LEXINGTON, Ohio — Casey Campbell, Taylor Kitchen, Michael Kristi and I stood on pit road, waiting to talk to the top-five finishers of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ second trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Suddenly, I hear Mike Bagley of MRN Radio say Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes are fighting. I gazed at Rhodes’ truck and see a frustrated Crafton walk away, right past us.
When Rhodes joined us in the media bullpen, we all had one thing on our minds.
“My conversation went like this: ‘Calm down, calm down, Matt. Please calm down! We’ll talk later,'” he said.
What was Crafton angry about?
Well with two laps to go in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 150, as Corey Heim pulled away to victory, Rhodes and Crafton made contact in the keyhole.
“He broke early,” he said. “I guess he was just riding. I broke late because I’m still on a charge from the rear and I got to about side by side with him in the braking zone and I don’t think he knew I was there.”
Crafton moved down to apex Turn 2 while Rhodes checked up and the latter’s nose hit the former’s tail. Crafton got loose and Rhodes overtook him to finish fifth. While Crafton came home sixth.
“I don’t know if he was just frustrated from other stuff in the race,” he said.
“Other stuff in the race” includes staying out on wet tires under the first stage break, while everyone else pitted for dry tires. Unsurprisingly, the slicks prevailed over the wets.
“I’m sure there was something else there in the race going on and I’m just a familiar face to vent to. So it is what it is.”
After the bullpen session, I walked to Crafton’s hauler to get his side of the story, but he declined my request for comment.
Regardless, Crafton leaves Mid-Ohio with a one point lead over Stewart Friesen for the final playoff spot. Meanwhile, Rhodes’ one win locked him into the playoffs, with two races left in the regular season.