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.
For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.
Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.
After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.
In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.
Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.
Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.
The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.
Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.
England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.
It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.
Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.
Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.