POINTS: First (third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship in last seven seasons)
WINS: Zero (has not won since Eldora in 2017)
LAPS LED: 44
TOP 5s: 7
TOP 10s: 18
POLES: Three (Kansas, Charlotte, Talladega)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: While so much attention was focused on drivers like Ross Chastain, Austin Hill, Brett Moffitt, Stewart Friesen and Johnny Sauter, Crafton went about his season with diligence and determination. Even though he still hasn’t won a race in nearly 2 ½ years, he did what he needed to do to finish second in the season finale at Miami and earn just enough points to capture his third Trucks title in seven years. … Had the best single-season starting average of his Truck career (7.3).
WHAT WENT WRONG: Crafton proved you don’t always need to win races to win championships (it certainly helps, though). But the fact he hasn’t won in his last 58 starts is disconcerting. Still, he had an overall solid year, even if he didn’t get much attention until the final race of the season.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2020: Now that he’s tied Jack Sprague for second on the all-time Trucks championship list (three titles apiece), look for Crafton – who will turn 44 next June 11 – to try and pick things up a few more notches to challenge and try to catch the all-time Trucks leader, Ron Hornaday Jr., and his four championships.
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.
Rain continues to be a stubborn thorn in the side of NASCAR at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The final scheduled NASCAR Cup practice session has been cancelled due to rain. That makes four sessions cancelled thus far today: the two Cup practices, the final Xfinity practice and qualifying for tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 championship race.
Cup teams will get nearly one hour of practice Saturday from 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. ET to make up for losing both practices Friday. As a result, there will be no qualifying session for Cup drivers. The starting lineup for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Cup championship will be set by the NASCAR Rule Book with the four Championship 4 drivers to start at the front of the field.
The Truck Race is still on track to run, with driver introductions scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET, and the race itself is slated to begin shortly after 8 p.m. ET.
Track drying efforts continue at the 1.5-mile oval.
We’ll update you as more information becomes available.
Rain punctuated with thunder and lightning has forced NASCAR to cancel three of today’s segments at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
* The NASCAR Cup opening practice, which was scheduled to go from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. ET.
* The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series qualifying, which was slated to start at 4:35 p.m. ET.
* The NASCAR Xfinity Series final practice, which was scheduled for 5:35 – 6:25 p.m. ET.
As of 5:15 p.m. ET, the final NASCAR Cup practice session was still slated to run from 6:30 – 7:20 p.m., while the Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck Series championship race is slated to take the green flag shortly after 8 p.m. ET.
Because qualifying was rained out, the Truck Series starting lineup will be determined by owner points. The four Championship 4 drivers will start this way: Stewart Friesen on the pole, Ross Chastain third, defending series champion Brett Moffitt fourth and Matt Crafton will start ninth, according to NASCAR.
According to wunderground.com, the forecast for tonight calls for a temperature of 72 degrees and a 41% chance of rain to continue at the time the Truck race is set to start.
We’ll keep you updated on the conditions as more information becomes available. Please check back.
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.