Here’s how the 2019 season-ending NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 race played out, as well as how the final season standings wound up:
Matt Crafton proved Friday that second is not the first loser, finishing higher than the other three Championship 4 contestants to capture his third career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.
Meanwhile, Austin Hill ended the 2019 Truck Series season the way he began it: with a win, beating Crafton to the finish line. Hill started the season with a win at Daytona.
But Hill certainly made his mark in the latter half of the season. Even though he fell short of the Championship 4, he still earned three wins in the last eight races and four wins overall.
Matt Crafton may not have won a race this season – in fact, he hasn’t won since Eldora in mid-2017 – but he won the biggest prize of all Friday night, capturing the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Driving the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford, Crafton finished second to race winner Austin Hill (led a race-high 56 laps), but placed higher than the other Championship 4 drivers – Ross Chastain (finished fourth in the race, second in the season standings), 2018 champ Brett Moffitt (fifth in the race and third in the season standings) and Stewart Friesen (11th in the race and fourth in the season standings) – to take home his third career Truck championship.
Wrapping up his 19th full-time season in the Truck Series, Crafton’s previous titles were in 2013 and 2014. He finishes the season with zero wins, seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes.
“It’s amazing, just one step closer to what Hornaday has done,” Crafton told FS1, alluding to NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr.’s record four Truck championships. Hornaday joined Crafton to celebrate in victory lane. Crafton is now tied for second on the all-time Truck Series championships list with Jack Sprague (three titles apiece).
“They called us the underdog, that I didn’t have it, but we fought harder than everyone, I guarantee you, every one of these guys worked harder,” Crafton said to FS1. “This thing ran flawless all night, the motor was very good as well. Everything just went our way.”
Crafton even poked a bit of fun at himself, having endured criticism and questions of his ability for not having won in over two years, and also having issues on restarts that led to some calling him “the old man” (at 43, Crafton was the oldest of the four Championship 4 drivers: Friesen is 36, Moffitt is 27 and Chastain is the youngest at 26).
“I guess I finally got up off the wheelchair and got up on the wheel and got it done,” Crafton told FS1 with a laugh. “I took a lot of criticism over restarts and it was time to get it done now.”
Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill led the last 2 laps to win the stage after Ross Chastain led first 28 laps
Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill wins stage again. Only one driver has won the first two stages and then gone on to win the Truck race this season: Kyle Busch.
Who else had a good race: Austin Hill continued his late-season surge. Friday’s win was his third in the last eight races and fourth of the season. He bookends the season, having won the season opener at Daytona and the season finale a few hundred miles south in Homestead. “That’s probably the best truck I’ve had,” Hill told FS1. “We just showed how good we actually were. … Awesome way to end the season.”
Who had a bad race:Anthony Alfredo’s season ended before the race even began. Upon starting the engine, he developed a large fluid leak, leaving his team to push him back to the garage, his night over. … Ray Ciccarelli’s day ended after 46 laps when the motor in his truck blew up.
Notable: Making only his third career Truck Series start, Tanner Gray was running in the top 10 before finishing 16th. The 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champ’s previous best finish was 17th last week at Phoenix. … Christian Eckes drove the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to clinch the owner’s championship.
What’s next: The 2020 season kicks off three months from now at Daytona International Speedway with the NextEra Energy 250 on February 14, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Truck teams are limited to six sets of tires for today. The track wears tires, bringing speeds down. Teams save their tires for qualifying and the race.
Truck qualifying is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. ET today. The race is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET today.
Grant Enfinger posted the fastest lap in the first of two practice sessions Friday for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Enfinger paced the field with a lap of 168.010 mph. Next was reigning series champ Brett Moffitt, one of the four championship contenders in tonight’s race, with a lap of 167.639 mph. Austin Hill was third with a lap of 167.162 mph.
Championship contender Ross Chastain ranked fourth (167.141 mph). Moffitt and Chastain were the only title contenders in the top 10. Matt Crafton, seeking his third series crown, was 11th on the speed chart at 165.042 mph. Title contender Stewart Friesen was 13th on the speed chart at 164.404 mph.
Stewart Friesen held off a late challenge by Brandon Jones to not only win Friday night’s NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at ISM Raceway, but also to lock himself into next week’s championship race at Miami.
For Friesen, the win was a vindication of sorts. He was penalized by NASCAR for jumping the start at the beginning of the race, being sent to the back of the field as a result.
But the Canadian driver was a man on a mission and was not to be denied, earning his second career Truck Series win (the other win was earlier this year at Eldora).
“What a race car,” Friesen told FS1. “We were able to pass them all clean. … It’s awesome (to be in the championship round). It’s what we’ve been geared up for all year long. We just didn’t get a lot of breaks. We lost races about every which way you could lose them and thought it was another one tonight.
“This one’s for everybody. We can all celebrate this one together tomorrow and then it’s game on (at Miami). We’ve got a bad-ass piece for next week, too.”
Stage 1 winner: Ben Rhodes (third stage win of season)
Stage 2 winner: Brandon Jones (fourth stage win of season)
Who else had a good race: Crafton began the race below the playoff cutline, but stuck to the gameplan and now he’s Miami-bound. “We did exactly what we had to do,” Crafton told FS1. “We had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We fought really hard each and every stage. We didn’t want to stage race, but we had to and at the end of the day, that’s what got us in (to the championship race).”
Who had a bad race: After starting from the pole, Austin Hill finished an unlucky 13th, low enough to knock him below the playoff cutline and to see Crafton move past him for the final championship race spot. “We just didn’t perform tonight and didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Hill told FS1. “We just weren’t good enough when it mattered.”
Notable: After mechanical issues forced him to miss qualifying and to start the race at the back of the field, Harrison Burton came back strongly to finish seventh. … Chastain is a Florida native and is looking forward to going to his home track to race for the championship, telling FS1: “I am excited. This is incredible. … We’re going to Homestead. It’s an absolute dream come true.
What’s next: The 2019 Truck Series season all comes down to one race next Friday: the season finale and the championship-deciding race at Miami.
Austin Hill bumped Stewart Friesen late in qualifying to take the pole for tonight’s Lucas Oil 150 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at ISM Raceway in suburban Phoenix.
Hill took the pole with a speed of 133.230 mph. Friesen will start alongside Hill on the front row with a qualifying run of 133.126 mph.
“I tried to hit my marks as best as I could,” Hill told FS1. “I didn’t think it was a great lap. … That’s the best it finished all day. Now we’re starting on the pole. Now we just have to go and finish this thing off.”
Hill and Friesen were the only drivers to exceed 133 mph in the session.
One incident of note occurred to the No 18 Toyota Tundra of Harrison Burton. He was unable to get his truck started to make a qualifying attempt and, as a result, will start tonight’s race from the back of the field.
Tonight’s race will take the green flag shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on FS1.