PC- Craig Mobley
PETERSEN MEDIA- Taking part in one of the biggest 10-day stretches of racing in the world, Willie Croft has concluded his trip to the Midwest after taking part in the 360 Nationals, the Ultimate Challenge, and the 58th Annual Knoxville Nationals and now readies for the World of Outlaws Fall Midwest swing.
“It is always great to get out to the biggest race in the world and compete,” Willie Croft said. “I am very fortunate to have the team and family behind me to make it possible, and have to thank everyone for their hard work.”
Croft’s Knoxville adventure kicked off with a hard fought battle in his heat race to earn the fourth and final transfer spot to the feature event, but a post race miscue would force the Roseville, CA driver into the night’s ‘B’ Main.
Unable to transfer out of the semi after starting deep on the starting grid, Croft would find himself in the fifth row of the Saturday night ‘D’, where he would finish and now turn his attention to the 410ci Knoxville Nationals.
Sunday night’s Weld Racing Capitani Classic got off to a nice start for Croft as he timed the Holey Smokes BBQ/ButlerBuilt/Brown and Miller entry in 11th fastest in his time trial group before finishing fourth in his heat race.
The unique format on this night would only take the top-three finishers to the feature event so Croft would find himself in the second of his ‘B’ Main event. Battling with the likes of Jeff Swindell, Joey Saldana and Jamie Veal, Croft’s night would come to a close with a sixth place finish in the semi.
Taking Monday night off, the Willie Croft Racing team returned to action at the Southern Iowa Raceway in Oskaloosa, IA for the Ultimate Challenge. Lining up on the pole of his heat race, Croft would show the field the quick way around the ½ mile speedway and race his way to the win and put himself in the redraw.
With Lady Luck on his side on this night, the 2018 Bradway Memorial winner would pull the one pill and find himself on the front row to start the feature event.
When the race came to life, Croft was hard on the throttle as he would jump out to the early lead with fellow Californian, Carson Macedo, hot on his trail.
Falling back to second on the fourth lap, Croft would continue to stay in the hunt as he chased after Macedo and battled with a charging John Carney. Staying inside the top-three all night long, Croft would cap his best finish of the trip on this night as he took the checkered flag in third.
Wednesday night would be Croft’s chance to take the track for his qualifying night at the Knoxville Nationals and with 45 cars on hand Croft would time his mount in 30th fastest in time trials, which would line him up in the second row of his heat race.
Croft’s heat race action would be one of the most entertaining heats of the night as he would find himself in a torrid battle with Kyle Larson and James McFadden for the third, fourth, and fifth, with only the top-four moving into the preliminary night feature event.
Able to fend off Australian standout, James McFadden, Croft would hang on to finish fourth and make his way into the 25-lap feature event.
Taking the green flag from the 13th starting position, Croft would slip back in the early goings as he would fall as far back as 15th during the opening night ‘A’. Using a late restart, Croft would make a valiant effort for Nationals points as he surged forward to finish 12th in the race, as he would then play the waiting game to see if it was good enough to forego Friday night’s program.
Needing to be in the Top-26 to be locked in, Croft would be just short as he sat 35th and would ready himself for Friday night’s Hard Knox program.
Timing in 16th fastest in qualifications, Croft would go from sixth to fifth in his heat race. Lining up seventh in the semi, Croft would lose a few spots in the opening laps but would settle in and make his way back forward as he would end his night by finishing seventh which then placed him in the eighth row of Saturday night’s C Main.
From the 16th starting position, Croft looked very strong, as he was able to work his way forward in the 15th lap affair. Giving it a valiant effort, Croft’s bid for the ‘B’ would come up short as he would take Doug Clark’s checkered flag in eighth for the final time in 2018.
“It is definitely a place I wish we had the opportunity to race at a little more before the Nationals because I feel like we got better each night,’ Croft said. “I am thankful we got to come out and do it, and hopefully we can get back home and run well when the Outlaws come visit us. Again, huge thanks to all my guys, and everyone who makes this all possible for us.”
Willie Croft Racing would like to thank Holey Smokes BBQ, ButlerBuilt , Brown and Miller, FK Rod Ends, Factory Kahne, Schoenfeld, Simpson Race Products, Smith Precision Products, Kaeding Performance, AL Drivelines, XYZ, Vortex Wings, Amerikote, DoTerra and GUTS for their support in 2018.
2018 BY THE NUMBERS: Races-41, Wins-4, Top 5’s-14, Top 10’s-18.
ON TAP: Willie Croft will take a couple weeks off before heading to Alger, WA to take on the World of Outlaws at Skagit Speedway August 31st, and September 1st.
STAY CONNECTED: Stay connected with Willie Croft Racing by visiting www.williecroftracing.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @WillieCroft29.
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