The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made it's way to Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night for it's season finale, the Ford Eco-Boost 200. The contest would be the Championship 4 race, where the 2017 NCWTS champion would be crowned. All the contenders, Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Austin Cindric and Matt Crafton, had to do was finish better than the other three Championship 4 drivers and the series championship would be theirs. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Briscoe sat on the pole, his fourth of the season.
The Ford Eco-Boost 200 would be broken up into three stages. Stages one and two would be 40 laps each. The final stage would consist of 54 laps. The highest finisher among the Championship 4 drivers would leave Miami as the 2017 series champion.
Chase Briscoe led the field to green flag for the final race in the NCWTS 2017 season. Briscoe quickly jumped out front. Championship 4 contender Matt Crafton, who started eighth, worked his way up to third by the end of the first lap. Conversely, third place starter, and fellow Championship 4 contender, Austin Cindric fell to seventh. As the field approached the 10 lap mark, Crafton had closed in on the bumper of Chase Briscoe.
As the field logged laps, Crafton began to fall back towards third place driver Grant Enfinger. Christopher Bell began making his move towards the front, advancing from his 13th starting spot. Johnny Sauter held his spot just inside the top-10.
With seven laps to go, Christopher Bell made the pass around Chase Briscoe for the lead. He would stretch his lead to over three seconds as he took the green-and-white checkered flag to signal the end of an uneventful stage one.
Championship 4 contender finishes in stage one: Christopher Bell - Win, Austin Cindric - Sixth, Matt Crafton - Seventh, Johnny Sauter - Eighth
Stage one top-10 finishers, in order: Bell, Briscoe, Enfinger, Ben Rhodes, Ryan Truex, Cindric, Crafton, Sauter, Justin Haley, Timothy Peters
All the leaders came to pit road under this caution. Cindric called for tires and to be tightened up to cure being loose in turns one and two. Bell took tires and fuel and his crew loosened him up a little bit just to try and keep up with the track. Johnny Sauter had been complaining the entire stage about being too loose. His team would give him four tires and fuel and make adjustments to cure his ill-handling truck. Matt Crafton came in with the same complaint as Sauter. His crew's service mirrored the No. 21's with tires, fuel and adjustments to fix his loose condition. All the other leaders took four tires and fuel as well.
Top-Seven off pit road: Briscoe, Bell, Cindric, Truex, Rhodes, Crafton, Sauter
The restart was a drag race to turn one between Briscoe and Bell. They raced side-by-side through turn two. As they came off the corner, Ben Rhodes dove to the inside from his third row starting spot and powered to the lead. Bell fell back into third and looked to keep from getting swallowed up by the field.
Bell fought back and closed on Briscoe. As Christopher attempted to pass, he and Briscoe made slight contact. Bell took over second and ran off to try and catch Cindric and Rhodes.
Crafton and Sauter battled each other for sixth position. Crafton looking for grip up high and Sauter trying to hug the yellow line. Crafton opened some space and the Championship 4 contenders settled in to their running positions.
Around the halfway point in the stage, Johnny Sauter's truck started to come to him. He disposed of Crafton and with 10 laps remaining, Sauter passed Austin Cindric for fourth. Ryan Truex followed Sauter through the hole opened up on the inside during the pass and took fifth from Cindric. Sauter would eventually give up fourth to Truex.
Ben Rhodes demonstrated how strong his truck was tonight, pulling out to over a five second lead over Bell. Rhodes would win stage two.
Championship 4 stage two finishes: Bell - Second, Sauter - Fifth, Cindric - Sixth, Crafton - Eighth
Top ten at the end of stage two, in order: Rhodes, Bell, Briscoe, Truex, Sauter, Cindric, Timothy Peters, Crafton, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley
The Championship 4 drivers, along with all the other leaders, would take advantage of the caution period between stages. Cindric and Crafton would come in for four tires and fuel. Bell and Sauter, looking for an advantage in track position, took fuel only, as did leader Ben Rhodes.
Top eight off pit lane (Tires): Briscoe (4), Rhodes (0), Bell (0), Cindric (4), Truex (4), Sauter (0), Gragson (4), Crafton (4)
As the field came back onto the track to line up, NASCAR announced a penalty for the No. 16 of Ryan Truex. He had crew members over the wall too soon. Truex would have to restart from the tail end of the longest line.
Chase Briscoe rocketed to the lead as the field took the green flag for the start of the final stage. Rhodes would quickly chase him down and retake the lead. The Championship 4 were running in fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth.
As Briscoe attempted to apply pressure to Rhodes for the lead, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric entered a side-by-side battle for third. As they raced, Johnny Sauter drove up from behind to see if he could take advantage. Bell would fight to the front of the group and grab the third position.
Noah Gragson had a flat tire with 42 laps to go. He would make it back to pit road, would take fresh rubber, and head back to the track laps down. The race would stay green.
With 40 to go, Briscoe made a bid for the lead. Rhodes fought, but to no avail. Chase advanced to a lead of over one second within a couple of laps. During this battle, Sauter would overtake Austin Cindric for fourth.
With 35 laps to go, the Championship 4 contenders ran in third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
Inside of 20 to go, Bell was eating up the distance between him and Ben Rhodes in second. He also stretched to over seven seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter in fourth. Cindric continued to run fifth and Crafton was in sixth.
Ryan Truex, battling back from his penalty on the previous pit stop, started to slice through the Championship 4 drivers. He took positions from Crafton and Cindric and quickly began to catch Sauter. All the contenders but Bell would need a caution, or Christopher to suffer a disaster, to take the championship.
With ten laps to go, Briscoe still held the lead. Christopher Bell continued to hold a comfortable lead over Johnny Sauter for the championship. There would need to be an incident for there to be a change in either race.
Ben Rhodes came to pit road with five laps to go due to being out of fuel. This suddenly made fuel a possible issue for all of the leaders. It would at least make some crew chiefs nervous as the last few laps wound down on the 2017 season.
Chase Briscoe would win the Ford Eco-Boost 200 for his first career NCWTS victory. He would win by over two seconds. It would be a win for BKR in their last ever race before closing up shop at the end of the season.
After the race, Briscoe had some comments on winning and the end of BKR, "It's felt like a long time coming. I'm so proud of all these guys. To know that they're not going to have a job next year and to continue to bring good trucks even though we were outside the playoffs. It's just such a testament to how good these Brad Keselowski guys are".
Christopher Bell would finish second and win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2017 championship. It would be Bell's first championship in any NASCAR national touring series. Christopher ends the season with five wins and 21 top-10 finishes. It is the second drivers championship for KBM in the NCWTS.
Bell on winning the championship, "A dream come true doesn't even describe it. For me to be at KBM as long as I have and to go out as a champion there is something that I'm really proud of".
Championship 4 final standings: Bell - Champion, Johnny Sauter - Second, Austin Cindric - Third, Matt Crafton - Fourth
Top ten finishers, in order: Briscoe, Bell, Sauter, Truex, Cindric, Crafton, Stuart Friesen, Enfinger, Haley, Peters
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races next at Daytona in February 2018.
I am a life-long race fan who has some strong opinions and isn't afraid to share them. I am a husband and a father to 4 wonderful children. I am a life-long resident of Indiana. I also enjoy NFL, MLB and College Basketball. I love all kinds of music, but especially hard rock/metal and classic country. Attending any live event is a thrill for me.