Thursday, September 21, 2023

Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton Eliminated From NASCAR Truck Playoff Contention at Kansas

Matt DiBenedetto eliminated from playoffs Matt Crafton eliminated from playoffs Kansas Speedway Kansas Lottery 200 2023
Friday’s Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway marked the end of the line for Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton. Both drivers were eliminated from Playoff contention. Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

The end of the journey for the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship officially came for Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton at the conclusion of Friday night’s Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway.

DiBenedetto gave it his all, and in the closing laps of the race, the driver of the No. 25 Rackley WAR Chevrolet Silverado found himself in a possible position to score a win, which would have advanced him to the Playoffs Round of 8. However, the charge from seventh would stall out with a third-place finish for DiBenedetto.

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Despite the good run, DiBenedetto ended up just five points below Ben Rhodes, who held the final transfer spot in the Playoff standings. While it was a sad end to a solid campaign, DiBenedetto doesn’t feel there was any more that he and his team could have done to advance to the next round.

“No, I don’t think so,” DiBenedetto explained. “Honestly, this team fought so hard. Worked their tail off to give me a good-looking truck, and a good-handling truck all night long. We made the most of it for sure. This was a really cool and special truck. I hate that we missed it, man.”

While DiBenedetto and the No. 25 team gave it their best effort on Friday night, the group came into Friday’s race with a nearly insurmountable 20-point deficit to the Playoff cutline, and it was all thanks to disaster at The Milwaukee Mile a few weeks ago. DiBenedetto knows without the trouble in Milwaukee that he and his team would still be battling for a championship.

“It stinks we had an issue at Milwaukee, and it took us out of it. We could be in the next round,” DiBendetto stated with anguish in his voice. “This team, they deserve to keep hold their heads high, that’s for sure.”

While DiBenedetto went out swinging, Crafton, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, wasn’t as fortunate.

Crafton and the No. 88 ThorSport Racing team entered Kansas inside the Playoff cutline, but disaster struck on the second lap of practice as Crafton caught a piece of debris on the track, which cut his tire.

The No. 88 truck would spend the remainder of practice under repair, and he would start from the rear of the field as he would not have a chance to take a lap in qualifying.

In the race, Crafton was making headway through the field but would inevitably get into the wall a few times, which would ruin any hope of a good finish. In the end, Crafton would finish 33rd, nine laps off the pace, and he’d miss advancing to the next round by 10 points.

Crafton, 47, doesn’t blame himself or his team for the failure to advance, instead, he blamed the track cleanup crew in practice.

“My team did a great job. It all comes down to lap 2 in practice, when the [No.] 9 truck wrecked, and they did a pathetic job of cleaning it up,” Crafton pointed sharply. “We ran through the debris when we went back out there. They were in a rush in practice, but it is what it is. It’s the cards we were dealt, and it folded really crappy for us.”

The veteran racer says he was encouraged by the raw speed that his No. 88 Ford F-150 showcased, but they were just too far off after playing catch up from the practice issue.

“…at the end of the day, we had some speed,” Crafton explained. “We missed travels a little bit and got on the splitter. We weren’t terrible. Just kept putting stopper in the left front, and finally got it off.”

Once the team finally got the truck up off the ground, the truck snapped out from under Crafton.

“When it jumped sideways off of Turn 2, it hadn’t done that all night and it just caught me off guard,” Crafton admitted. “But I have to thank these guys. They worked their butt off today. From wrecking that truck in practice, and wrecking in the race, and wrecking in the race. It wasn’t meant to be. We’ll go on and do it again next year.”

While Crafton vows to avenge this exit from the Playoffs next season with his No. 88 ThorSport Racing team, DiBenedetto is currently in limbo, as he has announced his departure from Rackley WAR, but is still without a ride for the 2024 NASCAR season.

DiBenedetto has expressed that he is interested in all options between the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Craftsman Truck Series.

While DiBenedetto and Crafton were the two drivers eliminated on Friday night, eight drivers are still battling for the championship. Those drivers are Corey Heim, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger, Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, Ben Rhodes, and Nick Sanchez.

Here is how the Playoff Grid looks heading into the Round of 8:

  1. Corey Heim, 3,030 points (+8 points)
  2. Christian Eckes, -6 points (+2 points)
  3. Grant Enfinger, -6 points (+2 points)
  4. Carson Hocevar, -8 points (+0 points)
  5. Zane Smith, -8 points (-0 points)
  6. Ty Majeski, -14 points (-6 points)
  7. Ben Rhodes, -17 points (-9 points)
  8. Nick Sanchez, -24 points (-16 points)
Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is an award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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