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NASCAR Truck: Matt Crafton wins on dirt at Eldora Speedway

Matt Crafton celebrates in victory lane at Eldora Speedway in July 19, 2017, after winning the Eldora Dirt Derby (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Matt Crafton celebrates in victory lane at Eldora Speedway in July 19, 2017, after winning the Eldora Dirt Derby (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Matt Crafton claimed his first win of 2017 and his first victory at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on Wednesday evening in the Eldora Dirt Derby, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ only yearly race on dirt.

“This definitely wasn’t the one that I thought was going to put us in the playoffs, without a doubt,” Crafton said. “I was looking to come in here and have a top-five – a good solid top-five run. Yesterday was just good. It was really good, so we kept tuning on it, and first run, it was really good. Second run, we tightened it up too much and Junior (Joiner, crew chief) was mad and throwing one of the Juniors, so we came in and made some adjustments, and I made some adjustments out there on the race track. Kept searching and, finally, found something at the end.”

Dirt racing ace and Truck Series rookie Stewart Friesen finished second after a dominant performance that included winning the pole in single-truck qualifying and leading all laps and winning the first 10-lap qualifying, or heat, race.

Crafton also won his 10-lap qualifying race, but unlike Friesen, didn’t dominate it. Instead, he took the lead just before the white flag.

Friesen led 93 laps of the 150-lap main event, last giving up the lead to Crafton on lap 134. Crafton led a total of 24 laps and also won the first 40-lap stage of the race. Frieden won the second 50-lap stage.

“Our first dirt win. A lot of fun,” Crafton said. “In the second part of the race we downright just stunk. It was my fault. We overtightened it. On the first, we were pretty good, and I thought we were a little bit too free. We tightened it up, and then, we just went back to exactly where we started the race, and Rico (Abreu) and them guys drove by me up top and I’m like ‘Crafton, you got to put this thing on the fence down there.’ I knew I was getting beat down there, and then, I found something in the middle over here in one and two. Finally, at the end I’m like, ‘Well, we ought to tear the right side off this thing or take it to victory lane.’”

Even though Friesen led most of the opening stage, leading the first 33 laps from the pole, Crafton took the lead late in the stage, on lap 34, just before the yellow flag waved on lap 36 when Christopher Bell spun and was T-boned by Kaz Grala.

The first stage ended during the yellow flag, and Friesen was back up front for the second stage by virtue of staying out. John Hunter Nemechek also stayed out and restarted alongside Friesen on the front row. On lap 42, Nemechek took the lead. Freisen retook the top spot on the restart on lap 53.

After his earlier incident, Bell started the second stage outside the top-20, but he was back inside the top-10 by the halfway point of the race.

Leader Friesen suffered a flat right-front tire before the pits opened at the end of stage two. Meanwhile, by the end of the second stage, Bell was up to fourth. He took the lead by staying out between the second and third stage.

After pitting, Friesen moved up to third soon after the restart. He eventually took second and closed on Bell. He retook the lead on lap 114.

The yellow flag waved an even-record 10 times with the final caution coming inside the final 15 laps for a spin by Ray Ciccarelli spin. Ciccarelli spins resulted in three cautions, including the final two.

Bell was up to second for the restart following the second-to-last caution for a Ty Dillon flat tire on lap 119, but Bell had his own flat tire on the restart, resulting in a pit stop and a drop through the field. Still, he was able to finish in the top-10 in ninth.

“My crew is really really good on pit road,” Bell said. “They were able to get it fixed back up. I’m just really bummed for them because they gave me a really really fast truck and I made a mistake there early on and it cost us the race.”

Chase Briscoe finished third, despite a transmission problem. Grant Enfinger finished fourth, and Nemechek was fifth.

“It was definitely a great night for us,” Enfinger said. “We had a really great Champion Power Equipment Tundra the whole two days that we were here. It just was a matter of me getting adjusted to it. I learned a lot the whole night. I feel like we were legitimately a contending truck there at the end. I’m really happy our teammate was able to get the win. I feel like we’re knocking on the door now. Definitely a solid run for us and can’t thank Champion Power Equipment and everybody at Thorsport Racing for this opportunity. I always knew it’d be fun to run this race, but never knew it’d be that much fun.”

Bobby Pierce finished sixth, despite crashing and bringing out the first caution on lap 5. He also crashed in his qualifying race and had to get into the main event through the 15-lap last-chance race.

Other top-10 finishers included Noah Gragson in seventh, Justin Haley eighth, and Austin Cindric 10th.

Four drivers led laps. Behind Friesen in the laps-led category are Crafton with 24 laps led, Bell with 22 laps led and Nemechek with 11 laps led.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on July 20, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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