Crafton glad to be back at Gateway for Truck Series race

News-DemocratJune 14, 2014 

— The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader and at or near the top of almost every other statistical category heading into the inaugural Drivin' for Linemen 200, Matt Crafton has fond memories of racing at Gateway Motorsports Park.

The defending series champion, Crafton enters the race with seven top 10 finishes in 10 starts at Gateway and would like nothing more than to add his third win of the season when the green flag goes up Saturday.

"Nope, I haven't been on it (the track) yet. But I'm anxious to get out and run it again during practice. We've run here and we've run well here in the past,'' Crafton said at the pre-race press conference Friday. "It's been a great start to the year and everything is going well. I feel we're at the top our game right now.

"How will we run on Saturday? Good, I hope."

Of the six truck series races held this season, four of them have been won by Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, with the other two going to Crafton.

With the Cup Series racing Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Busch will not be competing at Gateway.

Crafton and Ron Hornaday Jr. are just two of seven drivers who have experience at Gateway. The 56-year-old Hornaday won at Gateway in 2008 and has five top 10 finishes in eight starts at Madison.

"I have a lot of good memories,'' Hornaday said. "How will I do on Saturday. That's up to Matt (Crafton). He's going to need to have some bad luck, With all the top-threes and the top-fives he's doing, we're going to have to get some wins.''

The green flag will drop at 7:45 p.m. and is one of two races set for Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday. The USAC Silver Crown AMSoil 100 begins the day of racing at noon. It will be followed at 4 p.m. by NASCAR Truck Series qualifying.

Hornaday, with all of his experience at Gateway has been a popular source of knowledge this week for the younger drivers, many of whom will be making their track debut.

"It's kind of cool this week to see how many people have called me,'' Hornaday said. "They've watched some of the races and asked how the track drives and stuff like that. It was overwhelming to see how many drivers called to talk about this race.

"What am I telling them? It's like Phoenix, you know, the pace might slow down, but the good part about it is it's a night race, it's going to gain a lot more grip.''

Kennedy aiming high

Driving his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Silverado and looking to move up in the point standings will be Ben Kennedy, who will be one of those drivers competing at Gateway Motorsports Park for the first time.

Seventh in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with 199 points, Kennedy, like several of drivers, is looking forward to testing his skills on the 1.25-mile oval.

"This is an exciting one to be a part of. I know when Gateway was taken off the schedule a few years ago, it disappointed a lot of teams and drivers who really enjoyed coming here,'' Kennedy said. "I think it's great that the truck series branches out to places that Cup and Nationwide don't. It's great to have Gateway back.

"We were very strong at the end of the race at Martinsville and so hopefully we can get into the top 5 on Saturday night.''

Kennedy has one top five finish and three top 10s this season. He is the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader and also great-grandson of NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr.

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