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

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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.

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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