Monday, September 20, 2021

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Matt Crafton survives bumping and banging to win Kroger 200

When the trucks hit the half-mile paperclip shaped race track on Sunday, there was no holding back the action as drivers young and old bumped and banged for every position.

In the end, it was a champion rising to the occasion as 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Matt Crafton scored the victory for the first ever Grandfather clock of his career.

“I didn’t think we were going to get it on those first two runs but that’s just how these guys are,” Crafton said post-race. “They kept making adjustments and I can’t thank them enough. I got to thank those guys that raced me clean – Peters, Wallace.”

Crafton ran just outside of the top 10 for the most of the first half of the event while Timothy Peters and Johnny Sauter. However under a caution with just over 50 to go, Crafton was able to get off pit road in second behind Peters. Crafton used that to his advantage, grabbing the lead with 40 laps to go.

From then, Crafton was able to hold off all charges over the course of the next four restarts – including a pair of green-white-checkereds – to score the victory. While Crafton isn’t known for being a short track racer, he did finish second last year in the spring to his teammate Sauter.

Last year’s fall race winner Darrell Wallace Jr. came home second after rooting Peters out of the way on the second green-white-checkered. It marks his third top five at Martinsville in three starts.

Rookie Ben Kennedy finished third despite running just outside the top five most of the day for his second Martinsville top five; he finished fourth last fall.

Sauter finished fourth after virtually getting into everybody throughout the day for various positions, including contact with Erik Jones that resulted in the 16-year-old going for a spin under the first green-white-checkered.

“If anyone has a problem with me, they can come find me, anytime, anywhere, any time of the day,” Sauter said post-race. “I’m waiting…I’m ready. Where is everybody?”

Sauter added that he was aggressive because he was tired of being run-over in the past.

Ryan Blaney finished fifth, followed by Red Horse Racing teammates Timothy Peters and German Quiroga. Peters and Quiroga had words following the race after contact that ensured on the last lap between the pair of teammates, and carried on post-race.

“Wild and exciting at Martinsville,” Peters said. “First the 54 (Wallace) moved us out of the way but I didn’t expect my own teammate to do it. I feel bad for everybody at Red Horse Racing – but German has a lot to learn. It’s Martinsville. People get mad.”

Peters wasn’t the only one who had words with Quiroga as Ron Hornaday also had some things to say after Quiroga sent the champ for a spin. Ben Rhodes finished eighth, followed by Hornaday and Brian Ickler.

Cole Custer finished 11th in his first career truck series start despite contact with Brandon Jones and Gray Gaulding that sent Gaulding for a spin on the backstretch. Custer and Gaulding have a history from the K&N Pro West Series after an incident last year at Phoenix International Raceway.

“My thing after the way he did to us at Phoenix, I wasn’t going to go out there and intentionally wreck him but if he did something to us again, I was going make sure he wasn’t going to get by us or have something happen,” Custer commented on the contact. “But, we were racing hard there (at the end) and he got spun out, so that’s what happened.”

One of the biggest incidents of the day was a caution at lap 123 when both Bryan Silas and Spencer Gallagher received heavy damage. Caleb Holman got into Gallagher, causing Gallagher to spin in the path of traffic which left no where for Silas to go. Afterwards, Gallagher threw his HANS device at Holman’s truck. 

“Dude was driving like a lobotomized starfish all day,” Gallagher said in regards to Holman.

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