BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Matt Crafton and Joey Coulter engaged in a made-for-TV shouting match at the end of Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But after the engines and tempers had cooled, both were able to smile and sheepishly chalk some of the incident up to Bristol being Bristol.
Crafton left the Tennessee track with nearly the same margin atop the series standings after an eventful 10th-place finish in the UNOH 200. After running out of gas and clanging fenders with his new rival all in the last 15 laps, he was more than happy to leave the World's Fastest Half-Mile with a 49-point edge over defending truck champion James Buescher with nine races left in the season.
"It's a shame because we definitely had a top-five truck," said Crafton, who lost just two points from his advantage. "I don't know if we had a truck capable of winning, but we definitely had even a top-three truck. Definitely a shame, but all in all to come back with a 10th place and lose minimal points at the end of the night, we'll go on to the next one."
Crafton's night could have been worse, but it could have been better. He never led, but sat in second place with a shot at his second victory of the season on the race's next-to-last restart. That's when his truck sputtered, due to the track's steep banking tilting the gas level away from the fuel pickup.
When the green flag flew and Crafton's truck paused, Ryan Blaney ran into his tailgate and spun in the process. Crafton continued, but more contact was in store with Coulter on the next restart. In the final seven-lap shootout that followed, Crafton nudged Coulter up the track in the first turn, but the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver caught the points leader and returned fire with a shove.
Crafton suggested that the freely given contact was a result of their hard battle at Eldora Speedway's half-mile dirt track in last month's inaugural Mudsummer Classic.
"It's Bristol. It's at the end, and it comes back from the last short track," Crafton said. "We raced on the dirt track and he used me up really, really, really bad. He drove me into the fence, we crawled the wall and I'm a pretty nice guy until you piss me off, and he never said anything to me there. He just used me up and drove on, knocked the toe out of my truck, just destroyed my truck. I always say I mark 'em down on the dash, and whatever comes around goes around.
"I told him, I didn't wreck you, I moved you, just like you used me up at the dirt track.' In my book, we're even or we can just keep in a pissing match. They've been tearing up trucks and we don't need to tear up trucks in the position we're in. Hopefully, we can move on from it. If not, we'll figure it out one way or another."
Coulter held on to finish 11th, right behind Crafton. Their proximity in the post-race staging area probably didn't help cooler heads prevail, leaving drivers and crews with ready access for jawing after the checkered flag.
But after the waters had calmed, Coulter said he agreed that the time to discuss matters for the stretch run of the season is likely soon approaching.
"It's just he and I usually get in the same part of the race track a lot," said Coulter. "We have raced really hard together, so I think it's just time he and I go sit down and talk it out, and keep racing like we have in the past. Tonight was just a simple example of give back what you were given. He knocked me up the race track into (turn) one so I returned the favor off of (turn) four. We'll work it out and get back to some good racing."
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