As the night was set to be a historic one at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale, Matt Crafton went on to take the final race of the 2015 season with a historic visit to victory lane at the 1.5-mile track.
While the headlines prior to the Ford EcoBoost 200 were centered on the championship race between Tyler Reddick and Erik Jones, Crafton – who had been in championship contention — entered the night with the most starts in the Truck Series with 361. While breaking a record for most starts previously set by Ron Hornaday, Crafton was looking to end his season with his sixth victory of 2015.
After falling out of the championship contention at Phoenix, Crafton stayed out front and dominated the season finale. The win at Homestead is Crafton’s first at the track and first win starting from the pole.
“I was having so much fun right there at the end,” said Crafton in Victory Lane. “And they were trying to slow me down, but I’m like, I want to see how far I can get out, but it’s all about these guys behind me. They built these trucks and I’m just the lucky guy who gets to drive them. It’s been awesome. “
Despite coming short of his third consecutive championship, Crafton said 2015 was a dream season and that the team will grow from it.
“Just six wins and as many laps as we led, it’s been awesome. I’ve said, like it’s been a dream season there, we just had too many mistakes. I mean I made mistakes, we've all made mistakes and we're all human, but 2016 we're going to be stronger from it,” said Crafton.
Although Crafton made the trip to victory lane at Homestead, Jones went on to take the 2015 championship. Jones also made Truck Series history by becoming the youngest driver to win the championship. Austin Dillon was the last to have that feat when he won the title in 2011.
Along with winning the 2015 championship, Jones also captured the owners’ championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports. It will mark their fourth owners’ title in the series since forming in 2009. Jones’s Camping World Truck Series championship win is also the first driver title under the Kyle Busch Motorsports banner.
After spending the last two seasons as a part time driver for KBM, Jones said he couldn’t find a better way to thank KBM in his first full-time season.
“It was just so, so special for everybody here to close off this run like this,” said Jones. “I’ve had a great three years with these guys. I can’t think of a better way to repay these guys.”
Owner Kyle Busch was quite impressed with the accomplishment by Jones this season.
“Just really impressed to see what kind of kid he is,” said Busch. “He didn't want to be there for two part-time seasons, but he was. I think he learned a tremendous amount in those seasons.”
Despite running in the top five for most of the night, Reddick ended his championship quest by finishing third at Homestead and 15 points behind Jones in the standings. Regardless of the outcome, Reddick said that he will take the results of 2015 and move on to 2016.
“Our guys did great all year long, all season long. We had a great strong effort, all of our guys,” said Reddick after the race. “Unfortunately we were just a little short but work on it. Thank goodness I got next year to try to chip at it and try to get it done and that’s what we're looking forward to now. “
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to action at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 19, 2016. The Nextra Energy Resources 250 will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway will be an important one for drivers Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick. Not only are both drivers looking to capture their first national series championship, but also a shot of making history in the series.
The two drivers go into the season finale separated by 19 points in the driver standings. As they attempt to win the title, both drivers will have a shot at making NASCAR history by becoming the youngest Camping World Truck Series champion, a feat last accomplished by Austin Dillon in 2011.
With the opportunity to make history and to win the championship, both drivers look at the opportunity of bringing their respective race teams – Kyle Busch Motorsports and Brad Keselowski Racing -- their very first driver championship.
“I think it's definitely a pretty cool accomplishment, let alone winning the championship but being the youngest to do it,” said Jones in a press conference. “All along our goal at KBM has been for me to run for a driver's championship, and be able to get KBM its first driver's championship.”
“Obviously, I've been really wanting to come in here, and our goal this year was to win a championship, and hopefully we can do that,” said Reddick in a press conference. Being the youngest would be a bonus as well.”
When the season began in February at Daytona, it would mark of the start of the championship hunt for Reddick – who began the season as BKR’s primary driver. At Daytona, Reddick was the first driver to make his way to Victory Lane in 2015, in a season that featured numerous race winners throughout the year. The win at Daytona was Reddick’s first career win in the Camping World Truck Series and a win that would later put him in the championship picture.
As the season progressed, Reddick went on to capture his second win of the season at Dover. Throughout 22 races, Reddick has captured two wins, 13 top five, and 18 top 10 finishes. He has averaged a start of 8.8 and an average finish of 6.5.
For Jones, 2015 was his first full-time season with KBM and a contender for Rookie of the Year honors. While Reddick went on to win the first race of the year, Jones started out with a second place finish at Daytona. When the series made its way to the Midwest at Iowa, Jones made his first visit to Victory Lane in 2015. He went on to win two more races – at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Texas – which catapulted him to the top of the driver standings.
In the 22 races so far in 2015, Jones has three wins, 11 top five, 19 top 10 finishes and five poles.
While both Reddick and Jones look to win their first respective NASCAR championship, another challenge they faced along the way was the defending and two-time champion Matt Crafton. Crafton’s title chances diminished at Phoenix after some contact with Jones while racing for the lead in the closing laps. Reddick and Jones may be the final two championship contenders, but Crafton had been close to competing for the series title, as he was 10 points behind Jones in the standings at one point.
Going into Homestead, it will be Jones’s first truck series race at the 1.5-mile track. Reddick has only one start in the series at Homestead last season where he finished sixth after starting the race in fourth. Both drivers also enter the weekend looking to deliver an owner’s title.
In the clinching scenarios in the championship race, Jones can win the title by finishing 15th or better, 16th by leading one lap or 17th with the most laps led of any driver. That same scenario applies in the owners’ championship hunt as well.
On the optimism going into Homestead and his chances of winning the championship, Reddick said, “Well, obviously, we've just got to have a good weekend as a team. Fortunately last year there we had a good bit of speed and we were fast, so we just go in and continue to work on the things we did when we were last there, I think we'll be fast. Obviously, the situation we're in, we're going to have to run very good. We're going to have to win and leave as many laps as possible to try and put Erik in a situation where he has to run 15th or so better.”
With a 19-point lead over Reddick going into the season finale, Jones feels comfortable with the point’s gap.
“Well, it's nice to have a cushion for sure. It's way better than going into the race and leading by three points or five points or something like that. So it's fortunate we are in a situation where we don't have to win the race. We don't have to run top 5. We don't even really have to run top 10. So I think it's going to be somewhat conservative of an approach, but I don't think we need to change our approach by a whole lot,” said Jones.
While the race at the Phoenix International Raceway centered on the championship battle, Timothy Peters took advantage of some of the championship contender’s misfortune to win the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at the one-mile oval in the desert.
After some contact between championship contenders and race leaders Erik Jones and Matt Crafton, Peters took the lead with 25 laps to go. The win at Phoenix is Peters second win of the season and his 10th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory.
Peters win also helped Toyota clinch the 2015 Truck Series Manufactures championship.
“You know we were a top five truck tonight and you know we earned this one. This is just awesome,” said Peters in Victory Lane. “Well the track was still pretty slick, pretty oily when they gave us the one to go. Our truck was good on the short run and we would get a little tight on the long run, corner exits, so it’s all about not over driving the entry.”
For most of the night the top three drivers were the three championship contenders – Jones, Crafton and Tyler Reddick. Jones led for the majority of the race after starting off on the pole. Crafton was the race leader after a restart on lap 120 and after battling side by side with Jones, the two had contact, with Crafton receiving the most damage and taking out his teammate Johnny Sauter.
Post-race Crafton took responsibility for the contact between him and Jones.
“I just got loose, I made a mistake and said mistakes happen, we’re all humans. I said I hate it for the guys, we had such a good, good truck. So we’ll go on, pick our head up and head to Homestead,” Crafton said post-race.
After having started on the pole and finishing in 10th after the contact with Crafton, Jones said he was disappointed and would have wanted to race for the win.
“Well, you’re disappointed. I really don't want to talk about it that much. It’s disappointing, you know. It’s unfortunate when we're racing for the win and that kind of situation happens you know, but everybody makes mistakes and unfortunately Matt made one tonight and it cost both of us a shot at the win. He got the worst end of it, but it doesn't take away from, we had a fast [Toyota] Tundra, we definitely thought we had the best truck here all night,” said Jones after the race. “We still have a 19 point lead. We need to go to Homestead and have a 15th place day, so hopefully we can do that, but just like I said, it’s unfortunate. Wish we could have raced for the win.”
With one race left in the 2015 season and before a champion is crowned at Homestead, Jones remains at the top of the point standings. He will go into the season finale 19 points ahead of Reddick and 32 points ahead of Crafton.
Matt Crafton improved his chances at a three-peat championship with a win in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday. After taking the lead during the second half of the race, Crafton closed the gap between himself and championship leader Erik Jones, with his fifth win of the season.
Crafton, who previously went to victory lane four times this season, had been on a rough stretch since his last win at Kentucky. With the win at the 0.526-mile track known as “The Paperclip”, Crafton captured a career high of wins in a season.
“It’s been a very trying last two months but to get this team back in victory lane is awesome,” Crafton said in Victory Lane. “These guys just never give up. We weren’t that great on the short run and I just never give up on these guys, they just keep fine tuning it, fine tuning it. The second to last run we just got really tight for whatever reason…made a little change and the thing was good.”
Crafton, who led for a total of 63 laps, managed to stay on top after several restarts throughout the race, including the final re-start with three laps to go.
Jones will leave Martinsville still at the top of the point standings but did not have the day he wanted on the track. Despite finishing with a top-10 finish, Jones also had some run-ins on track, including an incident with teammate Daniel Suarez.
“Our Toyota Tundra was a lot better than that, you know in practice, but just to fight all day and we missed a little bit of it. As an organization I think it showed we kind of were off most of the day for the three trucks, but we’ll work on it and get it better,” said Jones after the race. “Texas is a strong one for us, we were good there in the spring and Phoenix has always been good, at Homestead we’ll be fine as well. So looking forward to it.”
Tyler Reddick, who is also competing for the championship, finished in fifth. After the race, Reddick said he felt he could have gotten a better finish, but that the team will take the top five finish and go on from there.
“It was as clean as Martinsville can get. It’s a shame we left fifth, I felt like we could have ran third or second,” said Reddick. “We could have gotten wrecked on that last lap and finished 20th or last on the lead lap, so we’ll take it and we’ll go on from there.”
The race at Martinsville also featured the debuts of Austin Cindric in the No. 29 truck for Brad Keselowski Racing and Ross Kenseth in the No. 18 truck.
Prior to Martinsville, Jones was the championship point’s leader with Reddick in second, 13 points back. Crafton was in third, 23 points behind Jones. Leaving Martinsville, Jones remains at the top of the standings, but Crafton managed to close the gap and move into second place, just 10 points behind Jones. Reddick still remains 13 points behind the top spot and will fall to third.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, Nov. 6, with just three races remaining until the 2015 champion is crowned at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kyle Busch hasn’t started in all of the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, but he’s undefeated in his only two starts. Busch came back from a pit road penalty early in the race, to go on and win the Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
Busch led for a total of 44 laps on Saturday and took the lead for a final time on Lap 97, edging out Ryan Blaney.
Blaney finished second followed by Erik Jones, Johnny Sauter and Austin Dillon.
The win at Michigan is Busch’s first Truck Series win and the first win at the track for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“First win for me, first win for KBM here,” said Busch after the race.
Although it is Busch’s first Truck Series win at Michigan, he had won at the track previously in the XFINITY Series and Sprint Cup Series.
“Just cool to finally get that monkey off my back here in the Truck Series and notch another race track where I’ve won in all three divisions here at Michigan,” said Busch.
Heading out of Michigan, Tyler Reddick remains with the points lead. Matt Crafton remains in second followed by Erik Jones in third.
Crafton -- who finished the race in sixth—managed to come back with a top 10 finish after receiving a pit road penalty, battling a bucking windshield and a late race spin after contact with John Wes Townley.
The next race for the Truck Series will be on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.