When it came time for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to qualify on Saturday morning, Matt Crafton was almost late. His crew chief Junior Joiner texted him and asked, “Are you going to qualify today?” Jokingly, Crafton responded, “No, we’re going to start in the back and put on a show”.
Crafton would make it to the truck in time, but he didn’t have the session that he would’ve hoped for, qualifying 15th. It was something that had both driver and crew chief mad.
“I knew he was mad,” Crafton recalled. “I looked around and I was pretty mad because we just barely missed the cut there and I look around and I just wanted rant and rave for a bit. I went to change and he was up in the lounge, rewinding and rewatching what happened in qualifying. It just makes you more hungry.”
Between the hunger created from the qualifying effort to the hunger for a victory at one of NASCAR”s historic ovals, it’d be the right combination to fuel Matt Crafton on Saturday night as he’d lead the final 76 laps, scoring the victory in the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200, nine seconds ahead of Ty Dillon. He knew he had a shot at the victory going into the event via how practice went for him on Friday.
“I had such a fast, fast truck yesterday in practice,” he commented. “It didn’t have speed the first three laps but after it’d get going, it would just not fall off like some of the other trucks. That attributes back to everybody that builds these trucks in Sandusky, Ohio, and I can’t thank Duke, Rhonda and Menards and so many people that have stuck behind me so many years that I’ve been in this sport and never gave up.”
For the two-time series champion, the victory satisfies a long want to score a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway over the course of his career as he calls Atlanta his favourite track.
“It has so much fall off compared to the other mile and a halves that we run,” he shared. “You run wide open in these trucks quite awhile and you can’t run that long here. I feel like it puts the driver way back more in the seat and we can actually move around and change our line to do different things to compensate for the truck not handling. It’s all about this guy (Joiner) that made the perfect set-up for this truck tonight. It was a blast to drive.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Joiner as while Daytona is special, he feels Atlanta is even more.
“This is where you have to show all of your talents,” he commented. “There’s really no luck involved. It’s just straight raw skill, determination and just will.”
Joiner added that the win means a lot to him due to coming to this track as a young kid with his father and watching the races.
“This is the type of racing that I love and grew up watching, when everybody can fan out and run three-wide, the tire falls off and puts the driver back into the seat and you got to sit up on the box and stay ahead of everyone else,” Joiner added. “I felt like that’s what we did better than anyone. We had a great truck.”
Beyond the significance value, there’s an extra sweetness with the victory as three quarters of their guys left at season’s end after winning the championship, bringing forth a whole new group of guys.
“To be able to bring all those new guys in and build these trucks – a lot of trucks were disassembled when those guys left – and we did a whole new group of guys,” he said. “It’s so sweet bringing them to victory lane in the second race here.”
According to Joiner, this could only be the start of a dominating season as he feels that the fleet of trucks at ThorSport Racing that they’re currently building are “better than anything that we’ve had”.