KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Matt Crafton is the defending NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (NGROTS) champion. Prior to today, however, he had gone 67 straight races without a win. That all changed Saturday when he held off rookie Christian Eckes and claimed the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series e.p.t 200 at Kansas Speedway. Prior to today, Crafton’s last victory came at Eldora Speedway in 2017.
“It was very, very sweet,” said Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Ford for ThorSport Racing. “The 18 (Eckes) had a little bit of speed and was making me nervous right there. I kept trying to take the line away from him. At the end of the day, I can’t thank these guys for working so hard each and every week for all this time.”
Crafton, who now has clinched a spot in the NGROTS Playoffs, took the lead from Austin Hill – winner of Friday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 – on the race’s final restart and led the final 22 laps, as he fended off Eckes down the stretch, edging him by 0.324 seconds. Grant Enfinger, who finished third in Friday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200, was third in today’s race as well.
“I knew I had to hit my marks and just not make a mistake,” said Crafton of his mindset down the stretch. “We started getting a little tight across the center. I wanted to drive it in there deep. I drove it in too deep a couple of times to make up ground, and I said to myself, ‘Ok, you just have to slow down and beat him off the corner.’”
With his win today, Crafton now has three NGROTS wins at Kansas Speedway, the most of any driver in that Series. He also won in 2013 and 2015. Crafton has a special place in his heart for Kansas Speedway, and it’s not about the sentimental value.
“I love it, especially now that this place has aged,” Crafton said. “Just seeing where you can run, we were going everywhere. All the lanes you have, all the options you have and the side-by-side racing.”
Eckes, a favorite for the 2020 Rookie of the Year award, is still looking for his first career victory, but a second runner-up finish in the last three races and his third top-5 finish on the season gives the 18-year-old driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports confidence going forward.
“Overall, what a comeback for our team,” said Eckes, who finished 13th in yesterday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200. “We stunk yesterday. I can’t sugarcoat it. We were terrible. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and the guys worked really, really hard last night and this morning to get it better. We still started the race a little bit off, but the track kind of came to us and it was perfect at the end. I just got a little tight behind him (Crafton). I was good in one corner, but not the other. We’ll take it back to the lab and get a little better.”
Rookie Zane Smith won both Stage 1 & 2 of today’s race, giving him three stage wins in 2020.
There were 15 lead changes among nine drivers and nine cautions for 38 laps.
The five-race weekend at Kansas Speedway was scheduled to conclude with the running of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 250, slated for 4:00 p.m., CT.
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About Kansas Speedway
Kansas Speedway is a premier motorsports facility in the Midwest. The track, which opened in 2001, hosts two NASCAR Cup Series weekends each year, along with approximately 200 other event days each year. The Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, which opened in 2012, overlooks Turn 2 of the track.
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