NASCAR: Matt Crafton, Cole Custer top Truck Practice 2 and 3 at Loudon

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After Erik Jones bumped him off the top of the time sheets in the first Camping World Truck Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, defending series champion Matt Crafton (pictured) went to P1 late in the second practice and stayed there.

Crafton was fastest in Practice 2 with a lap of 132.347 mph in his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra – beating the best from Cameron Hayley (131.433 mph), Gray Gaulding (131.180 mph), Joey Coulter (131.044 mph), and Timothy Peters (130.815). Jones was ninth-fastest (130.385 mph).

With Saturday’s UNOH 175 on the horizon, Crafton leads ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter by a slim margin of five points in this year’s standings. Crafton has never won at New Hampshire, but said this week he was looking forward to taking it on again.

“It’s been two years since the Trucks have raced there, but I’ve had some good runs there in the past; we even got our first pole there in 2005,” Crafton said. “To me the biggest challenge at Loudon is the track itself. It’s tough to run side-by-side because there is really only one preferred groove.

“The challenge is to stay patient and not get caught up in a wreck trying to make something happen.”

Final Truck Series practice took place a mere half-hour after Practice 2 ended, and it was led by 16-year-old Cole Custer and his lap of 133.226 mph.

Following him was Ryan Blaney (-16 points behind Crafton in the championship) in second at 133.007 mph, with Jones in third (132.924 mph), Darrell Wallace Jr. in fourth, and Tyler Reddick in fifth. Crafton was ninth in the final session.

Qualifying takes place tomorrow morning at shortly after 10 a.m. ET, with the aforementioned UNOH 175 going down later in the afternoon around 1 p.m. ET.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).