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.
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Hamlin spun and backed into the Turn 5 tire barrier with about 29 minutes left in the session. He and Kligerman will have to start from the rear Sunday.
Hamlin said he got loose when he carried extra speed into the turn.
“It’s supposed to kind of be a weekend off (for his team),” Hamlin told NBCSN. “But obviously I put them behind the eight ball here and took away some track time for myself. Really stinks. But definitely feel like our backup car will be fine.”
Bubba Wallace spun in Turn 5 late in the session and lightly impacted the tire barrier. He won’t go to a backup car.
First Xfinity practice
Brandon Brown brought out the caution early in the session when he spun in Turn 1 after his track bar broke.
Noah Gragson will go to a backup car after he spun and hit the tire barrier in Turn 3 .
Cody Ware also wrecked in Turn 3 later in the session.