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Published May 03, 2016
Matt Crafton knew he didn't have the best truck Friday night.
Turns out all he needed was the most gas.
Crafton conserved just enough fuel while the leaders kept running out in the final laps to win the NASCAR Trucks Series race at Kansas Speedway, extending his lead in the points race by becoming the first two-time winner at the track.
"I said when we took the checkered flag, 'We'd rather be lucky than good sometimes,'" Crafton said. "You have to be close enough to sneak one out once in a while. I've lost them in things like this, so every once in a while, you steal one, I don't feel too bad about it."
All the trucks were forced to pit with 55 laps remaining, just on the upper end of the fuel window, when Ray Black Jr. blew his engine after a long green-flag run. It gave Crafton and the rest of the field a chance after 18-year-old Erik Jones had built a 12-second lead.
Jones raced right back to the front on the restart, once again stretching his lead to several seconds. But after leading 151 of 167 laps, his No. 4 Toyota ran out of fuel with five to go.
Tyler Reddick, who had wrecked his primary truck in qualifying, took over the lead. But he only had it for about a lap before his tank also ran dry.
Daniel Suarez moved into the lead, but he ran out of gas with two laps remaining, allowing the crafty Crafton to pull in front. He had just enough gas left in his No. 88 Toyota to cross the finish line and spin out on the dirt of the infield in celebration.
"It was almost comical, the way they dropped like flies there at the end," said Crafton's crew chief, Carl Joiner Jr. "It was good. We'll take it."
Ryan Newman finished second after a disastrous final pit stop. One of the tires taken off his truck got away from a crew member, and Newman was penalized to the back of the lead lap.
"The tire deal hurt us, no doubt," Newman said. "You know, I was giving it my all. It took me 35 or 40 laps to get aggressive with the truck and that was too long."
Johnny Sauter was third, followed by Timothy Peters and Cameron Hayley.
It was a frustrating end to what had been a dream start to Jones's big weekend.
The Joe Gibbs Racing prodigy, who made his Sprint Cup debut in relief of Denny Hamlin at Bristol, will make his first start in Saturday night's race. He was among the fastest all day in Cup practice, then made the final round of qualifying and will start in the 12th position.
"We had by far the best truck," Jones said. "We were up to an 11-second lead at one point. Just so terrible for these guys when we had so fast of a truck."
Jones said that he tried to conserve fuel during the long green-flag run to the finish, but he was never able to rest easy with Reddick giving chase in his backup truck.
"It's just too bad," Jones said, shaking his head. "We'll have to bring another fast truck to Charlotte and we'll go get a win there."