Matt Crafton grabbed the lead for the first time with 47 laps to go and held on to win the rain-delayed Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday night for his fourth career victory.
It also was his first on the 0.526-mile paper clip, and a study in steady improvement.
“If you don’t have the best car or truck there at the beginning of a run, you make changes throughout the race. It’s about having a smart crew chief and someone putting their head on their shoulders and not tearing the stuff up,” he said, crediting crew chief Carl Joiner for adjustments all race long.
“It’s not so much stealing,” Crafton said. “It’s about beating them at the end when it counts.”
Crafton, the reigning series champion, passed local favorite Timothy Peters on the inside of the fourth turn to grab the top spot, then survived two two-lap sprints to the finish. The green-white-checkered run extended the race to 256 laps, leaving Crafton jokingly complaining about darkness.
After 24 previous starts at Martinsville, he was envisioning the track’s signature trophy, a grandfather clock, in his living room at home, and not wanting to let anything get in the way.
“It’s definitely one of those places that you want to win at just because that grandfather clock is such an awesome trophy to have in your house,” he said. “Finally we got it. It’s awesome.”
Crafton became the 23rd driver to win in 31 truck races at Martinsville.
Darrell Wallace was second, followed by Ben Kennedy, Johnny Sauter and Ryan Blaney.
Wallace said his team struggled all day, too, after getting practice time in Friday, then having qualifying rained out Saturday before racing after the Cup Series had run Sunday, changing conditions again.
“I thought I had enough saved for those last two (dashes), but we just couldn’t get it done,” he said.
Kennedy, conversely, wished he’d had more time to make a move.
“We were really rolling there at the end. I was really excited for it. I wish we’d had another 10 laps or so. I think we could have gotten up there and got ’em,” Kennedy said.
Sauter and Peters were the hard-luck racers on the day.
Sauter led three times for a race-high 61 laps; Peters led six times for 49 laps.
The race, postponed by rain Saturday and run as part of a rare doubleheader following a 500-lap Sprint Cup race, was just the second of the season in the series, following the opener at Daytona on Feb. 17. The series will again take a long break, not racing again until May 9 in Kansas.
This one started at about 5:30 p.m., and finished with the sun setting and temperatures dropping.