Crafton's shot at another Truck Series title begins at Daytona
Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Camping World Truck Series begins its 22-race season on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Matt Crafton also will start his campaign for a second consecutive truck championship. There have been 13 drivers crowned as champion in the series -- three of them multiple times -- but no one has been able to win back-to-back titles.
Crafton had a remarkable 2013 season in trucks, scoring top-10 finishes in each of the first 16 races. He clinched the championship by simply starting the season-finale at Homestead. Even though he finished 21st in that race, which was his worst result of the year, Crafton claimed the title by a 40- point margin over Ty Dillon and a 43-point advantage over James Buescher, the 2012 titleholder. Dillon and Buescher are now full-time competitors in the Nationwide Series.
Prior to the conclusion of last season, Crafton signed a multi-year contract with ThorSport Racing. Menards will continue to sponsor his No. 88 Toyota in 2014.
"Really looking forward to this year," Crafton said. "It's never been done, a [driver championship] repeat, so I don't want to talk about it too much. This is going to be the last time I say it, so hopefully we can do it."
Crafton's only victory during the 2013 season came in the April race at Kansas, and his win there put him in the points lead for good.
The 37-year-old Tulare, Calif. native is set to make his record-extending 317th consecutive start in the series at Daytona. He has yet to win at this famed 2.5-mile superspeedway. His best finish in 13 starts here is fifth, which came in 2010.
"We want to win more this season, and there would be no better of a place to do that than Daytona," he said.
There have been a couple of significant changes made in the series for this season. NASCAR has a new qualifying format for all three of its national touring series that is similar to knockout qualifying used for Formula One and IndyCar Series road/street course races. NASCAR also has modified the truck body styles for the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra.
Qualifying will consist of three rounds at Daytona. The first round is 25 minutes in length, the second is 10 minutes and third five minutes. The driver posting the fastest lap in the final segment will win the pole.
"I think it's going to be very, very cool," Crafton said of the new qualifying format. "I think it's going to be like the last five laps of the Daytona truck race and just trying to put yourself in position and just the huge runs people are going to get and those big, big runs. It's going to be chaos. Hopefully we don't tear anything up."
Earlier this week, NASCAR unveiled the newly designed bodies for the Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota Trucks. The bodies match the look of the manufacturers' respective showroom counterparts. Teams were able to familiarize themselves with the new truck during last month's preseason testing at Daytona.
"From when we were here testing, the truck sucked up and drafted so much different than the old truck," Crafton said. "There's definitely a difference, but it's not like, 'Oh my God, huge difference.' It definitely sucked up to the packs a lot different."
Johnny Sauter, who is Crafton's teammate at ThorSport, won last year's race at Daytona. Crafton finished ninth.
Thirty-eight teams are on the entry list for the NextEra Energy Resources 250.
Series: NASCAR Camping World. Date: Friday, Feb. 21. Race: NextEra Energy Resources 250. Site: Daytona International Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile tri-oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 100. Miles: 250. 2013 Winner: Johnny Sauter. Television: FOX Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.