Matt Crafton pulls away, wins Truck Series race at Atlanta

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Back-to-back defending Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton chalked up a convincing victory tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading a race-high 85 laps to win the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200.

Crafton quickly moved from 15th on the grid and took the lead from Erik Jones at Lap 45 of 130. From there on, the ThorSport Racing driver dominated to claim his sixth career Truck Series triumph, his fourth on a 1.5-mile oval (Charlotte 2008, Kansas 2013, Texas-1 2014), and his first Atlanta win in his 14th start there.

“I was really, really disappointed in qualifying, but we didn’t have a whole lot of single lap speed by itself,” Crafton told Fox Sports 1 in Victory Lane. “But I knew once they dropped the green and this thing took off – I ran three laps and said, ‘We’ve got something for these boys, they’re in trouble today.'”

Ty Dillon followed up his third-place Xfinity Series effort earlier on Saturday with a second-place finish in the Truck race. Pole sitter Ben Kennedy only led the first lap, but turned in a solid third-place finish to bounce back from a crash in last weekend’s season opener at Daytona.

Daniel Suarez collected a second consecutive Top-10 finish in the Trucks with a run to fourth place, while Tyler Reddick came home fifth to retain his Truck Series championship lead by two points over Crafton.

Erik Jones led 37 laps tonight, but slid through his pit stall not once but twice during stops and finished an unrepresentative seventh. Also having a rough night was Sprint Cup star Brad Keselowski, who finished one lap down in 15th. Keselowski was penalized in the pits early on (driving through too many stalls) and was two laps down at one point in the race.

The Trucks now take a one-month break before returning to action on March 28 at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta
Unofficial Results

1. Matt Crafton … 130 laps … Running
2. Ty Dillon … 130 laps … Running
3. Ben Kennedy … 130 laps … Running
4. Daniel Suarez … 130 laps … Running
5. Tyler Reddick … 130 laps … Running
6. Johnny Sauter … 130 laps … Running
7. Erik Jones … 130 laps … Running
8. James Buescher … 129 laps … Running
9. Timothy Peters … 129 laps … Running
10. Joe Nemechek … 129 laps … Running
11. Ryan Sieg … 129 laps … Running
12. John Wes Townley … 129 laps … Running
13. Spencer Gallagher … 129 laps … Running
14. Cameron Hayley … 129 laps … Running
15. Brad Keselowski … 129 laps … Running
16. Justin Boston … 129 laps … Running
17. Caleb Holman … 127 laps … Running
18. Garrett Smithley … 126 laps … Running
19. Daniel Hemric … 126 laps … Running
20. Korbin Forrister … 125 laps … Running
21. Bryan Silas … 123 laps … Running
22. Tyler Young … 123 laps … Running
23. Jordan Anderson … 123 laps … Running
24. Wendell Chavous … 120 laps … Running
25. Ray Black Jr. … 119 laps … Running
26. Jennifer Jo Cobb … 118 laps … Running
27. Morgan Shepherd … 118 laps … Running
28. Mason Mingus … 110 laps … Accident
29. Brandon Brown … 91 laps … Oil Line
30. Cody Ware … 48 laps … Accident
31. Norm Benning … 12 laps … Rear Gear

Time of race: One hour, 25 minutes, 22 seconds
Margin of victory: 8.752 seconds
Average speed: 140.711 mph
Cautions: Three for 13 laps
Lead Changes: Six among 5 drivers
Laps Led: Crafton 85, Jones 37, Keselowski 6, Kennedy 1, Suarez 1.

Winners and losers from Las Vegas

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”