Fresh off win, confident Crafton ready to chase another title
APR 03, 2014 2:32p ET
Throughout his lengthy career in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Matt Crafton has used consistency as his primary recipe for success.
Race wins, while not completely missing, have traditionally been sparse at best.
So should Crafton's competition be a little worried that the 2013 series champion won this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway in just the second race of the season?
"I would think so," Crafton, who owns four wins in 318 truck starts, said in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. "We've got some really good momentum from last year, winning the championship. There's a lot of people that said we were riding around at the end of the year, top-10ing them, but at the same time, we kind of had to protect what we had, couldn't take any really big chances to lose that big points lead that we had, so we were just smart at the end of the season.
"Now we just wanted to shut everybody up and go out and hopefully get some wins at the beginning of the season."
So far, so good.
After Sunday's victory at Martinsville -- a track, by the way, where Crafton had never won before -- the Tulare, Calif., native is tied for third in the Truck Series standings and sits a scant four points behind co-championship leaders Timothy Peters and Johnny Sauter.
Crafton, who led 47 of 256 laps at Martinsville, is seeking to become the first back-to-back Truck Series champion in the 20-year-existence of NASCAR's No. 3 division. The ThorSport Racing driver is convinced that he can be the guy who finally breaks what seems like the curse of the Truck Series champ.
"Oh yeah, without a doubt," he said. "It's just always been everybody's had their sophomore jinx, you might call it, after winning the championship and then the second year having some bad luck. You never know. You've got to be lucky and you've got to be good at the same time to have everything go your way to win championships. So hopefully we can have the luck on our side, because I know we've got some really good trucks and some really good people building the trucks. So we should be fine."
Crafton won just once last season but recorded a remarkable 19 top-10 finishes in 22 races to capture his first title by a comfortable margin. He expects a similar level of consistency to be required of this year's champion. Unlike the Sprint Cup Series, which has undergone several changes over the past decade that now put greater emphasis than ever on race wins, the Truck Series and Nationwide Series continue to follow the traditional championship model which doesn't include a playoff.
"It rewards the guy that can be consistent and not have those bad races, because with the points system the way it is, you have that bad race and you can lose a ton," Crafton said of the Truck Series points system. "It's just minimizing mistakes. That's really, really key. I mean, it is in every series and any points system but just the way it is (in the Truck Series), it definitely makes it a little more critical."
While Crafton is ready to throw everything he has at becoming the first back-to-back series champion, he admittedly doesn't feel the pressure he did in 2013 when he was chasing his first title.
"It's a huge, huge weight off my shoulders because we had finished second before and I'd finished fourth, I'd been close and been the bridesmaid and all that, but we hadn't done it," said Crafton, who was the series runner-up in 2009. "So now I've got that off my shoulders and I know this year if we are leading the points, I'm definitely not going to be as nervous and as wound up about it, and I might be able to sleep a little better at night."
Of course, as long as there are no races to run, Crafton should sleep particularly well. He, however, is no fan of the current Truck Series schedule that features a five-week gap between the season opener at Daytona and Race No. 2 at Martinsville. Next up for the Truck Series is Kansas Speedway on May 9.
"I hate it, to be totally honest," Crafton said. "We need more races. I know what they're trying to do is make it where it saves teams money but at the end of the day, it doesn't. If you've got a sponsor and you're getting paid per race, it's taking money out of your pocket because you're not getting paid by sponsors to go to the racetrack, but you're still having to pay the employees to work on the trucks. You can't just tell them to take the next four weeks off and go without pay. Owners have to pay the people, and with sponsor dollars, you're losing by not going to the racetrack."
Crafton can find a little consolation in the fact that the extended break before Kansas gives him plenty of time to revel in his Martinsville victory.
"It was huge momentum for this five weeks that we have off," he said. "We're going to be winners for five weeks in a row. Whenever you're in the midst of the race season and you win one, you're already on to the next one the following week. At least we've got five weeks to gloat about it."