Title Race Tightens With Four To Go
Nineteen points separated defending champion Matt Crafton from ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter heading into Talladega Speedway. Now that margin has tightened, but with new faces in the hunt. Former NASCAR Next drivers Ryan Blaney (-16 points) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (-28) loom close behind Crafton, overtaking the second and third spots respectively, following top-10 finishes at the Alabama track.
Blaney, who led the standings from the end of the Eldora race until his 21st-place showing at Michigan, heads to the Kroger 200 (1:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1) riding a streak of three top-10 performances. He finished third at Talladega to gain 11 points on Crafton, who took 14th.
“This is a long (four)-race stretch to Homestead here, and I told our guys, ‘If we have weeks like this, we’re gonna be right there at Homestead,’” Blaney said.
Wallace has been one of the hottest drivers in the series after starting the season off slowly. Since the fifth race at Dover, he has climbed from 11th to third in the standings behind the strength of two wins and four runner-up finishes. His 107.4 driver rating is the highest among NCWTS regulars.
Darrell Wallace Jr. Keeps Championship Hopes Alive
With four races left in the 2014 season, Darrell Wallace Jr. may be peaking at the right time. In the last four races, Wallace has earned four consecutive top-10 finishes, vaulting from fifth to third in the standings – 28 points behind NASCAR Camping World Truck Series leader Matt Crafton.
The NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity alum will try to further cut into Crafton’s lead in this Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). Wallace captured his first career checkered flag last year at Martinsville where he became the first African-American driver since NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott to win a NASCAR national series race (12/01/63 at Jacksonville).
Wallace will pay tribute to Scott by driving the No. 34 Toyota Tundra in honor of him. The 20-year-old normally drives the No. 54 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"It's an honor to run the No. 34 Toyota Tundra at Martinsville," Wallace said. "I got my first win at Martinsville and the historical significance of that win and to be so close to Wendell Scott's hometown was a really cool bonus to getting my first win. The Scott family has followed my career since I ran the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program for Rev Racing, and I've kept a relationship with the family over the years.”
Homecoming For Burton And Peters
Virginia natives Timothy Peters and Jeb Burton return home to the Old Dominion State and the track at which it all started for Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).
Both drivers launched their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series careers at the .526-mile oval, Burton making his first ever start in 2012 and Peters in 2005.
Burton has since earned one win and seven pole awards, including his first pole, at Martinsville in 2013. Meanwhile, Peters, who earned his first victory at Martinsville in 2009, has tallied an additional seven wins and five top-10 finishes in the NCWTS final standings.
Fresh off a visit to Victory Lane at Talladega, Peters will go for his third straight top-five finish on Saturday. In 17 Martinsville starts, Peters claims five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. He currently ranks fifth in the series standings.
ThorSport driver Burton has picked up some momentum lately with two top-10 finishes in his last four starts. He boasts two top-five results in four starts at Martinsville. At the moment, Burton occupies the ninth spot in the NCWTS standings.
The last Virginia native to win a NCWTS race at Martinsville was Denny Hamlin on Oct. 27, 2012.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ben Kennedy returns to his best track on the circuit, owning an average finish of 3.5 following third and fourth place finishes in two career starts at Martinsville … Cole Custer, the youngest race winner in NASCAR national series history, is back in action this weekend and will run a special Breast Cancer Awareness paint scheme in support of the annual Ken Schrader Racing PINK Campaign.