April 27, 2018, St. Louis Region – A speedway is made up of asphalt, steel, concrete and grass. An inanimate object, it cannot incur debt. Yet there are some that swear Gateway Motorsports Park owes a king-sized parking space in victory lane to Matt Crafton.
In the 2014 edition of the Gateway 200 presented by CK Power, the two-time NASCAR Camping World Series champion led 11 laps but blew a right-front tire while leading, crashed and finished 26th.
In 2015 and 2016, Crafton’s No. 88 Menards truck was dominant but cursed. Crafton led 49 of 160 laps in 2015 but was bumped by another driver on a late-race restart and was forced to pit to repair damage 21st. In 2016, Crafton again was victimized by a late-race restart. This time two trucks crashed in front of him while the field was racing three-wide and Matt was collected in the melee.
Despite three consecutive years of bad luck at the egg-shaped St. Louis-area oval, Crafton likes Gateway Motorsports Park.
“I love going to Gateway,” said Crafton. “Gateway reminds me of the old Phoenix — the corners are very different. The corners of 1 and 2 are definitely a little tighter than the old Phoenix, but it has banking, and it’s a tighter corner. Turns 3 and 4 are a lot flatter, and you never can have a truck that’s going to handle perfectly at both ends, so it’s one of those deals where you have to figure out which end you want to be the best at.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had our fair share of bad luck at Gateway – it’s been my ‘Achilles heel.’ We had a solid run here last year and finished fourth, so hopefully we can learn a few things during this test that will finally allow us to have that competitive edge.”
Crafton’s team was one of three testing on the new pavement at Gateway on April 10 and 11. He liked the smooth new asphalt. (The track was paved last year after the Truck race so it will be new to all NASCAR competitors.)
“Very smooth – they did a great job in repaving the track.”
With four races in the 2018 record books, Crafton is tied with Stewart Friesen for sixth place in the points chase, just 59 behind leader Johnny Sauter.
Hopefully Crafton and his Ford team – based a stone’s throw from the Lake Erie shore in Sandusky, Ohio — will enjoy smooth sailing on June 23 in the Gateway 200 presented by CK Power.
Tickets for the June 22-23 NASCAR Weekend now are on sale at http://www.gatewaymsp.com/tickets/ or at the GMP ticket office. The weekend begins with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards PapaNicholas Coffee 150 on Friday, followed by the Gateway 200 presented by CK Power for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. For more information, please call (618) 215-8888. Follow GMP on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
About Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park is the home of INDYCAR, NASCAR and NHRA racing in the St. Louis region. Located just five minutes from downtown St. Louis and covering more than 340 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the area. Gateway Motorsports Park’s facilities include a 1/4-mile drag strip, 1.25-mile superspeedway, 1.6-mile road course, a state-of-the-art karting facility and a 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. Gateway Motorsports Park was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Facility of the Year Award from the Race Track Business Conference and the 2017 Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis Attractions Association.