Published on November 17th, 2014 | by NASCAR Wire Service0
Crafton Repeats As Trucks Champion
After breathtaking three-wide racing during the final 20-lap green-flag run, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. held off hard-charging Keystone Light Polesitter Kyle Larson to win Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Behind the wild battle for the victory, Matt Crafton ran ninth and won an unprecedented second straight series title with room to spare—by 21 points.
Timothy Peters came home third, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, runner-up to Crafton for the series championship. Busch won the NCWTS owner’s championship in the No. 51 Toyota he drove on Friday night.
“Toward the end, battling the two Kyles—the (Sprint) Cup stars—it was tough,” Wallace said. “But I didn’t get too excited, didn’t get too down. I kept a cool head and stayed patient and was able to come out on top.”
Wallace won his fourth race of the season and fifth of his career in his final ride in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, as the organization picked up its 14th victory in 22 races. Signed to Joe Gibbs Racing, Wallace is expected to move up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year.
“It is going to be sad to see him go,” Busch said, “but we’ve got another great shoe that’s going to be able to fit into that role really, really good with Erik Jones. It’s not that I’m saying good-bye, but I’m wishing him the best next year in what he gets to do, and I’m excited about his growth and opportunity to move up to the Nationwide Series.”
Wallace said he hopes to get plans for 2015 settled soon.
“I wish things were finalized,” Wallace said. “We’re continuing to work hard to find my future plans. For me, I’m just going to go play some golf while I’m down here in Miami and enjoy this win, enjoy the offseason.
“But as far as plans, we’re continuing to work hard.”
As he closed on Wallace in the final laps, Larson said he contemplated trying the same sort of banzai move Ryan Newman had used on Larson on the final lap of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix, where Newman secured the final spot in Sunday’s Championship Round at Homestead by a single point.
“I thought about it—very quickly,” Larson said. “But I figured that would definitely be the wrong thing to do, especially in a Truck race where I’m just kind of out there to have fun, and Bubba’s out there to try to gain points, or whatever, and get the win.”
Blaney’s waning championship hopes suffered a blow when his shifter broke, causing him to stall his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford exiting his pit stall on Lap 72. Blaney dropped to 14th for the subsequent restart on Lap 76 and quickly worked his way up to ninth, three positions behind Crafton in the running order.
By then, only 21 trucks remained on the lead lap, providing Crafton with a comfortable margin of error, given that Crafton entered the race needing a finish of 21st or better to claim the series title.
Using vise-grips to control the broken shifter, Blaney was fourth off pit road for a restart on Lap 104, after the fifth caution of the night. His hard-fought top five wasn’t enough to overcome the 25-point lead Crafton held entering the race.
During that same pit stop, Larson fell from first to third on pit road, after having led 96 laps to that point.
Wallace grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 119 of 134 and held it the rest of the way, as Larson charged into second place and closed the gap to .294 seconds at the finish.
Note: Ben Kennedy won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. Kennedy and Tyler Reddick tied in the rookie standings, with Kennedy winning the title because of his higher position in driver championship points.