Two-time and reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton took command of Saturday night’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Lap 59 and never looked back.
Driving the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota with ease, Crafton was able to cruise to a 8.752-second victory over XFINITY Series regular Ty Dillon, Ben Kennedy, Daniel Suarez, Daytona winner Tyler Reddick, Johnny Sauter, Erik Jones and Timothy Peters.
The victory was the sixth overall of Crafton’s career and his first at 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
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"Finally got one here," Crafton said over the radio after taking the checkered flag.
Crafton was forced to overcome a mid-pack starting spot after a miscommunication in knockout qualifying left him on pit road when the second session ended. Once the green flag dropped, Crafton quickly went to work climbing through the field.
Despite being urged by his crew to save the motor for the series’ next race — at Martinsville Speedway on March 28 — Crafton lit the tires and celebrated the victory in style.
"I was really, really disappointed with qualifying," Crafton said in Victory Lane. "It didn’t have a lot of single-lap speed by itself, but once they dropped the green and this thing took off and ran three laps, I’m like, ‘We’ve got something for these boys. They’re in trouble today.’"
Although he struggled throughout the weekend’s practice sessions, Dillon was able to get his No. 33 Chevrolet working well when it mattered most, and earned his second top-five finish of the day, after finishing third in the XFINITY Series race.
"We just came up a little short in both races today," said Dillon. "All in all, it was a good run. We battled hard. Wish we could have reset the field there. If we would’ve had a caution, we might’ve had a shot."
One week after struggling in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, Kennedy was able to rebound with a solid run.
"It feels like a win, especially after last weekend," said Kennedy, who finished 28th at Daytona. "Hopefully, that’s a little bit of a taste of what this year will be all about."