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Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 31, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Matt Crafton has competed full-time for 11 years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, winning the championship the past two seasons.

That background paid dividends in Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway for the 39-former mechanic from Tulare, California.

In a chaotic drama that featured 12 cautions and three restarts over the final 15 laps, Crafton earned his second career victory at the smallest track on the circuit.

“This feels very good," Crafton said. “It's been a trying last two months for us. But we finally got this thing back in Victory Lane."

Crafton, who has five wins on the season, moved within 10 points of 19-year-old Erik Jones in the series points standings.

“It’s very big,” Crafton said. “If you look at the last couple races we led the most laps. But today we led enough laps, and led the right lap.”

The final charge came with just two laps remaining.

Following a textbook restart, Crafton quickly pulled away from his ThorSport Racing teammate Cameron Hayley and John Hunter Nemechek.

“I knew my teammate was going to race me clean. He wasn’t going to do anything to lose points. That was very reassuring,” said Crafton, who led the final 63 laps. “Cameron had a very fast truck. I’m really proud of all those guys on that team. They ran really good today.”
For a while it appeared that Nemechek was headed for a breakthrough triumph. The 18-year-old son of longtime NASCAR competitor Joe Nemechek, John Hunter qualified third and led a total of 43 laps before settling for a second place finish.

“My team gave me a great truck,” Nemechek said. “Sadly, I couldn’t capitalize. I made the mistake on one of the last restarts. It stinks because it cost us the race.”
Pole-winner Cole Custer, 17, and Tyler Reddick, 19, rounded out youthful top five while home track favorite Timothy Peters followed in sixth. Reddick, who has experience racing dirt late models, is just 13 points behind Crafton in points.

"We were in really good position at the end, but I and I actually hit the curb and cost us a couple more spots," Reddick said. "It was as clean as Martinsville could get. It's a shame we got fifth, really, because I thought we could have finished third or second. "But that's how this place goes. We could have got wrecked on the last lap and finished 20th, or last on the lead lap.”

Nemechek said he enjoyed the lively exchanges of bumping and banging, which make up the heart of the short track theatre.

‘It was just good, hard racing,” he said. “There were some close battles, and everyone was hitting and moving each other.”

Crafton had a comfort zone with his teammate, Hayley, positioned on the outside of the front row on the final restart.

ThorSport Racing is located in Sandusky, Ohio, far from the NASCAR epicenter of Charlotte, North Carolina.  
Three races remain on the truck series schedule, with the next stop at Texas Motor Speedway.

“You win five races and if you don’t win the championship then it wasn’t meant to be,” said Crafton, who grew up working at the family-owned Danny's Automotive repair shop in central California.

“We’ve done our job for the most part,” Crafton said. “I’ve made mistakes and the team as a whole has made mistakes, but we win as a team and we lose as a team.”

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race - Kroger 200
Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Virginia
Saturday, October 31, 2015

1. (13) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 200, $39197.
2. (3) John H. Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 200, $29673.
3. (2) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 200, $21627.
4. (1) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 200, $23569.
5. (4) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 200, $17413.
6. (11) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 200, $15471.
7. (16) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 200, $15005.
8. (18) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, 200, $12700.
9. (17) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 200, $14895.
10. (8) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 200, $15789.
11. (26) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 200, $14783.
12. (5) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 200, $14644.
13. (9) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 200, $14589.
14. (10) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, 200, $14534.
15. (23) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 200, $14823.
16. (6) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, 200, $12290.
17. (25) Ross Kenseth(i), Toyota, 200, $12035.
18. (19) Mason Mingus, Chevrolet, 200, $14228.
19. (27) Austin Hill, Ford, 200, $11923.
20. (21) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 200, $14618.
21. (7) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 200, $14090.
22. (28) Bobby Pierce, Chevrolet, 200, $14062.
23. (12) David Gilliland(i), Ford, 200, $11785.
24. (30) Camden Murphy, Chevrolet, 200, $12757.
25. (14) Austin Cindric, Ford, 200, $12852.
26. (24) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 199, $11674.
27. (29) Brandon Hightower, Chevrolet, 196, $11591.
28. (15) Dalton Sargeant, Toyota, 196, $11345.
29. (20) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 196, $11290.
30. (31) Paige Decker, Chevrolet, 193, $10790.
31. (32) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 186, $9290.
32. (22) JJ Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 119, $8290.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 60.615 mph.
Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 44 Mins, 08 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.396 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 12 for 69 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Custer 1-36; G. Gaulding 37-45; C. Custer 46-82; J. Nemechek # 83; C. Custer 84-106; J. Nemechek # 107-137; M. Crafton 138-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Custer 3 times for 96 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 63 laps; J. Nemechek # 2 times for 32 laps; G. Gaulding 1 time for 9 laps.
Top 10 in Points: E. Jones # - 776; M. Crafton - 766; T. Reddick - 763; J. Sauter - 722; T. Peters - 680; C. Hayley # - 663; D. Hemric # - 644; J. Townley - 627; B. Kennedy - 595; S. Gallagher # - 574.