Sunday, June 28, 2020

TRUCKS: Pocono crash-fest begins with Matt Crafton eliminated in the first corner

Matt Crafton picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career in Saturday’s Pocono Organics 150 to Benefit Farm Aid at the Pocono Raceway when his #88 Great Lakes Wood Floors / Menards Ford was eliminated in a multi-truck accident without completing any of the 60 laps.

The finish, which came in Crafton’s 459th series start, was his first of the season and first since August 27, 2016 at Bristol, 85 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 4th for the#88, the 107th for Ford, and the 157th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 57th for the #88, the 962nd for Ford, and the 1,209th from a crash.

Crafton’s name has indeed been a rarity here at LASTCAR, and his now two-decade career in the Truck Series has set a standard for ageless consistency rivaling the likes of Ron Hornaday, Jr., Jack Sprague, and Mike Skinner. Crafton hasn’t finished outside the Top Ten in the final season standings since 2006. He hasn’t scored fewer than 12 top-ten finishes in a season since 2007. And, though he hasn’t been to victory lane since the 2017 renewal of the Eldora Dirt Derby, that didn’t stop him from taking his third series title just last year, when a runner-up finish to Austin Hill was more than enough to claim the winner-take-all prize.

This year, however, Crafton was not got off to a particularly strong start. He’s led just one lap all year, which didn’t come until the most recent round in Homestead. He’s finished inside the Top Ten only twice with a season-best 4th in Las Vegas. And the other three finishes were a 12th in Atlanta, a 15th in Daytona, and a distant 35th in Charlotte after a freak suspension failure midway through the race. He entered the Pocono event just 11th in points, 77 markers out of the lead, and tied for the spot with newcomer Derek Kraus. He drew the 18th spot at Pocono.

Drawing the 40th starting spot in the massive field was Parker Kligerman, who after twice failing to qualify without turning a lap was finally able to make his season debut in Charlie Henderson’s #75 Food Country USA / Lucks Beans Chevrolet. He’d be joined at the back by Bayley Currey, who on Friday was tabbed to replace 21st-place starter Natalie Decker, who was hospitalized Friday due to complications from gallbladder surgery. Currey would enjoy a fine run, finishing in 16th, one spot behind Kligerman, for his best finish since last summer’s 9th-place showing for Niece’s team at Michigan.

By the time Currey dropped to the back in the #44 N29 Capital Partners Chevrolet early Sunday morning, he’d be joined by at least two other drivers who fell back voluntarily: 26th-place Jesse Iwuji in the unsponsored #33 Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota, and 39th-place Norm Benning in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. It was Benning who was last across the stripe when the green flag dropped, 5.087 seconds back of the lead. He wouldn’t hold the spot for long.

Heading into the first corner, Crafton was running in the high lane alongside 17th-place starter Codie Rohrbaugh in the #9 Grant County Mulch / Pray For Joshua Chevrolet. Looking to the inside of the pair was 23rd-place starter Austin Wayne Self in the #22 Go Texan / AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet. Self made contact with Rohrbaugh, who slid sideways into Crafton. Suddenly, both Crafton and Rohrbaugh each backed hard into the outside wall, destroying the rear clips of their trucks. Both drivers climbed out – Rohrbaugh after briefly trying to get his truck re-fired – and both were out once they dropped their window nets. Crafton took the last spot from Rohrbaugh based on their rank as they crossed the stripe – Crafton in 18th to Rohrbaugh’s 17th.

Self didn’t make it much further in the crash-filled race, collecting the #4 SiriusXM Toyota of Raphael Lessard on Lap 6 as the two entered the third corner. Lessard struck the outside wall nearly head-on, destroying the front of Self’s truck in the process. The Bottom Five was filled on the ensuing restart when Ty Majeski’s #45 Niece Patriotic Chevrolet was dumped by Grant Enfinger on the run into the first corner on Lap 12. Majeski was likewise uninjured after his truck smashed into the inside SAFER barrier, leaving him 36th.

*This marked the second straight year the last-place finisher of this event failed to complete the opening lap. On July 27, 2019, Stewart Friesen also saw his day end with a wreck in the first corner after he hooked bumpers with Anthony Alfredo.

40) #88-Matt Crafton / 0 laps / crash
39) #9-Codie Rohrbaugh / 0 laps / crash
38) #22-Austin Wayne Self / 5 laps / crash
37) #4-Raphael Lessard / 5 laps / crash
36) #45-Ty Majeski / 11 laps / crash

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) Niece Motorsports, Spencer Davis Motorsports, ThorSport Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (3)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)


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