Matt Crafton Wins Third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championshipby Hunter Thomas November 16, 2019 0 comments
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Although he didn’t win a race in 2019, a runner-up finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday night solidified Matt Crafton’s third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.
Throughout most of the night, the Championship 4 contenders battled each other for position in the Ford EcoBoost 200. Crafton started the race in ninth, but by the end of the night, he had bested Ross Chastain who finished fourth, Brett Moffitt in fifth and last week’s winner Stewart Friesen who finished 11th. Aside from the conclusion of Stages 1 and 2, there was only one other caution in the race, so the Championship 4 contenders had to run hard all night long.
“This Menard F‑150 was fast tonight,” Crafton said. “That first run, I’m like, oh, boy, we’re in trouble, and just made air pressure adjustments from there. We made a few adjustments, tightened up, because we thought the track was going to be green, and it was going to go away, but this thing ran flawless all night. And motor was very good, as well, and everything just went our way. I was praying there. I do not want a yellow right here at the end of this thing.”
Crafton’s third series title places him in elite company. In addition to his back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, his third championship has now tied Jack Sprague for second-most series titles. Ron Hornaday Jr. leads the way with four championships.
“Yeah, it feels amazing,” Crafton said. “It’s one step closer to what Hornaday has done, and they called us the underdog.”
The ThorSport Racing driver didn’t visit Victory Lane this season, and he only led a total of 44 laps, but that’s just a testament to how solid the No. 88 Menards Ford team was overall throughout the season’s 23 races. This season, Crafton earned seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 8.8. Friday’s second-place finish tied his June Texas effort for his best finish this year.
Austin Hill won the Ford EcoBoost 200, marking his fourth victory of the season. Hill swept the first two stages and led a race high of 56 laps.
“This truck was on rails all night,” Hill said. “Just a little on the tight side. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) made some awesome adjustments there and got the truck a little bit better. We were good all night. That pit stop, I kind of took it a little too easy coming down the pit road and I think that kind of hurt us a little bit on coming out third. I had to work extra hard to get back up there and get back to the lead. Can’t thank Toyota enough.”
Finishing behind Hill and Crafton was Christian Eckes, Chastain, Moffitt, Johnny Sauter, Grant Enfinger, Todd Gilliland, Sheldon Creed and Parker Kligerman.
Tyler Ankrum was named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
Toyota claimed its 11th series manufacturers championship.
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images