Kyle Busch wins, claims NASCAR Truck owner’s title for No. 51 team

Leave a comment

The Camping World Truck Series’ season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway went into extended overtime as all three green-white-checkered attempts were needed to settle the matter. But Kyle Busch was able to withstand them all and hold off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney to win the Ford Ecoboost 200.

Busch was also able to lock up the CWTS owner’s championship for his No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team on a tie-breaker over the No. 88 Thorsport Racing team of Matt Crafton, who clinched the CWTS driver’s title just by starting tonight. Crafton wound up 21st after sustaining damage in an incident during the first G-W-C attempt that forced him to pit for a quick repair.

Crafton re-started for G-W-C No. 2 in 24th position, but leaped up several spots before Johnny Sauter spun down the backstretch to bring out the yellow and set up the final G-W-C.

But with Busch able to turn back Blaney in the final laps, Crafton had to finish 20th to earn the owner’s title for ThorSport; he finished 21st. That left Busch’s No. 51 team and Crafton’s No. 88 tied in owner’s points, and the tie-breaker went to the No. 51 on 2013 wins – the No. 51 visited Victory Lane seven times this year, while Crafton had a sole win at Kansas in April.

“It means a lot to Kyle Busch Motorsports and it means a lot to myself and my wife [team co-owner Samantha Busch], but most importantly, every one of our employees – everyone at the shop, everyone back at home, everyone here with us tonight,” Busch said.

“This is so much fun to come out here and race for one, but to win races for two and contend for owner’s championships. It’s big for us.”

Crafton was disappointed to lose out on the owner’s title for his ThorSport team, especially the way that he did. With 38 laps to go, a slow pit stop under yellow knocked him out of the Top 5. And then, shortly after the green flag flew on G-W-C attempt No. 1, Joey Coulter made contact with Crafton down the backstretch.

After being forced to pit, Crafton tried in vain to climb back up to 20th through G-W-C attempts No. 2 and 3. Nonetheless, he was still able to complete every lap of every CWTS race this season.

“I thought we had a shot at winning the race – we just had a bad pit stop, got hung back there, and got in a wreck,” Crafton said. “It’s so disgusting. But all in all, I’m the Camping World Truck Series champion. Nobody can take that away, right?

“…The last two months, I’ve had a huge burden on my shoulders just trying to sleep at night. But [the season has] been a blessing.”

Jeb Burton finished third, while Brendan Gaughan finished fourth in his final CWTS event before moving up to the Nationwide Series next year. Ron Hornaday, Jr. completed the Top 5.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.