By Brian Citino
It’s not a rarity for Matt Crafton to run well at Dover International Speedway. In fact, in his eight starts at the Monster Mile prior to the May 13 “JACOB Companies 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the driver of the No. 88 Chi-Chi’s/Menards Toyota finished in the top 10 seven times.
One thing that eluded him in those eight races, however, was a famed Monster Trophy.
Matt Crafton celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the “JACOB Companies 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 13. GETTY IMAGES
Following the May 13 race, Crafton won’t have to chase that first Monster anymore, as he led 76 laps on his way to his first win at Dover. Daniel Suarez and rookie Christopher Bell finished second and third, respectively.
Crafton noted that he hasn’t always had the best of luck at Dover, but said it was relieving to finally get a win.
“I’ve always wanted a Miles (trophy),” he said. “We’ve come close before and ran second. This Menards Toyota Tundra was fast today.”
Matt Crafton (bottom left) leads the “JACOB Companies 200” field during a restart at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 13. GETTY IMAGES
“We enjoy winning races,” said crew chief Carl Joiner. “That’s what it’s all about. This is the coolest trophy ever, and I always tell people that if you want to watch a race, you’ve got to go to Dover.”
Even though Crafton was out front for more than the final third of the race, that didn’t mean his win was an easy one, as Suarez was hot on his tail the entire time.
“I knew I had a class act racer behind me,” Crafton said. “He would catch me and I would pull away, and he would catch me and I would pull away. It was one of those mirror games at the end there.”
Suarez agreed, noting that Crafton’s track position and ability to clog up the bottom lane put him in a good position to win the race.
“Clean air is pretty important here,” Suarez said. “I was trying to get as close to him as I could and complete the pass, but every time I got to a car length he’d pull away again. I don’t know what I could have done different.”
With the win, Crafton moved into first place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, two points ahead of Timothy Peters, and locked himself into the first Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
He said now that he’s locked into the Chase, it will be fun to experiment a little with his setup. On top of that, he said he’ll have to continue to make sure he outthinks the other drivers in the field, especially with his 40th birthday a month away.
“I’ll have to work a little harder, stay more in shape and stay smarter than them,” Crafton said of his competition, laughing when his milestone birthday was brought up. “They’re great racers, but not always the smartest. So I just try to keep putting myself in good positions.”
After a day that saw torrential downpours washout some activities on the day’s busy schedule, the racing gods smiled down right when the green flag flew as the clouds disappeared, and blue skies and sunshine came out for the race.
The race took one hour, 47 minutes and 45 seconds, featuring six cautions for 29 laps. Johnny Sauter, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Truex, Daniel Hemric and Kaz Grala rounded out the top-10.