- Rookies Burton, Blaney Off To Hot Starts As They Prepare For Texas
- Sauter Looks To Continue Winning Ways At Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, Texas (June 4, 2013) – A veteran on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuit, Matt Crafton is in the midst of the best start in his 13-year career. Six races into the season, Crafton is the only driver to have finished among the top 10 in every race, which includes four top-five finishes, and the consistency has resulted in him owning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship lead. He has a 30-point lead over rookie Jeb Burton heading into the WinStar World Casino 400.
Crafton’s early success hasn’t changed the mindset of the California native. He is staying grounded and adamantly states that it’s too early to start racing for points. For Crafton and his No. 88 Menard’s racing team, it’s all about sticking to the basics and repeating both preparation and performance each week.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Crafton said. “The reason why we’re where we are in points is because we’ve been working our butts off and I’ve been driving my butt off. You’re not going to do anything stupid.”
Heading into Texas, the 36-year-old Crafton leaves little doubt that his hot start should continue in Friday evening’s WinStar World Casino 400. Crafton has competed at two other 1.5-mile tracks – Kansas and Charlotte – and has enjoyed success at both. Kansas is his lone win this season and despite starting 14th and falling a lap down on two occasions in Charlotte, Crafton swiftly moved through the field and secured a fourth-place finish.
“We’re going to keep fine tuning on the stuff that’s worked well for us at Kansas and at Charlotte,” Crafton said. “We throw a lot at our trucks in practice and sometimes it doesn’t all work. But in those races we’ve been really good when it mattered, and that’s what we’re shooting for at Texas. I think we really have a good balance on our mile-and-a-half stuff right now.”
Even more telling than his early success at 1.5-mile speedways this year, Texas Motor Speedway has been Crafton’s most successful NCWTS track throughout his entire career with more top-10 (13) and top-five finishes (6) than any other venue.
The only thing that’s been missing for Crafton at “The Great American Speedway!” is that one elusive victory. Three times in Crafton’s 24 starts at Texas, he has finished in the runner-up position.
“Texas has been one of my favorite race tracks,” Crafton said. “It’s become a place I really, really love going to. We’ve had some really good runs there and have just come up a little bit short of getting to Victory Lane there, so hopefully we can do that this weekend and get the (Victory Lane) guns blazing at the end!”
Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 400 will mark a NASCAR Camping World Series-record 301 consecutive starts for Crafton. The record was first set in April at Rockingham Speedway when Crafton notched his 297th consecutive start and each week thereafter, his record run continues.
With his 37th birthday coming up next Tuesday, Crafton would welcome an early present from his 25th start at Texas.
“It would be awesome, just plain awesome to win that race at Texas because it’s just a cool place, and a cool area,” Crafton said. “Everything’s big in Texas, you know they say that, and it’s especially true at that race track.”
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opens at Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday with practice from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. CT. The final practice will be from 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. and will be followed by NCWTS Qualifying Night beginning at 6 p.m. The WinStar World Casino 400 (167 laps/250.5 miles) begins at 8 p.m. and will broadcast live on SPEED as well as on radio with MRN (national) and The Fan 105.3 KRLD (local).
Jeb Burton and Ryan Blaney came into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season competing for Rookie-of-the-Year honors, but after six races also find themselves competing for the series championship.
Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton, actually had planned to chase the rookie honors in 2012 while driving for Hillman Racing. After competing in five of the first six races, Burton was forced to skip the remaining races due to lack of sponsorship and his season came to a halt.
Turner Scott Motorsports then signed the 20-year-old to a fulltime ride for 2013 and Burton hasn’t looked back. Through six races, Burton is second in the series championship, just 30 points behind leader Matt Crafton. His season has been buoyed by four top-10 finishes, including two among the top five, to go along with three poles.
Burton’s start in Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 400 will marks the first time the next generation of the Burton racing family tackles the 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I’m looking forward to heading to Texas, if for no other reason than the momentum it gives us,” Burton said. “It’s good anytime we can race back-to-back weekends because it keeps you in a groove. We’ve been good at intermediate tracks and we’re bringing a good truck, so I’m hoping to get myself one of those cowboy hats in Victory Lane.”
With Burton having no experience at Texas Motor Speedway, his No. 4 Arrowhead team will utilize the same chassis Burton and his team used to capture the pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway en route to a top-15 finish.
Blaney, the 19-year-old son of current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, will be making his third NASCAR start at Texas Motor Speedway and second in the Camping World Truck Series. Blaney’s only other visit racing in the truck series was this past November in the WinStar World Casino 350 when his race was cut short after just 31 laps when he blew a tire and wrecked, ultimately ending his day.
However, Blaney’s other start at “The Great American Speedway!” came one night later in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and had a much different result. Competing for Penske Racing, he notched a surprising second-place finish behind Kevin Harvick.
Blaney currently sits fifth in the championship standings -- 44 points behind Crafton – on the strength of four top-10 efforts, including a pair among the top five. He is coming off a third-place finish last week at Dover.
“Texas is one of the tracks I feel like and a place the team feels like we need to get better at,” Blaney said. “I’m excited to go back there, it’s a great facility.”
Johnny Sauter, after repeated near misses at Texas Motor Speedway, not only found his way to Victory Lane at the venue during the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but added himself to the record books.
Sauter swept both NCWTS races last year – June’s WinStar World Casino 400 and November’s WinStar World Casino 350 – and joined Brendan Gaughan (2002, ’03) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008) as the only other drivers to accomplish the feat.
Aside from his impressive wins last year, Sauter always has performed very well at Texas Motor Speedway with seven top-10 finishes, including four among the top five, in nine career starts.
Currently fourth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship (43 points behind Crafton), Texas couldn’t come at a better time for him. Sauter, a 35-year-old Necedah, Wis. Native, began the year just about as perfect as he could imagine with wins at Daytona and Martinsville, and a top-five finish at Rockingham.
Then came Kansas, where Sauter he finished fifth but was docked 25 points for fuel cell violations that knocked him out of the points lead and led to the four-race suspension of crew chief Joel Shear by NASCAR. The misfortune continued at the next race – in Charlotte – when he finished 28th following a wreck with just 19 laps remaining.
Sauter rebounded last week with a seventh-place finish at Dover and the WinStar World Casino 400 could prove to be a great opportunity for Sauter to get back to his winning ways.
“I’m a realistic person,” Sauter said. “No one’s going to win every race, but when you get off to the start we did, when you win the first two and you get top fives in the first four, you do think about more. But you have to manage expectations. If you have a top-four or top-five truck, you need to get a top four or a top five.”
With all of his success at Texas, surely Sauter’s expectations are a bit elevated coming into this race weekend.
“No doubt, a positive attitude and positive thoughts help,” Sauter said. “But no matter what happens, you have to manage expectations.”
James Buescher, the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion and native of Plano, Texas, will travel to tornado-ravaged Moore, Okla., on Wednesday. Accompanying Buescher will be his wife Krishtian as the two will assist with clean-up and rebuilding efforts throughout the community that was hit by devastating tornados on May 20. In addition to the Bueschers, Turner Scott Motorsports co-owner Steve Turner is supporting the efforts by sending heavy machinery and operators to assist with clearing heavy debris…Chad Hackenbracht will make his NASCAR debut at the WinStar World Casino 400 racing the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Texas Motor Speedway is the first of four scheduled appearances for the 21-year-old...Todd Bodine, the winningest NASCAR driver at Texas Motor Speedway with six career victories, is scheduled to make his 18th career start at Texas…The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has produced the most number of green-white-checkered finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with eight over the last seven seasons.