Crafton leads trucks into Iowa
Remember the old saw about old age and treachery overcoming youth and skill every time? It surely will be put to the test during Saturday night’s American Ethanol 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway.
Representing the veteran contingent is series points leader Matt Crafton, who has posted top-10 finishes in all eight Truck Series races run so far this year.
Crafton, who has an average finish of 4.4 in five prior Iowa starts, figures to be one of the men to beat during Saturday night’s race, which will be televised on SPEED starting with qualifying at 7 p.m. ET. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Setup follows at 8 p.m., with live race coverage at 8:30 p.m.
“We've been pretty good at Iowa, and I think it's really because that track just fits my driving style,” said Crafton, who will pilot the No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Chevrolet. “Iowa just doesn't drive like a short track, even though it's less than a mile. You might think I'm crazy, but to me it drives more like a mile-and-a-half track, with the taste of a short track to it.”
At the age of 37, Crafton is hardly an old man.
That said, some of the competitors nipping at Crafton’s heels are young enough to be his own kids.
Take Chase Elliott, for example.
Just 17 years old, Elliott is only permitted by NASCAR to race on tracks one mile or shorter in length. In three starts so far this year, Elliott’s average finish is 5.0, tying him with Kurt Busch in 2000 for the best debut in Truck Series history.
Despite his youth and relative lack of experience, Elliott thinks he’s ready to win with the No. 94 Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet.
“I think we are pretty close personally,” Elliott said. “I feel like everything is where it needs to be to have success. I feel like our trucks are fast and all the guys do a really good job. I feel like if we can just get to Iowa this weekend and I can do my job and know what I want when we unload and just put together a mistake-free race, I think we are right there, man.”
Elliott will have plenty of company in the kiddie corps.
Ryan Blaney, 19, won his first and so far only Truck Series race last September at Iowa. He figures to be tough again this time out and will come in with momentum, having finished eighth or better in five of his last six races in his No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150, which is owned by reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski.
“This date couldn't have come sooner,” said Blaney, who last year became the youngest winner in series history. “I've been waiting to get back to Iowa in the Truck Series ever since I left there last September victorious. Our team has really buckled down over the past month and my confidence is at an all-time high.”
Another young’un to keep an eye on will be 20-year-old Jeb Burton, who has been sensational this season. Burton, driver of the No. 4 Arrowhead Chevrolet, won his first Truck Series race at Texas last month and is second in points to Crafton.
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“I feel like our No. 4 Arrowhead Chevy will be fast this weekend,” said Burton. “My Turner Scott Motorsports teammates have had pretty good success at Iowa, so that's all the more reason to race hard and give it my best shot.”
The oldest of the youngsters is 21-year-old Ty Dillon and he definitely will be one of the favorites, having driven the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevy to victory in the most recent truck race at Kentucky Speedway and a second-place run at Texas before that.
“We're really trying to ride the momentum from the win at Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago,” said Dillon, who has climbed from seventh to third in points in just two races. “It was a huge confidence booster for the team.”
So far, Iowa has produced five different race winners and five different pole-sitters in five races, so look for a wide-open affair again on Saturday night.