Crafton Gives ‘Thumbs Up’ To Pocono Raceway Repaving
There’s something to be said for being late to the party – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers staged their first race at Pocono Raceway in 2010. You don’t have much to unlearn.
With the track’s first repaving since 1995, the 2.5-mile triangular layout will be a fresh canvas when the series returns to eastern Pennsylvania on Aug. 4. It’s doubtful the bumps and gouges navigated over the past two seasons will be missed.
Matt Crafton, part of a group of seven who participated in last week’s Goodyear tire test, pronounced the new surface interesting, fun and fast.
“They outdid themselves on the pavement. It’s definitely one groove right now, but I’m sure, as you get more race cars on the track, they’ll be running side-by-side, and it’ll be interesting to see,” said Crafton, who finished third and eighth in his two trips to the “Tricky Triangle.”
Like the majority of his rivals, Crafton had no preconceived notions of Pocono, only what he’d seen on television.
“Everybody always talks about the tunnel turn, and you have no idea how tight that tunnel is. TV doesn’t do it justice at all,” said Crafton. “I took my crew chief (Carl Joiner Jr.) around it in my truck, and I said, ‘Yeah, I think we’ll be wide open through here.’ He goes, ‘You’re an idiot. There’s no way.’ I said, ‘I guarantee it.’”
By his third lap of testing, Crafton was up to 90 percent throttle.
“I love coming to the place. It’s like they always say, it’s like a road course but kind of going in a circle, but it’s a blast,” he said.
Off-Roader Lofton Bringing Series Full Circle
Figuratively speaking, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was born in the desert. Its original owners were off-road racers who had a desire to race trucks on oval trucks.
When the dust settled, one – Jimmy Smith – had won a NCWTS title but long after the likes of off-road legend Walker Evans had returned to their racing roots. That could change in 2012, as Justin Lofton, a former Best in the Desert off road class championship, could become the first desert racer to win a trucks title.
Lofton currently ranks third in NCWTS standings 11 points behind leader Timothy Peters.
The Westmoreland, Calif., driver will be back in the Class 1500 unlimited buggy on Saturday competing in the Canidae Tap It Silver State 300 north of Las Vegas.
"When the truck schedule was released, we saw we had a few less races than last year, so we decided to run more off-road races this year,” said Lofton, who finished seventh at Kansas Speedway on April 21 – one of four top-10 finishes of the campaign. “We're going to be picking up a stretch of races during the summer in the trucks, so my dad will take over some races on the off-road schedule. It's a lot of fun, and it's neat doing that with my family."
Odds Favor Another First-Time Series Champion
Out with the old, in with the new. That’s the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title picture four races into the 2012 season.
The first six – and nine of the top 10 – in current points have not won a series title. Ron Hornaday Jr. is a formidable adversary, a four-time champion, but the 53-year-old Californian (seventh) is taking a back seat to his youthful rivals.
Of the top six, only leader Timothy Peters (31) is over the age of 30. Ty Dillon (20), fourth, hopes to unseat his older brother Austin (21) as the series’ youngest champion in 2011.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Jason White finished ninth in last week’s Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown won by Tony Stewart. … Ward Burton and the Ward Burton Wildlife foundation will host a Friday event at his “Cove” focusing on employment challenges facing returned veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the 50 expected attendees are 10 who have lost limbs in combat. … Max Gresham is participating in this week’s 67th Annual National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. His sponsor, Made In USA Brands, is a supporting partner of the event.