Texas Motor Speedway hosted the son of the world’s richest man on Friday night, but if there is an identified heir apparent to Matt Crafton’s reign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the driver of the No. 88 seems unaware.
Crafton, the two-time defending series champion, continued his dominance over his truck peers by capping a two-lap, hard-racing, side-by-side shootout with Daniel Suarez in winning his second consecutive WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 by a half-second at the Fort Worth superspeedway.
The victory was the series-leading Crafton’s third of the season — a career high — and marked his second career win at TMS in 28 starts for the driver of the No. 88 Toyota truck.
The 38-year-old Crafton has eight career victories, including now six on mile-and-a-half tracks, where he has appeared unbeatable.
“I had a blast racing with Daniel at the end,” said Crafton, who has 18 top-10 finishes in 29 starts at TMS. “It’s all about [the crew] giving me good trucks each and every week.
“I’m the lucky guy who gets to drive them.”
A year ago, Crafton set a TMS Truck Series record by winning by more than 13 seconds.
That wasn’t the case with Suarez, who has recorded runner-up finishes in consecutive races. He also registered his sixth top 10 in 2015.
Though Suarez didn’t win, Carlos Slim Domit of Mexico, Suarez’s VIP cheering section of at least one, had to be entertained by the strong effort from the son of the city of Monterrey. Slim Domit watched the race from the suite of TMS president Eddie Gossage.
Twice in the last 20 laps, Crafton and Suarez battled hard off restarts, the last restart on Lap 165 of the 167 total.
On the first restart Crafton and Suarez were so close they bumped. Suarez said his truck was so loose he was concerned about a wreck, “the last thing I wanted to do.”
“I thought we had it for a second, but he’s good,” said Suarez, driver of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota. “I don’t think I could have done something different. I need to see [videotape]. I need to do my homework and be better for the next time.”
Crafton got past Suarez and appeared in the clear at Lap 158 before Daniel Hemric’s No. 14 blew a tire and spun out at Lap 60.
Said Crafton: “That was good side-by-side racing. That was good side-by-side racing. We kind of bounced off each other. No harm, no foul.”
Pole sitter Erik Jones appeared to have the most dominant truck early, leading 68 laps before a voltage issue necessitated a pit stop on Lap 84 to change the battery.
Jones reported to his crew that the new battery had no effect on the truck, which he later took in for a second battery change.
Jones, who entered third in the series standings and looking for his first victory this season, fell off the pace and finished 15th.
Crafton, who started from the No. 2 position, retained his series lead, 25 points over Tyler Reddick, who was hit with two pit road penalties.
The victory earned the Crafton team, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, almost $60,000.
“All of them are great,” said Crafton, when asked if this year’s victory was sweeter than his first at TMS a year ago. “Last year just getting that first cowboy hat was very, very sweet.”