NASCAR & Auto Racing

Matt Crafton, who dominates the NASCAR Truck Series, doesn’t worry about bull’s-eye on his back

Matt Crafton celebrated after winning the NASCAR Trucks series season title Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, in Homestead, Fla.
Matt Crafton celebrated after winning the NASCAR Trucks series season title Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, in Homestead, Fla. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Matt Crafton has dominated the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings during the last two seasons.

Crafton, 38, has won the last two Truck titles, becoming the only driver in series history to claim back-to-back championships.

It’s made Crafton, now in his 15th full season on the Truck Series, something of a marked man.

“I guess you could say that,” fellow Truck driver Tyler Reddick said, when asked if Crafton’s got the bull’s-eye on his bumper. “Not that points matter at this point, but he is the points leader and they’ve won it the last two years. They’ve had a very good combination that’s made it work, so I think everyone’s pointing towards him to be a strong contender again this year.”

Crafton, who won the 2013 Truck race at Kansas Speedway and hopes to become the first two-time winner in the series at the track in the Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday, doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Crafton said. “I just go out here and do my job and not worry if there’s a bull’s-eye on my back.

“I’m having a blast. This is the best time of my life right now. Each and every time I come to the racetrack, I have Junior (crew chief Carl Joiner), and these guys bring such awesome trucks to the racetrack. I’m just going out there and having a blast doing what I’m doing.”

Crafton won the second race of the season on Feb. 28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and owns a two-point lead in the standings ahead of Reddick, who won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

It’s too early in the season to worry about points with this weekend’s race being only the fourth of 23 for the Truck Series, but Reddick’s goal is clear — dethroning Crafton and claiming the title for himself in his second season on the circuit.

“You have to do what he does and just do it better,” Reddick said. “He’s very consistent and he always brings home a truck in the top 10. He doesn’t necessarily think big picture, but he knows when to take aggressive moves and when to play it safe.

“Winning a championship would be a huge confidence booster, but I feel like I already have the confidence that we should be able to do that if we play our cards right and make the right decisions.”

Reddick, 19, isn’t the only young gun nipping at Crafton’s heels. Erik Jones, 18, who will make his Sprint Cup debut Saturday as Kyle Busch’s replacement in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, sits only six points back in the standings.

Crafton welcomes the challenge.

“It’s crazy how young they are when they’re stepping into this sport,” Crafton said. “Thinking about when I was 18 or 19 years old and what I was doing, I definitely wasn’t racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I was wanting to be there I guess at some point, but wasn’t thinking about being at this level that quick. It’s really amazing. They’ve all done a really good job for sure.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.

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