Crafton begins campaign for a Truck Series three-peat

Daytona Beach, FL ( - The Camping World Truck Series begins its 23-race season on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Matt Crafton also starts his quest for a third straight truck championship. Last year, Crafton became the first driver in the 20-year history of the series to win back-to-back titles. He had his first career multi-win season in 2014, with victories at Martinsville (March race) and Texas (June event). He had a career-best 13 top-five finishes and 298 laps led as well.

This will be Crafton's 15th season in the series, including his 11th as driver of the No. 88 Menards-sponsored Toyota for ThorSport Racing.

"It's an awesome accomplishment, without a doubt, to say that we won two in a row, and to hear people say that," Crafton said. "It's never been done. That's usually the time that it sets in, for sure."

Crafton, a 38-year-old Tulare, California native, has made 338 consecutive and career starts in the series since 2000. He has scored five wins, 76 top-five finishes, 192 top-10s and seven poles.

"I'm just going with the same mindset for three (championships) as I did for two," he said. "I'm just going out there to race and have fun. I get paid to do what I love to do. I'm not going to put any pressure on myself, just go out there and try to lead laps and win races."

Crafton has yet to win a truck race at Daytona in 14 previous attempts (2001-14). His best finish at this 2.5-mile superspeedway is fifth, which occurred in 2010. He finished 13th in last year's race here.

Surprisingly, Crafton has led only one lap at Daytona, happening in the 2009 race.

"Superspeedway racing makes for great racing to watch as a fan, but as a driver, it's very frustrating," Crafton said. "You just never know what's going to happen at any minute. Everything is just out of your control. You can't say to yourself, 'I'm going to drive it in the corner a little deeper to make up the difference here.' You can't make up the difference.

"As a driver, you just hope to pick the right lane, do the right thing and be there at the end. It's not about your skills as a driver. You are at the mercy of what everyone is doing around you. Daytona was one of those races that got away last year, and I hope we can turn it around this year."

Ryan Blaney, who finished second in points last year, has moved on to part- time Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series competition this season, while Darrell Wallace Jr., the third-place finisher in points, is a full-time competitor in Xfinity.

Johnny Sauter, who is Crafton's teammate, remains in the Truck Series this year. Sauter placed fourth in points last season. Timothy Peters is back in the series as well after finishing fifth in the standings in '14. Peters (2010) and Sauter (2013) have won a truck race at Daytona in the past.

Eighteen-year-old Erik Jones is running a full schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports in trucks this season after he won three races in 12 starts for KBM last year.

"My goal this year is to go out and win races and bring home a driver's championship to KBM," said Jones, who will drive the No. 4 Toyota. "I feel like running a part-time schedule the past few years has helped prepare me for the chance to run full-time this year, especially last year racing at a couple of mile-and-a-half tracks.

"Matt has won the championship the last two years by being very consistent, and we know that if we are going to beat him, we need to make sure on the days where we don't have a winning truck we don't try to make something happen and have it bite us."

Thirty-seven teams are on the entry list for the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

Series: NASCAR Camping World. Date: Friday, Feb. 20. Race: NextEra Energy Resources 250. Site: Daytona International Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 100. Miles: 250. 2014 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: FOX Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.