Matt Crafton is searching for a sandwich in between practices on Thursday for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and isn't having much luck. But besides the rumbly in his tummy, life is good for the current leader in the NASCAR Camping World Truck point standings.
Crafton and wife Ashley celebrated the birth of their first child, daughter Elladee, on April 26. Just six days earlier Crafton won his third race in the series, the SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway. Although the 36-year-old driver from Tulare, Calif., says it's business as usual after the baby, there's no doubt from the look on his face that this is a special time.
"People always tell you that having a child is a memorable experience, and to be able to do it is so great. We're so happy," Crafton said from the gray leather seats in the front of his hauler. "I'm a little bit tired sometimes, but life is good. What an awesome week to have our daughter after we just won at Kansas."
Crafton and ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter are running 1-2 in the standings and have finished in the top 10 in each of the first four races -- the only drivers to accomplish such consistency in the truck series this season. And they are doing it, along with Todd Bodine, for a team that is based in Sandusky, Ohio.
Although Crafton is not from Ohio, he smiles when asked whether there is a sense of Buckeye State pride within the ThorSport Racing team.
"It's awesome to be able to come down here, especially where I got my first win, and to get it in everybody else's backyard," Crafton said. "There's nothing like going into someone else's home field and getting the win. ... Duke (Thorson) really, really prides himself in having his shop in Ohio and not having to do it like all these team owners think you have to do it in North Carolina."
That said, it's not time to refer Crafton to GobacktoOhio.com, a Web site that sprouted up in the late 2000s as a Carolinian's response to the influx of Ohioans in the area. Crafton appreciates that he got his first win in 2008 in Charlotte and respects how CMS can be a challenging race track, particularly since Thursday's practices took place during daylight and Friday's race will be at night (8 p.m. ET).
"I've learned that you don't over-adjust your stuff based on earlier in the day," Crafton said. "I've done it before. You think you have the truck to beat, and the green flag drops and you are absolutely junk.
"You have to look back on all your notes and see where you were at the end of practice, when you've been the best and just go by feel. You can't tune to the day (here)."
Crafton finished 10th in the first practice with a speed of 176.754 mph and a top lap of 30.551 seconds. Richard Childress Racing's Ty Dillon led the opening practice at 179.283 mph, but Crafton wasn't worried.
"We're not trying to base a whole bunch off the day practice," Crafton said. "We're happy about the truck. We're going to do long runs. Got the truck driving pretty good, made a nine-lap run and was pretty happy about it."
However, whatever adjustments Crafton's team made to the No. 88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota during the break must have worked. He led the second session until the very end when Turner Scott Motorsports' Jeb Burton passed him with a speed of 180.572 mph, as did Red Horse Racing's Timothy Peters (180.445 mph).
Crafton was third with a speed of 179.503 mph and a top lap of 30.083 seconds. He had the best average speed in a consecutive 10-lap span at 175.124 mph.
Tired, hungry but happy, that's Crafton right now. Somebody go find the man a sandwich.
Final practice for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 is at 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday, followed by qualifying at 4 p.m. The race starts at 8 p.m., with coverage on SPEED beginning at 7:30. Justin Lofton is the race's defending champion.
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-- Matt Crafton