Matt Crafton earns 9th career NASCAR Truck Series win
SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Matt Crafton earned his ninth career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Thursday at Kentucky Speedway in a race stopped early because of a wreck that damaged the catch fence.
NASCAR called the race with five laps to go after Ben Kennedy’s truck clipped and bent portions of the catch fence in Turn 1. Kennedy’s truck lifted off the ground and slid on top of the SAFER barrier after making contact with the trucks of David Gilliland and John Wes Townley.
Kennedy is the 23-year-old son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy and great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center shortly after the accident. No fans were injured, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said.
“I was coming down the front straightaway and I heard ‘clear’ (on the radio),” Kennedy said. “I guess (Gilliland) had a run on the outside. As soon as I heard clear I wanted to get a good arc into the corner so I started heading up toward the wall, got hit in the right rear and I guess the rest is really history.
“I ended up on top of the wall for a while. You don’t really know what to expect being up there. Going down from the wall to the ground was a pretty hard hit as well.”
The car damaged two support poles that will need to be replaced, and Tharp said the repairs would take at least 90 minutes. Kentucky Speedway is scheduled to host an XFINITY Series race Friday and the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday.
“The fence performed exactly the way it’s designed to perform,” Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said. “We’ve got experts on standby who are over there repairing it as we speak. It should be good as new in a matter of hours.”
Thursday’s incident occurred three days after Austin Dillon’s car went airborne and smashed into the catch fence at the end of the Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. Five fans were injured in that incident. Dillon walked away from the crash.
“It’s a perfect storm,” Crafton said. “I have no idea what happened there. I definitely think NASCAR made the right call in calling it. There were two or three poles taken out, and for the safety of the fans and everybody, if something did happen it could be even worse. They made the right call there. We’re going fast. Stuff does happen. It was really good to see that Ben got out and walked away under his own power.”
Crafton, the two-time defending series champion, had passed Erik Jones for the lead on a restart with six laps to go. Jones finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters.
Intermittent rain showers earlier in the day canceled practice and qualifying, and the starting lineup was set according to owner points entering the race. That handed the pole position to Crafton.
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