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CONCORD–A career-best second-place finish left Chad McCumbee with mixed emotions.
“I was obviously extremely excited about second place but kind of bittersweet because it was that close to a first win,” McCumbee said after finishing behind Matt Crafton in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Friday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
For McCumbee, the finish in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 was his fourth top-10 finish this season. His previous best finish was a fifth in March at Atlanta.
“Got to thank the good Lord above,” he said. “We were moving through a lot of traffic there, bouncing off walls and all kinds of stuff. Still, to come home second, like I said, that’s just more momentum for these guys at MRD.”
McCumbee improved to sixth in points and is 66 points behind leader Ron Hornaday. McCumbee, a Brunswick County native, has won $109,825 in six races this season.
“That was a hard-fought second place, I can tell you that much,” McCumbee said.
It took Crafton 178 starts to get his first truck series victory. This was his third top-five finish. He is fourth in points, 45 behind
The race’s final caution sent it to overtime for a green-white-checkered finish on lap 137. Crafton held off the hard-charging McCumbee for the victory.
“I am just still so numb at this point,” Crafton said, “that it’s like, ‘Is it real?’
“It’s been such a long time since I have been able to do one of those burnouts. You can’t even imagine how long I have been waiting to do one of those burnouts again. I finally got to do it and put these guys in victory lane.”
The last lap was a thrilling duel between Crafton and McCumbee.
“I looked out that front windshield and drove my tail off,” Crafton said. “And I knew I wasn’t going to lift (off the gas pedal), I can promise you that. That green/white/checkered, when (the race) went green, (the pedal) never came off the floor. Going into two, it was going to be checkers or wreckers, and we finally got it.”
McCumbee made Crafton work hard for the victory.
“We didn’t quite get up to speed like we wanted to on the start but was right back on his bumper going through one and two,” McCumbee said. “He blocked me a little bit getting into three, so I tried the high side.
“I tried to set him up, and I had him set up there in one and two. We bounced off the wall there just racing real hard and knocked the tow in a little bit. That made me just a little bit too tight. I couldn’t get him. If we didn’t do that, I think I could have got him.”
McCumbee said he wasn’t going to be reckless in pursuit of his first victory.
“I had the run on the white flag in one and two, and I backed it up and had to run down the back,” he said. “He jumped to the inside and I wasn’t going to get into him.
“He’s a super-clean racer and he’s always raced me real clean. We were both going for our first wins and he’s had a lot more starts than I have, so I can’t be happier for those guys.”
For Crafton, there was relief and joy.
“I was honestly beginning to wonder if it was going to come,” he said about the victory. “It’s just been a thorn in my side, and I promise you there has not been a day that’s gone by over the past five or six years that I haven’t woken up and thought, ‘Man, am I going to get one of these wins, or am I just going to go on and not get one and am going to be known for finishing second, finishing third and always being the bridesmaid?’ But finally we got it.”
And he put an end to the doubters.
“Finally we can shut them up. Now they can say, ‘When’s the second one coming?’ ”
Perhaps that will be Saturday. The next race is 1 p.m. Saturday in the Ohio 250 in Mansfield, Ohio.
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.