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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2013 Season Review


The steady performance of series veteran Matt Crafton and a group of talented youngsters defined this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

With over a decade of racing in the Trucks, Crafton finally climbed the mountain in 2013 with a solid campaign that featured a win at Kansas and an impressive 19 Top-10s (including a streak of 16 consecutive Top-10s to open the year) in 22 starts.

He wound up clinching the title just by starting the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and also became the first Truck champion to complete every lap in a season – in this year’s case, 3,391 laps.

Crafton was also in contention to win the CWTS owner’s championship for his No. 88 ThorSport Racing team at Homestead, but fell just short of that prize after he sustained damage during a series of multiple green-white-checkered-attempts at the finish.

Instead, the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team won it after its namesake, Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, took the Homestead race. That put the No. 51 and No. 88 in a deadlock in the owner’s standings, but the No. 51’s seven wins on the Truck tour trumped Crafton’s aforementioned lone win at Kansas.

Even with the driver’s championship in his pocket, Crafton still had a foul taste in his mouth, calling the near-miss on the owner’s championship “disgusting.” It was one of the few things that didn’t go his way this year.

Still, it was a tremendous year for him, and the same goes for the series’ up-and-comers that will look to leave their mark on NASCAR in the years ahead.

Despite falling to Crafton in the driver’s championship, Ty Dillon still claimed a pair of victories en route to a runner-up finish in the standings ahead of 2012 series champ James Buescher, who now makes the jump to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2014.

Then there’s the five first-time winners.

Kyle Larson, who is set to move up to Sprint Cup next year with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, was able to claim his first career win at Rockingham Speedway.

Jeb Burton, the son of former Daytona 500 champion Ward, scored a W at Texas (and also led the Trucks with seven poles) while Darrell Wallace Jr. made history at Martinsville, becoming the first African-American to win a national series race in almost 50 years.

Also in this group were two drivers who took turns this year as the youngest winner in CWTS history. Chase Elliott’s September win in Canada had him earn that honor initially, but in the next-to-last race of the year, Erik Jones – aged 17 years, five months, nine days – grabbed it with his win at Phoenix.

But with that said, one could argue Elliott’s win was the most memorable “first” of them all. Elliott fought Ty Dillon over hill and dale in the final lap at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and it culminated with Elliott punting Dillon into the tire barriers on the final corner and going on to the checkered flag.

That set off a post-race skirmish between the crews of the two drivers, who also had a confrontation among themselves shortly afterwards. However, Elliott and Dillon were ultimately overshadowed by another post-race incident that had Max Papis get slapped by the girlfriend of rival driver Mike Skeen after they also made contact in the final corner.

An unforgettable moment, for sure. However, when you take the entire season into account, nothing tops the Trucks taking to the dirt at the famed Eldora Speedway for the “Mudsummer Classic.”

Heavily hyped going in, the event marked NASCAR’s first national series race on dirt in over four decades, and a capacity crowd got their money’s worth as Austin Dillon lead a race-high 63 laps in winning the historic event.

In a time where emphasis continues to be placed on generating drama by any means necessary, the “Mudsummer Classic” was the real deal. One hopes it becomes a tradition.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Simon Pagenaud’s first season at Team Penske.

Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 5th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 3 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 59 Laps Led, 8.6 Avg. Start, 8.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 11th Place, Best Finish 3rd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 132 Laps Led, 5.2 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish

The 2015 season was always going to be a weird one for Simon Pagenaud, in his first season with Team Penske, adapting and adjusting to being with what’s widely regarded as one of the best if not the best teams in the sport. From a career standpoint he needed to move on from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he overachieved for three seasons. And given what became of the Honda aero kit this year, having a Chevrolet at his disposal was always going to be a benefit.

In actuality, Pagenaud didn’t have a bad year, but it was one where the burden of expectation probably hurt his overall stats more than the reality of the situation.

Let’s face facts – he’d finished in the top five in points each of his first three seasons back in IndyCar the last two years, won four races and been in championship contention before. Take all that, apply it to Team Penske and you’d assume wins and title contention would follow, but it didn’t. Still, it was a new team, a fourth team, and that took time to gel.

His qualifying was dynamic, which went against his career form and was markedly improved. His average leapt from 8.6 to 5.2 this year, which was third best in the field. The problem? It trailed two of his three teammates, Will Power and Helio Castroneves, and was only one spot clear of Juan Pablo Montoya.

And then – and there is no easy way to put this – there were his finishes. In 12 of 16 races this season, Pagenaud finished worse than he started. For a driver renowned for making the most of his circumstances on race day, often times things went south when all the marbles, all the points were on the line. Some you could put down to strategy or particularly in the later part of the year, sampling different setups to aid his title-contending teammates.

There were highlights, in particular his speed at the three 500-mile races. Pagenaud was probably the quickest of the four Penske entries at Indianapolis, scored the pole in Fontana and also starred in Pocono, but he didn’t have results to back it up in any of the three. Contact at Indy halted what was certainly winning potential. He also scored a pair of thirds at Detroit race one and Mid-Ohio, although those were cases where he was lucky rather than good.

It was hard to view Pagenaud’s season positively on the whole because you know his potential and ability hasn’t gone missing. But finishing 11th in points when your three teammates end second, third and fifth is definitely a tough pill to swallow, and an early motivator to make the fast Frenchman a top comeback driver in 2016.

Nicky Hayden announces World Superbikes move

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Nicky Hayden of USA and Aspar Team MotoGP rounds the bend during the MotoGP of Spain - Free Practice at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 25, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden will leave the series at the end of the season ahead of a move into the World Superbike Championship in 2016, it has been announced.

Hayden has raced in MotoGP since 2003 and is currently the only American rider racing in the series, but has struggled to match the form of his early years, scoring just 13 points in 2015.

It had been rumored that Hayden would be walking away from MotoGP at the end of the season for some time, but this has now been confirmed in a statement from WorldSBK.

Hayden will join Honda’s factory team in the rival series, racing alongside Michael van der Mark. The 34-year-old will bid to become the first rider to win both MotoGP and WorldSBK titles.

“Well, my next stop is Superbike with Honda! I’m very excited, obviously, to stick with Honda; it’s where I’ve had the most success in my career,” Hayden said.

“World Superbikes is a championship that I followed closely as a kid when a lot of American riders were fighting at the front. It just seems like the right time and the right team to go with.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, but also I’m very motivated to start and learn what I can.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me through my MotoGP career. We had a good run but now it’s time to move on and try something different.”

Hayden’s departure acts as another blow to MotoGP’s profile in the United States, which has seen a downturn in recent years.

The exit of Ben Spies from Yamaha in 2013 was followed by the loss of the race at Laguna Seca the same year, while last month, it was confirmed that Indianapolis would not be returning to the calendar in 2016, leaving just one US round on the schedule.