The Kroger 250 would come down to a battle in the final laps, and one thing for certain – the fans were entertained.
As the race started to grow into the late stages, Matt Crafton began to reel in Joey Logano. While Logano dominated the first half, Crafton dominated the middle. However, a late race restart handed the advantage back to Logano. Riding right on the tailgate of Logano’s No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford, Crafton kept giving Logano little bumps. Crafton would get close to making it happen with six laps to go, using a lap car as a pick, but was unable to make it by as Logano blocked and kept the lead.
The battle back and forth would draw Cole Custer closer to them. He also showed speed throughout the day, but kept getting drawn back in the pack due to pit road speeding penalties. Custer quickly closed the gap, and as they went into Turn 1 with five laps to go, Custer was right on their tails. Going into the corner, the pair would make contact, with Custer making contact with Crafton. Custer’s contact would cause Crafton to go up the track, taking Logano with him. The result was Custer getting by the pair to take the lead. Though, with contact comes payback and that was the story with two to go as Crafton returned the favor, spinning Custer on the frontstretch.
The restart handed the opportunity to Logano, who was able to take Crafton and Erik Jones three-wide into turn one, taking the lead and the victory. For Logano, it marks his first victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
” It was really fast on the short run and it’d just wear out,” Logano said. “The 88 (Crafton), 00 (Custer) and 4 (Jones) were good on the long run and would catch up – they were just good. The 00 caught all of us and rooted us all out of the way. Then at the end, just able to get underneath and grab the lead. Can’t say enough. This was tons of fun.”
Crafton would finish second, giving him the points lead, two points ahead of Daytona winner Tyler Reddick. Crafton is looking for his third straight series championship.
“This Menards Toyota Tundra was good,” Crafton commented. “It took a few laps to get going. I had the lead early and there towards the end the 4 (Erik Jones) and the 29 (Joey Logano) got by me. I was just not that good on the short run, but it would keep coming to me and coming to me. I never touched the 29 earlier whenever I passed him and then he just kept putting the bumper to me and I was like, ‘well, it’s the race for the lead here,’ and I wasn’t going to move him. We got in there side by side and I got a little bit loose in there and the 00 (Cole Custer) came in there and just pounded us. It’s racing I guess.”
Erik Jones would cross the line third, continuing his string of success in the Truck Series.
“He (Joey Logano) had to do what he had to do to win,” he said. “I wish I could have raced the 88 (Matt Crafton) for it, I was looking forward to having a shot at it. Figured he (Logano) was probably going to do that. Thankfully it worked out and we were able to drop in third. The tires are just killed on this thing and we got too loose the last run.”
Johnny Sauter finished fourth after all the chaos settled, despite not running inside of the top-five throughout most of the race.
““It ended really well,” he commented. “Obviously we didn’t run like we have in the past. Our Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Toyota was decent. I just started out really, really tight at the beginning of a run and like lap 15 of a run it’s like somebody flipped a switch and it was so loose I couldn’t drive it. Clearly we had a balance problem, I don’t know what it is. Nonetheless, we finished fourth and we survived. When you’re not the fastest truck here, you have to kind of change your approach and try to survive and that’s all we did today.”
Reddick entered the weekend as the points leader, but had to fight back to finish fifth following a spin early in the race due to contact with Daniel Saurez, and getting left rear damage when he spun the tires on a restart.
“It didn’t start off right for us,” Reddick said. “We had pretty good track position, but a late dive by Saurez costs us. It was not my fault for not seeing that happen. We could’ve avoided losing track position and tearing the truck up when we got back. We were fortunate to stay on the lead lap throughout the race and we came home fifth. Can’t ask for much more than that.”
Saurez finished sixth, followed by James Buescher, John Wes Townley, Matt Tifft and Justin Boston. For Custer’s troubles, he would finish 16th.
“The first one – I actually called an accident,” Custer reflected. “I was going to be punt him off two, and drove in hard, and it did. I knew he was going to get back here. It was a great truck. I can’t thank Dale and Kelley enough for the opportunity. What a dream this is.”
John Hunter Nemechek ran inside of the top-10 throughout the early part of the race, however would run into transmission issues with 75 to go.
“Don’t really know what caused it – it just broke all of a sudden,” Nemechek commented. “Can’t thank the guys enough for an awesome truck. We ran up front al day.”