five results, 18 top-10 results, and an average-finishing result of 7.7 in 23 races.

In 2016, Crafton earned back-to-back victories for the first time in his career after winning at Dover Motor Speedway and at Charlotte Motor Speedway in back-to-back weekends in May. He also earned an additional nine top-10 results throughout the 16-race regular season stretch as he emerged as one of eight competitors to qualify for the inaugural 2016 Truck Playoffs. Throughout the Playoffs, Crafton utilized consistency, including four results in the top 10 to transfer all the way to the Championship Round and contend for the title at Homestead in November. During the finale, however, Crafton finished seventh on the track, four spots behind title rival Johnny Sauter, as Sauter claimed the championship while Crafton settled in second place in the final standings. Overall, Crafton earned two victories, a pole, eight top-five results, 16 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 10.9 throughout the 23-race schedule.

Crafton commenced the 2017 Truck Series season on a harrowing note after he was involved in a multi-truck wreck while leading on the final lap at Daytona, where he was clipped by teammate Ben Rhodes on the backstraightaway as Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota went airborne and barrel-rolled in the air before landing back down on all four wheels and coming to rest against the infield wall. He rallied from the incident by finishing second at Atlanta. Nine races later, Crafton snapped a 27-race winless drought by claiming his first victory of the season and the 14th of his career at Eldora Speedway in July. The Eldora win along with nine results in the top 10 throughout the 16-race regular season stretch were enough for the two-time champion to qualify for the 2017 Truck Playoffs. Despite earning five top-10 results throughout the Playoffs and reaching the Championship Round for a second consecutive season, Crafton ended up in sixth place during the finale at Homestead and in fourth place in the final standings behind Christopher Bell, Sauter and Austin Cindric. Crafton, though, was able to achieve a victory, a pole, five top-five results, 16 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 9.3 throughout the 23-race schedule as he even surpassed 400 consecutive career starts in the Truck Series. 

Swapping to a new manufacturer from Toyota to Ford, Crafton endured an up-and-down season in 2018, where he earned a season-best runner-up result at Dover in May along with seven top-five results, 13 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 11.2 throughout the 23-race schedule. Despite making the 2018 Truck Playoffs, he was eliminated from championship contention following the Round of 6 and settled in sixth place in the final standings.

Commencing the 2019 Truck season with a fifth-place result at Daytona, Crafton produced a consistent regular season stretch that included 14 results in the top 10 to secure the eighth and final spot to the Playoffs. He then returned to the Championship Round at Homestead in November after finishing in the top 10 in all but two Playoff events. Then at Homestead, Crafton finished in second place behind race winner Austin Hill, but managed to finish ahead of title rivals Ross Chastain, Brett Moffitt and Stewart Friesen to score his third Camping World Truck Series championship. With the result, Crafton, who recorded three poles, seven top-five results, 18 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 8.8 in 2019, became the first competitor to achieve a championship in a winless season since Austin Dillon made the last accomplishment during the 2013 Xfinity Series season. His three championships moved him into a tie with Jack Sprague for the second-most championships in the history of the Truck Series and one shy behind four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. 

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Campaigning in his 20th consecutive full-time season as a NASCAR Truck competitor, Crafton achieved four top-five results during the first nine scheduled events before snapping a 67-race winless drought and collecting his 15th career victory at Kansas Speedway in July. He went on to earn three additional results in the top five before the 2020 Truck Playoffs commenced. From the Round of 10 to 8, Crafton recorded six consecutive results in the top 10, but missed the cutoff to the Championship Round by three points as he settled in fifth place in the final standings.

Reuniting with Toyota as his manufacturer in 2021, Crafton initiated the season with a 15th-place result at Daytona despite being involved in a multi-truck wreck on the final lap. He rallied with four top-10 results during the following seven races before finishing no higher than 15th during the next three. Crafton, nonetheless, was able to claim three consecutive top-six results before qualifying for the Playoffs. Finishing no lower than 14th throughout the Playoffs, he managed to return to the Championship Round at Phoenix Raceway in November. During the finale, however, Crafton finished 12th on the track and in fourth place in the final standings.

The 2022 Truck Series season marks Crafton’s 22nd consecutive season of competition, where he is coming off a 27th-place result at Daytona after being involved in a late multi-truck wreck.

Through 499 previous Truck starts, Crafton has achieved three championships, 15 victories, 16 poles, 130 top-five results, 300 top-10 results, nearly 2,700 laps led and an average-finishing result of 11.2.

Crafton is schedule to make his 500th Camping World Truck Series consecutive career start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 4, with the event scheduled to occur at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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