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.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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