One more start means NASCAR Trucks title for Crafton

Leave a comment

The party will have to wait one more weekend, but Matt Crafton is set to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway after finishing fifth in last night’s CWTS race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Crafton needed to leave PIR with a 49-point advantage to officially clinch on Friday, but a fourth-place finish from Ty Dillon (second in the standings) means that Crafton will enter Homestead with a 46-point edge over Dillon.

No matter – all Crafton needs to do to lock up the driver’s title is start the Ford Ecoboost 200 in six days’ time.

Consistency has paid off for the 37-year-old California native, who has been a regular in the Trucks for more than a decade. He won at Kansas in April, but has also logged 19 Top-10 finishes in 21 races this season.

The only times he hasn’t finished in the Top-10 was an 11th-place run at Las Vegas in September and a 17th-place run at Martinsville last month.

“Just being able to sleep, that’s the coolest thing,” Crafton said in a statement. “I’m not going to lie – for the last month-and-a-half, it’s been tough.”

But Crafton and his No. 88 ThorSport Racing team will still have some business to take care of in South Florida. The No. 88 team leads in the CWTS owner’s championship, but Erik Jones’ victory in the Lucas Oil 150 at PIR kept the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry in contention for that prize.

However, Crafton and the No. 88 have a 23-point lead in the owner’s championship and can win it at Homestead with a finish of 18th or better.

“We have one more battle on our hands and I’m confident, with what my team’s accomplished already this season, we’ll be equal to the challenge at Homestead,” Crafton said about the owners’ race.

ThorSport has already won this year’s ARCA drivers’ and owners’ championships with Frank Kimmel in the cockpit.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
1 Comment

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.