Matt Crafton checked off everything he needed to win a third Camping World Truck series title.
But after earning the pole, leading the most laps and winning the Ford EcoBoost 200, it wasn’t enough.
Crafton celebrated in victory lane as Erik Jones did so on a stage on the frontstretch, taking in the excitement of winning his first NASCAR title. But the two-time champion who won six races in 2015 wasn’t phased by being usurped by a driver half his age.
“Just six wins and as many laps as we led it’s been awesome,” Crafton told Fox Sports 1. “It’s been, like I said, a dream season. We just had too many mistakes. I made mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes and we’re all human.
“But in 2016, we’re going to be stronger from it.”
He comes up empty-handed in a season with six wins after winning three times in his two title season.
“We had a phenomenal season … we just had one column that was bad for us and that was DNF,” Crafton said. “The last five races, six races I knew I was going to have to be that much more aggressive.”
So Crafton “took the gloves off” and led the most laps in four of the last six races. But what he called “stupid stuff,” including running out of fuel at Las Vegas and crashing at Talladega and Phoenix, limited the No. 88 to just two wins over the final stretch.
But there was no stupid stuff Friday night. Instead, he was near perfect but that wasn’t enough.
HOW MATT CRAFTON WON: Crafton started from the pole and led a race-high 93 laps, including the final 46.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: John Hunter Nemechek started and finished second, leading 24 laps on the way to his eighth top five of 2015 … Rico Abreu finished 13th on the lead lap in only his second Truck start after rolling off the grid 14th … Ben Kennedy finished fourth for his sixth top-five finish of his career.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: The first caution of the night waved on Lap 5 for Brandon Brown, whose No. 86 truck stalled on the apron of Turn 2 with a transmission issue … Brandon Jones quickly fell off the lead pace after contact with Mason Mingus sent Jones into the wall. After time on pit road for repairs, Jones returned but crashed again on Lap 74 crashed and went to the garage, finishing 31st… Daniel Suarez had led 10 laps when he spun in Turn 4 on Lap 60. Suarez stayed on the lead lap but brought out another caution on Lap 84 after hitting the wall in Turn 2, leading to a finish in 40th.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “He didn’t want to be there for two part-time seasons, but he was and, I think, he learned a tremendous amount in those seasons. To go full-time this year, we knew he was ready to tackle the championship.” Team owner Kyle Busch said after Erik Jones won the first driver’s championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series.