“If you get somebody that’s pushing you or you’re pushing somebody that has a truck and he makes it through some holes, you can win the race,” Crafton said. “A perfect example is my teammate Johnny (Sauter) at Daytona. He qualified worse than me, and he ended up winning the race. So, it isn’t having the fast truck; you’ve just got to be lucky. At the end of the day, just be lucky. Each and every week, I’d rather be lucky than good — that’s what Davey Allison always used to tell me. That’s one thing I learned from him for sure, especially here. I’d rather be really lucky than good.”
In 2011, Crafton was involved in a wreck at Talladega, which left him with a 31st place finish, his second-worst finish of the year. His best finish at Talladega was in 2010, when he finished in fourth place.
“It’s pretty much a love-hate relationship,” Crafton said of his feelings regarding racing at Talladega. “Either we really sucked or we crashed or we ran good — pretty much what everybody always does at Talladega. I was saying ‘You might as well go buy a lottery ticket,’ on the way to the race track because you don’t know what you’re going to get when you get there. You think you’re a cat with a bird in its teeth, that you’re perfect. I remember being told in 2009 I was leading the race, took the lead in the race going into three coming to the checker and finished 10th, so you have no idea what you’re going to get until you pass the checkered flag. It’s crazy racing, without a doubt.”
Going into this week’s race, Crafton acknowledged he wants to pick up a win, but that the overriding, big-picture goal is to maintain his lead in the points standings.
“My goal for the week is definitely to go win the race, but I would definitely be happy to get out of there with a top five and just keep what we have for points,” Crafton said. “At the end of the day, this race has a lot of craziness go on at the end of the race that if I can roll out of here with a top five finish, I’d be happy. A top 10 finish, I’d be satisfied, but anything else, I’m definitely not going to be satisfied.”
Crafton has only finished outside the top 10 once this season. At Las Vegas, he had a chance to win the race, but wound up in 11th place.
“Las Vegas, that was a heartbreaker,” Crafton said. “If you look at it, we led the most laps in that race out of anybody and we finished 11th. There at the end of the race when we took off with 20-something to go and we were driving away and it was kind of lights out. I guess don’t count your chickens before they hatch. That was where we thought we had it won and the truck just went absolutely dead-sideways loose. Still to this day, we haven’t put an answer to why it did what it did, but it did.”
It took a little bit of luck for Crafton to break into the Truck Series, but since catching a break, he has managed to finish in the top 15 in points every year since his first full season in 2001.
“I remember when the Truck Series started in 1995 and I always thought that would be a cool series to race in, that it was such great racing back then,” Crafton said. “I finally got my opportunity at the end of 2000 to drive in the Truck Series. Duke and Rhonda Thorson, they got a hold of me and signed me up for 2001. The driver they had then wanted to leave the race early and wanted to go drive for the team he was going to drive for, so we made it all happen. I raced the last race of the season and from there, it’s all history.”
Crafton’s consistency in 2013 has just been a microcosm of the consistency he has demonstrated for the entirety of his career. Crafton broke Terry Cook’s record of 296 consecutive starts in the Truck Series after starting the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Rockingham Speedway. Crafton has 311 consecutive starts in the series heading into the Fred’s 250 at Talladega.
“It’s very, very cool to be able to have that record, to have the opportunity, that Duke and Rhonda Thorson and Menard’s to stick with me for all the years that they have that I’ve been in the Truck Series,” Crafton said. “I think we’ve had more than just an average year; I think we’ve had a really good year. So, we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’re doing.”