Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Truck Series drivers talk about honors at Phoenix finale

PHOENIX (NWN) — Matt Crafton sat his 8-year-old daughter on his lap and said he had no trouble teaching him how to run with respect — the ins and outs of racing etiquette — as he began his karting career. does.

The 45-year-old Crafton’s parenting skills didn’t necessarily extend to a NASCAR Truck Series garage.

“I’m not going to be here and be their father and tell them what they’ve done right and wrong,” Crafton said.

With trucks championship berths at stake at Martinsville Speedway last week, tensions and anger flared up and honors were the hot topic out of the race.

Sheldon Creed lost a chance to defend his series championship and exchanged words with Crafton, accusing him of racing without respect in the closing laps. John Hunter Nemechek nearly lost a spot in the field when Austin Wayne Self kicked him out of the race. And yes, respect—or perceived lack thereof—was on the tip of Nemechek’s tongue.

Crafton believed cooler heads would prevail with the truck championship on the line Friday at Phoenix Raceway. Crafton, Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and Jane Smith in Championship Four. The first of the four contenders is the 2021 champion.

In a major battle for his racing career, Smith said there was enough room on the track for the contenders to find their place.

Smith said, “I always feel like the ones who complain about how fat we are are the ones who are the fattest.” “I mean, there are veterans in this game who like to draw a card of honor to them because they’re experienced. I don’t know, make room because there are newbies in here.”

Nemechek, the series leader with five wins, moved into the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler at the final lap in Martinsville and his 39th-place finish was good enough to field him.

“It was a helpless fee to not be able to do anything about your situation,” he said.

Unlike Crafton, Nemechek was concerned that undisciplined driving could affect the outcome.

“You don’t know how others are going to race,” he said on Thursday. “Whether it’s the playoff guys or the non-playoff guys. This goes back to what everyone has been preaching for some time now. It’s an honor more than anything. I was that young man coming in at the time who knew no better than to go out there and run as hard as everyone else. I hope that when we run tomorrow.”

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Nemechek took an unconventional road to truck chain controversy. Nemechek had just three top-10 finishes in the Cup last year and was out on his ride at the end of the season. Instead of joining a team capable of winning the race, he got down to drive Kyle Busch’s truck to prove he was competitive. Nemechek made the most of his moves and was the points leader for most of the season.

Like Nemecheck a year ago, 22-year-old Smith’s future is bleak.

Smith tries to focus on winning the championship he didn’t get last season, when he was runner-up in Phoenix. His GMS Racing team is headed to the Cup Series next year. Smith said he asked his representatives not to discuss any possible rides for the next season until after Sunday.

“Victories and championships do that,” he said. “This is my life. I have no family. I have nothing to fall back on. You make it or you don’t or you fail.”

Smith only needs to look at last week’s race in Martinsville as an example of turning it into an opportunity. He was last in the eight-driver field in Martinsville and had to win to earn a spot in Friday’s winner-take-all finale.

Smith crossed the line for the win when he reached the end with a checkered flag from a three-ride scramble.

By the numbers of Phoenix, the championship is really ready to hold.

Nemechek has two second-place finishes in seven career starts, Rhodes has never been better than fourth in six starts, Crafton has a runner-up in 20 starts and Smith was second in the race for the 2020 championship.

Only one will hoist the trophy on his head.

Others, well, they will find the defeat something to lament about.

“We’re all whiners,” Smith said.


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