FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A rookie driver and recent high school graduate put an end to Matt Crafton’s chance for a Texas triple the day before his 40th birthday.
William Byron passed Crafton’s beat-up No. 88 Toyota with five laps to go Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway for his second career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“It was impressive what the kid did,” Crafton said. “I was a little bit worried with him under me and he got a loose a couple of times, I gave him room and he did a very job. Hats off, the kid did a very good job.”
Crafton, who finished second, had won the series’ last two races this season. The two-time series champion and current season points leader was also trying to win the June race at Texas for the third year in a row, and led 133 of 167 laps at the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track in the Rattlesnake 400.
Byron also won at Kansas last month in the No. 9 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch, and joined Crafton as the only multiple winners this season.
“It’s huge, for our team to get another win this year really solidifies us, especially me,” Byron said. “It gives me a lot of confidence.”
After a restart with 43 laps left, Byron was inside of Crafton as they went side-to-side for six laps in a row and never separated by less than .03 seconds in that span before the veteran finally pulled ahead until the final pass.
“I was sideways a few times and I hopefully showed him I could do it, and hopefully have his respect,” Byron said.
Even after taking the lead, Byron had to hold off a final charge. Rico Abreu was on his bumper in the closing laps before getting loose and making contact with the wall, and then slipped back to finish ninth.
Crafton had overcome a cut rear tire in the early laps that damaged the truck and forced him to restart 25th. He led six different times, including the first lap after starting fourth.
“It says a lot about this team,” Crafton said. “Looking at the right side of that truck after the race, I still don’t know how we ran as good as we did. The tail was moved over at least three inches, and to have the speed we did was impressive.”
WHO’S HOT: Tyler Reddick was in the top five when his No. 29 Ford got loose. Reddick spun coming out of Turn 4, though he managed to keep the truck out of the wall on lap 52. He was able to immediately get to pit road, but missed his stall and had to go do another lap around the track before coming back in again. He recovered to finish fifth.
THE GRADUATE: There was some “Pomp and Circumstance” for Cole Custer. The 18-year-old JR Motorsports driver donned the traditional cap and gown over his firesuit during a prerace ceremony when he was presented his high school diploma by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. The rest of the Class of 2016 from Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, had its graduation ceremony Thursday night, when Custer was already in Texas.
QUIROGA’S RETURN: Before a one-race deal with Red Horse Racing to drive the No. 11 Toyota on Friday night, German Quiroga’s last NASCAR truck series race had been in 2014. The Mexican driver qualified second, and went on to finish eighth.
UP NEXT: Iowa Speedway, June 18.