Matt Crafton Becomes First Driver To Win Back-To-Back NCWTS Championships

Matt Crafton Becomes First Driver To Win Back-To-Back NCWTS Championships

by November 15, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – On Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Matt Crafton became the first driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history to win back-to-back championship.

Heading into the Ford EcoBoost 200, Crafton had a 25-point cushion between his title hopes and Ryan Blaney. In the days leading up to the race, Crafton says that he never really thought about making history. The team never really talked about it, and as far as he was concerned, Friday night’s race was going to be business as usual. However, Crafton woke up at 4:05 a.m. Friday morning thinking about the points situation. All he had to do is finish 21st or better to lock up the title, and he did so by bringing the No. 88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota Tundra home in the ninth position.

“Awesome,” Crafton said. “To say I made history is definitely very, very cool, but it’s all about the guys that are behind me. Without them, I’m just an average race car driver at best. It’s all about the truck that these guys put underneath me each and every week. This Menards Toyota Tundra has been really — it’s been unbelievable to drive every week this year. I wanted to race so much harder tonight. I kept asking, I was just waiting for them to say that there were like 20 trucks running at that point and then I could go. When it was five (laps) to go and I had asked again how many trucks were still in and there were 22 on the lead lap and I said I couldn’t take any chances. I know I could have went further forward, but I said it is what it is.”

Throughout the night, Crafton played defense and just tried to keep his nose clean. Although 25 points is quite a distance, all it takes is one wrong move, and the season is over, and being the competitor Crafton is, it certainly wasn’t easy to just ride when the truck was capable of winning.

“I’m not going to lie, tonight’s race for me was not much fun having to sit there and ride around because I know the truck was a lot better, but I couldn’t put myself in any bad position,” Crafton said. “I just have to wait for everything to file out and just sit there and ride because I couldn’t take any chances of getting tore up.”

As for Ryan Blaney, he fought shifter issues all night but was able to salvage an impressive fifth place finish. Crafton wasn’t made aware of Blaney’s struggles until the team informed him on a restart when he lined up behind him.

“No, they didn’t say anything until he had gotten in front of me on a restart, and at that point they told me that he had a broken shifter so just watch yourself going through the gears, make sure he didn’t miss a shift or anything like that,” Crafton said. “Besides that, they didn’t say anything. I said, Blaney did an unbelievable job going through the gears with a pair of vice grips on his shifter without a doubt. Hands down to him, that was pretty awesome.”

Crafton just about saw his championship hopes disappear when Tyler Reddick spun in front of him in Turn 1 to bring out the caution on Lap 111. Reddick was racing hard and got caught in a three-wide situation. Reddick kept the truck from completely spinning, and Crafton was able to sneak by.

“I knew that everybody was going to be very chaotic there at the end and I figured we were going to have a green-white-checkered and we always usually do here,” Crafton said. “Whenever the 19 (Tyler Reddick) got underneath him there and they were three-wide and I saw he was in a bad way down there and they couldn’t give him any room. It was great racing in the Camping World Truck Series.”

In the end, Crafton closed out the night 21 points ahead of Blaney in the standings. Crafton is only the 13th driver to ever win a series title, and he’s one of four to ever win multiple championships. He ended the 2014 season with two wins, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.

“Being a Camping World Truck Series champion — I’ve got that goal and I said hopefully we can run a few more,” Crafton said. “I’m not done — I’m only 38 years old. I feel like a young buck.”

ThorSport Racing has come a long way since the team debuted at Milwaukee Mile in July of 1996 with driver, Terry Cook. Along with this year’s title, Johnny Sauter finished out the season fourth in points, and Jeb Burton finished eighth in the championship standings. The team collected three wins this season, as well. In 431 races, the team has fielded at least one truck and has been running consecutively since January of 1998 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

“I can remember the very first time I sat down with Duke Thorson (Team Owner) at the end of 2000,” Crafton said. “He told me we’re going to run this like a business, and we’re going to make it better and better each year, but I’m not going to outspend myself and I’m not going to go away in two or three years. I’m going to be one of these owners that’s going to be around for the long haul, and if you want to stick it out with me, we’ll win races, we’ll win championships, and that’s what makes it so much sweeter to be where we are today. Because, like I said, we didn’t have all the resources, we didn’t have all the tools that we have today, and he’s been a man of his word, and Rhonda, as well, giving us everything throughout the years to become a two-time champion. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Throughout the 2014 season, ThorSport Racing was one of the few teams that could compete with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Brad Keselowski Racing. The team finished second in the owner points, and had a fantastic year. While most teams are based out of North Carolina, ThorSport Racing operates out of Ohio, and that alone is quite a challenge. Winning back-to-back championships appears to be only the beginning. The team is certainly strong, and they look confident heading into 2015.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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